Aug 12 29.7 miles to abandoned homestead in a cow paddy field
Fact: it's easier to ride a bike up a hill than walk it. Fact: When it is literally impossible to ride, what next? We had a 4.4 mile climb that the map said was Very Steep. The first couple miles weren't too bad, in fact, quite scenic, with trees covering the road and a couple of streams we had to ride through. However, the last 2 miles --the bikes just wouldn't go. We pushed, slowly, the whole way. I couldn't even push it part of the way and Jon had to take his bike up a ways, then come back for mine. Over and over again. After all this, our first CONTINENTAL DIVIDE CROSSING, of about 26. But there wasn't even a sign, so we just took a picture in the general area near a sign for the Continental Divide National Scenic Hiking Trail, which follows the divide much more closely than we do.
We camped off the road near an abandoned homestead. It was a great site, except the field was full of cow paddies, some fresh. We hoped they wouldn't visit in the night. The homestead had a nice post above the gate that was perfect for hanging our bear bags.
Aug 13 31 miles to Helena (motel)
Took us 11 hours to do those 31 miles, with a few detours. We did our 2nd Continental Divide crossing this morning. It took awhile, but rather routine (just turn the cranks over and over again) compared to the one yesterday. We rode most of the day through free ranging cattle land. Cows were meandering over the roads and fields and didn't seem afraid of us. There are numerous cattle guards we have to cross. Afton was ok riding over them in a trailer. Then we crossed one while she was on foot. Lander just picked his way over it. She tried to jump it and landed smack dab in the middle on her belly like Bambi trying to jump over the log. The next one we put her in the trailer for, but she was afraid now, and jumped out with the same Bambi effect. We've been working with her, walking her over slowly, and she's getting better now.
After about 14 miles, we crested a hill and saw smoke from a forest fire in the general direction from where we were going. While debating what to do, a rancher came by and offered to drive us past the fire. At this point, we still had a fairly sizable pass to go over. So we loaded the bikes and trailers in the back of his horse trailer with the horses (there was a divider between them) and the dogs and us sat in the back seat of his pickup. The dogs promptly fell asleep. Thank goodness, they said. Back to a real vehicle. We only went part of a mile when the DNR fire fighters stopped us. The fire was right on the road we needed to go. Much talking to them, worrying, debating what to do (the ranchers were in a worse bind, as they were waiting for medicine to come up through the pass for their livestock). An hour and a half later or so, we decided to go back a bit over an alternate pass (our 3rd continental divide crossing) which came into Helena the back way. I think the pass was probably easier, and it was followed by a long (15 mile) downhill. Easier than uphill, but considering it was on rock and gravel, we had to hold the brakes the whole way down. With my left thumb and index finger basically useless, my hand was severely cramped by 7 pm when we finally got to town. A motel and pizza were welcome. Oh, they said the fire probably started by a spark from a train. Fire is a real concern here, kind of like our blizzards and ice back home.