Missoula, MT to Salmon, ID, 140 miles
As I write this, it is
Day 96, Tania and I are in Crescent City, CA, we have four more
days until we're home in El Segundo, and I am 14 days behind in my
updates. If I finish this one tonight, I'll reduce that to 11 and get
you to Bozeman. During these three days I rode 625 miles via a zig-zag
"scenic route" that would have been 203 miles on I-90. In the process I
crossed four passes, two of them on the Continental Divide, one of them
on dirt. It was worth every mile.
US Highway 93 goes south out of Missoula up the Bitteroot Valley, along
the Bitteroot River in the middle of the Bitteroot Mountains, pictured
What farms there are here are hay farms. Business-wise, there must be a
lot of trees in the area and not a lot of jobs, because the majority of
businesses along the road were either firewood suppliers or log cabin
builders -- and there were a lot of both, more than one would think
would be supportable.
At the head of the Bitteroot Valley US-93 goes over 6951' Lost Trail
Pass (only 200' below the Continental Divide and only a couple miles
off it), enters Idaho, and drops into the Salmon River drainage, but
oddly, though the road goes downhill as you'd expect, when it reaches
the Salmon River the water is flowing north -- which, to all
appearances, is UPHILL. This can't be, of course -- turns out the
Salmon River takes a big left turn right there to head for its ultimate
rendevous with the Snake River, and that's where US-93 comes down to
meet it. Then 93 slants slowly UPhill the remaining few miles to
Salmon. On the way, about 15 miles north of town, is this little
Park & ride where?
Salmon is a town of less than
This is what the landscape looks like in the Salmon River Valley
looking east. These are now the Rocky Mountains, and on top of them is
the Continental Divide. There are no paved roads across them for the
next 177 miles, so obviously I'm risking a very long Wednesday if I
can't find a passable dirt road across.
The clerk at my hotel suggested I park here, right next to the front
door and all the bellhop carts. Now that's service! By morning there
were four other bikes next to mine -- and no carts. Seems like the
right priorities to me.
Salmon, ID to Butte, MT, 242 miles
With a lot of miles to
cover and most of it mountainous and rural, I got an early start down
ID-28, turned left on ID-29, and found myself here by midmorning.
Crossing my fingers I pressed on upward.
Not bad. That's 7672' Bannock Pass there, and my first Divide crossing
of the day.
Here's the view west back to the Bitteroots on the way up. That valley
you can't quite see the bottom of is Salmon River Valley, and Salmon is
off to the right.
On the east side the road became County Road 324, which went east to
I-15, which I rode north for 10 miles and turned left onto County Road
278 heading for Wisdom, MT (where I would have ended up had I turned
left from Lost Trail Pass the previous day). There were two passes on
the way, Badger Pass (6760') and Big Hole Pass (7360'). In the photo
below are rape fields on the way to Badger Pass, which is off to the
left. (BTW, rape is the seed from which canola oil is made. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_seed)
Upon cresting Big Hole Pass, this view presents itself. That's the Big
Hole Valley down there, home of the Big Hole River, one of the most
picturesque places I've seen, and that road goes right down through it.
Friends, this is Marlboro Country.
Here's a pan of the valley after I reached the bottom.
In case you thought I was kidding about Marlboro Country, this photo
shows the tail end of an honest-to-god cattle drive, involving some 400
head or do, that blocked the road for 20 minutes.
An abandoned line cabin. I took a couple dozen pictures in this spot.
It was so darn scenic it almost hurt.
Butte, MT to Bozeman, MT, 243 miles
Another zig-zag day.
Butte is 85 miles from Bozeman via I-90, but I took a circuitous route
via Garrison, Helena, and Wilsall. Around the town of Townsend, 32
miles SE from Helena on US-12, I got to cross this river. The Missouri
River. It is flowing north. Really.
I picked up US-89 heading SSE, looking for Wilsall and MT-86 into
Bozeman the "back way", and here's what things looked like. Not too
Looking back, still pretty featureless.
But. Looking to the right (west) . . . what's THAT? Those are real
And lo, MT-86 goes right next to them! This day is looking up.
The road goes right through that slot at the far left edge of the
photo, so I got a real close look at this range.
This the Bridger Range, in which, if one were a backpacker, one could
get pretty far away from people for a week or two. Highest point is
Sacagawea Peak at 9665'.
I finally arrived in Bozeman just in time to navigate into the
foothills down south of town to the residence of the father of the
bride of the wedding I was there to attend. This is his house.
Lynn and our daughter Tania flew in for the wedding, and by
prearrangement Tania came equipped to join me for the remaining 2500
miles of my sojourn, which I will take up in the Next Update.