February 5, 2018
Last November, my friend and co-worker won a winter weekend lottery slot for the popular cabins at Garnet Ghost Town, an abandoned 1800s mining town turned BLM historical preservation project up in the Garnet Range about 30 miles east of Missoula, MT. In winter the narrow mountain roads up to this tiny mountain town are only accessible by snowshoe, ski, or snowmobile — seemed like the perfect opportunity to plan my first fat bike snowvernight.
Our cohort of seven (five skiers, one runner, one fat bike, plus two adorable pups) met in the snowy parking lot on Bear Gulch Road to load our packs and head up the mountain. A buddy of mine was kind enough to loan me his Surly Moonlander and a few Relevate Designs bags for the trip and I was stoked to test out the new set up. I’d never ridden a fat bike in the snow, much less a loaded fat bike.
Several routes climb up to Garnet and we settled on the shorter and steeper of the three with the intention of getting up to the cabin early to ditch our packs and go exploring. Three hours and a few thousand feet of icy climbing later, the first of our group arrived at the cabin to get a fire going and check out the sprawl of old cabins, saloons, hotels, and general stores. After spinning out on the steep switchbacks on a loaded bike, even Moonlanders have traction limits, it was great to ride around in fresh powder.
After an evening of chili, bourbon, ghost stories, and full moon night hikes, we set off back down the hill — opting this time to take a different route, the long way down. Guided by paper maps and intuition, we slogged up and around the mountain in search of First Chance Gulch. The first few miles were packed by snowmobile tracks and kept us moving at moderate clip, though it didn’t last long. After a few miles of dodging snowmobiles, we took a sharp right and began the descent in knee-deep powder.
I’ve never worked so hard to pedal down hill, but loved every minute of it and am already scheming for next year’s trip to Garnet. If this looks like fun, I encourage you to head on over to our Bike Overnights website for more adventures. And if snow isn’t your thing, we’ve still got room on our Hawaii Big Island tour...
Don’t miss our 2018 Fat Bike Buyer’s Guide. Wondering about tire sizes, rim sizes, frame materials, accessories, brakes, or even whether suspension on fat bikes might be a good idea? Phew. Let Nick Legan and Alex Strickland break it down for you.