Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer time in Montana

In addition to the photos from this posting, I have added several photos to the last posting as well.  You can access them by clicking on the "CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE ENTIRE TRIP" link to the left, or you can click here.

8/15/11 Day 37: Helena, MT to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, MT: 72 miles

I left Kelly's this morning with a good feeling in my heart. He is a really nice guy who has made some incredibly generous decisions in his life. He left me with nothing but positive affirmation of the goodness of people in the world, and enthusiasm for what I'm doing.

Heading south east out of Helena, I started up another mountain pass. I paralleled I-15 as it climbed toward Boulder, MT, and I stuck to the frontage roads that Google had told me would be passable. At one point, after a particularly steep stretch of road upon which no one passed me (very light use), I encountered, all at once, the end of the pavement, a “Dead End” sign, and an even steeper hill in front of me. It did not take me long to decide to unhook my bags, drop them on the other side of the fence toward the interstate, and repack my bike on the other side. I had reached the summit of the day's climb, and the ride down the other side of the interstate was smooth on a nice, wide shoulder. I soon pedaled off of the interstate into the town of Boulder, and found myself on a flat highway until the end of my ride.

The thunderstorm I rode through today was serious. Clouds loomed all day, and I even managed to take some pictures of the storm I was riding into just before the rain started. The sky then opened up and dumped. I managed to cover my things and myself just in time to avoid becoming immediately saturated. Big, fat raindrops turned into hail and back into rain. I turned all of my lights on and pedaled hard to keep myself warm, wearing only a rain shell and a wool t-shirt on top, and my bike shorts on the bottom. The road turned into a big puddle, and big trucks passed in a spray of road water. After about 15 minutes, the rain calmed. A man offered me a ride in his truck, which I declined.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, I entered a canyon in which I knew I would find Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, but I did not expect the surprising beauty that I found. Unique geological features decorate the canyon walls, and a river & train tracks snake their way along the canyon floor. Strata from thousands of years ago turned on end by ancient forces were clearly visible in diagonal layers on one side, and huge holes in the rock foreshadowed the caverns which lay beyond.

I pulled into the campground and had a look around. Once again, I asked a couple of folks who seemed interested in my bike if they'd be interested in splitting a site, and they told me to set up my tent anywhere, no need for compensation. A couple in their late fifties or early sixties, Kim (male) and Rojene were super-friendly and easy going. This seems to be the theme of all the folks I've met in Montana so far. We chatted about their kids, bike trips of the past (Kim has done some serious riding), and Montana in general. They live in Missoula, and we will all be attending weddings in Minnesota this September, but on different weekends. After an absolutely beautiful sunset, during which lightning struck in the distance and a triple rainbow came out, we said goodnight.

8/18/11 Day 40: Bozeman, MT

I got my first flat tire on my way into Bozeman two days ago. It took me about 15 minutes to remove my tire, put in at new tube, and pedal onward.

Upon arrival at my friend and colleague (we worked at NAL for 5 seasons together) Tyson's place in Bozeman, I jumped in the shower, greeted my friend Mikaela, who had flown in from New York City to visit, and we all headed off to the farmer's market. Tyson lives with a friend who owns a house a few blocks from downtown, so we got a small tour on our way. We decided to purchase some fresh greens, salmon, and goat Gouda in order to put together a salad with the lettuce growing in Tyson's garden. It was a delicious meal, heaping with fresh green stuff and topped with the most delicious salmon I've had in years.

Yesterday, I went on another river float! We packed a two-person air mattress, an inner-tube, and a cooler full of icy beverages, and zoomed out to the countryside in Tyson's old Subaru. It was a great day to be outside, hot and sunny, floating down the Madison river. Downstream, the Madison joins with the Jefferson and the Gallatin to form the Missouri river. The confluence of the 3 rivers takes place in Missouri headwaters state park, which I had pedaled past the day before.

After a good nap, Tyson hosted a barbeque at his house, and I met his girlfriend, along with several of his close friends. That evening's activities included a jam session in the living room and another visit to downtown to check out the nightlife.

Mikaela departed this morning by bus heading toward Seeley Lake, where her mother Randi (with whom I camped in Bigfork before heading into Glacier NP) lives. We had a great visit, and it was very nice to have the time to reconnect and catch up.

After Mikeala's departure, Tyson and I jumped in the car and headed out to the countryside again, picking up Tyson's friend Iain along the way, for some rock climbing. In a beautiful area of rolling hills and evergreens scattered about in the golden grass, granite formations stuck out of the ground like lumps of dough before it is made into cookies. We wandered through the rocks, finding a site that Tyson and Iain had visited before, to set up some ropes and scale some walls. While Tyson and Iain were getting their gear ready and putting on their harnesses, I took a walk around the formation we were going to be climbing, and ended up in a beautiful little patch of thistles, alive with the activity of bees and butterflies. I watched them gather nectar from the bright purple blossoms, buzzing and fluttering happily in the sun. I took several photos. Winding my way through green brush on my way back to the climbing site from a different direction, I ran into a patch of wild raspberries, and happily munched several, while saving a few to take back to my companions.

We set up and each climbed 3 pitches, at difficulty levels from 5.9 to 5.10a, which I had much less trouble with than I expected. The rock was very solid granite with lots of lichen and many small, crystalline rocks embedded in the surface. This made for many small holds, and a large variety of choices of things to step and grab onto. As the sun sank lower in the sky, Iain had a dinner date with his girlfriend, so we had to head back.

After dinner, I spent some time chatting with friends online, and ran out the door just in time to catch the end of “Music on Main,” a live performance for which they shut down a section of Main street every Thursday night and allow people to dance, drink and make merry in the street. I met Tyson, his housemate Lance and Lance's girlfriend Megan, along with Tyson's friend Jake near the stage to socialize and cheer for the last few songs of a local funk/soul/reggae band. We finished off the night with a game of cribbage using a scoreboard that Lance had made out of a deer antler. Very cool.

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