Day 100 – Champion trail, Champion hike-a-bike

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It was a slow morning.  We woke up to drizzles on the tarp.  I fetched the food and stove from our hanging tree in a lull, then we cooked from within the tarp.  More drizzles.  We went back to bed.  These fools don’t start rides in the rain… if at all possible.

After a nice morning’s nap, the sun started to poke its head into the forest.  Alright – time to get moving.  Still slowly.

More Nez Perce trail descending.  Chunky.  Fun.  Very good trail despite being open to motos.  Then roads!  To I-15.  I checked in on a tracker or two and emails while we still had reception.

Climbing away, we were soon on singletrack and soon smiling.  This started a very long section of good trail.  20+ miles, of perhaps higher quality than even closer to Butte.

It was much appreciated and very fun.  We did find our motivators sputtering from the morning’s nap for a while.  I was getting frustrated by 600′ climbs.  I knew it was silly given that they would be on good trail, but still, it is what it is.

Above Lowland Lake campground we met Scott and Sue who had quit their jobs in Alaska and are touring the whole spine of the Americas.  They didn’t seem to want to talk much, and rolled on after a little chatting.

We’d heard good things about the trail from there, and we can verify said good things.  Some of the easiest miles of the whole CDT, no doubt.  I’m not sure there was a single hike-a-bike in any of those miles — all the way to Champion Pass.  Just a few trees down, a couple of which I cleared.

After a second lunch at Champion the trail got more interesting.  Good trail is, well, good and all, but I think we’d get bored real quick if it was 3000 miles of at grade, machine cut trail.  That’s part of the beauty of the CDT — it is such a mixed bag and you never know what you are going to get.

The maps and GPS data seemed to be pretty clueless about the next few miles.  Both Ley and Bearcreek had proved themselves untrustworthy pretty early on (Cold Spring was a great source of water), so we put our trust on the CDT signs.  I think it was mostly well placed trust, though in one case the road might have been better/easier.

We’d spend plenty of time on the road just after that, as it barreled its way straight up the divide.  It was a 800 foot mostly unrideable push up to a pointless high point, only to steeply drop back down.  Ah, the CDT.  It’s the trail we know and love, and it was actually kind of fun to be back in the thick of things.  Like I said, never ending benchcut trail would get boring eventually.

We dropped down through the ghost town of Leadville, even though we never really saw it.  Unfortunately it’s very wet on this side of the mountain, and it never got that warm today.  This isn’t our best campsite of the trip, and it’ll probably be cold one, but… hey, it’s thru-riding.  If we wanted a perfect campsite, we’d go somewhere we knew.  But the unknown and the continued adventure of CDTbike calls us forward.

There’s much uncertainty in the trail ahead.  Talk of vandalized signs, flagged routes that go nowhere, GPS not agreeing with signs or the maps.  Should be interesting…. as long as we can make it to Elliston, MT for resupply by the end of the day.

Day 99 — Still good through Delmoe

We made some 25 trail miles today, leaving town at 1 pm and with an hour of climbing on the railroad grade just to rejoin the trail. That’s great CDT time. Sure, half was on roads, but there was still hike-a-bike and other challenges in there.

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Like rain. 50 percent chance in Butte means 100 percent near the divide. We successfully dodged a big thunder cell, but ended up taking 3 or 4 rain delay breaks under trees. Luckily none were too long.

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Just enough to cover our new and clean drive trains with grit, briefly rendering my granny ring inoperable.

It kind of felt like we were being lazy with the morning, but there’s always a lot to do when leaving town. We weren’t watching TV or twiddling our thumbs, that’s for sure.

The timing was perfect. Not 30 second after we rejoined the CDT,  we saw two hikers ahead. It’s Chimp and Tootise! We haven’t seen them since the basin. They took a big shortcut from yellowstone,  skipping the entire brutal border section and had just rejoined the cdt after hundreds of miles off it. It was great to see them still in the game and with positive attitudes. So cool the way we keep bumping into our friends out here.

After Delmoe lake the trail got steep and we pushed big hills as the thunder cracked behind us. Then we mercifully turned onto moto singletrack. It began with some hiking then got good . Real good. We ran into a group of 4 motos riders that were very curious what we were doing or how far we were going, so late in the day. They were blown away when they figured out what we were up to.

The rest of the Nez Perce trail was great riding. Bikepack tech, only a little mud and minimal erosion. It was good knowing we were on moto trail … meaning it would continue to exist and be logged out.

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We still have some good descending on the trail to do in the morning. Then we cross I 15 again and on towards Lincoln! Here’s hoping to clear skies and minimal rain.

Days 97 & 98 – Rest and Super Butte Ride

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Ah the Outdoorsman. Our first bike shop in many hundreds of miles and more than a month. The last true bike shop was in Winter Park, I believe. Our bikes needed some love. Rob runs a great show and is ever so kind to divide riders. Larry the mechanic got us going with new cables, housing and chains. We put our own bikes in the stands and refilled sealant levels, installed brake pads and cleaned / overhauled other parts. I finally got rid of my headset creak, I believe, after re-pressing the bottom cup.

All that work and a few other touches, like new gloves, meant we were super tuned and revamped. To celebrate, we stripped all the gear off our bikes and went to ride a local favorite.

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We climbed Maud S trail out of town, steeply. Unlike our last day ride, which was all day and still had us carrying lots of food, rain gear, etc, this time we were truly riding light. It felt so, so good. I’m really looking forward to unloaded riding after the CDT.

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Today was a ride to go see a Lady. The kid at the local restaurant said it’s a statue of the Mother Teresa. It’s not. It’s the ‘lady of the rockies’ sitting right on the Continental Divide. The Mother Mary, supposedly. 90 feet tall.

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We climbed to a high point, now on the CDT proper, and found that nature made a few of its own ladies of the rockies. They remind me of the ‘Baby Jesus’ rock on the namesake trail in Tucson — looks like a cloaked Mary holding a little baby rock.

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This is the 14 miles of trail that we could have followed from the current CDT route into Butte, but didn’t have the energy. It was a good call to save it for a day ride.

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The climb hurt us, but once you gain the high point on the divide, it’s pure bliss. One of the best descents anywhere. I’m not sure if it was designed/built by mountain bikers, but the terrain is such that it would be impossible to create a trail that isn’t fun to ride. The undulations and rock plates lead to just the sort of riding I love. Eszter summed it up well, “I think you spent more time in the air than on the ground coming down that.”

Pop, pop, pop! Pop off everything you can! Especially with an unfettered bike and a clean cockpit, oh boy!

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I was jumping for joy. The views of the open pit mine, the town of Butte and the Lady were impressive. What a jewel of a trail for Butte to call its own. It’s going to be a great addition to the CDT when it’s completed past the Lady.

We dropped back down the railroad tracks, through the tunnel and over the bridge, coasting and smiling all the way into Butte. An actual day ride — 4 hours and only 23 miles.

We’ll have to backtrack up the railroad tracks again, leaving town tomorrow, since that section isn’t finished yet. That’ll put us on some forest roads, then trails and standard CDT patchwork of trail/ATV/roads all the way to Lincoln.

Day 96 – Butte dream

Yesterday felt like waking up from a bad dream, today was a dream come true.





We had good trail. All day long. Switchbacks, good grades, sustainable design. I wouldn’t say it’s “mountain bike trail” because I guarantee that the CDT hikers love it and appreciate it too. Who doesn’t like good trail?





It sure is fun to ride. I’m so happy to see that this trail exists and that this new CDT ended up open to bikes. What a fantastic asset to a community that sorely needs it. It will help economically, and hopefully get more people into human powered, quiet and immensely rewarding outdoor recreation. How incredibly short-sighted it would have been to listen to curmudgeons that live on the east coast and have bicycle-phobia.

It’s ironic that many (most?) of the thru-hikers aren’t even using it — taking a cutoff through Anaconda instead. I think is is the best continuous (30+ mile) piece of singletrack we have ridden yet. Even better than any portion of the Colorado Trail. And there’s still more to go.





Hiker-mail. Some hikers are hitting this section, cool!





Say what you will about ‘the facebook’ but it ends up making some cool connections sometimes.

We had planned a short day, cutting out at Pipestone Pass, since taking the divide route into Butte looked preferable to the next pass (Homestake) which is I-90. As I studied the maps at camp, it sure looked better to ride to I-90 and get closer to Butte before going in to resupply. We had plenty of food, and the weather was supposed to be bluebird — why not take advantage?

I posted to Facebook asking about a shoulder on I-90. Within a few minutes Jerry Brown of Bear Creek Survey responded that we could take *trail* into Butte, from I-90. Sold. We planned for more riding.





It was a good choice. 4 miles before Pipestone the trail went from good trail to FANTASTIC trail. And that continued for 13 more miles all the way to Homestake. We even saw two girls day riding it! We haven’t seen *anyone* riding a bike on the CDT since… Colorado, south of Winter Park.

The trail weaved through stone monoliths and plates. Switched through thin forests. Dove in and out of minor drainages. Bermed its way along the continental divide. A decomposed granite base, nary a hike-a-bike or pitch too steep.

Absolute dream riding. Dream weather. We had plenty of food, plenty of time, and even a fair amount of energy for being on the third day out of Wisdom.





Thank you.

At Homestake there was a map that told us the trail into Butte would be 13.5 miles and feature a 2000 foot climb. Oye. We had figured it would be mostly a drop into town. Energy was not quite that high. We also wanted to make it into town before the Outdoorsman and the Post Office closed.

Also on Facebook, by this time, was a post by Outdoorsman owner and Levi’s brother, Rob Leipheimer. He told us we could descend the old rail tracks into town. Sure enough, we spied a little singletrack and bike tracks next to the rails. Let’s see what happens!





A gentle coast straight into town, with huge views — that was exactly what we needed. Social media is pretty dang cool sometimes. (It has also recently led to CDT by Schultz Pass being cut out — thanks Bitteroot Backcountry Cyclists — and not to mention the energy boost for Ez back by Slag-a-Melt).





Very cool. Literally.





Wow. The power of local knowledge.

We are in good hands at the Outdoorsman (thanks Rob!) and the adjacent motel. Bikes are getting some love. Legs some recovery. Computers are getting a workout. Catching up with work and planning the rest of the trail. We have maybe 150 more bike-legal CDT miles, then we are on our own to get creative and make it to the terminus at Canada!

Day 95 — Awake

It kinda feels like we woke up from a bad dream.  We are actually riding our bikes these days — instead of pushing them.  The ID/MT border is done — we are well into Montana, for good!

Today we managed over 40 on-CDT miles.  And it wasn’t all that hard.  That hasn’t happened for quite a while.





snow in August – oye!

We woke up to the cold and dewey world.  It sprinkled overnight, too.

The climbing along American Creek eventually turned to a closed snowmobile trail — overgrown with little sign of summer use.  “Oh boy,” I thought, remembering how difficult the Union Pass area CDT was.  Just like Union, there were no CDT signs or blazes.  No one cares about the trail here.

The GPS waypoint said, “follow dry streambed” where we turned off the snowmobile trail.  Oh boy.  Then we pushed bikes up the very steep ATV track we found near the Hungry Hill mine.  I kept remarking it was still easier than pushing up Fleecer Ridge (northbound) on the divide.





look close, there are two Ez’s in this photo

Some questionable beta led us to Larkspur Spring, which I’m not sure is all that great or important of a water source.  There was water in many other places.  But we did get some clear spring water out of the deal.





Once we regained the divide, the CDT became an ATV trail.  It wasn’t your typical ATV trail – this one had switchbacks and eschewed fall-line silliness!





Awesome.  Some of the easiest on-divide travel yet ensued.  We were loving it.  We contoured around Burnt Mountain (not burned at all!), ate lunch, then continued the gluttony with a 1500 foot bench cut descent.  It was just as good as singletrack — flowy, super fun and winding its way through large boulders.









sharing. what a novel concept — well done MT Trails assc!

1500 feet more descending brought us to I-15 where we met two divide tourists — Gail and Gary.  She remarked that when they were young and went on their first bike tour, they worked picking fruit and other odd jobs as they traveled — not on computers like we are so lucky to be able to do in 2014.  They were fun to talk to.





We cranked out some steep miles on the divide route, eventually hopping onto recent trail that was rumored to be constructed to sustainable (or bike) standards.  From what we have seen so far, that seems to be very much true.

“This reminds me of mountain biking!”





Wait, it is mountain biking!  Phew.  I feel like we deserve a break and some blissful trail after all we’ve pushed through.  Looking forward to more of it tomorrow, and a relatively early arrival into Butte where we will plan the last leg of our journey to Canada!  It finally feels like it is in reach, though there are still several hundred miles to go.