Author Topic: Montana & Idaho Trip Report  (Read 2090 times)

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Offline BikeliciousBabe

Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« on: July 15, 2019, 10:12:17 am »
Photo album from my two-week trip during the second half of last month:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/albums/72157709619080636/with/48274239366/


Here is the planned route:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29428535?beta=false

I ended up altering it south of Whitefish. There was a big morning storm, complete with hail. Some of the roads south of Columbia Falls are unpaved and can get messy when even slightly wet, so I stuck to U.S. 93 and MT 35 to rejoin what I had planned. There were also a few other minor deviations from the planned route.

Overnights were:

1. About 7 miles east of St Regis, MT
2. About 9 miles east of Avery, ID
3. Wallace, ID
4. Thompson Falls, MT (Got a motel room for a couple of reasons.)
5. Noxon, MT (Nice city park along the Clark Fork.)
6. Bad Medicine Campground along Bull Lake off of MT 56
7. About 3 miles west of Troy, MT
8 & 9. Pete Creek Campground near Yaak, MT
10. Rexford, MT
11. Whitefish Lake S.P.
12. Wayfayers S.P. in Bigfork, MT
13. Seeley Lake, MT (Motel so I could get an early start on the last day.)

Highlights included: Getting to ride two sections of I-90 westbound that were closed to motor vehicles; the 16 mile (15 unpaved), 3,200'+ climb up Gold Pass out of St. Regis then the incredibly scenic (and nicely paved) descent down to and then along the St. Joe River towards Avery; the former Milwaukee Road ROW from Avery then the Route of the Hiawatha Trail; the herd of elk on Blue Slide Rd. west of Thompson Falls; the Ross Creek Cedars; Kootenai Falls, seeing a bear and a youg-ish bull elk near Yaak; Porcupine Pass on the way to Rexford and my reward of some really great fried chicken there; and the two Montana state parks with special hiker/biker sites with all the trimmings.

For those planning on doing the Northern Tier I am going to put in another shameless plug for a detour into the Yaak area. Low traffic, scenic falls and lots of woods and wildlife. My bear happened when I took a ride up Pete Creek Rd. from camp during my rest day. The area is home to both black and grizzly bears. The campground host took a drive into the woods the same day and saw his third lion of the year.  Saw the bull elk the morning I was heading to Rexford. About 3 easy miles from Pete Creek Campground there is a bar and a restaurant/bar/store, although don't expect to find much in the way of groceries. I carried enough food for one dinner and two breakfasts. Ate my first dinner and the next day's lunch out. From the center of Yaak you can get back on the Northern Tier route via the way shown on my map (Porcupine Pass), which is extremely scenic (and totally paved), or you can hang a right at the intersection for the road to Libby, which I believe is partially unpaved.

In any event...Lowlights included: Climbing a couple of miles of the steep part of Thompson Pass without realizing I was in the middle chainring; U.S. 93 between Fortine and Whitefish and missing some turns along the way that would have allowed me to explore some alternatives to that death trap of a highway; some of MT 83 between Bigfork and Seeley Lake.

I had done much of this route in 2017 (The Gold Pass/St. Joe/Avery/Hiawatha sections were new to me. I also overnighted in a couple of new places.) This time the weather was much different. Cooler days and even cooler nights. Some mornings were in the 40s when I hit the road. There were three days with noticeable periods of rain, but nothing biblical, although I did have to pull over twice while descending Gold Pass, once to take cover from a brief period of hail. As you can see from the photos, conditions were often overcast or foggy. 2017 was warm to hot and humid. I don't believe I used my rain gear once. The day I arrived back in Missoula it was 91 degrees by 1 p.m. All things considered, I'll take the cooler temps any day.

Now starting to think about my Pennsylvania tour that I try to take every September. Maybe from Pittsburgh home to Philly again.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2019, 02:14:05 pm by BikeliciousBabe »

Offline jsieber

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2019, 10:46:40 am »
Sounds like a great tour of northwest Montana. The Yaak is definitely a fantastic and remote area! Would love to check out the photos but the Flickr link is currently returning a 404 error.

Offline StuartN

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2019, 10:49:10 am »
Thanks for this! I've copied the paragraph regarding the Northern Tier and added it to my planning notes.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2019, 02:15:01 pm »
Would love to check out the photos but the Flickr link is currently returning a 404 error.

Thanks. Fixed.

Offline jsieber

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2019, 04:14:15 pm »

Thanks. Fixed.

Thanks, looks like it was a great ride. You went to some great places in northwest Montana. Thanks for sharing your itinerary and RideWithGPS routes.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2019, 07:41:39 am »
There is a neat story behind the bear sighting. Pete Creek Rd. goes some 20 miles up into the woods. Remarkably, it becomes paved after about 5 miles. Went up there looking for critters, periodically stopping and waiting silently by the side of the road. After about 6 miles I gave up and started heading back to camp. Then I decided to stop one more time at a spot above the creek. My thought was that if I were a bear and needed a drink I might head down to that part of the creek, which is secluded. Stood there drinking water and looking up and down the road. After about 3-4 minutes I looked up the road just as it walked out of the brush heading towards the creek. I let out a loud "Yesssssss!", causing it to stop and check me out. That gave me time to fire up the camera. Only wish I had greater zoom.

A couple of days later it occurred to me that that was my fourth bear sighting while touring in the last two years. Saw 2 while riding across PA in 2017. The first of those was easily 500 lbs. We stared at each other from a distance of about 25'. The second was much smaller and swam across a creek after I startled it on the Pine Creek Trail. Then last year a small cub crossed my path as I was heading back to my site at Worthington State Forest in NJ. Mom was nowhere to be seen, which made me both nervous and a bit sad.

Totally forgot to mention that while I was outside a C-Store in Troy a man drove by with a lynx in the back of his pickup. it was leashed and sitting upright on the top of is tool chest. Couldn't get the camera out in time.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2019, 01:57:55 pm by BikeliciousBabe »

Offline BikePacker

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2019, 08:05:40 pm »
Photo album from my two-week trip during the second half of last month:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/albums/72157709619080636/with/48274239366/
Thanks for the update.
Photos are fabulous.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2019, 02:49:15 pm »
How much of this route is not paved?

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2019, 03:50:49 pm »
How much of this route is not paved?

15 of the 16 miles of Gold Pass between where your cross I-90 in St. Regis to the ID border.

9 miles of Milwaukee Road right-of-way to the west end of the Route of the Hiawatha Trail.

The entire 14.5 miles of the Route of the Hiawatha Trail.

About 2.3 miles down from the tail towards I-90.

9 miles of the NorPac Trail between the Taft interchange of I-90 and Lookout Pass.

About 5.75 miles of King Pass between Delta and Murray, ID.

Had I stuck to the planned route south of Columbia Falls there would have been maybe about 5 more miles of dirt/gravel between mile 492 and 502.3.

Looking back at the map now I should also mention that I skipped the backroad mileage between 504.7 and 507, opting instead to stay on MT 35 because mile 505.5 to 507 is unpaved and a bit sandy as I remember it.

Also, at  mile 512.7 I stayed straight on Riverside instead of making the right onto N. Ramsfield. There was a dead "Dead End" or "No Outlet" sign despite Google Maps showing it as a through road back to MT 35. Looking at Satellite View it appears that there is a bridge out at mile 513.5. The surface at the Riverside end was quite rocky.

In case someone from ACA read this I want to note that Riverside Rd. south of Creston gives you a nice break from the traffic on MT 35 without adding much distance or bypassing any services. That one little camels hump you see shortly before rejoining MT is 35 is unpaved, but it's maybe a quarter of a mile and benign (although a climb).  A local in Whitefish told me about the section and said she rides it on road tires. I can see that. If it's not part of the Great Parks North Route is should be.

Offline JHamelman

Re: Montana & Idaho Trip Report
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2019, 08:26:20 am »
In case someone from ACA read this I want to note that Riverside Rd. south of Creston gives you a nice break from the traffic on MT 35 without adding much distance or bypassing any services. That one little camels hump you see shortly before rejoining MT is 35 is unpaved, but it's maybe a quarter of a mile and benign (although a climb).  A local in Whitefish told me about the section and said she rides it on road tires. I can see that. If it's not part of the Great Parks North Route is should be.

I am here and have read your comment, BikeliciousBabe! Your suggestion is one that has already been incorporated into the Great Parks North Section 1 map. Thanks for speaking up though. Sometimes we miss these little route gems.

Jennifer
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Jennifer Hamelman
Assistant Director, Routes & Mapping
Cartographer

Adventure Cycling Association
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