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Old 09-21-2013, 02:11 PM   #1
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2 Dirtbags on Montana Divide - with detours - plus Idaho backroads

The 2 Dirtbags were at it again! 2 weeks and 2,300 miles including the Montana Great Divide Route with lots of detours on dirt roads and two-track, plus Idaho backroads.

We added 11 detours and sidetrips to the Montana Great Divide in order to a) follow the divide more closely, or b) use more remote and scenic roads or c) avoid non-motorized sections. These are described in detail including maps for each detour.

Our detours and side-trips are NOT the Adventure Cycling (ACA) “alternate routes” shown on the ACA maps.

We skipped nasty sections like Fleecer Ridge and Lave Mountain ATV trail, but we managed to find our own nasty sections!

We weaved our way across Idaho starting northeast of Boise. We joined the Great Divide near the MT-ID-WY border and followed it, or our detours, to Columbia Falls MT before turning west into Idaho and winding our way back home.

Here is a jpg overview of our entire route:


Here is a Google map overview of our entire route:
https://maps.google.com/maps?q=https...370605&t=m&z=7

Here is a Google map of just our detours and side trips from the MT Great Divide:
https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid...2a3d7e84&msa=0

Here is the link to Layin’ Down Tracks for the entire trip broken down into 14 tracks, one for each day (edited to remove most dead-ends, some backtracking, etc) size 755KB:
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=921357

Here is link to other Great Divide Montana detours that Inmate byways suggests:
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=500111

Moragabiker (Mbiker) and I had ridden most of the remaining Divide in a couple other trips:
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=181499
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=240023

Previously, we didn’t reach Montana because of a KLR650 doohickey failure just south of the state line. This was our attempt to finish the route. We succeeded for the most part. We did not include the Canadian section because of reported washouts due to flooding earlier this year.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) by Adventure Cycling is designed for mountain bikers and uses mainly smooth gravel roads. (I’ll call it the GDR for short.) It doesn’t always follow the continental divide in order to allow the riders access to food, lodging and supplies or to avoid lots of extra miles, climbing or rough roads. There are exceptions to this where the GDR is steep or rocky or ATV trail or seasonally-closed snowmobile trail or non-motorized singletrack.

I added a couple side trips that most riders probably blow past because they are in a hurry. We were not in a hurry but occasionally had to skip some planned miles to reach our motel with a comfortable safety margin. We needed reservations in most towns because of the large number of firefighters or vacationers.

Because there were so many wildfires burning throughout the west during this time, the big views were often obscured by smoke. That reduced the number of photos we took but I hope I’ve included enough that this RR inspires other riders to enjoy the routes that we did.

The road names and numbers I provide are from a variety of sources such as forest Motor Vehicle User Maps (MVUMs), City Navigator and Topo US. They didn’t always agree and don’t count on them (or me) being correct. I use “FR” for forest road although some maps use “NF” or “FS”.
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Old 09-21-2013, 02:35 PM   #2
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Day 1 Lowman ID to Hailey ID

Because of numerous fires in the area, our route options were limited. We headed northeast up FR 582, Clear Creek / Bear Valley Rd in the Boise NF. Bear Valley has beautiful meadows with a meandering creek. This area was once the site of the infamous cattlemen vs sheepherder “range wars”.




Saw some good-sized, rare native trout.


Unfortunately, half the trees in the area are dead due to pine bark beetles, which increases the wildfire potential.


Right on FR 579, Landmark-Stanley Rd to Hwy 21 and southeast to Stanley, which is a good spot for food, fuel, and lodging in the area. A few miles before town we gobbled lunch at the Elk Mountain RV Resort restaurant, which specializes in bbq.

From Stanley we turned south on Hwy 75. There are dirt roads that parallel Hwys 21 & 75 in the Stanley basin. They are part of the Idaho Centennial Trail which is documented elsewhere. We’ve done those before and wanted to try some others.

Past Smiley Creek we picked up FRs 215 & 220, short but fun spurs that rejoin 75 near Galena Summit.


We wanted to continue across the highway but it was closed due to fire.

Dropping off the Summit through Ketchum was eerie and scary due to the fire racing towards town. It looked like we were descending into hell (or at least what I would envision it to look like after reading Dante’s Inferno).




The scene in Ketchum was rather bizarre, taking on a strange festival atmosphere. People were sitting on car hoods or pedaling along the bike path to watch the helicopters battle the flames on the mountainside. Meanwhile, the west side residents were being evacuated and were hitting the road with heavily loaded trucks, trailers and RVs.

Things were calmer in Hailey, although still eerie, and we had a pleasant stay at the Airport Inn, which is set back from the highway. Some evacuees staying at the motel were trying to drown their worries in alcohol. Fortunately they were at the other end of the motel and didn’t get too rowdy other than dropping beer cans from the second floor.

We enjoyed a Mexican meal a few blocks away at Chapala, contentedly sipping beer and margaritas while watching thick orange and black smoke billow across the sky.
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Old 09-21-2013, 03:19 PM   #3
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Thumb Day 2 Hailey ID to Arco ID

The Airport Inn has an unusual “continental breakfast” concept. You choose your breakfast item and beverage at check-in and they deliver them in the morning in a plastic bag hung on the door handle. We had McDonald-like sausage muffins heated in our room’s microwave.

Rolling south on Hwy 75, the smoke was so thick my eyes burned and tears streamed down my face for the first 10 miles, making it difficult to read the GPS.



We turned east from Bellevue on Muldoon Canyon Rd through a river valley lined with irrigated ranches. Hmmm, you’ve got to have your priorities straight. Maybe Livestock rank higher than Children?



We'd never been to this area before and it gets remote quickly. Our route turned south on High Floe Rd parallel to the Little Wood River along a rocky canyon then east on Flat Top and climbed up to a bench with a handful of huge ranches.



It’s a mix of sage, basalt(?) outcrops and irrigated land.



We turned off southeast onto a series of un-named rough and sandy two-tracks meandering through the hills east of the Little Wood River Reservoir, but never caught a glimpse of it. We passed through several closed, but not locked, gates until finally following truck tire tracks down into a canyon (labeled Stinson on Topo).





We closed the last gate at the junction with West Fork Fish Creek Rd only to look back and discover this sign:



There were no previous signs prohibiting vehicles or our entrance. A few gate signs indicated we were traveling on a conservation easement. Here’s what I learned since then about that:
The landowner continues to privately own and manage the land. They might get tax breaks for donating or selling the easement. The public does not have access unless the landowner allows it. The easement holder (can be a private or public agency) is responsible for monitoring the use and to enforce the terms if a violation occurs.
We eased our consciences by concluding we were not felons on the run since we were “dualsporters”, not “sportsmen”, and we had inadvertently transgressed. We bugged out of there quickly in case a shotgun-toting rancher had a different opinion. There is a maze of two-tracks out here, maybe others are open to motorized use.

We skirted south along Fish Creek Reservoir, or more correctly, where the reservoir would be if there was any water in it.



The cows seemed to be happy, grazing on the lake bottom way below the boat launch.



North on Fish Creek Reservoir Rd past more ranches and reminders from pioneering days.









Climbed to a 7000 ft pass.





Dropped to more ranch land, intersected Antelope Rd, then south and east on Champagne Creek.



Past old mining ruins



After a quick jaunt east on Hwy 20, we checked into the Lost River Motel in Arco. It is a small, older motel but mostly updated for $50. We would have preferred to try another place but the motels were filled with Ketchum evacuees.

We dropped off our luggage and headed east into the hills on Arco Pass Rd. We attempted the Wood Canyon ATV route but it was too soft and sandy. After a mile in billowing clouds of silt, we gave up and backtracked.

We headed north up scenic Beaverland Pass where there are great views across the Big Lost River Valley towards Arco.





There are a couple hang-gliding launch sites nearby. The lower site was too sloped for us to even get off the bikes. The upper site requires 4WD and looked pretty steep so we skipped it.





We had a forgettable dinner at Pickle’s Place across the highway. Our entertainment during the meal was swatting at numerous flies to which the wait staff seemed oblivious. They should provide fly swatters at the tables.
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Old 09-21-2013, 03:35 PM   #4
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Day 3 Arco ID to Ashton ID

We started the day with a forgettable breakfast at Pickle’s Place. This time the entertainment was the wide variety of patrons who came through the door. Some were probably from Ketchum and had a decidedly different sense of fashion and style than the locals.

Let’s also follow our trail.



A big chunk of the area east of Arco is off-limits due to the Idaho National Lab facilities. We passed through Howe. The store/gas station burned down a couple years ago so there no services in that community.

A couple attempts at side-trips ended at no trespassing signs at lab property. We’re willing to “push boundaries” sometimes, but not when it involves Uncle Sam and security guards on alert for terrorists.

The remainder of the area is either irrigated farmland or sandy sageland with basalt outcrops. The back roads we attempted north of Camas NWR were too sandy.

We ended up making a circuitous route through Dubois and had lunch at the Café, near I-15. The food was fine. The comical part was the swamp cooler fan in the wall. It was so loud and powerful that conversation was impossible and items were blowing around inside the room. Still, it was a welcome break from the 90+F heat.

We tried more back roads but had to punt and ended up near Kilgore on pavement. Only “improved” roads like this one made of crushed red rock were rideable. The contrast with the sage was interesting.



How sandy is it around here? There are large sandunes west of Ashton used as an OHV park. That should have been a clue. It was getting late so we needed to cover miles. With no guarantee of finding any passable backroads, we opted for Hwy 20 into Ashton.

We stayed at the surprisingly nice Rankin Motel. The dated exterior is misleading. The rooms have been updated and they even provided rags which we put to good use after a dusty day.

We had dinner at the local drive-in. If you like your food fried, you’ll like it at Frost Top just up the highway. We’re not fans of the deep-fryer but it was Sunday in rural Idaho and that meant few places were open. Look for the big root beer mug.



The entertainment during the meal was watching a family trying to eat their food in their SUV with a Great Dane in the backseat slobbering over their shoulders.
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:00 PM   #5
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Thumbs down Day 4 Ashton ID to Lima MT

We had breakfast at the nearby Trails Inn restaurant then jumped on Hwy 20 to the north side of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake. We turned east onto Fisherman’s Rd and followed this popular fly-fishing river along a rocky canyon to Hwy 47.







The highway climbs to a ridge above the river then to the access ways for Lower and Upper Mesa Falls.



The falls have been photographed plenty but this picture has a nice rainbow worth sharing.



We stayed on Hwy 47 to avoid the sandy ATV trail used by the GDR and reconnected with Hwy 20. We swung west past Harriman State Park on Green Canyon Rd and around Island Park Reservoir on Old Kilgore Rd. Both roads offered only a few views so I don’t recommend them.



This area is popular for summer homes. How the other half lives.



Back on Hwy 20, we gassed up and headed north to the Mack’s Inn area and snarfed pizza for lunch at a restaurant on the bank of the river. We joined the GDR and headed northwest.

Gorgeous Henry’s Lake






There was a fair amount of traffic past Red Rock Pass so I was looking forward to our first Montana detour. For those who don't mind sand....

Detour #1. Red Rock Lakes NWR detour, 30 miles
Why take it:
You dream of Dakar
Remote, traffic free
Big views across the valley
Rustic ranches

Why skip it:
10 miles of sand
Remote. Don’t go solo.
Did I mention 10 miles of sand?



We turned north off the GDR on Elk Lake Rd past a lovely pond.



Then swung west on Northside Centennial Rd to skirt the north side of the NWR. The first 10 or so miles are sandy. It was hot and our DRZs overheated as we paddled through the deeper sections.

For much of the sand I could ride in truck tire tracks and it wasn't too bad. But when the truck tracks fishtailed across the road I knew it would get ugly.

I soldiered on in order to face my inner sand-demons. I have never been good in sand. I am still not good in sand. But I pushed on (not literally) instead of quitting despite plenty of high-pucker-factor moments. Would I do it again? NOPE. But I’m glad we did because: a) I picked the route, darn it, and b) I’m Irish and stubborn.

After the sand







Mbiker and I ride a couple miles apart on dusty roads for the sake of his lungs and his air filter. After finishing the sandy section and while waiting for Mbiker, I was taking pictures in this big, open, quiet, extremely remote, lonesome place. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, some curious cows came up behind me. I was lost in reflection, contemplation and reverie when one of them mooed loudly and I almost wet my pants.

The road opened up and we breezed past rustic ranches. (Or maybe it just felt breezy because we were sweaty after the sand.)













We enjoyed the Big Sky Country views before rejoining the GDR near the east end of Lima Reservoir.







In Lima, we had a surprisingly good meal at Jan’s Café and then I walked around, exploring the old buildings and cabins in the historic part of town.
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:10 PM   #6
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Day 4 continued

“Detour” #2. Walking tour of Lima MT historic area



This is not a designated historic or preservation area. It is abandoned structures on private property but worth checking out on foot. It appears that the community started near the creek then built along the railroad tracks, where the old business district sits empty now.

In other towns these buildings would have been torn down. But in Lima, everything has been left standing. The essentials still in operation such as the post office, school, LDS church and gas station are located closer to the highway. The cemetery is on the hill east of the creek but I had to skip it as darkness set in.

Masonic Hall sign. It was probably backlit in the past because there was wiring leading to it.



Masonic Hall / Historical Society building. Looked abandoned. Sheet metal had fallen off the roof. Someone pushed it through the windows or under the potted plant for safekeeping.



Really cool quirky metal sculpture created out of tools



This old house’s foundation was partially made of logs, not lumber.



Neat old stove



The Leaning Cabin of Lima



It’s surprising this is still standing



Rough transportation



Odd sense of humor next door to the post office



We checked into the Mountain View Motel next to I-15 and got lucky Room #13. This motel has NO A/C unless you count two small windows propped open with sticks. We should have gone to Dell or even Dillon but the owner assured us it would cool off at night. And it did. About 5 am.

In fairness, the great outdoors cooled off comfortably after sunset. The room did not. We “slept” with the door open for ventilation listening to 18-wheelers roar by on the interstate or rumble off the exit ramp next to the motel, with their air brakes squealing. We hoped no skunk or stray dog would wander into the room. They didn’t.
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:21 PM   #7
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Day 5 Lima MT to Elkhorn Hot Springs

We took the frontage road north to Dell for breakfast at the Calf-A restaurant which is an old schoolhouse and tried to forget the night before.



A few cups of coffee worked their magic. It’s a new day. Onward.

Big horn sheep in the sage. It’s amazing how well they blend in when they’re in rocky terrain.



The morning sun striking the mountains





Becomes a neat rocky canyon







The GDR heads west towards the divide. Where it turns north, we took a side trip to lovely Morrison Lake.

Detour #3. Morrison Lake side-trip, 2 miles one-way
Why take it:
Nice lake in nice setting
Camp spot (but could be windy)

Why skip it:
Rough two-track
2 creek crossings
Steep climb with switchbacks
Not big bike friendly



The access track is signed. The creek crossings could be troublesome early in the season. Don’t get confused (or shocked) by the steep ATV hillclimb tracks. Follow the main road up the switchbacks. This lake is set in a pretty bowl and the CDT footpath goes right by.



cont'd
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Old 09-21-2013, 04:35 PM   #8
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Day 5 continued

After the GDR connected with Hwy 324, we continued west past the turnoff to Bannack State Park. We hoped to have lunch at the Canvas Café in Grant but it must be history. There was no food or services.
We took a detour closer to the divide and I’m glad we did because the state park was closed due to flooding.

Detour #4. Bloody Richard detour 71 miles (bypasses Bannack SP)
Why take it:
Scenic and remote
Winds through mountains
Nice camp at Reservoir Lake
Big bike friendly

Why skip it:
See Bannack SP (if and when it reopens)
Shorter route



Our detour turned onto the Lemhi Pass Rd then Brenner then north on Bloody Richard Rd (labeled Bloody Dick on some maps) and re-entered the forest and mountains.





We made a quick visit to lovely Reservoir Lake





We skirted Skinner Meadows and entered the Big Hole Valley, known for its old haystackers.





We intersected Hwy 278 and went a short distance west to Jackson MT. There is no gas available.
We had a nice lunch in Rose’s Cantina/Café. Try the Taco Wrap.



Watch out for the guard dog. You might trip over him as he “guards” the door.



We headed east on 278 then rejoined the GDR north to Polaris / Elkhorn Hot Springs area. We stayed at the nice Grasshopper Inn, which has a bar, restaurant and sells gas.



Everyone at the Inn was friendly and having a good time. We enjoyed tipping back a few and chatting with the other guests.
Be nice in the bar or else…



Watch out for this hombre with nerves of steel, a steely gaze and sawblades for legs.



This motel does not have A/C but it really does cool off at night. It was comfortable with the large window open. The Inn is set back from the road and was very quiet.

Moonrise. A nice end to a nice day
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Old 09-21-2013, 05:05 PM   #9
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Day 6 Elkhorn Hot Springs to Helena MT

After breakfast in the Grasshopper Inn restaurant, we headed north. The GDR route is paved all the way to Wise River. To spice things up a little, I added a dirt (and rock) detour not far up the pavement past the Scenic Overlook above the Polaris valley.
We turned east on Comet Ridge (FR2401A?) This was fun road initially then turned into FR2465 and became steep and rocky snowmobile trail. For those who like it rough, here it is:
Detour #5. Comet Ridge detour, 8 miles
Why take it:
Dirt (and rock) instead of pavement
A back way to Coolidge ghost town

Why skip it:
Steep & rocky in places
Don’t try it in uphill (south) direction
Not especially scenic (we skipped Coolidge)
Not big bike friendly



It got worse than this…(but nowhere near "Fleecer bad")



It was slow going. Thankfully it was short and connected to gravel Old Polaris Rd. Hmmm, pavement didn’t seem so bad after that eye-opener.

(Note that Coolidge Ghost Town is not directly off our detour. It is east up Old Polaris Rd.)

At Wise River, we gassed up and headed east on Hwy 43. We detoured to avoid the infamous Fleecer Ridge. Why avoid Fleecer? It is unrideable in the uphill (north) direction and not much better in the downhill. Scroll down in this link to see why:http://www.gdr.jennyandterrythompson.com/July%204.htm (Stolen from Cannonshot’s GDR RR)

Detour #6. Moose Creek road Detour 25 miles (bypasses Fleecer Ridge)
Why take it:
Avoid Fleecer carnage
Scenic
Remote road & two-track

Why skip it:
Steep and rocky
Creek crossings
Not big bike friendly



At the town of Divide, we turned south on the westside frontage road of I-15 for a few miles to the next I-15 underpass, then crossed under I-15. That became Moose Creek Rd, which skirts the south side of Humbug Spires WSA. The road is good gravel initially.



It becomes steep and rocky two-track past a trailhead parking area then levels and smooths out for a while.





After a steep hill (not difficult with some momentum) there are a couple creek crossings. The creek was tiny in August but the fords are low spots. The first was knee-deep but could easily be crossed at a shallower and narrower spot about 10 or 15 feet to the east where cattle created a path through the willows. The second ford was wider but shallower. These could be bothersome in the early season.

The old cabins near the creek might have been Moosetown.


It becomes road after the creek and rejoins the GDR at Highland Rd a few miles west of the divide.

South of Butte we left the GDR and got on I-15 towards old historic downtown. Butte is definitely worth a visit and would be a good spot to spend a day. We had pizza at the Broadway Street Café, a historic building with a view overlooking the city.



I liked this artwork in the restaurant which I think is painted on an old tin ceiling panel.


cont'd
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Old 09-21-2013, 05:17 PM   #10
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Day 6 continued

In Butte we weaved our way uphill through the historic district to connect to our next detour:

Detour #7. Hail Columbia Detour 36 miles (bypasses I-15 frontage road)
Why take it:
Follows Divide closer
Scenic, through mountains
Good views of Butte
Big bike friendly

Why skip it:
Bypasses railroad tunnels (but which have water in them?)



Orofino Rd is paved and passes this interesting metal “sculpture garden” next to the road.





This is the kind of serendipity I love on rides. Check out the buffalo made from horseshoes!



We climbed over a summit and connected to dirt Hail Columbia Rd, which wound through valleys, forest and old mining ruins.



Then onto Boulder River Rd which intersects I-15 at the underpass to the GDR “cattle” (ATV) trail to Basin.

I planned the whole trip and this was my first attempt at navigating by GPS the entire time. I did ok but am still learning and needed to be “technically rescued” by Mbiker a few times. This can get frustrating because we have different GPS’s with different maps and can’t do apples to apples comparisons on the road.

I lost the route north of Basin when I skipped a turn, confusing it with a possible side-trip to a mine. But I knew I wanted to avoid the Lava Mtn ATV trail. Why avoid Lava Mtn? Look here: http://www.gdr.jennyandterrythompson.com/July%204.htm (Stolen link from Cannonshot’s GDR RR.)

This stretch was puzzling because the “main” road did not appear on my GPS at this point and other roads appeared on Mbiker’s GPS but were abandoned. Side roads looked too steep and rough.

I could easily be wrong….but I suspect that this smoother, more gradual section of the “main” road was added for logging trucks, parallel to the steeper and rougher original roads. We encountered this type of re-routing by the forest service elsewhere in the trip but usually the old road was abandoned and blocked off.

To add to the confusion, the most useful signs were located on the “old” road, which we couldn’t find at that moment. After hitting dead ends and backtracking, we were running out of time and I admitted defeat. Mbiker plotted a new course via Corbin to Jefferson City and led the way.

Detour #8 .Occidental Plateau Detour 12 miles to I-15 (bypasses Lava Mtn ATV trail)
Why take it:
Bypasses rocky ATV trail
Scenic
Old mining sites

Why skip it:
Rough, rocky, steep and rutted
An indirect route
Not big bike friendly
Don’t attempt in uphill (westbound) direction



We blew past intersections and road signs I had hoped for, but which were located in steep rocky stretches where I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. (I can only get the balls of my feet down on level ground.) We climbed up to what must be Occidental Ridge.

The road leveled out along the ridge, which was above tree line, and had a top-of-the-world feel and wide views down into the valleys. It's worth the short climb for just the views.


But it then dropped steeply and became an extremely rough, rocky, rutted, off-camber jeep track with a 3 ft deep rut on the lower side of the road. It reminded me of alpine mountain passes in Colorado. High pucker factor but I made it. I seriously doubt we could have ridden back up it. The rough section lasted less than a mile.

Old mining buildings were visible in a gulch below but accessed from a separate track. The track improved as it became less steep and connected to a good gravel road. The sign we found after the jeep track. (Ironically there were a handful of signs on the east side of the ridge pointing to this rough, unmaintained road.)



Old kiln


We intersected I-15 at the tough-looking mining town of Jefferson City. One glance at the grizzled men sitting outside the saloon was enough to discourage us from stopping for any reason.
Don't mind us! Just passing through!

We hopped on I-15 for a short way before ennui took hold. We peeled off onto the more DRZ-friendly and attractive frontage roads, which appeared to run the entire way to Helena. We stayed at a nice Days Inn filled with firefighters and had an overpriced meal at nearby Jorgenson’s Inn restaurant (not recommended) just before they closed.
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Old 09-22-2013, 10:21 AM   #11
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Day 7 of 14 Helena to Seeley Lake MT

We had the continental breakfast in the motel and headed to the west end of town for our next detour. The GDR takes Hwy 12 out of Helena then Priest Pass. Our detour takes backroads along Greenhorn Creek, north of Hwy 12, then over Mullan Pass.

Detour #9, Austin Road Detour to Mullan Pass
Why take it:
Low traffic backroads
Scenic
Big bike friendly

Why skip it:
Maybe slower than main route
A few rocky spots (not loose)



Follow Hwy 12 in town to paved Joslyn, Country Club, Williams and Birdseye Rds then follow dirt Austin Rd as it crosses back and forth over the railroad tracks. Follow it under the trestle.



We climbed the Pass in time to see a train snaking over the canyon we had just ridden.



Up and over Mullan Pass to intersect with the GDR.



Fading flowers


Fun AND scenic. What more could you ask for? This section is long, tough and remote for the mountain bikers though.







Before Lincoln, the ACA map cautions about “extremely steep” FR4134 South Fork of Poorman Creek with “several creek crossings”. It is not an issue for a dualsporter. The area has been heavily logged and a new section of road built on a hillside that bypasses the creek crossings of the old, lower road.

We enjoyed lunch in Lincoln at Lambkins Restaurant.

shallow Reservoir Lake, not to be confused with the much nicer one by Jackson MT



Huckleberry Pass


cont'd
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Old 09-22-2013, 10:28 AM   #12
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Day 7 continued

We took a short side-trip to pretty Coopers Lake. Check out the old metal kiln on the west side of the road on the way to the lake.

Detour #10, Coopers Lake side-trip 2 miles one way
Why take it:
Nice lake
Camping
Old kiln

Why skip it:
No good reason. Check out the kiln even if you skip the lake.









“Log cabin” mailbox



Curious horses near Ovando



We also took a side-trip up to the Morrell Mtn Lookout (no map). It requires a half-mile hike to the tower. The wildflowers were still in bloom near the lookout even through they had faded at lower elevations.





We stayed at the nice but pricey Seeley Lake Motor Lodge (which also has camping) but doesn’t provide coffee or breakfast for $95. We dined down just the highway at the Filling Station restaurant & bar, which has neat old gas station items and signs.
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Old 09-22-2013, 02:43 PM   #13
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Fine rides, nice pictures.
Interesting, a buffalo of horseshoes.

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Old 09-22-2013, 03:43 PM   #14
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>"Check out the kiln even if you skip the lake."

Looks like a "Teepee" burner... used for burning wood waste.
Must have been a sawmill there ?

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Old 09-22-2013, 04:04 PM   #15
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Day 8 of 14 Seeley Lake to Columbia Falls MT

We had breakfast at the Chicken Coop, which seems to be the only place open in the am. We chatted with a young couple from Canada on mountain bikes. They were planning on going all the way to the Mexican border and this was their very first bicycle tour! Talk about jumping in with both feet!

North of Seeley Lake, the GDR takes a track that is non-motorized on the east side of Richmond Peak. We took FR4343 and FR720 to wrap around the west side of the peak and rejoin the GDR.

Detour #11 Richmond Peak detour 7 miles
Why take it:
Bypasses non-motorized track
You are a law-abiding citizen and dualsport role model
Big bike friendly

Why skip it:
Don’t think about it



We rejoined the GDR and near Condon (Swan Valley) we got lunch at the adequate Hungry Bear Steakhouse.

We were told by mountain bikers that FR9591 west of Hwy 83, was temporarily closed due to a washout so we continued north on 83 to Cold Creek Rd (FR903) to reconnect to the route.

Of all the miles in Montana, I felt the section from Swan Valley to Ferndale wasn't very exciting because there are very few big views and no views of Swan Lake. If you’re in a hurry, this would be the part to skip.

Horseshoe Lake north of Swan Lake



We took an enjoyable side trip to the Mission Lookout. It can be rented for the night.



Comes complete with firepit and clean vault toilet.



We followed the GDR all the way into Columbia Falls, with over a dozen turns as it wends past farms and ranches in a beautiful valley.





The sun was breaking through the clouds making an inspiring backdrop. Happy Happy Joy Joy.


According to Ask.com, a group of wild turkeys is called a rafter, not a flock. And now you know.



We stayed at the Super 8 just east of town, which was fine. Reservations are a must in Columbia Falls because of its proximity to Glacier NP. We ate at a very nice Pizza Hut. (Sounds like an oxymoron, but it wasn’t.)
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