Bike Tour 2012: Montana, our gateway to Yellowstone
Bike Tour 2012: Montana, our gateway to Yellowstone
A few interesting facts from the first third of our trip:
Days on the bike: 20
Map miles completed: 1,319
Actual miles completed: 1,444
Layover days: 3 (Smith Rock, Missoula, West Yellowstone)
Average daily speed: 11.7 mph
Average daily mileage so far (map): 66
Actual average daily mileage so far (actual): 72
Fastest speed achieved: 40.08 mph (down Badger Pass into Twin Bridges, MT)
Days spent in smoke: 12 out of 23
Longest day of riding: 89.5 miles (Council, ID to White Bird, ID)
Today we are enjoying a restful day off in West Yellowstone, Montana. Unlike our last layover day in Missoula, we are making sure to spend most of this day in bed, on the phone with friends and family, off of our feet, and out of our saddles. We are lucky enough to have a cute cabin as our accommodation (thanks to my wonderful mother), which provides us with ample opportunity to shower, watch T.V., and veg out. It is delightful!
The last six days seem to have flown by. Our day in Missoula was packed full of running errands, working on bikes, and trying to prepare for all that was still to come. We found this great bike shop called “Free Cycles” where Don got to spend the afternoon tuning up our bikes. The space is a non-profit provided for the community and people can spend time there doing anything from building themselves a bike from scratch to borrowing tools and stands to do their own repairs. It is an excellent idea and one that I am sure Portland will eventually get around to emulating. The next morning before taking off we made sure to stop in at the Adventure Cycling Association headquarters, where we took photos, immortalized our unique story in a couple different guest books, and enjoyed viewing photos of a number of other cyclists whom had stopped through before running into us somewhere in Idaho.
Our first day of riding was flat and fast and landed us in the cute little town of Darby. When we showed up they were having a small farmer’s market in the town park, right alongside some historical looking buildings and the town Marshal’s office. We knocked on the door and the uniformed Marshal greeted us with true Western Montana hospitality. We asked if there was anywhere we could camp in town for free and he offered us a space alongside a small creek just a few blocks away. We were happy to feel so welcomed and to have a nice campsite for the night.
Day two of riding took us over a long, steep pass called Lost Trail pass. We climbed for about 30 miles into beautiful forest and once at the top, climbed another beautiful forest and once at the top, climbed another 2 miles to Chief Joseph Pass along the continental divide. The Bitterroot River stayed by our side for most of the ride and all of the fall foliage was in full bloom. The fact that the ride was gorgeous made up for the fact that it was so physically challenging. Once over the pass the landscape quickly changed to desert and another 45 miles brought us to the wonderful Jackson Hot Springs resort. We decided $30 was a price we were willing to pay for a hot outdoor soak, showers, camping space, and free continental breakfast. The rustic lodge turned out to be a great place for staying warm and getting out of the always-present smoke.
More fire warnings at Lost Trail Pass and the first of our many encounters with the Continental Divide
The next day we decided to shoot for our third 70-something mile day in a row in order to spend the night at the famous “Bike Camp” in the town of Twin Bridges. It was another great decision. This ride took us over two more passes, past Beaverhead Rock, and along the Beaverhead River. Overall it was an easy day free from much pain and full of some very fast downhill. We got into town in time to set up our tents along the river, charge our phones, enjoy showers, and eat a scrumptious Backpacker’s Pantry dinner. The bike camp is available for touring cyclists by donation and the running water and electricity are a very welcome treat.
An early sunset caused by smoke and Beaverhead Rock near Twin Bridges, Montana
With just 2 days to go until we reached Yellowstone, we left Twin Bridges and biked 60-something miles to a stealth campsite along the Madison River. We passed through two historic gold-mining towns, Nevada City and Virginia City, and over one last steep hill. We camped about ¼ mile off the highway along the river and enjoyed an evening of swimming, picking prickly burrs off our clothes, and watching the alpenglow on the mountains in the distance. The next morning we expected a short and fast ride into West Yellowstone (we only had 55 miles to go), but instead we were faced with strong head winds, lots of short but steep climbs, and a lot of changing scenery. We went from deserts to mountain passes to rushing rivers to peaceful lakes before finally pulling into this wonderful tourist trap that they call West Yellowstone. With tired legs, dirty clothes, and hungry bellies we went about settling in for a day of rest and relaxation. Overall, we feel more than satisfied with our time in Montana. The people were kind, the drivers respectful, and the scenery full of beauty and variety. Next up…Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Wyoming!
Our favorite campsite along the Madison River and Don enjoying his favorite piece of gear, the Jetboil
Quake Lake and Hebgen Lake, both on the way to West Yellowstone
Bright colors on the first day of Fall and a road sign that always makes us smile