(Click on the first one and advance manually.)
The route with campgrounds listed (started and ended at the Missoula KOA):
Much of the mileage I had ridden before during other tours out that way, including ones in 2011 and 2014, but some was new to me. I had planned to take the 5th day as a rest day but ended up doing a 23 mile out and back ride from the Bike Camp in Twin Bridges, where I spent two nights.
Nice weather except for 15 miles of light rain at the end of day 1 and rain (sometimes heavy) all night in camp, a couple of bouts of hail on day 2 and a thunderstorm on the penultimate day. One unplanned indoor stay in Jackson on day 2 because the hot springs lodge that allows camping was not yet open on Thursday and it was really cold and windy out by the evening. My motel stay in Butte was planned. Cooked most dinners.
The route incorporated over 70 miles of gravel/dirt roads, including 30 miles of beautiful Rock Creek Rd. and 23 miles of hilly, rough, deserted Melrose Rd., where all I could hear was the wind and other sounds of nature. Due to the heavy rain on day 1, on day 2 I ended up scrapping the additional 20 miles of gravel/dirt that is Gibbons Pass and instead rode Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes.
Critter sightings included two young, mule deer bucks, a beautiful fox, a common snipe, great blue and other herons, an American bald eagle, ospreys, various other raptors, sand hill cranes, hummingbirds, a beaver that crawled onto the bank of the…wait for it…Beaverhead River and even two examples of the one species of American white pelican that is native to the state. Much to my delight, the mosquitoes were not bad at all, even in Wisdom. I think I used my repellant maybe three or four times.
One shock was the development that has sprung up in the Ennis area. I camped at the fish access campground there on June 25, 2000 during a tour from Seattle to Mesa Verde N.P. There were only a few other occupied sites and no one using the boat ramp. This year I stayed there on June 20th. I got one of the last vacant sites, and there were a lot of people taking their float boats out of the Madison River. Across from the campground are new homes near the river bank.
One cool sight was the cowboy driving the cattle along the side of the road a bit east of Wise River. He was quite pleasant and asked me about my trip as he passed. When I told him, he tipped his hat and said "Sounds like a plan!"
Nice people stories: I stupidly used my one dollar bills to pay for something in Virginia City so I didn't have exact change for the $12 campground fee at Ennis. I asked around and a woman who was having a picnic there with her friend gave me two ones when it turned out she didn't have change for a five. I met a local rider while leaving Butte. He showed me a new trail that took me towards Anaconda. The trail eliminated some I-90 frontage road riding. The trail is so new it's not on RWGPS so I couldn't include it in my map. The goal is eventually have a system of trails stretching between Butte and Anaconda for, as the local joked, all eight people in Butte who ride bikes.
One disappointment was not getting to tour the caverns at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, where I camped. What I failed to realize when I reserved a site is that, while the campground is easy to reach from the road, the caverns are 3.2 miles up a steep hill with grades that reach 9%, and the wind was gusting over 30 mph all day and into the evening. The photo showing me clocked at 6 m.p.h. was taken as I rode towards the park.
It’s a small world. The penultimate night on the road I camped in Philipsburg at the same location as Adventure Cycling’s supported Cycle Montana trip. The leader of that trip, along with three participants, had all been participants on AC’s 2010 Cycle Vermont Trip which I was also on.
Starting to plot next year’s western trip and am thinking of again starting in Missoula and heading northwest into Idaho.