Missoula to West Yellowstone
the way out of Missoula on Monday, July 19th, I stopped at Adventure
Cycling again to pick up a new handlebar bag. I thought
I might avoid future disasters (like dropping the camera again)
if my bar bag was better organized.
lunch with some of the people from the Adventure Cycling group
doing the TransAm east to west. I met them on Friday, just
before they rented a car and drove up to Glacier National Park
for the weekend. They were leaving Missoula on Tuesday,
heading for Lolo Pass. We exchanged recommendations,
and they told me all about Glacier. (They didn't see
any bears, they were happy to report.)
almost out of town when a thunderstorm came through, so I ducked
into a bike shop that I happened to be passing to sit it out.
It was over in about 45 minutes, so I got back on the bike.
quite 20 miles out of Missoula, near the town of Lolo, I came
upon Travelers' Rest State Park. Lewis and Clark stopped
here on their out-bound journey, and again on their return the
following year. Recent archeological digs here discovered
evidence of the Corps of Discovery's camp. That makes this
spot one of the few with actual evidence of the exact location
visited by Lewis and Clark. Montana made the area a state
park in 1997.
named the camp Traveler's Rest on the out-bound trip, and the
captains planned to stop here again on the way home. On
their home-bound journey, the captains split the party after leaving
here. Lewis went north to follow the Marias River.
Clark went south to explore other passes over the Rockies.
They met again near where the Yellowstone River meets the Missouri.
I pulled out of the park, I noticed a huge storm approaching.
There was a Days Inn Motel right there, and it was getting late
in the day anyway, so I checked in, and watched from the safety
of my motel room as the storm
hurled hail and lightning . The
manager of the motel, Bobby Patel, used to work in Philadelphia,
at the Dunkin Donuts in 30th St. Station. He told me that
the person who owns that Dunkin Donuts also owns 28 other Dunkin
Donuts around town. The owner leased a huge Amtrak kitchen
on the lower level of the station that had been unused for
years, and cooks the doughnuts for all of his locations there. That's
why it smells so good when you drive along the river under
30th St. Station on the Schuylkill Expressway late at night! I
had to go to Lolo, Montana to learn this.
in a bit the next morning. I guess I needed to. I
didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked in Missoula.
(I was up too late working on the web site!) I fixed a
flat before I left my room. It was a slow leak, and
I found it by holding the tube underwater in the sink. Just
over 40 miles into my day, I came into the town of Hamilton.
Here, I spent about an hour and a half on the phone in a U.S.
Lacrosse conference call. After the call, I found a nice
little restaurant for lunch, then headed on. 20 miles
later I was in Darby, and set up camp in a small RV Park.
morning, after a big breakfast in a Darby restaurant, I headed
for Chief Joseph Pass, and my first crossing of the Continental
Divide. 20 miles out of Darby, just before beginning the climb, I
stopped in the town of Sula to pick up some snacks
Sula (population 50) consists of little more than a small resort
with cabins and a nice campground. When I came out of
the store, Steve from Portland was pulling up! I last
saw him just before White Bird Hill.
suffered on that climb, too. He passed me while I stayed
in Missoula, spent the night just outside of Sula, and was just
starting his day. I sat with him while he ate lunch, and
we headed up the pass together. It really wasn't too bad
of a climb- a gain of just under 3000' in 13 miles. On the
way up, a mule deer ran up to the road and stopped just in front
of me, staring at me and wiggling one of her long ears.
I've seen mule deer almost every day since I started riding, but
I've never been able to get a picture of one. This one stood
still, watching me for a while. I got out my camera, thinking,
"I've got you now, Big Ears!" But, at the sight
of my camera, Big Ears took off, and I missed the shot.
were near the top of
our climb, a cyclist coming the other way pulled over to
talk to us.
Dale Hoffman, a retired man from Hawaii, has been cycle touring
for years. He gave us many tips on our route ahead.
He suggested that we not miss Jackson Hot Springs, 45 miles past
Chief Joseph Pass. He explained that it's owned by a German
woman named Inga who runs a tight ship, with clean cabins,
a wonderful hot spring in a pool attached to the lodge, and
a great restaurant. I took some notes about Jackson and
his other recommendations, then Dale headed downhill, and Steve
and I continued up.
got a picture at the top, and started downhill towards Jackson
Hot Springs. Steve is pulling a Burley cargo trailer, and
with my new, speedy, trailerless rig, I left him behind, planning
to meet him in Wisdom, the town about 15 miles down the road.
I rode down the Big Hole Valley towards Wisdom, a skunk wandered
out of the pasture to my right, headed for the road. It
was clear that the skunk and I were on a collision course.
A large RV was headed towards me in the opposite lane, so my
only option was to come to a stop in the left portion of my
lane, as far away from the skunk as I could get without getting
hit by the RV.
realized the predicament when he got to the edge of the road
and saw me and the RV, and he came to a stop as well. The
RV saw me stop in the middle of the road and didn't know what
to do. When he got next to me, he hit the gas, clearing
his lane so I could move away from the skunk, who made a U-turn
and headed back into the pasture.
the three travelers went separate ways, each of us spewing our
own brand of noxious fumes behind us as a result of the encounter.
I pulled into the town of Wisdom around 5:45 PM, and looked for
a store so I could grab some snacks and water for the final 18
miles to Jackson. But the only grocery store in town was
closed. Two restaurants were open, directly across the street
from each other. I went into the one that seemed to have
more locals, grabbed a bar stool, and waited for Steve.
I was waiting, a couple pulled up seats next to me. Roger
and Connie are also touring cyclists, and saw me pull in.
They live in Redmond, in central Oregon. They haven't done
a TransAm yet, but one is in their future. They have done
a lot of touring, including the Oregon Coast. They were
in the area with mountain bikes on their car, and were visiting
Big Hole battlefield, about 10 miles back along our route.
They highly recommended stopping there.
a very pleasant dinner with them. Steve joined us about
halfway through. Since it was getting dark, and Jackson
was still 18 miles away, Steve and I decided to stay in Wisdom
for the night, backtrack to the battlefield the next day, and
hit Jackson the next night. With the backtracking, it would
make for a 40-mile day and leave plenty of time to tour the battlefield.
morning, I got ahead of Steve on the way to the battlefield.
The National Monument and Visitor Center at Big Hole Battlefield
are extremely impressive.
I spent some time there, watching a film, and touring the battlefield.
Here, in 1877, the fleeing non-treaty Nez Perce under Chief Joseph
were attacked in their camp at dawn by a ragtag mix of U.S.
forces and local volunteers under Colonel John Gibbons, hoping
to force the Nez Perce off of their native lands and onto a
Many of the Nez Perce were killed in the attack. Most of
the dead were women and children. The Nez Perce warriors
rallied and retaliated, holding the U.S. forces in siege for
two days before escaping south into the newly-formed Yellowstone
Perce made their way towards Canada, but were trapped 30 miles
short of the border at Bear Paw. There, in an effort to
save what remained of his band, Chief Joseph surrendered with
his famous words, "I will fight no more, forever."
(As my good friend and mentor Ed Schreiber put it, "Interesting
words in reference to the world around us today.")
White Bird refused to surrender at Bear Paw, and escaped with
his band to Canada.
about these people when I climb the passes and hills named for
them. When I reach the summits, I don't feel like raising
my arms in glory, as if I've conquered the climbs. Instead,
It feels to me as if the spirits of the hills have allowed me
to pass. Chief Joseph didn't give me too much trouble as
I climbed to his pass, just before reaching Big Hole Battlefield.
On the other hand, White Bird Hill in Idaho (where the ants passed
me) gave me one heck of a time! Like he did at Bear Paw
in 1877, White Bird refused to surrender, and I suffered on his
got to the battlefield later, and stayed longer than I did, and
we agreed to meet at Inga's Jackson Hot Springs Lodge.
to Jackson, covering the 18 slightly uphill
miles in a little over an hour, with the aid of a light tailwind. Without
the trailer, my speed seems to have increased
by 20 - 25%!, and I cruise along in near silence-
no rattling trailer wheels- no sounds but a
slight whirring of my tires on the pavement,
and the birds.
I got to the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge, Inga checked me into
a cabin. She seemed stern and competent, but not unfriendly.
I half expected to hear horses whinnying when I said, "Good
evening Frau Inga." But I didn't.
cabin was cozy and comfortable, and a bargain at less than $30.
Dinner in the lodge was excellent- a huge plate of spaghetti
and meatballs for $10, including a real salad bar! The
hot spring pool attached to the lodge looked inviting, but instead
of a dip, I watched Lance win stage 17 of the Tour on the TV
in the lodge, sharing the excitement with an Adventure Cycling
tour group that also spent the night there.
retired for the night, Inga offered me "a glass of varm
milk?" "No, thank
you, Frau Inga." (whinny!)
no sign of Steve.
I ate an early breakfast at Jackson
Lodge Friday morning. Jimmy Buffett was on the lodge stereo.
I've heard a lot of him in Montana. I guess he's
popular here because he lived in Montana for a while.
In the first 30 miles
of my ride, I had two passes to cross. The ride through
the last part of the Big Hole Valley was absolutely beautiful!
The climb out of the valley over Big Hole Pass wasn't
too steep, but a stiff headwind made slow work of it. The
headwind continued for the rest of the day. I climbed Badger
Pass, and had to pedal hard on the downhill side to maintain
10 m.p.h. against the wind.
50 miles, I pulled into Dillon, pooped from struggling against
I found a dinner spot, and checked the map for accommodation
information while I ate. The only camping available in
town was a KOA Campground, which west-bound riders had told
me cost $30, a steep price to pitch a tent.
I checked into
the Super 8 Motel in town for $40. It's worth $10 not to have to struggle
out of a sleeping bag and pull on cold clothes to make my way
through the dark for my nightly pee. In a motel, I get a
clean shower (usually), and it's an easy trip to the bathroom
in the middle of the night.
That night, my hotel
phone rang. It was Steve, still in Jackson. He'd arrived
there late the previous night, after riding through a thunderstorm,
then left for Dillon late in the morning. Somewhere along
the road not far out of Jackson, the bag containing his tent,
sleeping bag, and sleeping pad fell out of his trailer.
He retraced his steps, but couldn't find it. He was hoping
someone would find it and turn it in, somewhere.
Steve ran into some
hard luck on his trip, but I admire him. At the age of
20, he's ridden alone from his home in Portland along
a self-designed route to meet the TransAm in Redmond, OR; and
ridden another 1,000 miles from there. I could never have
done that at his age.
the way out of Dillon on Saturday morning, I had to negotiate
about 4 miles of unpaved road, which was under construction.
The surface was half dirt, half loose gravel. To make it
even more pleasurable, when I was halfway through, a truck came
along in the opposite direction, wetting down the road with a
deluge of water. It kept the dust down, but turned the
dirt into mud.
A few miles out
of Dillon, I came to Beaverhead Rock. Lewis and Clark stopped
here on their way west. Sacagawea, who was their guide
at this point, recognized the landmark, and realized the Corps
of Discovery had entered her native (Shoshone) territory.
From Lewis' journal:
"The Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which
she informed us was not very distance from the summer retreat of her nation
on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west. This hill she says
her nation calls the Beaver's Head, as it resembles the head of that animal.
She assures us that we shall either find her people on this river or on the
river immediately west..."
may be the most fascinating character in the Lewis and
Clark story. Still in her teens, she was brought on the
journey as a guide and translator, along with her husband,
Toussaint Charbonneau (a French trapper and trader),
and their infant son, Jean Baptiste (whom the captains
A few years earlier,
she had been kidnapped from her Shoshone band by a Hidatsa raiding
party, and made a Hidatsa slave. In what was clearly the
best trade of his life, Charbonneau, who lived with the Hidatsa,
purchased her from them. (He had at least one other Shoshone wife,
were excellent horsemen, and the Corps of Discovery needed horses to cross
the mountains. They were counting on Sacagawea to help them
find and trade with the Shoshone for horses.
When they finally came
upon a Shoshone band, led by Chief Cameahwait, they brought
Sacagawea into the meeting to translate. In a turn of fate too dramatic
for fiction, Sacagawea recognized Cameahwait as her brother, now chief
of the very band from which she had been kidnapped!
Needless to say, the
negotiations went well for the Corps of Discovery.
we think about Sacagawea as translator, we usually imagine her
translating from Shoshone to English, and back. But Sacagawea
didn't speak English. She spoke Shoshone (her native tongue),
and Hidatsa, the language of the people who kidnapped her.
Her husband, Charbonneau, spoke Hidatsa and French, but no English. The
captains didn't speak French.
working with the Shoshone, Sacagawea would translate Shoshone
into Hidatsa for Charbonneau, who would translate Hidatsa to French for one
of the two privates in the Corps who spoke a little French.
The privates, in turn, would do their best to translate the French
into English for the captains. Given the chain of translation
used, it's amazing there were no political disasters.
I remember a
game we played in grade school, which was designed to teach us to
be careful with rumors. The class sat in a circle,
and the teacher whispered a simple message into a
student's ear. That student passed the message to the next student,
and so on around the circle, until the last student recited
the message to the group out loud. The message never survived
the trip intact. In fact, it was usually changed so much
that the final message was completely unrelated to the original.
It makes me wonder how
Lewis and Clark were able to converse with the Shoshone at all!
On November 24th,
1805, when the Corps reached the mouth of the Columbia River at the Pacific
Ocean, near present day Astoria, the captains held a vote among the members
of the expedition to decide where to spend the winter. (If you remember
from my Astoria
to Eugene dispatch, Ft. Clatsop was built as a result of the vote.) The
votes of Sacagawea and York (Clark's African-American slave) were recorded
along with the votes of the captains and all of the members of the Corps of
Discovery. Surely this was the first time in the history of the United
States that the votes of a woman and a black man were counted equally with
the votes of white men!
50 miles past Beaverhead Rock, I came to the restored mining
towns of Nevada City and Virginia City. These places were
too "touristy" for me. Most
of the western towns I've passed seemed much more "real",
and weren't loaded with tourist-trap shops. I didn't
even take a picture here.
I climbed another pass
after leaving Virginia City, dropped into the Madison River Valley,
and after 80 miles on the day, came into Ennis, an authentic
western town. I
had dinner in a small restaurant, and was joined halfway through
by a very pleasant couple from Farmingdale, Maine, who are riding
the TransAm in the opposite direction on their recumbent tandem. We
did the usual exchange of recommendations and stories, then I
found a cheap motel and went to bed, hoping for an early start
the next morning.
Ennis Sunday morning at about 8:00AM, fairly early, for me! The route
followed the Madison River, prime fishing territory. Guide-boats
and rafts with people fishing from them were going down the river
all day as I was riding up. Fighting a headwind and suffering
a bit in the heat, I rounded a slight bend and felt the bike
swerve under me. My
rear tire was flat. I briefly dreamed of changing places
with the fishermen.
While I was fixing
the flat, an auto-tourist from Colorado gave me an especially
refreshing cold bottle of water. As soon as I got going
again, a shadow crossed the road directly ahead of me, and I
looked up just in time to see a Bald Eagle soaring 40 feet over
my head, looking down at me. Plus, the wind had shifted,
and I was getting a rare push. Woo HOO!! My luck was changing! I'll
stick with my bike, thanks.
A little while later,
I came to Quake Lake. Late in the evening of August 17,
1959, an earthquake knocked part of the mountain here loose,
resulting in a landslide and flood, which took the lives of 28
people who were camping in the valley. After a brief stop
at the visitor center, I moved on.
Riding along just
a few minutes later,
I saw a Bald Eagle sitting near the top of a drowned tree in the lake. He
even sat still long enough for me to snap a photo!
I pushed on, reaching
the town of West Yellowstone, Montana just before dark.