We awoke to the coldest temperatures we had seen so far… 33 degrees according to my motorcycle. Strangely, though, everything was dry with no frost. I guess it was just breezy enough or something; either way it was great to put away dry great for the trip home.
Coffee, tear-down, breakfast, meeting. Meeting brought up a possible end of day ride up another pass, an old railroad tunnel, and descent into Helena. This would mean skipping Morrison Lake to get to the hotel at a reasonable time. Someone suggested making the last part optional with anyone wanting to opt out just making a run back to the hotel instead of the last loop, and keeping the Morrison Lake part of the trip, and thats what we decided on. (I was a big fan if the “all” option)
The riding day started out with some decent gravel road riding leading to a fairly rugged climb up to Morrison Lake. On the way we had another minor incident; a bike was dropped causing a broken brake reservoir cap, which could have been a ride ender for that bike, but some judicious use of duct tape allowed that bike and rider to continue, though they missed the up-and-back to the lake. I need to look into a different cap or guard I guess.
Just before we headed out to the lake the rider behind me in the line noticed his tire was low. He tried to fill it with his pump using his powerlet, but it wouldn’t work (pump pulled too many amps for the Canbus) Since I had all the equipment and connections to run the pump I was asked to help out, and I did, but that meant that I got shuffled to the back of the group as they took off while I was packing up the tools.
The trip to the lake included 2 water crossings, a first for me and my GS. I wanted to change my GoPro camera mount to the waterproof mount, but since I was in the back of the group I only had time to remove it, so I didn’t get any video of the first crossing. I did get it mounted in the other housing for the return crossing, so maybe I got some good video, but I won’t know until I get home. We made a total of 4 crossings each, and nobody took a bath, which I think slightly disappointed our tour leader.
The climb up was fairly difficult, but uneventful, and when we got to the top we had a nice view of the lake. I doubt many people will ever see that lake sure to it’s remoteness and difficulty in getting there, so seeing it was a real treat.
After the lake section was done, we rode a really smooth, fast gravel road through a beautiful valley. There was a section of what I called “orange” gravel that was just perfect for traction that was a lot of fun to ride on. At one point in the valley a coyote ran across the road directly in front of me, close enough that I could see him clearly, but not so close that I’d hit him. He hopped the sagebrush on the side of the road and disappeared among the brush higher up the hill.
We reached our final fuel stop after a short highway run, where we said goodbye to over half the group that wanted to get back sooner to prepare for their trips home. I had to drag out the tools and my pump again to help another rider with his tires, but got packed up quicker this time so I stayed near the front of the new, smaller group.
The ride up on our last run was tremendous. The road conditions were smooth and fast, the turns though the trees were fun and spaced out such that you could get on the power a bit between them. The rider in front of me stopped near the top to take a photo, so I passed him and sped up a bit to make some space. As I passed the top of the hill and started to descend I thought, “that would have been a good place for us all to stop for photos”. Since I didn’t see anyone I kept going down the hill at a good pace, trying to catch up to the rider in front of me. I didn’t see any dust even, so I thought I was way behind was about to speed up more when I heard a horn behind me. I guess the group had turned from the road and stopped at the top, but nobody posted on the road to let me know, so Jim chased me for about a half-mile to stop me. Oops!
We stayed at the top for a while, taking pictures and thinking about what the other riders had missed. We then started down. I think the descent was the most challenging riding we did on the whole ride. It was steep, rutted and covered with loose rocks. We all managed to keep in control and made it down without incident!
We made one last short run through a narrow, stone covered track to get to an abandoned train tunnel that was over a mile long. I walked in a bit as one of the guides rode a way in. The GS sounded really cool in the tunnel.
After the tunnel, a short bit of gravel more and we hit the pavement. That was it, the ride was done. I was happy to have finished it, but was saddened that it was over at the same time.
Total miles: 3578
Total bike drops (me): 2