Tonight I am again camped up at McDonald Pass on the continental divide just off the CDT above Helena,MT.

Helena tourism runs a trail shuttle up Grizzly Gulch and today up to the said pass. Today I made the 9:30 shuttle up to the pass. The ride went about 3 miles S on the CDT, the tread was a mix of hike a bike rock gardens to not so tough but still rocky. trials riding skill, the bike prolly could have made it thru or over the rocks but the sense of self preservation kept the engine from attempting perceived I lack the ability to make this move. Sometimes the challenge was not the  single problem but linked rock patches. I should wear body armor for these rides.

rock gardens on CDT
rock gardens on CDT

Today was last day for the shuttle. Just a group of 3 riders joined me on the shuttle. I rdoe out first and never saw them again. Lodgepole forest, doghair stands lots of dead mixed in. Fuel loaded from years of stopping natural burning, today and into the future this stuff is rocket fuel.

dog hair lodge pole forest
dog hair lodge pole forest

The trail exited the woods to a meadow and the start of Switchback trail that would drop some 2,000′ down to the Rimini road and a road pedal back to the start.

top of switchback trail
top of switchback trail

Upper part of downhill was an overgrown rough double track mostly fall line yielding to old single track sustainable built. Pay attention. Keep heels down and eyes up. Extremely short stem speeds up the steering while lessening the amount of body travel to make the turn, the bike is a bit twitchy at low speed but once up to speed the bike carves. Also making tuning corners much easier. Zipped down to the road then rode back to van. Parking was packed from the 10:30 crowd. I had the trails all by myself.

Drove down towards Helena stopping at a hots spring resort for a soak and a shower. Then into town for groceries and beers at Blackfoot brewery right in Grizzly Gulch where the MT Helena ridge trails dump into, if you ride this way off the ridge. Brew pub, 4 beers are max for the day. I have patronized this brewery over the years and still enjoy it.

McDonald Pass is 16 miles west of town and about 2,000′ higher. paved US 12 makes for at least a smooth climb.

Back to Hamilton:

I slept in Shane’s driveway for 3 nights.

looking SW from Shane's, Bitterroots
looking SW from Shane’s, Bitterroots

The valley was downwind from ID fires making for hazy days. I hung out a little at The Red Barn bike shop. Chad and another rider told stories of trails locally they have ridden, some have been closed to bikes as land is a wilderness study area, a pre curser to wilderness. Method is to kick out bikes before land becomes wilderness.

Wed I drove up valley to ride around Cooney Lake. Once there I recognized I had been here previously, once randy and I camped in the XG and years before I found a flat spot somewhere above the lake for the night.

Cooney Lake
Cooney Lake

The trail on the south side of the lake uses the actual horse pack trail from early 1800’s. My first exposure to MT rock gardens from the chewed up tread from horses. What appears to happen is the steel horse shoes pick away at the rock and pound away any dirt. Again walking some rocks. However, the north side trail is hiker only where the same rock stuff is still covered by dirt. Lake is filled in the spring then rationed out in the late summer to the ranchers and hay growers. Amazing, the water is owned by us all but it benefits people using it to make money. Decreased water flow impacts life dependent upon cool plentiful flow.

Thursday AM I drove into Hamilton to do my wash. Clean clothes and some groceries loaded on board I headed towards Helena over Skalkaho Pass. I found a ride that went north from the pass on the Rock Creek Drainage, a national scenic trail. Nasty hike a bike up a bunch of switchbacks to get on top of the ridge.

Rock creek divide
Rock creek divide

Traveled thru several old burns

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATread was loose rock. My ride was an out and back. I reached a point where the trail became very loose and steep. I made that my turn around point. Trail is on ridge line, well above water sources.

I spent the night at the pass.

Friday I drove to Helena. My plan was to get a camp spot at FS XG closest into town at Moose Creek. The GPS route was going over McDonald pass and not go into town. Campground was filled, I drove along ways to a filled XG w/ no sign stating it was full. I turned around driving back out. I noticed other camper units driving in. Next choice was driving up towards Priest Pass on the n side of US 12. Climbing all weather gravel road. I grabbed the first flat spot which was just off the road. I don’t like to drive many miles on rough roads as the vibrations just shake up my van contents. Sunny day. I took off shirtless and waterless to walk up to the pass where the CDT crosses. Casual map reading said short road hike. Took me 57 mins of trucking to reach the pass. I passed several water flows but they had been fouled by cows.I needed water. I made it back before I became carrion.

Sat I drove down to Helena to catch the early shuttle ride up to Helena ridge above town. Shuttle saves about 8 miles uphill.  My desire on this ride was to descend Show me the Horse trail, otherwise known as Show me the Love. Great descent back down to Grizzly Gulch. trail has suffered from it popularity as seen by lots of brake bump sections. I rode a piece of the road then turned up Wakina Sky trail to come down Stairway to heaven. Area has had a severe beetle kill. Trail tread is rocky that I was able to roll over. Bike just skips over the nasty. Beer at Blackfoot again then drove up to McDonald pass.

Getting late.

Tomorrow is another Helena ride then drive up to Trout Creek and bear gulch. Spend the night there then head to Bozeman.

Fall is coming, biting insects are nil. Ground cover plants are showing their colors. Next weekend is Labor Day marking the end of the summer vacations meaning fewer people to share our wilds with. Whoopee.


Smokey Bitterroot Valley

When I had time I had no internet or socialization. When I have internet I steal social time to write.

Very hot while in Spokane. My ride on Tuesday left me heat ravaged. I rode MT Spokane on Wed, up higher. The Park road is closed for rework. I hoped that the closure would be further up the road thus allowing me to pedal the road until Kit Carson rd. Unfortunately it was closed right at RS leaving only the POS trail 140 to climb up. This is primarily a downhill trail that is totally blown out as it has been since I started riding it back inn the last century. I chatted w/ a ranger who gave me an on the QT a pass to climb up a closed road that finally touched 110, nasty drag a bike climb.

Getting to present I am in Hamilton, MT in the Bitterroot valley. Smoke from Forest fires, some seen right from the highway. I drove to Hamilton to the Red Barn bike shop who builds up Turners. I pulled into the parking lot w/ the back of my van facing the road in. I went inside to get trail beta. Chad started sharing. He said he had to go check out a mtn bike racer arriving. There was a 435 gravel cruncher race going on and the shop is the finish. I walked outside and saw a woman in street clothes w/ a stethoscope around her neck. She looked familiar. I recognized her as Rommy, wife of Shane from Sedona area. She was surprised also. Shane was the rider finishing.  He was surprised to see me. He just called to say he is at Bitterroot brewery and I am stopping to go socialize. Hence my opening paragraph.

Back at it. Dinner and brew @ Bitterroot brewery. Shane’s house sits a bit above the valley. looking west into the mountains smoke density increased, the sun was never completely blocked out. Smell of smoke.

Let’s see, I rode MT Spokane temp still in the 90s. I hoped to pick berries from my secret stashes, however the bushes were bare. I picked a small handfull after many minutes. I had enough for pancakes the next day. 10.88 miles climbing 2403′.

Back down in Spokane. Showers at snap and anytime locations. I stayed across the road from my old house in my neighbors’ drive. I slept w/ the side door open w/ netting across it. Sleeping under just the flannel sheet.

In Spokane there are several places I like to visit. One is Ultimate bagel for a bagelwhich. Across the parking lot is Wolfies where I get a chocolate malt. The guy working the counter remembered me and my treat. Right across the street is Jack and Dan’s as in Stockton. I would watch the Zag games there.

Thursday I did my laundry at my favorite laundromat. Dinner at the Elk. The [people that own the Elk also own Geno’s right near GU, 27 house up on the South Hill, Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene, and Front Porch in Hayden Lake. I only visited the first 3.

Friday evening was a gathering w/ friend Tom who is storing some of my stuff at his house. I owe him 2 beers a year for fees. I got rolling a bit earlier to get in a ride before the heat of the day. I drove out to 7 Mile at Riverside. While I was gettin g ready a rider pedaled up to me. He was thrilled to meet me as he had read about me. Matt builds custom wheels. I took off on my ride lasting for 19.25 miles climbing 1735′ in 2 hrs. Heat came on. Back at my van Matt showed up. we sat and chatted about rides etc. I told him about MT Coeur d’Alene. He told about his figure 8 ride. Interesting as it added more miles. He left, I left for the beer meeting.

This year I neglected making my semiannual dentist visit. I met w/ my $ man and paid my beer fee. I was free to go. Spokane was not speaking loudly to me for a longer stay. I drove away from Bill’s heading to MT Coeur d’Alene. I stopped along the way for tasks. I arrived at the cedar trees on Beauty Creek rd. Shortly afterwards a car w/ a bike on it parked across the road. The driver’s door opened then the driver got out and walked over to me. Dang, it was Tim who showed me a ride here that we rode together several years prior. Last year we met on the road, me finishing and him starting. Today we were going to ride together again. Today was a ride populated w/ several long rest breaks as we chatted. Our route was up the creek road until trail 257 climbed out of the creek. 257 intersects w/ a logging road leading to the summit. This was all uphill. AT the summit the trail turned down and Tim was gone. He is way faster than me going down. We rode down trail 227 down the the hole where 257 connects for the big hump up and out. I waited 13 mins for Tim to climb out. I’m faster going up than him. He had made a date w/ his wife that was delayed because of our talking. 20 miles climbing 3761′. Tim baled and I continued on the figure 8 as I rode towards the summit before catching Scaraboo Ridge trail down to the cut thru trail down to an overgrown logging road to pick up 257 back down. I rode across the creek and started up the other side pedaling as if my feet were attached. Not so. I got boosted up into the air coming back to earth connecting w/ the pedal spikes on the back of my left calf: blood leaked out of several deep cuts. Moose bones are still on the log alongside the trail.

I took a solar shower at the TH then drove up to 4th of July pass exiting to the south and driving looking for a sleep spot. I found a quiet spot. Hot night even at 3000′.

Sunday I got started early again then driving back road highways down to Moscow Mtn north of town. The trail system here is on private timber company land. All trails are purpose hand built trails. Big climb up to Paradise Point. MTBProject only had the Headwaters trail which I rode beyond. Good woods trails. I encountered several hikers. I had hoped I would get to ride w/ knowledgeable riders but no such fortune. Short ride of 12.9 miles climbing 2289′. Big climbs here in the Inland Northwest.

I drove into Moscow  for a shower and groceries. Continuing south the highway dropped down the Lewiston grade to the Snake River and US 12. Plan was to drive 12 up the Clearwater and go over Lolo Pass into Montana. I was either going to Missoula or up the Bitterroot to Hamilton. I chose the later. Driving south I saw heavy smoke ahead from forest fires. I almost turned around for Missoula. Instead hope for clearing skies was realized. To the west several spot fires burned on the mountain side from a previously contained fire. A blow up. I found the bike shop which brings us back to meeting Shane. No ride as today was a rest day by design. Amount of smoke will determine my rides. I learned that Missoula is having its fire burn that would have not permitted me to ride there. Fires.

I’m staying in Shane’s driveway. Chilly night as I have the doors and windows shut.

If the smoke is too heavy my next stop will be Helena. I should research there I suppose before I head there.

So now, sort of caught up. Didn’t take any pics.


Saturday I drove down the steep twisty gravel road down to the Methow River then down to the Columbia and out into the dry central Washington desert. Continued all the way to Spokane. Randy’s city place up on south hill had shade. Just plain 90 degree hot.

A brew fest was underway downtown. Randy contacted UBER that is pretty cool. Driver and car showed up carrying us downtown. Sampled a few beers. Most were hoppy that I don’t care for. Not many ales. Hung there for a while. Lisa picked us up and drove us back uphill. Randy and Lisa made dinner of the last of his salmon. I spent the night in their driveway.

Sunday we drove over to Farragut SP in Idaho. Randy rides a large Turner Burner, I ride a medium RFX, Lisa rides a small 5 Spot. We were papa, mamma, and baby Turner sizes. I missed getting our pic. Farragut trails have  numbered intersections with arrows pointing to respective intersections so you are always found when you make sense of the map. At the start leadership was being contested. I suggested that what we do is first person picks a direction of travel, we ride that way until the next intersection where the next person in line would chose which way to go, their choice. This would let each of us lead. Worked for a little bit until others figured out the map and planned a route. We rode along the lake shore, some of the trails were part of a race course I raced on years ago. After our ride we enjoyed a cooling off immersion in the lake. Lots of people. Back in Spokane a clean shower then went out to dinner. I slept in their driveway again.

Monday was a rest day in town. I drove out to my former neighbors’ house to check out sleeping in their driveway. All cool as in a bit cooler in the canyon. I slept in the driveway.

Tuesday PM was my money man meeting which is what my hard schedule created. $ doing conservatively fine, will not be eating dog food. I drank only 1 beer as there would be enough time post meeting for a ride at Riverside SP. 96 degrees at the start. I worked to keep my effort easier. Hottttt. I pedaled for 1hr 36 mins, when I finished around 7PM the temp had dropped to 77 degrees.  Amazing.

Wed another 90 something day. I chose to ride up in MT Spokane SP hoping to pick berries. The park road is closed right at the ranger station which prevented me riding the road part way up. I stopped at the RS where a ranger was just getting on a Rokon dirt bike. I asked him if there was another way to gain access to the trails other than riding the piece of shit abused non sustainable trail. He allowed me i time to ride then push my bike up a closed road. I gained the trail I wanted then continued to climb up to Kit Carson outhouse. I know of a berry patch along the way. I saw berries enough for speculation. I stashed my bike then hung my berry bag around my neck then waded into the brush. Pitifully small amount of berries. There are years when the bushes don’t produce fruit as was this year where I picked. I did pick enough for a pancake bfast this AM.

Today it is 93 again. Just too hot to ride. I did my wash in an air conditioned laundromat. Then I searched for bike parts. I searched for Formula brake pads and presta valve cores. As a rule Spokane bike shops are lacking which is beyond sucking.

I am parked on a side street under tree shade near the Elk, a favorite Pub for chill and dinner.

Hot forecast again for tomorrow and thru the weekend of the Ironman in Coeur d’Alene.

Yesterday I started researching where to go when I leave here. I originally thought about dropping down to CO for fall colors. Amazing what a map of the US shows: CO is way south and North Dakota is way north. I don’t like to wander drive so CO is scratched. I have no real plan. MTBProject is not populated with a lot of ride choices. I will start w/ Cd’A mtn and river. Helena.MT is still running shuttles.

This issue of Bike has a 2 page political screed about the election. It doesn’t pick either major candidate.

Just hot.

Spokane is the biggest town I have been in since the last time I was here. City and some urban streets are torn up for repair. Argonne going up out of the valley is down to choked off 1 lane down from 2 each way. Lots of drivers competing for space.

I have ridden 103 rides and 1650 miles on the RFX to date. I shared it with Turner.