We first met Hannah at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF), where her film Megamoon won the Spirit of Adventure award. Megamoon is her story of how she came to be pulling a heavy trailer along the Great Divide cycle route in North America; the worlds longest mountain bike trail.
Hannah has just released the film online, which is password free and available to view – Megamoon Film. We wanted to find out a bit more about the journey so we asked Hannah for a background to their adventure, and some photos and extracts from her touring journal…
After ten years together, Patrick and I decided to tie the knot. An important element of getting married was the serious business of planning a long honeymoon or megamoon as I like to call it. Patrick had been granted a three month sabbatical from work so that set our timeframe, and I’d also entered a lottery permit to paddle the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon…_and won_…which placed us in the Arizona desert in July; an ideal start point for an onwards journey by bicycle.
"This trip wasn’t about setting ourselves rigid parameters – it was a chance to explore, enjoy each others company, soak up the mountains and toast marshmallows at every given opportunity."
Following our ‘gnarly’ and inspiring white water trip through the Grand Canyon, for the remainder of our three months we decided to bundle all of our clothes and camping gear into two small trailers and hop onto our mountain bikes to ride the 2,500 mile Great Divide cycle route from New Mexico to Banff in Alberta, Canada. We wanted to roughly follow the established route (albeit backwards – South to North) through the Rocky Mountains. We’d given ourselves the time for a leisurely pace and weren’t too hung up with going off-route if and when we fancied it – this trip wasn’t about setting ourselves rigid parameters – it was a chance to explore, enjoy each others company, soak up the mountains and toast marshmallows at every given opportunity.
At 2768.4 miles long, the Great Divide Cycle Route is the longest off-road mountain bike trail in the world – officially established by the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) who are a brilliant organisation that support a whole network of routes in America and provide maps to people like us who want to ride them. The Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks were two highlights we didn’t want to miss…
"This route is defined by the word 'remote'. Its remoteness equates with spectacular terrain and scenery. The entire route is basically dirt-road and mountain-pass riding every day...it has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain.” ACA
As a freelance filmmaker operating under the guise of Maia Media I love taking a camera with me everywhere, and this journey would be no exception. I stuffed a Panasonic Lumix GH3 camera and 3 lenses into my handlebar bag, and our 18 minute film was the result of our shooting efforts. The film premiered at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival 2014 and was shortlisted for the People’s Choice Award. It went on to win the Silver Award for the Best Spirit of Adventure film at ShAFF 2015 and is part of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival 2015 World Tour – next stop China! Megamoon is now released online for all to see – I hope you enjoy it. To accompany the film, I have shared some extracts from the touring journal I kept, and some of our photos…
12th August 2013
New Mexico Desert (23.4 miles)
Left at a leisurely 10.30am thinking it would be an easy day. We were wrong! Massive arroyos (dry creeks) and holes in the road. We both became stressed and anxious as we ran out of water and no GPS given Patrick had dropped it in the one and only puddle yesterday. Eventually we found the Ojo Frio Spring and camped there. Several cows came to share the water tank.
22nd August 2013
New Mexico Desert (38 miles)
Another monster day when it should have been easy…ish. My wrong turn took us 2.5 miles up the highway which meant a 5 mile detour. As we started the correct ascent it soon turned into another clag mud fest. Managed to pootle on slowly. Great lush green valleys now with wide open views. The up hills weren’t as steep as we had thought but we still spent most of our time going up. Hail and thunder storms hit us again! More epic mud clag! I had no brakes left and was wobbling around at speed on a descent. Aborted. Not too bad but snapped off extra handle bar bit. Hopefully it can be fixed. Pushed and slid around. Eventually I managed to ride a lot with Dolly Parton tunes in my ears. My spirits were high and Dolly kept me going in the rain for ages. Eventually the rain became tedious. Repeated chain stuck due to mud.
We spotted about 9 elk run through forest and over our road. Amazing. Later we saw a lone elk quite a lot closer. Now camping by a nice lake at 10,000ft. Patrick looked after me when we arrived at camp. I got in the tent and he was cooking dinner at 7.40pm. Noodles which were very nice. Heard wolves again…or are they coyotes? Do you get coyotes this high up? Do you get wolves this far South?
26th August 2013
to Del Norte, Colorado (43.3 miles)
A big day but we managed. We climbed Indiana Pass reaching our highest altitude of the whole trip at 11,910 ft. Both definitely felt the thin air and I struggled at times near the top with empty legs. But on the whole it wasn’t as hard as I had feared and by 4.30pm we were drinking tea and eating cinnamon buns in the Peddler Cafe, Del Norte. We camped in a shady RV park, went for pizza and beer at a local micro brewery and polished off the evening with a margarita and extra large whiskey in the Windsor Hotel. Brilliant!
_ 4th September 2013_
Onwards from Hartsel, Colorado (61.4 miles)
There was a 40 mile uphill to start the day and someone had stolen my mojo. Felt totally lackluster from the start. The roads were washboard and a little sandy which sapped my energy. We met Bill a cyclist coming the opposite way who was on day 18 from leaving Banff. He had super light kit but I’m amazed people can ride so fast.
We had a beer in Como as a thunderstorm was brewing. Eventually we made it to the top of Boreas Pass at 5pm (approximately 11,400ft and the highest actual continental divide crossing). On the way down we were soaked by another thunderstorm and stopped halfway to put more clothes on. Emerged into Brekenridge which was quite a culture shock as it’s a posh little ski and bike town full of tourism. Followed the 9 mile bike path to Frisco where we ate dinner and drank more beers. Pitched our tent in the dark at 9pm.
18th September 2013
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (7 miles)
A ridiculous day. Raining in the morning but Patrick manages to get up and make us breakfast anyway. The plan was for him to head to Jackson Hole and pick up parcel from the post office. I was heading straight to Jenny Lake to grab a camp spot. I got to Mormon Row and the road turned to mud. I came to a tricky spot where I had to push as all my wheels were completely stuck and not rotating. A car stopped and the driver said I was gnarly. He also suggested I cycle on the grass as ‘life is too short’. His passenger then got out the car and photographed me on rapid shutter. When I looked at him to smile he looked down at his feet and as I continued he carried on snapping me with his camera. It was like I was a buffalo or a moose or something. He was less than 10ft away and never smiled or said a word.
Anyway I continued on the grass until I fell in a ditch and bent the rear mech hanger. Tried to carry on cycling which was a big mistake and the derailleur snapped and mangled into my bike. Slowly made my way to a stream after detaching the trailer and carrying my bike as it was no longer pushable. Washed bike in a stream until I could find the sram link and remove my chain. Cable tied my derailleur to the frame and was able to push again as the wheels now rotated. Pushed back all the way to the campsite. At the campsite I dropped my only food – a sandwich – on the gravel floor. Gutted. Patrick arrived back with cake and we toasted marshmallows over a campfire.
25th September 2013
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming (no miles)
Well no snow today. Lazy tent time playing games on my ipad, reading books, eating, and charging batteries. It’s cold though. I wore my leggings in bed last night for the first time and I’m regretting sending Patrick’s ‘summer’ sleeping bag home as it would have been a good extra layer. Patrick looks very toasty in his massive down sleeping bag.
We went for a short walk along the river in the afternoon and was fortunate enough to see another massive Elk with huge antlers. He strutted his stuff along the other side of the river. Awesome! No camera but great to see. Beef, carrot and onion with tinned tomatoes and smash for dinner. Another fire (we collected wood earlier today) and more marshmallows with wine. It’s predicted to snow one foot tonight and Patrick and I can’t quite believe it. It’s currently 1°C outside.
29th September 2013
Montana (64.5 miles)
Wind still howling. Another violently loud and crap nights sleep. Took the tent down methodically to prevent blowing away. To leave the campsite we had to go with the wind and neither of us pedalled once. It was hilarious. It was just like we were on an electric bike! Then we pedalled into the headwinds to get out of the valley which was less than a mile. As we then entered the main valley the wind direction became a SW (so the wind in our campsite was just being channelled through the narrow valley). As we headed north it gave us a decent assist and we covered 30 miles in 2 hours. It was great and such a relief.
3rd October 2013
to Orvando, Montana (35 miles)
It was a cold morning. Had to climb up Huckleberry Pass and we could see rain or snow clouds. Long gradual climb with lots of old bear poo on the road. Most definitely in bear country now. The top of the pass had a smattering of snow. Put most of my clobber on…2 synthetic Arcteryx jackets, fleece buff, woolly hat, long sleeve 200 woollen top, cheap gloves, waterproof over mittens, neoprene socks, 3/4 cycling shorts and over shorts. Coldest we’ve ever been on the trip. All down so no need to pedal which became unpleasantly cold. Still the scenery was gorgeous with yellow aspen trees so I had to stop to get a few photos. Got frost nip on my finger. Got to the bottom and had lunch by the side of the road. A Fed Ex van rolled past…it’s amazing how you feel in complete wilderness one minute and civilisation the next.
Got to a small town called Orvando. Population of 71 according to our map and we were greeted with ‘Welcome Cyclist’ signs. They also had a tipi, gypsy caravan and an old jail house for people to sleep in for only $5. We ate pecan pie and ice cream in the cafe and decided we would stop here for the night despite being 10 miles short of our aim. Chose to sleep in the old jail. Little strange but definitely warmer than a tent. It was like a wooden cabin but with rope cots to sleep in. Everyone very helpful and friendly. Amazing little town fully embracing all the Great Divide cyclists.
11th October 2013
British Columbia, Canada (don’t now how many miles)
We spotted quite fresh grizzly bear poo just 100m from Fernie town centre. Madness! I set the pace and trucked on to Sparwood in good time. We tried to find a cup of tea and warmth but spotted a library instead and so we surfed the internet for 40 mins. Cycled on to Elkford where we grocery shopped. We aimed to camp in a meadow just 5 miles past Elkford town. About a mile in I remembered a cyclist we’d passed told us to cycle on the East side of the river because the crazy June floods had destroyed bridges. Just then a car approached so we flagged them down to ask about the bridges. He told us to stay on the West side because the bridge was ok and the other side was full of logging trucks. He told us he was camped in the meadow we were aiming for and that they (him and a bunch of other hunters) were cooking a turkey dinner and we were very welcome to join them. How nice.
When we arrived they gave us a beer and told us stories. We sat in their communal tent which has been there over hunting season every year for the past 40 years. Amazing. We joined them for dinner with all the trimmings. We enjoyed more hunting stories and were told about a hiker just the week before who had spent 6 days without food after being bluff charged by a bear 4 times. The hunters fed him too. They told us that there are too many grizzly bears in the valley now.
**In Banff Patrick would later tell me that this night he heard a bear snuffling around our camp whilst we were sleeping. He didn’t wake me up but needless to say he got very little sleep afterwards.
13th October 2013
to Banff, Canada (over 75 miles)
Last day on the bikes. A long, long, day. We’ve clearly developed fitness as we would never have completed a day like this earlier in the trip. Cycled for miles on gravel road…more than gravel…it was small tiny pebbles that became extremely tedious but it was nice to have stunning snowy mountains all around us. We had second lunch about 4pm which wasn’t a great sign as to when we would finish. The cycle track leading to Banff had a warning notice that bridges were collapsed due to earlier floods and there was absolutely no entry. We headed off on the slightly more boring and much longer tarmac route. We had already paid for a night in a hotel in Banff and we most certainly weren’t going to miss a night in a bed due to some epic river crossing.
It was dark as we began our cycle from Canmore to Banff along a cycle track. It was quite a moment when a MASSIVE train choo’d past us only metres away…stars were twinkling in the sky and the shark fin shaped silhouette of the mountain was straight ahead. We had made it! What an incredible journey, and Megamoon!