Tour Divide – Day 7

Adventure by Bike, Adventure Cycling Association, Bikepacking, GDMBR, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Mountain Biking, Salsa Cycles, Tour Divide

Butte to (near) Grant, MT

The night before I called it early, ate tons of food, got my bike cleaned up and watched as several riders headed out into a heavy downpour.  The weather was looking nasty outside and they were calling for snow up in the mountains.  These were the mountains that the GDMBR heads directly towards out of Butte.  I decided to stay and get some rest and planned to get up super early to get a good start on the day. After heading over to the gas station to get resupplied for the next day, the sky started clearing up and it wasn’t looking so bad after all.  I had already checked into a room with Kevin and Sean so the decision was already made.

Leaving Butte and heading for the snowy mountains!

4:00 AM came quick and we were up and out the door.  Kevin and Sean still had to hit up the gas station so I left Butte solo and headed toward the freshly blanketed mountains.  It was cold and the wind wasn’t helping things.  I kept a good pace to try and generate some heat and after reaching the turnoff from pavement to gravel I met up with some new faces, Nick, Nathan and Peter.  We rode together for a while up into the open country.  It was super windy and cold up high.  There was some snow on the ground from the previous nights storm and it made me think that I made a good decision to stay in Butte.  Peter and I crested the Continental Divide crossing #5 and then began the rolling terrain and descent down to I-15.  On the descent I saw my first large wildlife sighting, a moose!

Looking across the I-15 valley to Fleecer Ridge in the distance.

After crossing 1-15 and heading up the road a little ways Peter and I stopped at a small vacant cabin and had a nice breakfast break on the porch before starting the long accent up to the infamous Fleecer Ridge!  The climb up was steady for the most part.  The weather was still overcast and it was even raining a little.  Once we got out of the trees and into the open balds on top the road turned to what seemed to be a cattle trail.  The rain turned to snow and the road turned straight uphill! I started to “hike-a-bike.”  Once we got to the top Peter and I snapped a couple photos and then from a different direction came a rider (Bryan) off some crazy looking ridge.  He said he had been riding out there for an hour or so looking for the correct way to go and then realized he had missed the turn where we were standing.

After getting straightened out, we all start heading down, riding at first and then when it seemed like the earth was ending I got off and started walking down the steep descent.  It was so steep in fact that I was having trouble keeping my bike from endo-ing even while walking!  At one point the back end flew up and over and just as I thought it was gone, it plopped down into the dirt and stopped.  “Whew!” If it would have gotten away from me it would have tumbled all the way down the hill and my gear would have been everywhere, not to mention my bike!

 Once at the bottom of the steep trail I got back on the bike and starting the way more gradual descent towards Wise River and hopefully a hot meal!

That’s Ezra Mullen coming down the “Not so steep part.”

We arrived at the Wise River Club and it looked like some kind of Biker Bar.  Not like Harley’s or anything.  Just a bunch of Tour Divide rigs parked out front.  Seemed to be the place to be if you were a Tour Divide rider.

After a hot meal I headed off on my own down the lonely paved road.  It was a National Scenic Byway though and turned out to be a really nice stretch of road and a very gradual climb.  I passed a few campgrounds and then all of the sudden a BEAR crossed the road in front of me!  He wandered off into the field next to the road and turned and looked my way.  He was pretty scraggly looking and was just a black bear too so I wasn’t too alarmed.

Right after this not more than a mile up the road and I saw a moose!  So I did what any tourist would do and took a picture.

This was getting pretty interesting seeing all this wildlife but my energy was starting to fade.  Maybe it was second lunch I ordered at the Wise River Club.  I just kept a slow pace and kept turning the pedals.  And maybe stopped to take a selfie and some sweet pictures of my bike.

Soon enough, Kevin and Sean caught up to me a lifted my spirits and energy levels.  We headed up into the amazing scenery of the Pioneer Mountains.  It was wide open fields and beautiful snowy mountains.  There was even some snow falling.

The descent down the paved, windy road to Polaris was pretty amazing.  I think this was the descent the film crew followed Mary down in the movie “Ride the Divide.”  The sun was shining and I was starting to feel great again.  After the descent we saw the sign for the Montana High Country Lodge and couldn’t wait for another hot meal.

We were met with such great service at the Lodge. A home cooked meal and all the coke and coffee we could drink!  It was nice to sit down at someone’s table and eat with friends and good company.

The weather seemed to be looking pretty grim in all directions.  Rob and Prentiss rolled in and looked wet and cold.  Apparently, we were riding directly in front of quite a storm and it ended up catching up to some of the riders.

It was still early and being that I had stopped early the previous night in Butte, I really wanted to push on.  Sean and Kevin were also on board so we decided to make a push for it.  Off we rode into what looked like a shit storm!

We kept waiting for it to unleash on us, but that was it, we just kept waiting and waiting.  It sprinkled a little and then rained for about 30 seconds so we stopped and put on all our rain gear in preparation.  Then it seemed to clear up again.  We must have been riding on the cusp of the storm, staying just ahead or just behind the next rain cloud.  We just kept riding and enjoying the crazy tail wind we had. We were cruising down the road almost effortlessly!

At one point we were on a downhill with a nice tailwind riding on a paved section and a semi came up behind us.  The speed limit on this two lane road was 70 and the truck looked like it was enjoying the nice tailwind as well.  We all looked at each other and made sure we were hugging the white line.  When the truck came around Sean and I put our hands in the air, made a fist and pulled down making the international “blare your horn please” arm motion and before he passed we heard a loud “Hooonnkkkkkkkkkk!!!” from the truck.  We both quickly grabbed the handle bars as the wind from the truck nearly shook us off our bikes and then we just laughed for probably 10 minutes. It reminded me of that scene in “Dumb & Dumber” when Harry and Loyd are on the scooter riding up into Aspen.

We were ahead of the storm now and the light was fading.  We started looking for a place to camp but everything was private and fenced off cattle land.

Eventually after another hour or so we finally found a place where there was no fence so we wandered off into the sage brush and setup camp.  It was cold and seemed as though it was going to get much colder!  I munched on some crackers, a Snickers bar, some M&M’s and halfway through a blueberry danish, I fell asleep.  Another 135 miles down!