Author Topic: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana  (Read 2434 times)

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indyfabz

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Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« on: July 06, 2017, 01:22:52 pm »
Last Saturday I finished a wonderful, two-week loop tour from/to Missoula, with nights in St. Regis, Wallace (ID), Thompson Falls, Cabinet Gorge, Troy, Yaak (2), Rexford, Whitefish, Glacier National Park (2), Bigfork and Seeley Lake. I will update this thread with a photo album in a week or so but I wanted to convey some thoughts while they are fresh in my mind.

While planning the trip I focused on the roads and trails I planned to ride. When actually out there on the road, I quickly realized that the rivers and lakes I casually paid attention to during the planning stages were dominating the days. Rivers of note included the Clark Fork, St. Regis, Kootenai, Bull, Yaak, Flathead and Blackfoot. Major lakes included Koocanusa, Bull, Flathead, Swan, Seeley and Salmon. And countless creek crossings were a daily occurrence.

Some highlights of the trip:

1. The portions of the Olympian and NorPac Trails that I rode--from De Borgia to Lookout Pass—and then the screaming descent down I-90 to Mullan to pick up the Trail of the Coeur D ’Lane to Wallace, ID.

2. Wallace to Thompson Falls via Dobson, King’s (unpaved) and Thompson Passes. Worth the effort.

3. The unadvertised hike/biker sites at Thompson Falls State Park. They are actually day use picnic areas that they put hikers/bikers in. They are the best sites in the place.

4. Blue Slide Rd. to the Trout Creek area. (A must ride over MT 200.)

5. MT 56 through the Cabinet Mountains and my lakeside site at U.S.F.S. campground Dorr Skeels at the head of Bull Lake. Amazing sunset conditions.

6. Yaak River Rd. to Yaak for two nights at U.S.F.S. campground Pete Creek, and then the climb and descent to MT 37. Beautiful every inch of the way and about as far off the grid as you can get without being in the backcountry.

7. The fried chicken at the Frontier Bar in Rexford and splashing around in Lake Koocanusa.

8. The new hiker-biker sites at Whitefish Lake State Park and Wayfarers State Park, complete with tent pads, bike racks, shelters, repair stands, power outlets and bear lockers.

9. The back way via North Fork, Blankenship and Belton Stage Rds. to/from W. Glacier (glad to see there is a bike path from Lake 5 Rd. to W. Glacier) and, of course, the ride up to Logan Pass and back down.

10. Middle Rd. between Columbia Falls and MT 35.

11. The lack of rain. Had an overnight shower in Whitefish and brief drizzle the morning I was preparing to leave Glacier. Other than that, it was bone dry.

Lowlights included:

1. U.S. 93 south of Fortine, with its traffic and sketchy shoulder in many places. A stretch south of Twin Bridges Rd. just outside of Whitefish is in particularly horrible shape.

2. The earlier miles of MT 83 south towards Seeley Lake for the same reason.

3. Trying to ride a portion of an abandoned Milwaukee Road right of way only to find the last mile through a ranch blocked off by a barbed wire fence, forcing me to backtrack to I-90 and adding 8 miles to an already long first day of 76 miles.

4. The heat. Most days reached into the lower 90s with blazing sun.

No bear or moose sightings, but I did see countless whitetails and a few mulies, a half dozen bald eagles, numerous ospreys, a doe elk on the NorPac Trail, a big horn ewe with young ones in Cabinet Gorge, a large, red fox, one fat hoary marmot and what I believe was an ermine.

indyfabz

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Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2017, 07:52:02 am »
Created a photo album:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/albums/72157682904463522

The best way to view them is to click on the first one and advance manually using the arrow on the right. Unfortunately, Flikr's editor is being replaced so I have not yet been able to add descriptions.

Offline great_egret

Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2017, 05:47:52 pm »
Oh, boy! that stretch of 93 just west of Whitefish was the worst and most dangerous section of my entire NTR tour in 2016.  So I hear you on that.

I'm glad to hear the hiker/biker sites in Whitefish Lake SP are complete.  When I was there they were just a few spots of with a ton of pea gravel as the pad.

I love Bull Lake.  I camped at Bad Medicine and loved it.  I'll have to head to Dorr Skeels next time.

I can almost smell the fried chicken at Frontier. Perfect place to stop after the climb around Koocanusa.  NFDR 228 on the Western side of Koocanusa is much better than 37.  Ride it next if haven't ever.

Thanks for sharing.  I wasn't able to take my tour this year, so it's nice to see the pics too.  Especially the sun road.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2017, 07:52:52 am »
NFDR 228 on the Western side of Koocanusa is much better than 37.  Ride it next if haven't ever.
I was originally going to go to from Yaak to Libby and take 228, but only a month or so before the trip I found a Crazy Guy journal written by a guy with details about a paved route between Yaak and the bridge across the lake that some local told him was a classic. Ended up taking that. It is a fantastic ride. I don't think I saw a half dozen moving vehicles between Yaak and the bridge. Here is the map for that segment:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23254899

Not sure I ever want to ride it in the other direction like the group in the journal. The climb is shorter in that direction but, on average, much steeper.

The tent pads at Whitefish Lake S.P. are still pea gravel (same at Wayfarers S.P.) but are fine as long as you have a ground sheet. And for those who remember train horns at Whitefish, there is now what is known as a Quiet Zone at the railroad crossing near the park entrance. Trains no longer blow their horns. You can still see and hear them at the park, but the noise didn't both me.

Offline jamawani

Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2017, 09:07:27 am »
Really enjoyed the pix on your link.
Mebbe you might think of moving??

indyfabz

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Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2017, 03:26:50 pm »
Been thinking about it, but I have to stick around here for at least another 3 years for pension purposes. Too much to lose leaving before 55.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2017, 05:30:01 am »
What camera did you use for taking the pictures - they look great and full of color. Did you process the pictures or just uploaded them?

Lucas

indyfabz

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Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2017, 02:20:33 pm »
What camera did you use for taking the pictures - they look great and full of color. Did you process the pictures or just uploaded them?

Lucas
The camera is a Sony RX100 II. I did do some enhancement. For nearly all the photos I let my iMac do it automatically.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2017, 11:56:46 am »
On a combo of two different Montana tours, I have ridden many of these roads.  Hwy 56 is a favorite, although we were forced to hit the shoulder due to an aggressive pick up truck flying the confederate flag on the north end of that road.  We had dangerous and horrible traffic around Whitefish, but our worst part was on Hwy 2 just west of the town. I really got worn out trying to get from Whitefish to West Shores State Park on Flathead Lk.  It was the end of the day, we'd had little to no sleep the night before, and there were big hills.
Thanks for the report.  I know this site has no trip report forum, but I think it should.  One of the best parts of touring is reading about others' rides.   
May the wind be at your back!

indyfabz

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Re: Water Water Everywhere: My Tour Around Northwest Montana
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2017, 09:31:22 am »
Bump

Here is the through route. Not included are the ill-fated detour on the former Milwaukee Road right-of-way and side mileage for things like groceries and a library stop:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23235312