30th of July – 5th of August
This week had some challenging up and down hills mapped-out for us .
Starting on Sunday with a nice hot day ahead of us and we needed to decide if we would take the alternate which should be easier or go over Lava Mountain. Of course we decide to go over Lava Mountain even if several people have warned us that it will be a lot of pushing up and walking downhill.
They were right. We had to push several stretches, having such a load and a trail with big rocks or deep ditches and trees at both sides present too much of a risk of falling over. Therefore we push and push and push. With the both of us, one bike at a time. Resulting in 3 hours for 2 miles. We did ride some of the trail and I have to say that it starts to get easier each time.
Pity that there were no great views to reward us. The biggest reward was that we can say we did it, but if you ever ride the divide tour and you are not on a big tire mountain bike with almost no luggage, please consider to take the alternate.
We meet Stuart, who is from Vancouver and is doing the trail on his own.
We see a first flat tire with Aaron, who does a switch in no time. Then we meet Tom who is 77 and prospecting for gold. He warns us that it is best not to drink from the big river as it could still contain arsenic from mining in this area. Best to look out for spring water.
In Basin you only have two small restaurants and a pub where we meet Stuart again and have a very refreshing drink after a very hot and long day. We need to go on as the campgrounds are 10 miles further.
Due to some miscommunication we continue after the first campground and find a spot at a deserted, abolished campground, Mormon Gulch. Luckily the locals had warned us and we had taken extra water not only for that night but also the next day. Hot during the day and very chilly during the night. Happy that I did not change my sleeping bag for a lighter one.
After a wonderful scenic hot day with another divide crossing we arrive at Motel 6 in Butte. We crossed an area where you see the impact of mining even more.
Once a booming mining town, with the richest hill on earth. Now abandoned buildings but with the possibility to revive again. You feel and see the poverty of people and the desperate need of new goals. Vu Pizza has pizzas which compete with the pizzas from Is in Nieuw-Vennep, at least for today they do.
Stuart shares some good info on detours ahead of us but I don’t think we will see him again as he is much faster.
Veronique and Michel from France just arrived two days ago and will start tomorrow to bike to Denver via the trail. Flew into Denver, took 3 busses to arrive at Butte. We start to meet more and more GDMBR people, also Aaron and Dave are staying in Motel 6.
The next morning we visit Berkeley Pit, we try to also see some local points of interest. Started mining of copper in 1955 and in 1982 they stopped because it became too expensive to maintain the open-pit approach, what remained was a hole off 1 mile wide and 1600 feet deep. To prevent caving in and landslides they let it fill-up with groundwater and mountain water which became very toxic. To be ready for the overflow they have installed a water treatment facility. There is still some underground mining happening but the city needs more to revive.
The way to Beaver dam campground is partly black top and good gravel, steady climbing but luckily no pushing. After passing over the Divide and Dave being so kind to take a photo of the 2 of us, we start first a nice downhill with a vast vista of sage brush covered mountains.
Glassy green colours cover the hills.
We meet motor bikers from Texas, Collyer on a KTM 1190 and Kevin on a Suzuki 650. Also doing the same route but South to North.
Going downhill is fun if you keep your front wheel straight and don’t hit the front break too suddenly, because if you do this you end up on the floor. No big harm done, just some abrasions on my right knee and elbow and now being slower and more careful going downhill. Rinse with water and let it air dry.
Last part to Beaver Dam we bike through prairie and see a big brown cloud coming from the right. Is this a sandstorm? We see the same fire truck for the 3rd time today and ask them what it is: seems to be smog due to the wildfires. When we arrive at the campground the sun is already red due to the smog and a bit later it is totally gone. Even bits of ashes are coming down. Happy we talked with the fire dept. guys because they confirmed there is no danger for us and going south it will become less.
Next day Fleecer Ridge is on the program. Frank is not feeling so well, afterwards we do think it is due to the height in combination with the smog. Steady uphill changing in steeper uphill and we decide to push the bikes for the last part. At the top we meet off-the-road bikers Oliver who is writing for magazine UPSHIFT (www.upshiftonline.com) and will cover the whole route with his buddy Romain in 12 days from South to North. Even by motorbike this means 10-14 hours of driving each day! Article will be in the September issue.
They are very proud as they did ride up the mountain where everybody said it would be impossible as it is more than 35%. They warn us that the first part would still be possible to ride downhill but afterwards “it is like a wall” and we will have to walk the bikes. This was an understatement. Hands in a cramp of breaking with both hands and missing my hiking booths. Still I don’t know if it would be easier with hiking booths as the surface is so dusty, steep and with rocks. Normally we would not go off route as not to damage the environment but we do for some of this stretch.
After some downhill on the bikes we still have one steep one where we even have to walk the bike downhill with the two of us. I do feel less confident downhill as before I fell over. No pictures of this struggle as we could not “park” the bikes going downhill.
We call it a day when we arrive in Wise River, even if it was only a meagre 16 miles. The smog of yesterday (which is luckily less now) and the thrill of Fleecer was enough and we take a rest in a real bed (I even slept most of the afternoon). Black Angus Steak and green beans will get us going again!
Next day we combine what was left of the day before with today’s planning which results in 93 km as there are no camping possibilities (even no wild camping) until we arrive in Bannack. As all of the 93 km is over black top it is do-able.
In 1862 first gold was discovered in Bannack. Just using a sieve was enough to get gold. This created a goldrush and the founding of Bannack. After this possibility of harvesting gold was drained, Bannack became a ghost town as there were no other possibilities to earn money. Once there was a solution to extract gold from ore Bannack revived again. Due to world war II all mining for gold was stopped and the village which hosted more than 3.000 people became again ghost town. Now it is part of a National Forest and all buildings are preserved but as a ghost town. We meet Wilma and James who say that the hotel is haunted and their dogs would not go up the stairs.
As on the ACA website it is indicated that we should use an alternate route due to maintenance of bridges we have the luxury of riding along almost flat secondary roads to Lima. We see our first herd of buffalo. Emotional feeling even if you understand they will be held for consumption. What a sight it must have been to see thousands of them in the wild.
After 81 km we reach Lima which is a very small town, next to the highway ready for Tesla, with a campground where you do can take a shower (in one of the motel guest rooms). As some did not know that there was an alternate and did bike the crest there are tonight 14 bikers on the campground who are all heading south. All with their own planning, most of them lightweight, light packed, fat-tire mountain bikers. But also the 2 Dutch people we met in Wise River who will bike tomorrow 130km as they arranged a hotel in Ashton. We have a lovely evening with the French couple Veronica and Michel we briefly met in Butte who have done long biking trips all-over the world.
We feel as being drawn into a kind of competition on reaching the same destination as people now present at the campground. Was this the reason to push so hard the past days and do days starting at 9.00 till 19.00? Do we want to do this?
At 7:00 most are packed and ready to go. We are ready at 8 and when we arrive at the breakfast place they are all leaving. The French and Dutch couple already left at 7. Breakfast takes for ever but is great. It is amazing the amount of food we can take in. As today would be 57 miles on gravel with only very small but steep hills we already decide at lunch that we will stop and do real wild camping hopefully at the Red Rock river. We bike through vast plains of sage brush, past the huge Lima reservoir, locals stop to ask if we still have enough water, which we do. At the Red Rock river crossing we do not find a decent camp spot and also no clean water so we decide to push further and find a great spot next to a creek. Only forgot that we are in cattle country.
Cows come and drink at this creek at the middle of the night. Different noises than the highway, but they still keep you awake😉. It is so funny that you can camp every were as long as it is not private land or indicated you cannot camp. Happy we stopped and could enjoy the quiet and the views.
Wild life; Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel
Photo theme; advertisements on buildings
What a week; remote, hot, technically challenging and long days. Next blog you will find out what we have seen in Yellowstone as we decide to take a detour and not to miss-out on this opportunity.