A Mixed Blessing

Eric Melson celebrates the fruits of his labor after a long climb on the Little Casino trail. The route, done in combination with Big Casino, is one of both extreme physical challenge and awe-inspiring beauty.

A Mixed Blessing Wilderness, Monuments and Mountain Bikes in the Boulder-White Clouds

When it comes to Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains, biking tends to involve hiking.

Back in 2014, we were midway through the Gem State’s renowned Castle Divide route, which begins near the town of Stanley and traverses through the heart of the Boulder and White Cloud mountain ranges. We weren’t riding. Rather, we were pushing our bikes toward the ridgeline far above.

In the White Clouds, however, the way down is always worth the climb. As we dropped through the 5,000-foot descent, we passed through every variety of Idaho mountain biking, from high-alpine singletrack to dark trees, chundery stream crossings, open meadows and dusty sagebrush. We finished at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Salmon River, prime habitat for endangered bull trout and a great cool-off spot in the midsummer heat. 

Our group was a collection of friends and coworkers, brought together by our collective effort to permanently protect the Boulder-White Clouds. The area had been on the verge of wilderness designation for a decade—a mixed blessing for us, as it would also permanently close the trails to mountain bikers. Along with the Wood River Bicycle Association, IMBA and state and national wilderness advocates, we were here to champion an alternate option: a National Monument designation, which would keep the trail both open to bikes and safe from development.

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