Brianís Cross-USA Bicycle Tour
Day 17 - Wednesday, July 4, 2001
I was running a little late this morning, arriving at the breakfast place at a quarter past 6 - the service was a little slow since the family in the hotel room next to mine showed up before me. I was still out and on the road by 7, though.
After heading out of Darby, the Bitterroot Valley started to narrow, then disappears completely as US 93 starts climbing. Although there were services 18 miles down the road in Sula, I was glad I didn't finish my ride there for two reasons: there was a 1000 foot elevation gain to Sula, and the KOA tent rates were $18!
After Sula (elevation 4400 or so), it was 13 miles of climbing, up to the Lost Trail Pass at 6995 feet. Although the hot weather did not come as promised (due to the cloud cover), it was still a tough climb, tougher than the ones in Washington.
The Lost Trail Summit seemed like a good gathering place, as it is on the border of Montana and Idaho, and there are turnoffs to the ski resort (only $20 for a lift ticket!) and Montana Highway 43.
I was talking with a motorcycle biker at the summit. He seemed jealous that I had the opportunity to do a trip like the one I'm doing, although he confessed that he's a little too old and out of shape. He would never be able to get enough time off from his timber job without being let go. Still, I suspected that he liked to ride his motorcycle whenever he had time off for many of the same reasons that many of us go bicycle touring.
The climbing wasn't done yet, I had to turn east onto Highway 43 and up to the Chief Joseph Pass, at 7241 feet. It was the first time riding east in a few days! That was less than 300 feet in a mile, which was a piece of cake compared to the previous climb. That was also the Continental Divide - I was wondering if I emptied my water bottle at the pass, would one half drain to the Pacific Ocean and the other half to the Atlantic Ocean?
After the pass there is a small yet useless descent into a headwind, finally reaching a plateau at about 6000 feet elevation. This is yet another scenery change for the day - first the Bitterroot valley with some pine trees scattered about, then the thicker pine forests on the climb to the summit,and now the sagebrush on the last part of today's ride.
I visited the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument. It was the site of a battle between the Nez Perce Indians and the US Infantry.
My original plan was to make it to Jackson, MT but yesterday's shorter day is having a ripple effect on today, so I only made it as far as Wisdom (population 160). The National Park Service lady from Big Hole mentioned I could camp at the the American Legion Park just west of town. It's fairly primitive, but cheap (free) and they have a decent screened in porch that I've got my stuff spread out in and that I'm writing this on.
At the pass, the motorcycle guy said he saw a guy and a girl climbing the hill about 10 miles behind me. I knew they couldn't be Geoff and Phyllis (they were taking more downtime in Missoula) - I suspected that they were a younger couple I met in Missoula, who were using their own route. I'm the only one here in camp - I suspect they continued on US 93 into Idaho.
It's almost time for 4th of July fireworks here in Wisdom. The fire department collects all of the fireworks that the residents have bought (legal in Montana, of course) and then they shoot them off from the local airport. I could ride over to the airport for the show, but I'm too tired to ride over, and the NPS lady said I would probably have a good view from here at the park.