We deliberated for quite a while over whether to follow this ‘alternative route’, a 30 mile gravel road over Windigo Pass, recommended by the ACA, but reviewed online by the cycle touring community as too rough for touring bikes. We wanted to check it out, but were not sure if it would still be clear of snow, given the recent storm. We guesstimated the snowline to be around 5000ft, whereas the pass is at 5700ft. We just had to hope there had been enough traffic to keep it clear.
So far, so good. The road was smooth and hardpacked, just a bit sticky after all the recent rain.
A little bit of snow had settled on the road by 5500ft, but we had just enough traction in the tire tracks to keep cycling, although our pace slowed to about 4 miles an hour. We found a snow free patch of ground under a big tree to pitch our tent before tackling the pass the next day.
Our progress the next morning had slowed significantly to about 2 mph as we had passed the couple of campers that had been blazing the trail for us up to that point.
The going got even tougher as the road got steeper and the ruts got deeper so that our panniers no longer had clearance above the snow.
Turns out Velcro doesn’t work very well in the snow. My feet turned into snowballs.
At least we didn’t have the problem of where to lean the bikes when we wanted a break from pushing.
At last we could cycle again!
Verdict: despite the snow and recent stormy weather, which significantly slowed our progress, we enjoyed this route and found the road conditions (where it wasn’t covered in snow) to be more than good enough for our touring bikes. We would happily ride this route again and would recommend it to other tourers.
After days of rain and snow, and pretty tough riding conditions, we treated ourselves to a hot shower at Diamond Lake Lodge ($5 each), washed all our clothes, camped up by the lake and returned the next morning to dry out our shoes.