Obviously, my other half was not particularly enthusiastic with my plan to organize and lead a small group of women for a "beginner bikepacking trip." The fact that he doubted my sanity should have given me pause; I do have a history of jumping into things without thinking much about the logistics and potential consequences. But alas, when you love something as much as I love bikepacking (or backcountry skiing, or fatbiking or ... ), you are prone to thinking that everyone will love it just as much as you, if only they are given the opportunity to experience it.
Love is blind. And sometimes, logic is useless.
Naturally, there were several setbacks.
Firstly, COVID19 happened and the majority of the humans in the world elected not to interact with each other as they were previously accustomed to doing. Despite the global pandemic, the Inland Northwest has seen very low infection rates thus far, and we were all comfortable being in a COVID-conscious, backcountry situation. We had to postpone the trip by about 3 months. The mid-summer trip date made it feasible to ride some much spicier terrain and ended up being a good thing. We set our destination for some alpine singletrack.
But then just as things were looking up, our chosen route had some last minute snowfall (seriously, in JULY!) and would not be clear in time for our ride dates. Serendipity smiled and I had the opportunity to scope out a nearby, backcountry trail network just before our departure date and with a little bit of internet research and a lot of local networking, managed to get enough trail beta to put together a viable alternate route.
Lastly, but perhaps most tragically of all, the huckleberry milkshake stand at the end of our ride was closed on Sundays and we would have to go without. After a long day on the trail, thinking of nothing but huckleberry milkshakes, this was a travesty that no amount of look-at-the-bright-sides could silver line. We're just going to have to go back up there and ride again soon so we can have our huckleberry ending!
Throughout the day, one rider was consistently struggling with our pace. I chalked it up to a combination of fitness and low energy and the group did a lot of encouraging and waiting. Sadly, the solution to this situation didn't present itself until we were in camp and it became apparent that she had some SEVERE brake rub. New brake pads + a fully-loaded bike had combined to make her feel like she was riding in quicksand for 7 hours. After she adjusted her brakes that evening, she felt lighter than air (maybe just a slight exaggeration) and the group pace found a pleasant rhythm the following day.
The biggest technical adversity on the trail would be the blow down and deadfall trees that were left over from the winter. The thing about riding a trail that sees very little traffic is that the trail sees very little traffic, and therefore, sometimes the tidying up doesn't happen until later in the season. We came very close to turning our route into an out-N-back, but instead, we did our best to clear the down trees that were of a clearable size, and to team up to lift our heavily laden bikes up and over the downed trees that we weren't able to remove. Happily, we were able to complete our loop!