Montana and Idaho on my KLX
Montana Wildhack....ever since I read Slaughterhouse Five in grade ten english while serving an endless detention in the hallway for being a smart ass, I have wanted to go to Montana. I just liked the name.
Well now that I am middle aged and have a line of credit that will allow me to do that type of thing I decided that I better get on with it.
Last year after reading larryboys' inspiring trip report of his epic blast over the CDT and TAT, I have been hatching a similar plan. I had 28 days and an idea to solo the CDT to Salida, intersect the TAT to Lakeview then hit what larryboy calls the Disco (the oregon discovery trails) to end up at Walawala and then head home to Vancouver island. It was a grand idea.
Some unfortunate circumstances cut my trip time to more like 14 days.
Plan B, scour ADVrider for some ideas that would get me down the CDT and then loop back somehow and get me home quicker.
Enter BigDog and his equally inspiring tale of a Mexico to Canada ride that took him north through Idaho on a fantastic route called the Tour of Idaho. A few PM's and a few more emails. A smattering of GPX files loaded into the Garmin and I was ready to follow some dog tracks, BigDog that is. I would flesh out the plan to greater detail while I was on the road. I was going to let this trip find its' own path.
My bike had been patiently waiting for me for about a week. I had torn it apart this winter and put it together with this ride i mind.
So I got up early, kissed the dog and patted the kids and headed for the ferry and whatever that was to come.
There is not much to say about the first few days of the trip as I was riding pavement , I find that rather boring unless I am riding at the limits of adhesion which is pretty easy on a loaded KLX with a worn out front knob and a new trials tire on the back. Nevertheless I did make it to Winthrop Washington in one piece. I camped at Pearrygin park and went and watched the pirate parade in town for an hour or two. I have never seen so many new Harleys in one place. I hit the road the next day and cruised the scenic highway over Sherman Pass
to Libby, Montana.
I am not sure how long it took because I think I was asleep for a good portion of it but when I did get to Libby I took a cruise through town. It was Sunday evening, and the main strip was just that...a drag strip. There was an amazing amount of rubber on the entire length of the street. Hmmm looks as if there ain't a lot to do in Libby. I saw a hotel and started over to it when I was lucky enough to meet Rico2wheels, a fellow ADVrider and all round good guy. He was sitting astride his Yamaha WR250 which was decked with ADV gear, and he gave me a wave. He headed down a little side road so I followed him. the road led to a little RV park that had room for one more tent. Cool.
We chatted for quite a while. It is great how you can just meet someone and in no time you know it would be a blast to burn some miles with them. I got that feeling with Rico. I wish I had taken a picture of the campsite and him...maybe next time.
I was quite tired and I hit the bivibag early so that I could make the short run into Kalispell the next day. Sure enough I woke feeling good. I had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and hit the road about 9 am.
The ride was pleasant and in no time I was cruising into town. I planned to spend the day and night in Kalispell to rest up for some marathon dirt, so I bagged a hotel room and headed off to find Penco's, a bike shop that Rico had recommended for a new front skin.
I left the bike with them overnight so I didn't have to worry about guarding the thing and spent a night out looking around. Penco's was great to deal with and had a good selection of tires. I would recommend them if you are needing bike stuff in that part of the world.
When I went back the next morning I had a nice new MT21 with an HD tube mounted and balanced on the front and I was ready to roll....finally.
This picture is the start of the CDT for me. I was very happy to have finally started my trip after about 1000 KM of riding Satan's Spine.
I rambled on and on just getting to know my new friend on the front rim. It was digging in really well and I was very happy with the way that bike handled with thirty pounds of gear and 16 litres of gas on board. I could still dive it into corners and power out of them nicely, so I was in the zone. I had the odd interaction with deer who managed to spring across the trail and out of the way ahead of me.
I usually say sorry to the deer when that happens, I just feel like I am in their space.
There were many places that I would have liked to have photographed but I was having too much fun to slow down much less to stop.
Eventually I came around a corner and there were some new culverts lying along the road. I started to think back to when I used to work on a grade crew in the bush, installing culverts in logging roads. The next thing I new I had riden upon this.
The bane of the dirt biker...I once hit a culvert ditch on my RM 400 just as I was snicking the thing into 5th gear trying to pass a jeep in a cloud of dust. I remember flying through the air head first facing up watching my bike tumble behind me. I finished that race with one foot peg and the right handle bar pointing straight up, and a Bell Moto3 with a big crack in it.
I hate culverts...
I got off my bike, took off my helmet, and, with the toothiest grin an Englishman can muster, I walked towards the excavator.
The machine shutdown and the operator climbed down with a bigger grin than me.
I stuck out my hand he stuck out his, and I asked if he wanted help putting the culvert in.... I could see he had ditched the road all the way across with no way around. He laughed and said no, and we talked for a while. He could not believe that I had come all the way from Vancouver Island to ride my bike in the Middleanowhere Montana. His name was Mark, and he told me he would be about an hour.... I could not believe he knew where Vancouver Island was and I was thankfull that he was not an asshole I told him I had all day, I also gave him some gummy bears. I went back to my bike and started giving it the steely eyeball and in about ten minutes Mark honked his horn and waved me through. He had filled in his ditching on half the road just to let me by. This would be the first of many acts of kindness that would befall me on this trip.
Great ride report and on a smaller bike!! :clapIt is a 250 right?
Did you modify it? (As in bigger gas tank) Also the extra fuel you carried above the muffler... No concerns there?
Love the ride report!:thumb
It is an 09 250, I have done the usual modifications to it for power and beefed up the subframe. It has an Acerbis tank on it. The fuel on the back is not an issue. Ther is no appreciable heat transfered to the canister, believe me, I checked.
What an expertly packed KLX! :D
What a KLX!
Great story too.
I rode past the machine and on down the trail for about half an hour and ran into another road crew putting the finishing touches on a new bridge which I needed to cross. These guys did the same thing. I chatted them up for a bit told them where I was headed etc. and they filled in the approaches to the bridge just to let me pass. When things like these happen it makes your whole day seem so much more enjoyable.
I was having a blast, standing on the pegs, throttle torqued, letting the bike do its thing, just concentrating on dodging deer and keeping an eye open for oncoming traffic, when I started to think about fuel…. I knew that before I re-jetted my bike a few weeks earlier I could pull 320 KM out of a tank but I had jetted the bike fatter and I seemed to be getting considerably less than 275 on my highway ride to Kalispell.
It is funny how you can be having such a great time riding along, oblivious to the outside world, then, in an instant, when the idea of running out of fuel becomes is a possibility, the fun meter hits zero, and the only thing you can think about is getting the ride done and getting fuel.
Pushing a dirt bike is just slightly less fun than riding on pavement.
In the end I made it down to the highway and a gas station with plenty of fuel left. I rode into Seeley Lake for a coffee and with the skies darkening; I figured a place to sleep might be a good idea. I pulled into one of the many campsites around Seeley and set up my bivi bag on the picnic table and put my tarp up over my bike to keep the seat dry thinking that it might spit a bit during the night.
I wandered around the fairly deserted campsite for a while looking for firewood and chatting with a few people and finally had a meal of Kathmandu Curry dehydrated dinner, and after an evening of watching the fire and thinking about the day, I climbed into my body bag and fell asleep.
The sound of the rain , no, make that buckets of water pouring from the heavens, woke me at about 04:00. The outside of my sleeping bag was wet from condensation but I was still warm and with the knowledge that my bike seat was dry I fell back to sleep for another hour.
When I finally woke up I started planning my exit moves, I was still warm and somewhat dry in my sleeping bag but the inside of the bivi bag was getting drenched. To make a long story short I slithered out of my sleeping bag and into a puddle on the ground, I packed up all my gear in the twilight using the entrance to the outhouse as a shelter. I made a quick breakfast of oatmeal on my stove using the outhouse as a wind break. Hell I have eaten in restaurants dirtier than that!! I packed my bike and rode the four or five miles into Seeley where I produced a puddle on the floor of the office as I checked into the Seeley Lake Lodge at 08:00 in the morning and settled in for a long day waiting for the storm to pass.
This is a good, friendly place to stay. Nice fellow that owns it offered me his laundry and gave me a decent break on the room.
I spent most of the day cleaning up my gear, doing laundry, going over the topo maps and trying to plan out my route on my net book. I spent some time in the pub trying out their chicken wings and a few varieties of beer. It poured all day and all night but in the morning it started to break and about 9 am the sun was out and I was on my way.
I quickly climbed up into the mountains behind Seeley and headed south into the unknown.
The track was starting to change a bit. The ground was getting kind of red, and harder packed and the riding style was more sit down and hug the tank kind of cornering than stand up and let the bike wander in the gravel like yesterday. There were a few muddy spots and puddles but nothing like I had imagined after all that rain. There had been reports of snow at about 6500 ft. so I looking forward to that.
I climbed steadily up and out of that area and eventually came down to this.
I finally hit highway 12 and took an alternate track into Helena for fuel and something to eat. My stay in Helena was just long enough to do both and I quickly routed myself back out into the Helena national forest and back to intersect the trail to Butte.
I followed the track on my gps for a time and the trail quickly became a tight, steep single track. I climbed for a very long time as the trail became a rock strewn path that wound between a mass of roots and mud. The only flat spots were muddy water holes or of camber slick rock corners. My bike was jetted for sea level at this point but I was amazed at the power it still had at 7500 ft. It just chugged up over Lava mountain and back down the equally steep trail to the other side. That would have been a long day on a large bike.
The trail dropped down onto a logging road that had a large road closed sign across it at every entrance. I snuck along it hoping that I didn't run into anyone that might make me turn around. The last thing I wanted to do was to climb back up over that hill. Once in a day was quite enough.
I eventually rejoined the original track and without too much hassle, made my way to Butte.
I stopped for fuel and asked the kid about the Eaglesnest Campsite which is on the track I had downloaded as a good camping spot.He told me that it was now a Frisbee golf course!!:rofl
I ended up heading out of town on the I 90 east up to Homestake and Delmoe Lake, where I found a fantastic campsite. I set myself up and lit a fire and waited for the stars to come out.
This was really a good spot. I was told that there are lots of places to camp along the road to the lake, and it is free!!
I spent the night listening to MPR and keeping the fire going, I was up around 6000 ft and I figured it might get cool but I was toasty all night.
I flashed up my netbook and scoured the maps for a good place to cross over from the CDT to Idaho and a taste of the Tour of Idaho route, then went to sleep thinking about the new day to come.
Seely Lake -- SWEET! That is a beautiful area!
More please! :thumb
Nice job with the RR - the kind of read that keeps me keen for getting on the bike as the days get shorter & wetter. I'm sure this won't be the first time in this RR that we have similar pictures and I say to myself 'I know exactly where that shot was taken!' - the shot you took of your bike below is a great example. We were probably thinking the same thing; Montana really is Big Sky Country!
I'm positive that this shot must be within a couple of hundred feet of where yours was taken!
I'm looking forward to being entertained over the next couple of weeks with your RR!
That is cool, it is a natural place to stop after tearing along the trail through the trees. I think I said to myself right there that this was what they mean by Big Sky.
The bike looks awesome, Ralph!!! :thumb
You guys are killing me with all these great reports, I've got work to do around here!!
I'll be reading...
Oh, some of those places look familiar... :D
looking forward to seeing more Idaho off road - show us what we missed!
Yes it is...
If you make it to Ennis... you'll enjoy this...
Great RR love the backroads!:clap
Thank you all for reading, and all the kind comments.
Rob, I have been reading your Nevada ride, I have to say Excellent report.
LittleWan I read yours as well, man you guys do beat that bike!! Good work!
Buttercup, that is a picture that should be framed!
After another fine oatmeal breakfast, I packed up and headed back through Butte and after a quick coffee stop As I rode on the day was heating up and I was looking forward to some warm weather. My plan was to stay on the trail for a bit and then connect to Highway 43 and ride west towards North Fork and then along the Salmon river and finally to Shoup. I rode Satans tongue for a few hours until I hit North Fork and when I got off my bike at the gas station, the heat nearly knock me off my feet. I drank a couple of drinks and picked up some fruit and a Mike Hard Lemonade to celebrate my first visit to Idaho.
The sun became hotter and as I rode along the river I started looking for good places to go for a swim, and just a few miles before Shoup I saw a great spot. I pulled in and pretty well jumped into the water.
The temperature had to be over 90 so I was in no hurry to leave that little spot, and as the afternoon wore on I started to unload my gear and scope out firewood. I spent the rest of the day snoozing and swimming
and when it started to get dark I lit a fire and had dinner
Around 10 pm I noticed big black clouds looming over the hills to the west and eventually I could see flashes in the mountains. I threw a bunch of wood on the fire and started moving my sleep gear away from my bike and trying to guess where a lightning bolt may strike. After moving my stuff around a bunch of times I just figured to hell with it, and sat back down by my fire and waited to be incinerated. I am an electrician, and I think about lightning sometimes and I have seen what electricity can do to things, including people. I also have an active imagination and that combination can be problematic to relaxation while in the proximity of an imminent lightning event. With the thoughts of larryboys' lightning adventure fresh in my mind it made it even more real.
The clouds moved off and the sky was left clear and black with the best star scene you can imagine. I lay there till about three in the morning watching shooting starts and thinking. It is definitely good to be amongst the living on this day.
The morning was bright and sunny and as I packed my gear up a little bird came out of the bushes and walked right up to me with one wing sticking out kind of funny. I grabbed a couple of raisins and tossed them on the ground but he turned an skittered off. I went back to packing my bike The bird came back so I followed him and he hopped away again, with his wing sticking out and as I turned he came back so I followed him and threw more peanuts and raisins on the ground. He hobbled away and I noticed that both of his wings seemed broken. I followed him again wondering what I could do to help him and then he flew up into a tree. As I turned away to find a rock to kill the little faker he flew off. This would prove to be a pivotal moment.
I realized that I hadn't drank my Mikes in all the lightning excitement the night before so I left it on a little perch for the next traveler to find.
I climbed on my bike and hit the road on down to the Shoup store and got some gasoline from the gravity pump,
and went inside.
Sandra made me a great breakfast and we chatted about the area. I asked her if this was the only gas station in Shoup. She looked at me funny and said that this gas station was Shoup. I also found out that they have their own water wheel that produces their electricity. I couldn't talk the fellow into showing it to me as he was preoccupied watching an early morning duster on his scratchy looking TV. You can also rent beds there, and buy just about anything you need. This is also the first time I have actually heard anyone call a "creek" a "crick" outside of watching Dukes of Hazard.
I got a bunch of directions from Sandy and promptly took off in the wrong direction and cruise south towards Challis. After about 25 miles I thought to myself...you are going in the wrong direction....and promptly turned around and headed back to Shoup and bought gas from the gravity pump again. The duster watching guy was somewhat unamused. I guessed he didn't have a PVR.
I started climbing up into the Bitterroot National Forest loving every minute of the ride. The trail was fast and fun. This is one of the very few pictures I took of this whole leg.
Notice the tree that has been struck by lightning on the right? The trail is windy and climbing with very steep drops to the side. One miscalculation and you could have a very long day.
I decided to turn off at Painted Rock Lake and head north a bit to find gas and ended up in a small town name unknown that had a pub and fuel. I spoke to a fellow there that told me that if I was following a GPS track i had downloaded off the internet in to the woods, I was crazy.
When you think about it , it does sound kind of ludicrous. I drank my beer and tried not to make eye contact any more.
I rode back south and took Nez Perce road back to meet up with the tracks I had downloaded from the internet...by myself...stupid guy in the pub.
I roared along the Magruder Corridor with all thought processes focused on staying on the road. There is a bit of everything on this path, and it seems to climb for ever and then descend and climb again.
This is truly a great ride!!
I started to meet people coming the other way and I realized that it was coming up to a long weekend and also Elk Season was on its way. There were quite a few people out scoping elk.
I stopped for a moment at the top of a pass and I thought I heard hounds baying, so I shut off my motor and I realized that it was an Elk trumpeting very close by. I also saw a mom bear and two beautiful shiny and healthy black bears heading into the woods. I love black bears.
It was starting to get a bit cold and cloudy and I was ripping up one of the few steep and somewhat rocky sections of the trail when I came around a corner to meet up with a fellow cross way on the path on an FS800. I came to a quick stop and lifted my visor and could not stop grinning. I was having that much fun. I could see that the guy was pretty haggard and not enjoying the ride. He asked me how much further was it till the road stopped being shitty. Man I was just starting to have fun!!! He really didn't have to far to go and he wanted to know he was on the way to the Magruder. He must have got his GPS tracks off the internet or something.
I carried on and the road started to descend and I stopped to talk to a fellow that was camping in the back of hos pickup. I could tell he was happy to be out in the woods. I asked how far it was to Elk City and he told me it was down the road quite a bit, and I told him I thought I might camp down by the Crick. He said that was a good idea cause it was getting to be roundabout dinner. Then he offered me some gasoline if I needed it. I said I would be OK and he said you make sure now.That made me feel so good.
Well I rode on and ended up in Elk City at about 9:30 at night and for the first time in ages the hotel was full. BigDog had talked about about this place in his story and I wanted to give it a go, but I ended up asking a guy for directions to a camping spot and he told me to hed down to Red River road and camp anywhere by the crick. So that is what I did.
I rolled into a little spot and noticed a couple of families camping in trailers. I stopped to ask them if there was a good spot and they directed me to a place across the road. It was pitch dark so I found the fire ring and leaned my bike against a tree and went looking for some fire wood up the road. I came back with a few dry twigs and when I went into my campsite, the people from across the way were there with a huge arm load of firewood and kindling and paper. They even offered to light it for me! I almost cried.
This is what I learned that day.
I really do think when you travel alone,
that it not only allows you to open up to others
but it makes it easier for others to approach you.
To make sure you are OK.
To be kind to others, to be helpful, what a concept.
Maybe a lost art in some places.
Not in the back hills of Montana and Idaho.
I know this to be true.
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