2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: Dewey to Dillon

My journal entry for the morning of Day 5 reads:

Best moment of day? Watching moon set over pine-spiked mountains, listening to a stream rushing over smoothed rocks – trout sleeping in the current, drinking a cup of steaming coffee.

As we set out on the road, our trunk bag was packed to bursting with rain jackets and pants and shoe covers, in the event that the predicted rain materialized. (It never did.) Last evening’s rain hadn’t turned the campsite into a muck pit, but it had made the top layer of sandy soil very clingy. We’d used a rock to scrape the sandy mud off our tires. I caught a cyclist performing the “cleat mud kick maneuver.”

2 cleat mud kick

Dewey has a couple of very lovely old log barns.

1 dewey log barns

Seemed like our shadows were unusually long that morning.

3 long shadows

Foggy remnants of night crouched in the still-shaded corner of the valley.

4 valley fog

Just past the Wise River Club, we turned onto the Pioneer Scenic Byway.

5 wind river club

We were warned to be on the lookout.

6 cows on road

But the only bovids we saw were the epitome of orderliness. (Look how they’re lined up!)

7 orderly cattle

This is my favorite picture from the whole ride, captured as we passed the Wise River Airport. Multimodal transport: bike + jet fuel.

8 multimodal transport

The morning was all about stopping. Not necessarily because of the climb, but often to shed garments as the day warmed, or simply to take in the scenery.

There were numerous lupines still blooming amid the grasses at the roadside.

9 lupine

Some folks stopped to shed their gear and marvel at a yardful of bric-a-brac.

10 junk stop

Bridge-side photo op.

11 bridge stop

This is dang purty countryside.

12 beautiful cliff and river

Saw plenty of scarlet paintbrush in bloom. Also a good amount of fireweed.

13 fireweed

While I was taking a picture of the fireweed, I noticed a wild raspberry plant nearby. It had two tiny ruby fruits on it. Bugman and I each ate one. They were amazing little seedy bursts of sweet raspberry essence.

14 raspberry

Calm water.

15 calm stream

Rushing water.

16 bubbling stream

Wet meadow.

17 wet meadow

I loved the stretch along the Wise River. We soon began climbing, though.

We heard a cracking of brush as something large emerged from the trees . . . oh. Forest cattle.

18 forest cattle

We stopped to take a breather, and I was able to capture a photo of this pale type of fritillary I’d seen a few times in the area.

19 Fritillary

Cyclists had been passing us all morning as the climb had intensified. Now, it seemed to be just us and a woman gutting it out on the hill, alternately passing one another as we each stopped to rest. You can just see her on the switchback below, center left between two trees.

20 switchbacks

But then our hill buddy sagged. We made it to the “Lupine” rest stop, and we were the last one to arrive. We gulped some food as volunteers started to tear down the rest area infrastructure, and we hurried to get back on the road again, trying to catch up with the rest of the group. (I hate that feeling.)

As we left the rest area, we passed an older gent who commented that it was hard to get going again after a stop.

We cycled through a mountain meadow through which echoed distant raptor calls.

21 mountain meadow

The older gent passed us again when we stopped at Crystal Park, since at announcements the day before such a stop was recommended. All we saw was a parking lot and no explanatory signage, so we left. (I guess there really isn’t much to see unless you take a shovel and go looking for crystals in the soil, remnants from eroded granite.)

22 crystal park

Now the “sweep” motorcycle was behind us. We were officially last.

The descent down the other side of the mountain was a nice, smooth glide with virtually no traffic. We caught up with the older gent. Being heavy on a tandem, we eventually passed the him on the descent. I had an urge to take his picture as we went by, but I did not, a restraint I would later regret.

23 descent

Pedaling, pedaling, just keep pedaling . . . it’s 12:30 p.m., been riding for 5 hours, climbed like 2,500 feet . . . not even close to lunch yet. Another 5 miles or so to the rest stop at Polaris.

And, finally, here we are – unincorporated Polaris, at the (alas, defunct) Polar Bar.

24 polar bar

Polar Bar love seat.

25 polar bar

A welcoming sight for cyclists among the metal artifacts hung on the side of the bar.

26 polar bar bike

I was not in a good mental place by this point in the ride. It was not a good sign that the watermelon and nuts offered as snacks at the rest stop turned my stomach. I could only manage to guzzle some water.

I was physically exhausted and worn out from lack of sleep. I don’t make good decisions when I’m in a state like that. If I’d been making good decisions, I would have taken up an offer to sag to lunch, which was still 19 miles away. That way I perhaps would’ve had the energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, or even ride the hill triumphantly down into Dillon. Instead, that darn John Wayne billboard from the day before . . . don’t much like quitters . . . got into my head, and I insisted on continuing the ride to lunch.

Saw an unfamiliar contraption I assumed was for haying. Google/Wikipedia told me it’s a beaverslide.

27 beaverslide

Wonder if this was a dugout home? An old mine shaft?

28 old dugout

Since we didn’t dawdle at Polaris, we got out of the rest stop ahead of a few people. As we turned off the Pioneer Scenic Byway onto Highway 287, I looked back and took a picture of the cyclists following us. There was that older gent we’d passed on the hill – the fourth cyclist in the photo.

29 look back from hwy 278

Nine out of ten horses agree . . . biting flies suck!

30 horses hate flies

Looking back on a short but nasty hill, on which we were passed by a cement truck. The driver gave us plenty of room. I was glad.

31 look back at climb

We reached the turnoff for Bannack State Park, where lunch would be waiting for us. It was 2 p.m. A prickle of worry formed when the EMT vehicle parked at the turnoff turned on its sirens and took off. I hoped all the cyclists were OK. But I didn’t think too much of it. Fatigue had numbed my brain.

When we got to the lunch line, they were out of vegetarian sandwiches. Normally I would opt for a lunch meat sandwich, but today I didn’t feel like my stomach could handle it. I was handed a gluten-free vegan sandwich instead. I took a bite. Man, it was dry. I grabbed a couple packets of mustard. I tried to open the sandwich to inset the mustard, but the gluten-free “bread” crumbled to pieces, revealing slimy cucumbers tinged gray from adjoining mushrooms, topped by a slice of greenish hard tomato.

At that point, I totally lost it. Last straw. Put my face in my hands and cried. So embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wound up eating a snack-sized bag of chips for lunch, and Bugman went to inquire about sagging to camp, bless his heart. I tried to get another glass of tea, but the lunch station was packed up already. A volunteer took pity on me and found the iced tea container so I could get a refill.

We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this insect photo, possibly a spotted pine sawyer. (Bugman, true to form.)

32 spotted pine sawyer

No time or energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, we got loaded into the bag drop van to sag to camp.

33 sagging

We weren’t the only ones sagging. It’d been 64 miles already, and it was another 24 miles and a hill climb to Dillon still.

34 filling sag van

The gear drop driver, Thomas, was a witty, mile-a-minute guy. His repartee, me being seated on something other than a bicycle, and the van’s air conditioning began to lift me out of my funk.

The first thing I saw in camp in Dillon charmed me. A playground swingset had been turned into a makeshift sun shelter.

35 swing shade

I got my shower and then lay in the tent on top of an uninflated air mattress, which I was too tired to mess with. I just lay there. It was quiet. I didn’t sleep, but I kind of dozed. I still didn’t feel hungry – not a good sign.

Bugman set up the tent that evening – a chore I usually do.

35 tent prep

At 5:30, we wandered over to the mess tent. The meal that night was tacos, with options for black beans and veggies and cheese – a meal I would ordinarily eat at home. There was also fish taco toppings. I took some of that as well. The food tasted good, and my digestion was surely helped by the soulful mealtime entertainment we had from the Dillon Junior Fiddlers.

37 fiddle concert

Announcements that evening started on a somber note – the ride organizers relayed that a cyclist had been taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack on the course, but they couldn’t share more information without the family’s permission. Bugman and I looked at each other. Was it the older gent? The one who’d had trouble getting started again after the Lupine break? The one we’d passed on the hill? I sent out some positive vibes into the universe for whoever the stricken cyclist was.

After dinner, I had hopes of visiting the Patagonia outlet store in downtown Dillon, which had advertised a clearance sale. I wanted to see if I could find a replacement for my broken sandal, which duct tape had failed to fix. Alas, the store closed at its regular 6pm time instead of staying open late for us cyclists (I don’t think they sell footwear, anyway), so I spent the rest of the journey flapping around with one loose sandal.

There were some interesting things to see in downtown Dillon, even if most of the stores were closed.

The Dillon post office has a New Deal mural from the 1930s, “News from the States” – one of just six such murals in Montana (and one of the few in the nation painted by a female artist).

37 post office mural

The Dillon library charmed me, too. It stayed open late for us cyclists!

38 library open

It’s a Carnegie library, built in 1902.

39 library door

We chatted for a bit with the staff person on duty. Apparently, Andrew Carnegie was not enamored of the turret in the building design, so he refused to fund that part of it. Local townsfolk came up with the difference, and the Romanesque Revivial structure has its turret. Recently, firefighters hosed down the roof so staff in the attic could identify where water leaks might be coming from. Here’s a shot of the ceiling:

40 library ceiling

I spy a gargoyle!

41 library gargoyle

Further down the street, the name of this furniture and appliance business caught my eye:

42 dilmart

A pretty window.

43 pretty window

A yarn-bombed tree (and a bicycle in the window):

44 yarn bombed tree

Presumably, in Dillon, government has a “git ‘er done” attitude.

45 dillon city court

That not everyone likes.

46 unfair dillon

But, hey, what’s not to love about a town that has atomic boots?

47 atomic 79

Like stereotypical cyclists, we found our way to the local brewery: Beaverhead Brewing Company – and just barely had time for a pint before closing time at 8 p.m. (We can recommend the Snowcrest Dark Lager and the Pioneer Porter.)

48 beaverhead brewing co

The sunset that evening was a marvelous pink-and-purple confection that perfectly matched this downtown mural.

49 mural and sunset

One more stop before heading to bed: Muffaletta’s, which put out the welcome mat and was also opening early the next morning for cyclists who wanted fancy coffee.

50 muffalettas

One of the schticks at Muffaletta’s was the self-serve frozen yogurt machines and jars of shake-on toppings, which you put into an oversized paper cup and paid for by the pound. Bugman was one happy camper and would sing Muffaletta’s praises for days to come.

51 happy jeff

Day 5 stats
127.9 miles (days 4 & 5 combined)
6,656 feet of climb (days 4 & 5 combined)
10.2 mph avg (days 4 & 5 combined)
low temp 50
hi temp 82
precip 0
wind 11-28 g 36 NE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Whitehall to Dewey

When I woke up and got out of my tent just before before 5am, the moon was setting over Whitehall High School, looking peach-like, orange from the smoke of distant wildfires and fuzzed by thin clouds. The sunrise was lovely as well.

1 sunrise

As we rolled out of town, we passed some of the numerous murals for which Whitehall is known.

2 mural

Some Whitehall businesses have incorporated the mural theme into their signage as well. I like it!

4 business sign

Vintage small-town theater alert!

3 theater

My view from the back of the tandem. Not bad.

5 my view

We passed a tethered llama, which looked agitated at our presence. I wondered about llamas’ spitting range.

6 tethered llama

Recalling the hay bale roping dummies from the Sudan School on Day 1, here’s a more anatomically correct one:

7 roping dummy

Headed into the mountains.

8 into the mountains

Montana, where things are so fertile, the wood of your deck just might sprout back into a tree. 😉

9 pine growth

Had to take a picture of this old “prancing pony” gate for my mom.

10 prancing pony gate

I appreciated the message of the sign and acknowledged the fact that the number of characters was limited, but the grammatical incorrectness of the “BIKES ON ROAD / DRIVE CAREFUL” sign still irked me every time I saw it. #editorproblems

11 bikes caution

After we passed through a narrow-ish cut, I turned the camera behind us and took a picture. This looks like it would be a tough section of road for snow-clearing operations.

12 view behind

Our embedded photographers sent their camera-bearing aerial vehicle into the sky and captured cyclists streaming into this cut. There’s a video posted on the Cycle Greater Yellowstone Facebook page, but I can’t figure out how to share just the video link. Maybe it’ll wind up on the CGY Vimeo page. (It’s fun to watch the time lapse films of Tent Sherpas setting up camp and of previous rides’ routes and camps.)

13 drone pilots

I had plenty of time to look at the rocks as we slowly climbed upward. I kept seeing faces and fanciful beings in the rock forms. We also got scolded by a lot of rock-crevice-dwelling chipmunks. The morning light made the rocks glow with a warmth they did not yet contain. I was glad to be doing all this climbing in the cool of the morning.

14 morning light rock

Given that we had more than two hours of constant climbing, we needed to take periodic breaks to rest and eat. (We remembered lessons from prior rides and made sure to eat as we were climbing.) When we stopped at one driveway for a rest, a passing cyclist called, “Are you checking out the real estate?” I decided that would be a good euphemism. We’re not taking a break . . . we’re “checking out the real estate.” (See also: “checking out the view” and “reading the historical point signage.”)

15 checking out real estate

On this day, we generally experienced courteous driving. Then there was this person. Sigh. We heard a barking dog in the distance – a sound that always piques a cyclists’ attention due to the tendency of loose dogs to chase bikes. But the sound kept getting closer, unnaturally quickly. barkbarkbarkbarkbark – silence- barkbarkbarkbarkbark – silence- BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK – silence – BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK! I looked in my rear view mirror and figured it out – it was a dog riding in a vehicle, barking furiously every time the vehicle passed a cyclist. And the driver left the rear passenger-side window open so the dog could startle every single cyclist it passed. Not nice.

16 barking dog

Entering Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

17 beaverhead deerlodge NF

At a rest stop, I decided the peanut-butter-filled chocolate Clif bar was the BEST THING EVER! Ah, one of the benefits of prolonged exercise: eating becomes almost a transcendental experience. Please mentally add halo rays and a heavenly chorus soundtrack to this photo:

18 calories

There were a hojillion of these moths flying across the road in the forest. These little things can be crazy hard to key out. When I asked Bugman what it was, he grimaced and said, “A moth . . .”

19 moth

We summited Pipestone Pass and failed to recognize that a pullout on the opposite side of the road was the official marker of this Continental Divide crossing (6,418 feet), since it didn’t have the green elevation sign we were accustomed to seeing. So, we missed a photo opportunity, alas.

The descent was fun, despite the un-smartness of the highway crew that decided to repaint the center lines on that section of highway – on the same day that several hundred cyclists would be on that route. Actually, by the time we got to the descent, the painting crew was pulled over taking a break. The only thing we had to deal with was the cones along the centerline, which made it harder for motorized vehicles to pass us. I heard another cyclist express appreciation for the painting project, which she believed had slowed drivers down.

As we approached Butte – “The Richest Hill on Earth,” I was awed. That open pit copper mine looked as big as the town itself!

20 butte

Confirmed! See Google maps image:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 2.56.51 PM

I found it somewhat creepy that the tailings pond had such a lighthearted name. Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond? Sounds like a recreation area rather than a hazardous waste management area.

I really got sucked into an internet rabbit hole reading about Butte and its mining history. I overheard a fellow cyclist shuddering about Butte and its status as a Superfund toxic waste cleanup site. She had known people who worked in and around other contaminated sites who were dying of cancer in their 20s and 30s. It just absolutely irks me that companies have been allowed to profit from a business that then sticks the government with a huge cleanup bill from the aftermath. For economics nerds, this is considered a market failure. Negative externalities galore! Fingers crossed that things are changing for the better. Attitudes towards our environment are a lot different now than they were in the 1950s.

While the warren of mining tunnels under Butte were begun in the 1800s, that gigantic open pit was created since 1955. See this blog post for a historic photo overlaying the current extent of the mining pit, which ate up the communities of Meaderville and McQueen and the Columbia Gardens. Another part of Butte that struck me was the ramparts of copper slag was saw. I neglected to take a picture, but here’s one from another blogger’s post.

Berkeley Pit, which filled with acidic water after mine pumps were shut down, has become a tourist attraction, despite things like the need to employ hazers to chase off migratory waterfowl lest they be poisoned by the water.

Still, there’s a lot of recreation opportunities around Butte, and some interesting museums as well. I would have liked to explore Butte a bit rather than just passing through.

Ah, the innovative smaller-city multitasking business: heating stove and brewing/winemaking supplies sold alongside recreational vehicles:

21 butte multitasking

At announcements the day before, we’d been warned about the traffic we’d face heading through Butte. Perhaps it’s because we hit the city before the lunch rush, and perhaps it’s because we were lucky with traffic lights and courteous drivers, but I didn’t find it that bad.

And look! Sharrows! Butte acknowledges the existence of bicyclists!

22 butte sharrows

A few of the auto towing/wrecking/repair business slogans we saw on our journey through the western outskirts of the city cracked me up.

See you in the ditch!

You meet the nicest people by accident!

A great place to take a leak!

After lunch, we wound up on several miles of a really nice bike path. Bummer we had to dismount to get over a berm put in place to protect the path from heavy equipment.

23 blocked path

This “gritty Duke” billboard would come to mind later in the ride: “Don’t much like quitters, son.”

24 duke sign

A man walking his dogs stepped off the path to let us and another cyclist pass. Turned out the other cyclist was a local, not a CGY rider, which confused a course monitor stationed to direct CGY traffic around a confusing bit of construction at the end of the bike path.

We were routed through an industrial area with one of the bumpiest railroad crossings I’ve ever encountered. Did we heed the course monitor’s admonition to dismount and walk over the tracks? Oh yes, we did!

25 bumpy tracks

And now we get to the part of the route where I feel a little sheepish. In the Day 0 post, I described encountering some event cyclists on the shoulder of I-90, and said I would never want to ride on the interstate.

Well . . . due to a lack of other road options, we wound up riding 3 miles on I-15.

26 onto interstate

I was nervous. More nervous than I was about riding through Butte traffic. But I needn’t have been. With the nice, wide shoulder, the two lanes for traffic, and the patrol car stationed at the on ramp . . .

27 state trooper

I felt way more comfortable riding on the interstate than I did on Highway 287. Ugh, here we are with the “DRIVE CAREFUL” issue again, despite having enough room for the more correct “CAREFULLY.” Oh well. They’re consistent, I guess.

28 bikes on road

It was getting hot out, and the day was starting to wear on me. When I saw the wisp coming out of the top of this cloud, I imagined it as the buried undead stretching a withered arm up out of the grave. Brains . . .

29 cloud

116 – here’s our exit!

30 exit

So long, I-15. We’re headed for a frontage road.

31 I-15

Another 5 miles, and we hit a much-needed rest area. Time to wet down the arm coolers again! Aaaaahhhh! A female bikepacker happened by the rest area and was really excited by the prospect of actual toilets. She hesitated, asking if she would be allowed to use one. We heartily invited her over. Bicyclists supporting bicyclists! I hadn’t realized that the reason I was seeing so many bikepackers is that western Montana is crisscrossed by several cross-continental “adventure cycling routes.”

32 bikepacker bike

A bummer about this rest area – there had been a road surfacing project there recently, and there were blobs of road tar lying around disguised in sheaths of pebbles. The bike mechanics warned me about it, and I told Bugman, too, but it was too late. We went to try to take off, and he couldn’t get his left shoe clicked into the pedal. It was like a board game: tar ball cleat clog – move back two spaces!

33 tarball in shoe

The rock Bugman was using for a tool to clean his cleat just wasn’t cutting it. A kindly bike mechanic came to his rescue, using a screwdriver to scrape out the bulk of the offending tar.

34 tarball in shoe

The next couple of times we stopped, we had to re-clean his shoe cleat with whatever rock or stick was at hand, because the remaining tar would glom onto significant quantities of debris. Nasty stuff!

The next 10 miles were hot, hilly, and deserted. It’s the kind of place where you start to wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn because you’re seeing no one and nothing except circling vultures.

35 vultures

Finally, finally! A turn, and a sign! We’re headed for . . . the Big Hole? I had no idea what the Big Hole was, and, coming after our journey through open-pit mine territory, I was a tad apprehensive.

36 divide and big hole

But Wisdom was near!

37 wisdom

The Big Hole is not a mining scar but a river. A rather lovely river!

38 big hole view 1

I was rather glad to have this gorgeous scenery to distract me from the pain my bike saddle was causing me.

39 big hole view 2

I was ever so glad to arrive at our campsite in tiny Dewey, where a colorful beetle landed on Bugman. We contemplated it along with CGY volunteer Bruce. Bugman thinks it’s a spruce zebra beetle.

40 spruce zebra beetle

I bypassed the Sno Kone booth in camp, thinking I could get some later. (I was wrong, alas – the booth was abandoned by the time I came back.)

44 sno cones

The ride had been hard on me today, and all I wanted was to get out of my bike clothes and rest. It turned out that our campsite was adjacent to the Big Hole River, and cyclists were finding their way down there to soak in the cold, clear water. We joined them forthwith!

41 big hole river play

The water was gaspingly cold at first. It was probably a good balm for sore muscles and a sore bum. We had to keep an eye out for trout-fishing boats floating downstream, though.

42 fly fishers

This was excellent trout habitat. Another CGY rider had brought along swim goggles, and he could see a number of trout darting around near where we were swimming. Bugman scoped out the shallows and found numerous invertebrates that are a part of the trouts’ food chain, including mayfly niads:

42 mayfly niad

I showered right away after leaving the coolness of the river. That was probably a good move. My swim shorts had collected rock algae and a few invertebrates!

We did some more pod laundry and hung it to dry in nearby trees. Laundry ornaments! Note: it’s acceptable to hang laundry on a cedar tree. Not so much a pine tree, which may ooze sap all over your clean laundry. #learningfromexperience

43 laundry tree

The campsite where we stayed (I’m still not sure what kind of property it was, or who it belonged to) was dotted with numerous “varmint holes” – for lack of a better word.

45 varmint hole

Some problem-solving campers piled sticks into a particularly large hole that just happened to be in a main travel path.

46 blocked varmint hole

Dinner that night just didn’t seem to appeal to me. Beef stroganoff. Bleh. I choked down some buttered noodles topped with steamed broccoli and cheese from the salad bar. I knew it didn’t bode well if my appetite wasn’t raging after a 64-mile ride with plenty of climbing. I was going to need to fuel up for the extended climbing I would face the next day. My body just wanted to rest. Other things were starting to break down, too. My air pillow sprung a leak, and a strap on one of my sandals broke.

After announcements that night, a short documentary about the struggle to prevent a dam being built on the Clark Fork River was shown in the dining tent. (I imagine it was no small feat to get a screen and projector out there in rural Dewey.) I thought maybe the film would be available online (alas, only the trailer is), so I skipped the film in favor of hurriedly setting up our tent as rumbling storm clouds drew near.

We did get a little rain. Thankfully not enough to turn the campsite into an utter mudpit. The sound of thunder crashing through the mountain valleys was most impressive, as was the sight of the rain-drenched sunset.

49 rainy sunset

The moonlight of that sleepless night blended softly into the dawn. At least I probably got more rest in the tent than I would have in the old cabin in the adjoining field.

48 accommodation

day 4 stats
daily mileage and climb unknown, since Strava doesn’t work in areas with no cell signal
low temp 45
hi temp 87
precip 0.03 inches
wind 5-24 g 32 SE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw