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Old 07-10-11, 01:23 PM   #1
indyfabz
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Our Great Ride Around Southwest Montana

Rough cut that could use more editing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7-k2ZMFL_I

The quality drops in full screen. Expanded format is best. And pump up the volume.

460 miles, down from a planned 490 due to a mountain pass closure. Missoula-Darby-Elkhorn Hot Springs-Divide-Twin Bridges-Butte-Philipsburg-Ekstrom's Stage-Missoula

Not pictured are mother moose and her calf off in a field and the couple dozen antelope we encountered over two days.
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Old 07-10-11, 01:47 PM   #2
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Looks like a great trip, how many days was it? It looks like there were more animals than people. Next time you should consider a location more rural and a lot less like Philly .
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Old 07-10-11, 02:01 PM   #3
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Looks like a great trip, how many days was it? It looks like there were more animals than people. Next time you should consider a location more rural and a lot less like Philly .
9 straight days of riding. Because of the detour, the last day was only 26. Other than Missoula, Butte was the only city we visited. It's the armpit of Montana according to one woman we met. About 35,000 people. Pretty down and out now that most of the mining has dried up. At one time it rivaled Portland. Many/most of the properties in the old town are vacant and decaying. Incidentally, it's the home town of Levi Liepheimer, although I hear he won't admit it. His uncle or some relative owns a bike shop in town.
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Old 07-10-11, 08:57 PM   #4
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About 35,000 people. Pretty down and out now that most of the mining has dried up. At one time it rivaled Portland. Many/most of the properties in the old town are vacant and decaying.
it's not because mining "dried up", it's because they passed laws making it illegal... along with jacking up taxes and driving local businesses out of the entire state (not just Butte).
my wife is from Kalispell (grew up there until the very late 80s)... i went there for vacation the first time in '07 (during that record breaking heat wave they had), and loved it. from reading the local newspapers and talking with relatives/friends that still live there, it's all the same story - they legislated the jobs out of existence. when you have a logging and mining industry, and you don't allow them to log or mine... uh... not much else to do but enjoy the "3 eared sapsucker" they passed the laws to protect.
it's a shame, after visiting, i was looking forward to move up there - there's no jobs. beautiful countryside, though...

sorry for the rant, i'm not much for the intrusion of the govt trying to rule everything we do in life.


cool video, looks like a great time. i ride in "countryside" as well, but it's nowhere near as scenic.
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Old 07-18-11, 11:16 PM   #5
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Nice! I grew up in the area (Deer Lodge). My dad still lives south of Hamilton. Aunt and Uncle have a cabin on Georgetown Lake. Right along your route. The pictures take me back. The Pintlers mountains are amazing and incredibly rural. If you had turned left after you came off the hill from Georgetown Lake and headed back to Hamilton on Skalkaho Rd. you would of really seen some amazing scenery. Makes me wonder why I live in Ohio.

You could do many trips just like that all over Southwest Montana and continually run into more wildlife than people. Hopefully you gave the mama moose with her calf a wide birth otherwise you might get a lot closer close up that you ever wanted.
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Old 07-19-11, 08:20 AM   #6
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Nice! I grew up in the area (Deer Lodge). My dad still lives south of Hamilton. Aunt and Uncle have a cabin on Georgetown Lake. Right along your route. The pictures take me back. The Pintlers mountains are amazing and incredibly rural. If you had turned left after you came off the hill from Georgetown Lake and headed back to Hamilton on Skalkaho Rd. you would of really seen some amazing scenery. Makes me wonder why I live in Ohio.

You could do many trips just like that all over Southwest Montana and continually run into more wildlife than people. Hopefully you gave the mama moose with her calf a wide birth otherwise you might get a lot closer close up that you ever wanted.
The original plan was to ride Skalkaho with a stop at Gem Mountain to pan for Saphires. The pass opened in early June but then closed within a week. Melting snow inundated a culvert a much of the road collapsed in one spot west of the pass. We tried to get updates during the trip, but when the day came, it was still officially closed. We had heard rumors that it was passable by bike, but we didn't want to take risk getting up there and having that not be the case, especially since the rivers and creeks were rising due to increased snow melt caused by rising temperatures. (The 9 days we were there was the first stretch of warm, dry weather they had had all year.) To have to turn back would have made making it back to Missoula in time for a flight home extremely difficult. We also didn't want to get in trouble with MDOT.

Instead, at the suggestion of an Adventure Cycling staff member we fortuitously met at Elkhorn Hot Springs, we took a paved state highway from Philipsburg that led to Rock Creek Rd. We then took Rock Creek Rd. to Ekstrom's Stage. 31 miles of unpaved surface, but it was gorgeous as you probably know. The last 10 miles to Ekstrom's were paved. Saw a bald eagle flying low on that stretch. Much nicer than heading to Drummond and paralleling I-90 to Ekstrom's, which was our planned detour.

The long slog up to Georgetown Lake was hot. There is a place to get fresh spring water on MT 1 before you get to the lake. It was much welcomed. The descent was amazing. We stopped to talk to some cyclists coming the other way and you could here loose rock trickling down the sides of the walls.

The moose were on ranch land below the road south of Jackson, but they were clearly spooked by us.

Where is your dad? We took a short portion of Skalkaho Rd., Sleeping Child Rd. and Old Darby Rd. to get to Darby.
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Old 07-19-11, 09:50 AM   #7
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That looked like one awesome adventure! Thanks for sharing the pix.
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Old 07-19-11, 07:17 PM   #8
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Looks so enjoyable, very jealous. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-20-11, 12:11 AM   #9
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Ha...You rode right by his house. He lives on Sleeping Child Rd. About a half mile south of Skalkaho Rd on the right side.

That's to bad you missed the Skalkaho. The lead up to the pass is simply amazing. The scenery is something else. And only a handful of people live there. It is a lot of fun to pan for sapphires. The road over the mountain is something else. Very scenic. From the top to Hamilton its all downhill. Dropping from around 7,300 ft down to 3,600 ft over about 13 miles. I think I know what culvert was washed out. At a waterfall that is right next to the road. That whole section of road is something else. Its just hanging on the side of the mountain in areas with some serious drops that would be the end of you if you go over. The only drawback for a dirt road over a mountain pass that is barely a lane and a half wide in places is the traffic believe it or not. You would be shocked how many people use that road. Not that its super busy, but definitely busier than you would think. Maybe 15 cars in the 30 mile section (that's sorta funny to me to even type, but if you been out there you know what I am talking about).
Your fall back plan was not to shabby though.

Anaconda to Georgetown is a long slow climb. The hill just goes on and on.

Just one question. Why did you even bother to go to Butte?
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Old 07-20-11, 07:37 AM   #10
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Red Barn Bicycles, just off Sleeping Child Rd., is a neat shop.

I was very much looking forward to Skalkaho and the falls. You can see some of it on Google Street View, and I found some videos on YouTube, including one taken by a guy driving east to west. The plunge down looks like a thrill. A mechanic at Red Barn told us that every year people are killed or seriously injured driving the road. (His buddy is part of a rescue team.) In one recent incident, two women drove off the side and their car ended up stuck in a tree. They weren't found for several days. By then, they had died from their injuries. Guess I will have to go back soem day and ride it.

Butte was a natural place to stop between Twin Bridges and Philipsburg and there didn't seem to be any alternative within a manageable riding distance. We treated ourselves to a room at the Finlen (the motor lodge portion) since the KOA was right next to I-90. I made the obligatory stop at Pork Chop John's for a doube pork chop sandwich.

The woman who owns the Inn at Philipsburg is great. Nice place to pitch a tent, complete with picnic table and wooden easy chairs. The bath house is clean and modern and the owener let us use the utility sink in her garage to wash our dishes.

Have you seen this place?:

http://www.theranchatrockcreek.com/home

A woman who owns rental cabins, fly shop and coffee bar near Ekstrom's Stage told us about it. It's located between Skalkaho Highway and the end of MT 348, which connects Philipsburg to Rock Creek Rd. Look at the rates the place charges. Don't think I will ever be staying there.
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Old 07-20-11, 10:19 PM   #11
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My wife hates the road. Especially going west to east. She was born and raised in Ohio. Driving on one and maybe a half lane mountain road with drop offs you stare at from the passenger seat makes her nervous as all get out. The funny thing is it actually is one of the better mountain roads out there.
I have a few pictures of the falls. I might have to dig them up.

Not sure I would of gone to Butte. There is a road past Wisdom that heads north toward Anaconda. Maybe stay at Fairmont Hot Springs. Or head up to Deer Lodge and visit the territorial prison there. Butte is as you describe it...and not sure what road you took going to Anaconda (my only guess is parallel 90). Anyway still a great trip.

Never seen or heard of the place. But you see places like that popping up all over Montana. A little bit out of the range of the average Joe, that's for sure.
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Old 07-21-11, 04:22 AM   #12
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That was really awesome. A few tours like that are on my Bucket List. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-21-11, 07:48 AM   #13
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I just got back from a supported tour in that area and WOW it was great. Looks like we covered some of the same ground. Gotta say Butte was better than I expected.





Day by day report with pics and some video at my blogspot .
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Old 07-21-11, 08:29 AM   #14
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Not sure I would of gone to Butte. There is a road past Wisdom that heads north toward Anaconda. Maybe stay at Fairmont Hot Springs. Or head up to Deer Lodge and visit the territorial prison there. Butte is as you describe it...and not sure what road you took going to Anaconda (my only guess is parallel 90).
We wanted to do the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, so after Big Hole Pass south of Wisdom and Jackson, we took that Wise River and then headed to a great BLM campground on the Big Hole River just outside of Divide, then turned south and then east to get to Twin Bridges at stay at the relatively new "Bike Camp". We came into Butte from the east via Pipestone Pass.

Getting out of Butte was fristrating and is a great exmaple of the limits of Goggle Maps. We took a street that ended at what was shown on Google Maps as the "Blue Bird Trail." Sounded idyllic. It was more like a backpacking trail than anything else. We had to walk in a few spots because of deep ruts caused by runoff and steep hills covered with sand. Once we escaped Butte we followed I-90 frontage roads west--Nissler, Wild Horse Meadow and Broussard, which passed under the interstate through one of those giant drainage pipes. Nice with almost no traffic. We eventually had to get on I-90, but only for 3 miles.
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