June 23, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Day 10 - Montana High Country Lodge to Lima Reservoir

Breakfast at the lodge was being served at 6a which was right on schedule with my sleeping habits so far. I had a restful night, my legs had returned to normal size and was feeling refreshed. Top that off with another full plate of pancakes and eggs and I was ready to go. The others were getting set to head out as well, but I was the first of the group to hit the road. I had my obligatory photo taken by Russ, rain jacket on and the threatening skies began to ever so slightly open up.

This wasn't normally a big deal, however, Tour Divide punch card #9 lie ahead. The Old Bannack Bench Rd. What's the big deal? When wet, this road turns treacherous, nearly impassable due to sticky peanut butter death mud. Hal and many others over the years have told stories of ruined drivetrains, ripped off derailleurs and pure misery of trying to drag your extra heavy bike through miles of momentum halting slop. I wanted no part of this. None. I've had my fair share of death mud in Arizona, it sucks. Badly. The Old Bannack Rd was about 19 miles from the lodge and I hoped I could get out in front of the incoming rain.
More fast slightly downhill paved miles leaving the lodge. I was curious to see how long I could hold off the others.

Still looking sleepy as the rain drops mounted.

The skies were looking a bit more promising farther south. Would it stay dry??

The rain was holding at bay for the time being and my turn was rapidly approaching.

Here we go, dry now, so my goal was to put the hammer down and get the hell outta Dodge!!

The first few miles were paved, so I didn't have to worry about that. For some reason I thought the dirt portion was only 6 miles long. The sign said otherwise, 15 total, 12 on dirt.

The pavement dropped down near a ranch and crossed Grasshopper Creek, then turned to dirt. NOW it was GO time!!

It was easy pedaling on mostly level or slightly uphill grades.
The rain was still holding off and I was nearing the high point of the road. I still had 6 miles to go, but the riding would be swift if it stayed dry.

A bunch of locals tried to block the path. They barely mooooved as I zigzagged through the herd.
The end was now in sight as a few drops began to fall. I was no longer concerned, since the road had more gravel on it. I had made it through unscathed!! There was much rejoicing.

Bannack Bench Rd. hurdle: Cleared.
I had been keeping my eye open for the famed Bannack Road sign, but never saw it. I thought that was odd since its a huge sign that often pops up on ride reports. Perhaps it was no longer there?
A few easy miles on SR384 before turning on Medicine Lodge Rd. for a long mellow gravel climb to the one pass on the day.

The route was now firmly entrenched in Montana's Big Sky country.

Large ranches dotted the landscape.

The miles were ticking off quickly and I was feeling good. So far, my decision to refresh at the lodge was paying off.
I began a short climb around a hillside and figured it was a good time for a sandwich break. As I pulled over a couple of the fellas from the lodge came up. I looked at the GPS, 40 miles since the lodge, not too bad. I knew I'd get caught, but was a bit surprised it took 40 miles.

L->R: Joey King, Bill Claridge & Mark Carter

It was nice to be in the open country, didn't think about Grizzly Bears all day!!

Hey!! Look who caught up, Sam on his way to Argentina. I wonder where he is now...

Joey King getting ready to make the pass.

Off they go...

It only seemed like a matter of minutes and I was all by my lonesome once again. Good thing I like it that way.

It had turned into a perfect day of riding under the cloud cover.

Mikki & Larry would leapfrog a few times during the day.

Colorful flanks of Ellis Peak.

Pedal, pedal, pedal. So far my backside was cooperating for the most part.

Sam catching back up after a snack break.

Jorgen makes an appearance too!! It was cool running into these guys over a few days.

Medicine Lodge Rd. was definitely worthy of this recognition.

We had been riding through this valley for hours and only gained 2000' or so. There was only one short hike-a-bike section where the road was too steep for me.

There it is!! Not anywhere close to where I was expecting to find it.

The route was about to begin a long gradual downhill to Lima, some 30 miles worth. Yeehaw!!

The ridgeline on the Beaverhead Mountains ahead are the Continental Divide and the border of Montana/Idaho. However, we'd point east for a bit before crossing into Idaho.

Heading east towards the Tendoy Mountains.

The landscape reminded me of the high alpine portions of the Colorado Trail, now with oxygen!!

There was actually a bit of a tailwind too. Thank you very much.

Entering the Tendoy Mounatins, Cabin & Big Sheep Creeks cut a path to follow.

The landscape was nothing close to what I expected.

Jaw dropping terrain around every corner.

Rocks, rocks and more rocks.

The road was a little more gravel than I would've preferred, so while downhill you still had to pedal.

More and more signs of civilization.

Big Sheep Creek.

The long descent through the canyon reminded me a little bit of Titus Canyon during a bikepack through Death Valley NP.

I stopped for a quick snack and was instantly swarmed by mosquitoes. This was about to become a recurring irritation.

The canyon soon gave way to the wide open flatlands surrounding Lima.

Joining the I-15 frontage road.
As I approached the 'T' junction a car drove past me going the other direction. They turned around and slowly drove by, then stopped and rolled down the passenger window. They asked if I was going to Lima and at first caught me off-guard. Then the driver mentioned her brother was doing the race and he was nearby. I forgot to ask who she was looking for, but it was probably one of the guys from the lodge. They drove off in search of him and I hopped on the paved frontage road ready to arrive at the cafe in town.

Of course I had made it the entire day with barely a sprinkle, but as Lima neared, the rain started. I debated about putting my rain gear on since I was so close to town, but I found a dry underpass to hang out for a few minutes.

Lima Peaks tower over the farmstead.

Getting close now.

Yet another I-15 crossing.

Fancy signage for a tiny outpost of a town.

Not the place I'd expect to see this, but the proximity to I-15 calls for power.

Jan's Cafe, plenty of bikes out front and Home Cooked Grub!!
I met up with the others and placed my order. It was interesting listening to everyone's version of the day's ride. Some really enjoyed it, like myself, others found it too stark. A few others trickled in after securing rooms in town. The talk around the table soon turned to everyone's plans for the night. Everyone was planning to stay put. It was only 6:30p or so and no one seemed too thrashed for riding 100 miles. Oh well, I'm pushing on I told the group. The evening had cleared, temps were pleasant and it wasn't windy. A conversation with Hal from the other day was replaying in my mind, take advantage of any good weather opportunity because it may not last.

Sam & Jorgen rolled in a bit after the group. Sam had a bag malfunction a few miles back and was attempting to fix an anchor point. It was amazing to see the amount of tools he was carrying, spare nuts/bolts/screws, you name it. It sure didn't seem like a small mechanical would stop him. Those guys were planning to take a down day in Lima and it would be the last time I saw either one. I hope both of their journeys were highly successful.

We all ordered a round of peach or apple pie, too hard to resist. The others made their way to their respective rooms for the night while I stocked up for the next segment from the gas station across the way.
I wanted to get to the east side of the Lima Reservoir at the least. That was a good 30 miles from town out in no-man's land. I had purchased the ACA Great Divide Mapset digitally and had all the maps downloaded to my phone for offline use. These were extremely helpful for nights like this when I wasn't going to be near town or an established USFS Campground. There was a camping icon on the map labeled as 'informal campground, less than 100 feet from route'. This became my goal for the night.
Lima, MT. Small town, USA.

The majestic Lima Peaks.

Fast riding out of town through an agriculture belt.

The dark skies ahead appeared to be moving away from where I was headed.

Crossing the Red Rock River.

Soft, smooth rolling hills were stunning in the fading light.
At one point the road curved to the left and there was a bit of a dropoff on the right. I rounded the bend and noticed a bike & tent below the road grade. I assumed it was Hal, as he often knew where to camp in stealth mode, but it also seemed to close to town for him.

A few short punchy climbs leading into the reservoir. I really wanted to get there before dark and I just made it!!

Lima Dam & spillway.

The Lima Reservoir is massive!! It was going to take a while to ride around it.

The reservoir stretched out as far as the eye could see.
The road around the north side of the reservoir mostly contoured the terrain. I was still feeling good, but as night fell I began to drift away in thought about laying on my air mattress.

I was pedaling up one of the gradual climbs when some large, plump mammal poked it's head up at me. It's eyes were like giant black holes and as it scurried across the road I thought for a split second it was an odd looking groundhog. It clearly had a black & white face, so I'm guessing it was a fat badger. Either way, it was cool to see.

As I rounded the east end of the reservoir the road sloped down and the informal campground was coming up. I better stay alert. I saw a couple of bikes & tents next to a road sign then checked my maps on the phone. Not quite there yet. I crossed a bridge near some wetlands and found a large open area next to the road. I guess this is it. It was about as informal of a campground as they get. I wouldn't really know until morning when I could see my surroundings.

I was really happy with the days effort logging the most miles since the start. I wanted to begin stacking these kind of days to make up some ground.

Stats: 131.58 miles & 4,852' gained.


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