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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Traveled thru several old burns
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.
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.