We returned to the Divide Trail via an alternative route below Helena called the Boulder Alternate. It was a fabulous ride following the river as it courses through canyons and curves. Routes that are sweet flow along in a way that allows your momentum to always carry you up the next hill. This was a sweet ride. Nothing but smiles.
We spent the next couple of days following rivers through dark mountainous forests. Small limited service campgrounds were our homes for the night. We reached altitudes around 8000 ft. Gradually the valleys grew broader and the trees sparser. Large ranches started to dominate the terrain. Foothills replaced mountains. Shade was harder to find. We pedaled on.
There have been no stores, cafes or anything for several days. We are eating the food we made up before we embarked on this journey. Plenty of streams cross the route. Filters come out and hydration bags are filled. Our days are about 60 plus miles on average.
Last night we stayed at a large ranch. There were 3 cabins to stay in but were all taken by local ranch workers. We tented in the yard under some large shade trees. Tenting is free said the hand-written sign next to the ranch house door. Showers $10. We stuffed our money in the envelope that we put into the provided box. Never did see anyone in the house. Dust on these gravel roads finds its way into every pore on any exposed skin. Caked on. In your nose and ears. Takes a good amount of water and soap to get it all down the drain. Showers are a blessing.
After another day weaving our bikes down and up through the treeless dusty foothills we arrived at Lima. We had high hopes of a grocery store and a shaded campground. A nice restaurant where I could enjoy a glass of red. Re-filling our larder. Hopes hit the ground with a thud. The buildings were out of the 30’s and in ill repair. We sat next to the motel waiting for someone to show up. The rooms were low cinder block ovens. The diner across the way had a couple of cabins. We wandered over and took one of those. Original from the 40’s and a little sunken into place, they were welcome respite from the forlorn heat of the afternoon. This and some old fashioned food in the diner made our day. The grocery store was part of the gas station. Our larder for the next couple of days – basic.
The owner of diner/cabins told me that around 75 percent of his business is from cyclists like us. We are hearing similar reports at all the little towns along the Divide Trail. We feel welcome.
We reached 1060 total miles on our bikes today. That’s a little over 1/3 of the approximate 3000 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. We are a little weary but satisfied.