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My Little Trip Around Northwest Montana

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My Little Trip Around Northwest Montana

Old 07-10-17, 11:31 AM
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My Little Trip Around Northwest Montana

Sorry to crowd the forum with another trip report and distract from yet another thread about how crappy the LHT is, but...

A week ago this past Sunday I flew home after two weeks ofriding around northwest Montana (with one day in Idaho), starting and ending inMissoula with nights in St. Regis (private campground), Wallace, ID (privatecampground), Thompson Falls State Park outside of Thompson Falls via Dobson Pass, King’s Pass (unpaved)and Thompson Pass, U.S.F.S. campground Dorr Skeels on Bull Lake in the CabinetMountains, Troy, with a visit to Kootenai Falls (private campground), U.S.F.S.campground Pete Creek near Yaak (pronounced “yak”) (2), Rexford BenchCampground (U.S.F.S.) in Rexford, Whitefish Lake State Park, Glacier NationalPark (2), Wayfarers State Park in Bigfork and Seeley Lake. Odometer read 822miles when all was said and done, which included runs for groceries, etc.

Photos:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/albums/72157682904463522
(Click on the first image and advance manually using thearrow on the right.)

Weather: No rain save two brief showers on two separateoccasions while I was still in the tent. Aside from the first day and a half,it was warm to down right hot (lower to mid-90s) with intense sun.

Critters seen but not pictured included: Countless deer,including some mulies, a large red fox, what looked to be a grouse with achick, a doe elk, a hoary marmot and what I think was a stoat/ermine.

Biggest SNAFU: Trying to ride a section of an abandonedMilwaukee Road railroad right of way only to find the final mile fenced off bya rancher who either bought the land or had it revert to him.

Biggest Riding Disappointment: 1. Having to ride I-90 muchof the way between St. Regis and De Borgia due to problems figuring out partsof the Olympian Trail. 2. The NPS opening up all of Going to the Sun to carshalf way up my climb.

Biggest Non-Riding Disappointment: Not seeing a bear and a moose.

Rudest Awakening: Thinking I had reached the summit of the 17mile climb out of Yaak when I still had 9 miles remaining. Should have made betternotes on my cue sheets.

Toughest Climb: Thompson Pass. Starts out gentle then turnsto hell.

Funniest Things Heard During the Tour: 1. At the Missoula KOAbefore starting the trip: “Grandma, are you on acid again?” 2. In Wallace, oneof a couple riding from Spokane to Glacier without any real route plan: “I justwish we could get to Glacier without riding over all these mountains.”

Most Memorable Food Experiences: 1. Scarfing down an entirehalf a fried chicken and some Jo-Jos in about 10 minutes after the ride fromYaak to Rexford. 2. Fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookies from one of the campgroundhosts at Sprague Creek Campground in Glacier.

Best Campsites: 1. The unadvertised hike/biker sites atThompson Falls S.P. They are day-use picnic sites, but they put hikers/bikersthere, and they are best sites in the place. 2. Lakeside walk-in site at DorrSkeels. The developed hiker/biker sites at Whitefish Lake S.P. and WayfarersS.P. are also quite nice, with shelter, power, bear boxes, tent pads, repairclamps and water. And I was told that even if they are full you won’t be turned away.

Worst Road: U.S. 93 from south of Fortine to Whitefish. Lot’sof traffic at times and sketchy shoulder.

Biggest Jackwagons: The two separate guys riding up the west side of Going to the Sun well after the bike time limit of 11 a.m.

Guess that’s about it.
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Old 07-10-17, 11:44 AM
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Nice trip report! That part of the country is beautiful. Makes we want to ride there too.

I love getting surprised with a nice hiker/biker campsite. This summer we stayed at Deception Pass State Park in Washington during the 4th of July weekend. The campground was full and noisy but the hiker/biker sites were tucked away from the masses. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful nights of our trip.
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Old 07-10-17, 12:25 PM
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Nice report! I like the depressed Elk hunter sign
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Old 07-10-17, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
Nice report! I like the depressed Elk hunter sign
Thanks. Missing from the album is what looks like a picture of non-descript forest. But if you look at the bottom of the photo you can see the skeletal remains (rib cage) of an animal. Looks a bit large for a deer. I am wondering if it's from an elk. For some reason the upload of that image (and one other I have to identify) to Flickr failed. I will add them when I get home.
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Old 07-10-17, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
and distract from yet another thread about how crappy the LHT is, but...
Sounds like a good time! Completely forgot to take an any sort of biased interest in what others picked for their bikes while I was on my trip, TBH, guess I got to get back into that mode
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Old 07-10-17, 01:22 PM
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Funny how that happens in real life
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Old 07-10-17, 02:47 PM
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Thanks for sharing.

Sounds like you had a good ride. My daughter lives in Kalispell, and we have been trying to figure out a loop around that area. Your route sure looks interesting.
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Old 07-10-17, 02:54 PM
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great fotos and wonderful descriptions. i guess those bar-ends didn't ruin your trip!

ty,
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Old 07-10-17, 10:34 PM
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Nice photos and write up about some of my favorite places in NW Montana. i lived in a log cabin off the Blue Slide Road next to the Cabinet Wilderness in the early 1980's. So many logging road routes to explore on my mountain bike something unknown to the locals at the time.
Thanks for reminding me to visit the Yaak again soon.
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Old 07-11-17, 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by arctos View Post
i lived in a log cabin off the Blue Slide Road next to the Cabinet Wilderness in the early 1980's. So many logging road routes to explore on my mountain bike something unknown to the locals at the time.
Thanks for reminding me to visit the Yaak again soon.
Believe it or not, I remember you posting about that way back when and thought of you when I was in that area. The interesting thing for me riding MT 56 was that I rode the entire thing in '99 and '00 during two long tours. Both days I started early from the RV park at the junction with MT 200, and it was cold, damp and foggy with low-lying clouds. As a result the scenery was obscured and muted. This year it was bright and sunny in the afternoon. I kept thinking "It sure didn't look this nice way back when."

The whole Bigfoot thing in the Yaak area made me chuckle. Someone actually ginned up a Bigfoot advisory memo on Forest Service stationery and stapled it to a telephone pole. It advises people not to be afraid of Bigfoot because he won't chase you or go into your tent and try to eat you.

Also...I noticed at the campground that the host had propped up the hood of his truck with a log. I thought he was letting it cool, but then I saw that a camper there had done the same thing so I asked him what the deal was. He told me it was to discourage woodrats (a/k/a packrats) from getting up in the engine and chewing on wires. If you are not carteful you may end up driving away with them inside, where they might later nest. There was a large colony living in a rocky area of the campground. Leaving the hood open makes it less inviting because it ruins the seclusion.
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Old 07-11-17, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by 52telecaster View Post
great fotos and wonderful descriptions. i guess those bar-ends didn't ruin your trip!

ty,
Thanks. That shadowy figure climbing to Logan Pass with me is a traveling contract nurse currently living in Whitefish who I met on the way up. Seemed like a nice "kid." Despite being about half my age and riding an aluminum frame with index shifting AND disc brakes, I beat her up and down the mountain.
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Old 07-11-17, 11:06 AM
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Looks nice. What do you mean by the 11 am time limit? They close the road to bikes in the morning?
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Old 07-11-17, 11:12 AM
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well done Sir! love the bird pics! you tired?
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Old 07-11-17, 11:31 AM
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Those turkey's crossing the road....haha! Paul, Ringo, John and George...

Nice pictures though...Montana surely is a beautiful state, and you definitely got the photo's to prove it. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-11-17, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Looks nice. What do you mean by the 11 am time limit? They close the road to bikes in the morning?
Yes, starting June 15 through, I think, Labor Day, you must reach Logan Pass going up the west side by 11 a.m. or risk a fine. You can ride west on the west side of the pass to Sprague Creek Campground any time of day. Bikes are not allowed in either direction between Sprague Creek and Apgar Village between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. There are no time restrictions east of the pass due to the wider nature of the road.


The west side restrictions are NOT in effect if the road is not open fully to cars, which it wasn't beyond Avalanche Campground when I started that morning. My campground host swore up and down that the road would not fully open to cars that day. As a result, I was taking my dear sweet time, stopping to take photos and riding and gabbing with the nurse I met. Shortly before the loop two rangers pulled up to me and let me know that they had just opened to entire road to cars and that I had to be up to the pass by 11. Made it around 10:30. People got late word so it wasn't that bad going up. Coming back down, the traffic heading up was nearly bumper to bumper to the loop.
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Old 07-11-17, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
you tired?
I was. I am also getting over some serious chafing resulting from long, hot, sweaty days in the saddle. I also think it's time for a new saddle.
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Old 07-11-17, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I was. I am also getting over some serious chafing resulting from long, hot, sweaty days in the saddle. I also think it's time for a new saddle.
You have lots of choices nowadays.



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Old 07-11-17, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
You have lots of choices nowadays.



I was carrying enough stuff already. I think the particular bibs I have been using don't play well with my particular saddle, or it's the saddle itself, because I don't get the same problem with my road bike saddle. The thing is over 6 years old and has seen many thousands of commuting and touring miles. And I don't think I have ever covered it up during rain.
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Old 07-11-17, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
You have lots of choices nowadays.
Just make sure you put it in your checked bag, or the folks at security will confiscate it and you will have to beg a friend to share...
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Old 07-11-17, 05:47 PM
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Wow this is unbelievable. I was considering this same area for next year.

I was going to take the Cour d' Alenes just west of Spokane.

https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov...coeur-d-alenes

The problem is it ends in Mullan.


Looks like you intersected at Mulan then south east to Missoula? I noticed the Olympian Trail. What was the condition? I assume it is dirt? How many miles of dirt did you have approximately


Is this a good route for a credit card tourer? Or would I be better off with Route 200?


P.S. I could be pissed if I did not see a bear or a moose too. Tons of pics of moose along the Cour d' Alenes online.

Like my tour of the Selkirk Loop. Had lots of warnings about bears along the route. Did not see one. Close we got was a bear came through the cabin property at night where we were staying in New Denver. Just saw the aftermath the next morning. Didn't see any elk , when a week before they were all over the golf course in Crawford Bay. Only wildlife was eagles, a couple of deer in Crawford Bay not 10 feet away on the way back from dinner and a ragged coyote.

Last edited by spinnaker; 07-11-17 at 05:54 PM.
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Old 07-11-17, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
Just make sure you put it in your checked bag, or the folks at security will confiscate it and you will have to beg a friend to share...

Why? Over the limit on liquid? Sounds like you speak from experience.
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Old 07-11-17, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Why? Over the limit on liquid? Sounds like you speak from experience.
Not me, I don't use the stuff. One of the guys I went to Iceland with got nabbed in Toronto, and got pulled aside for a chat with security about what it was. Brand new $20 tube confiscated, and he got to share with the third guy

Made me feel better about losing my $3 knife I thought I tossed in my checked bag!
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Old 07-11-17, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Wow this is unbelievable. I was considering this same area for next year.
I was going to take the Cour d' Alenes just west of Spokane.
The problem is it ends in Mullan.
Get off the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes at Cataldo and ride thru Murray over Thompson Pass.
The CdA is usually right upside I-90 east of Smelterville and then leaves you with few options.
The paved forest road is sweet with light traffic - first rode in back in the late 1980s when it was still unpaved.
Plus - - - there is a great bike/ped bridge over the falls at Thompson Falls.

Hwy 200 is mixed - with iffy shoulders at times and moderate traffic.
You can always ride the lovely Thompson River gravel road up to US 2 - -
but then have US 2 to deal with. Better than it used to be, but not much.
(There always seems to be at least one stretch.)

PS - The wildlife in Montana never seem to show up to work on schedule.
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Old 07-11-17, 10:32 PM
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Gorgeous world-class natural scenery. Only tried chamois butter a couple of times; pro racers use a lot but I wonder about bike shorts getting greasy & not washing clean at motels/campgrounds.
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Old 07-12-17, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Wow this is unbelievable. I was considering this same area for next year.

I was going to take the Cour d' Alenes just west of Spokane.

https://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov...coeur-d-alenes

The problem is it ends in Mullan.


Looks like you intersected at Mulan then south east to Missoula? I noticed the Olympian Trail. What was the condition? I assume it is dirt? How many miles of dirt did you have approximately


Is this a good route for a credit card tourer? Or would I be better off with Route 200?
1. I did a clockwise loop starting from Missoula and heading west, so I picked up the CdL Trail at its eastern terminus in Mullan and took it to Wallace before heading north over the mountains.

Here is what I had planned:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/19192705

2. Info on the Olympian Trail is sketchy. I got on at the beginning in St. Regis (mile 77.6 on the above map) and rode a few miles. It was bumpy. And, BTW, that part open to vehicles. Just beyond mile 80 you will see a creek. The bridge over that creek is missing. I had read something about a workaround, but I could not find it (I have since seen it on satellite view) so I got on I-90 at 2 Mile Rd. at rode it all the way to De Borgia (Exit 18). While on I-90 I could see sections of the trail but could not reach it because it is walled off by the St. Regis River. In De Borgia I crossed under the highway and took a shade break. There, I met a local who explained that if I headed a bit west on Coker Ln. (seen on the map) I would hook up with the trail. The old railroad right of way in that immediate area (I could see it just south of Coker Ln.) is not rideable, and just a bit east of there (mile 89 on the map) a bridge was washed out and never replaced. I think the takeaway from this is that you ride the section between St. Regis and De Borgia at you own risk, with the understanding that if you find an impassable section, there is limited ability to simply hop off and get on roads so you may end up going all the way back to where you first got on.

West of De Borgia the trail was in decent shape. It's dirt/gravel, not smooth limestone. The must-do comes at mile 100 on the above map. After you cross a short trestle over Silver Creek (The trestle surface is very rocky, so you will have to walk.) you must drop down to the NorPac Trail (first show as "NP Railway" on the map) or you will end up in the middle of nowhere. Look at the satellite view of the map. You will see a road that takes you down there. I don't think that's accurate. There is a new road and a sign that reads "New Road to Lower Grade." Poor signage as it never mentions the NorPac Trail. Between my memory of the map, being a railroad guy and a little help from my new smart phone I concluded that the sign was saying "New Road to the NorPac Trail." I was correct and took that trail all the way to Lookout Pass at the border with Idaho. That trail is also dirt/gravel with a few rockier sections here at there, but it's well worth it. Very pretty, especially after you cross under I-90 the second time just before mile 109 on the map. (Not long after that you will go through the tunnel shown in the photos.) But note that it is not flat. That was one tough piece of railroad leading up to the pass. The trail surface makes it even more taxing. There are food/drink and rest rooms at the ski area at Lookout.

The map shows me descending on more trail and then taking Willow Creek Rd. towards Mullan. A worker at the ski area told me Willow Creek was in horrible shape. Being behind my desired schedule and having had enough dirt, I opted for the six miles of descending on I-90 to the first exit for Mullan, where I went through town and picked up the CdL Trail at 2nd St. On that paved trail you can almost coast the 7 or so miles to Wallace, but it's not particularly scenic.

3. In addition to the above sections of dirt, I did a few others. King's Pass between Delta and Murray is about 5.75 miles of good, hard pack dirt with some gravel. It saves you several miles vs. going through Prichard. There are a few miles of dirt along the back way to W. Glacier, but they are much preferable to the shoulderless section of U.S. 2 leading to Hungry Horse. Much later on, somewhere beyond mile 525, Middle Rd. turns to hard pack with a little gravel until you hit MT 35 to Bigfork. This section was the hidden gem of the trip. Quiet farming road with virtually no traffic. The parallel Highway 206 had a lot of traffic and basically no shoulder. At mile 537.5 I got off MT 35 and took Mennonite Church and Creston Rds. back to MT 35. The latter was benign gravel and short.

4. With planning and some overnight stop modifications, you could do this CC style. There are motels in St. Regis, Wallace, Thompson Falls and Troy. There are some cabin accommodations in Yaak. You'd have to pass up Rexford to find indoor lodging in Eureka. Whitefish has several places. You'd be wise to book well in advance for a room in Glacier. Bigfork has at least one motel, and there are a couple in Seeley Lake. Staying indoors would mean you would miss some of the highlights of the trip, which was camping along the shores of some of the rivers and lakes.
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