September 7, 2010

Day 2: River runs through it

(Return to the first Utah Loop trip post)

Creston, British Columbia, to Helena, Montana (631km)


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Packing camp was quick and I was on the road in good time. First stop was the U.S. border crossing and no problems there. My route took me into Idaho via Hwy 1. Northern Idaho was exceptionally beautiful and remained one of the stand-outs of the trip with a blend of sharp mountains mixed with rolling fields of agriculture. The smells were sweet. Stopping at the 'Welcome to Idaho' sign a woman emerged with a little girl in a wheelchair. "Just taking her for a spin!" was the call as they wheeled around me. This was obviously a financially destitute community. She came over and we chatted a bit and she took my picture by the sign and then they were off. They were beautiful together. Next Hwy 2 took me into Montana then the 56, and 200 along the Clark Fork River. Montana was a blast to ride through with a blend of twisty roads following rivers full of old fisherman and young water tubers (ie. riding inflatable tubes down the river). I followed 200 for most of the day except for a detour down a by-way (SR-141) into Avon MT. This was the last town before I found my campground just outside Helena. The skies were getting dark and I was anxious for a place to stop and found a beautiful campground on a grassy hillside. Unpacking, 'Dan' came over inquiring where I was from–he had seen me riding around looking for a plot–and we had a great chat with him telling me all about the Helena area and tips for heading South. "We're brothers!" as he told me how much Canada and the U.S. shares. Diner was at the Avon Cafe 5 miles back on someone's Internet recommendation where the table next to me had two generations of local cops swapping stories. Riding home in the dark I was concerned for deer and took it slow. Then a most remarkable sight: The moon that was almost full cast over the sky the sky ahead such that all the bugs in the air illuminated! As many ended up plastered on my helmet visor it was a most surreal experience. That night I fell asleep to the calls of elk on the range and then awoke at midnight to a terrific windstorm. Served me right for not doing like the locals and setting up camp in the trees. It was violent but nothing blew away and I still managed to find rest from the day.

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First state of the day crossing into Idaho. Loved this area!

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Second state of the day crossing into Montana.

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Some of the spectacular northern Montana country.

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Overlooking a large lake. Many signs posted about protecting the local trout populations.

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Following a gravel road down to a river for some lunch.

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Classic view

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Western Montana really seems to be filled with amazing and accessible rivers.

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A squiggly line on the map looked like a great shortcut until I got a few km along and realized it was going to be 56km of washboard. The gravel I don't mind, but I was worried about my saddle bags and other bits rattling off. Coda: Turns out I did break a screw off my saddlebag mounts.

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Many of the gas stops were at these mega-fuels.

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Heading East and Montana starts to flatten out.

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Flattening some more and it almost feels like prairie.

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With the sun setting I grab a campsite. This was accidentally a perfect spot on a beautiful hillside.

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With the tent set up to claim my plot I head out for some twilight adventuring. The lighter load is appreciated.

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After talking with 'Dan' about all things Montana I head off to the Avon Cafe for dinner. I felt a bit guilty for not cooking at the campsite but the Avon was a great stop.

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Fortunately I had the foresight to switch out the dark visor for a clear one before sitting down to eat at the Avon Cafe. The bugs were so thick I would have never made it home otherwise. The moon lit them up like flakes of snow. I'd never seen anything like it before.

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Settling down for the night. The moon, soft breeze, and Elk in the distance made it a stunning spot. There weren't even many mosquitoes, but many moths tried to get in the tent when i lit the lantern. A windstorm erupted in the night and did wake me for a while but it was somehow comforting.

5 comments:

Friarjohn said...

I hope you enjoy(ed) Montana. I stop at the Avon Cafe every chance I get (I'm in Helena).

bobskoot said...

Dan:

this looks like a great ride. your photos are stunning. Beautiful shots of the landscape. Can't wait for the next installment

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

LumpyCam said...

@Friarjohn - And many thanks for the recommendations!

@bobskoot - thank you! I dare say the pics get better as the journey moves south culminating with Canyonlands in Utah.

Websterize said...

Daily Rider shooting on a road trip — doesn't get much better than that. Looking forward to your Utah shots.

LumpyCam said...

@Websterize - Kind words, thanks!