In the great north woods (part 1)

A ten-part series on environmental degradation, wilderness conservation and the Cyclist borealis
Our first day out it rained. It started gently, right after lunch and eventually it increased to a steady downpour. We stopped to put on our rain gear and kept on biking. It had rained the previous day on the drive up to Watson Lake and from inside the car the soggy taiga forest seemed quite picturesque. But as rain dribbles down the back of my neck and my socks become saturated with gritty water kicked up by my tires, it dawns on me that for the next three weeks there won�t be cars or buildings or indoor space of any kind where we can wait out rainstorms.
It rained for the remainder of the day. At seven, the light was starting to fade and we stopped riding. Still in the rain, we set up our tarp, cooked dinner and assembled our tents one by one, taking turns running them out from under the tarp into the rain. The rain continued throughout the night with intermittent thunderstorms and at some point, probably around 3 or 4 am, when the thunder was near and I felt damp all over, I started to question my decision to take a year's worth of vacation to bike in this dreary corner of the planet.
The idea for the Ride for the Wild, as it came to be branded, was generated on a snowy night last February around the kitchen table of my cousin Isan�s house in Dillon. I had just finished as a communications deputy for John Edwards� presidential campaign and had come to here, a small ranching community about an hour south of Butte in the southwest corner of Montana, to detach myself from my blackberry and to come up with a plan for the summer that would allow me to remain utterly disconnected from the 24-hour news cycle.
My cousin's partner, Ryan, who works for the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, was talking about their role in a coalition of environmental groups that advocates for the creation of a wilderness corridor stretching from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming through the Rockies to the Yukon Territory in Canada. We could bike the corridor, I suggested, and get Patagonia and other corporations to sponsor our ride. And so now there are seven of us, our bicycles fully loaded with bear canisters, camp food, spare bike parts and a lot of warm clothing, camped on the side of a small lake in the Yukon.
Photo: Fully loaded (Isan Brant)

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