Zen On Dirt

CDT Day 96 – Dream riding into Butte

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The best part of today’s ride wasn’t even on the CDT, which is saying a lot because today had the best continuous piece of 1-track we’ve ridden this entire trip, potentially the best in our entire lives. But no, the best part of the day was our descent down into Butte via a Facebook tip that we got while sitting at the top of the pass wondering how we were going to get down to town.

It was a sub-warm night. Sub-warm to the point that we both got into our bivys halfway through the night and spent the second half of the night trying to sleep next to each other on our sides to share body heat while fighting the ever-present ouchie-hips that come from sleeping on air pads on your side. Hip pain vs warmth, it’s a tough decision.


The days are definitely getting shorter and we’re sleeping later and later. Our fuel bottle was getting lighter and lighter, and it eventually died about 30 seconds into heating water for oatmeal. Cold oats it was. It was so close to making it…

We toodled over to where the trail crossed the GDMBR and found three riders camped in a cow-free enclosure. Headed south, they admitted, “We have the time to do this tour, but we’re not sure if we have the motivation.” Butte’s about the time when Montana seems like it’s never going to end during the GDMBR.


We left them to their packing and continued on the trail, a 600 foot climb littered with switchbacks. Scott put his food down first, “I meant to do that.” I rode by.

“One!” We’ve spent the trip counting up the places that Scott bobbles and I ride. I usually get 1-3 per day. We obviously don’t count the reverse, the number would be far too high.

We continued up, me leading. “Give me some space on this one,” I called back, “Not sure it’s going to go for me.”

I scooted right up the pile of rocks. “Two!” Scott yelled from behind. “You’re winning this one.”

I ended up not having the resources to make it up a steepie, making the final score 1-2 in my favor for the climb. That’s never happened before. Great success!


The trail turned techy soon after a mini-descent and we settled back into the normal routine of me walking plenty of things that Scott rode. What fun trail! Rocky, but reasonably pitched. Meandering, but flowing. Up and down ridges we went, the trail kept getting better. More and more manicured, beautifully built trail. Winter Park-esque to Buff Creek-esque. Decomposed granite, sweeping switchbacks. Woods and open grasslands.

We hit Pipestone Pass, our first bailout down to Butte. We’ve got food, we’ve got energy, and this trail is going to be a lot more fun to ride with half a days worth of food rather than three, we decided, so we continued on for nine more miles of trail to I-90.

Wow. Just wow. It the entire CDT were like this, I’d ride it in carbon-soled race shoes. Absolutely perfect mountain bike trail.


“Embrace the brutality! Fun it not allowed!” We ripped down another fast descent. Is this for real? Nine miles ended quickly, even with 1,000+ feet of climbing in the section, and we found ourselves at Homestake Pass. Our initial plan was to ride new CDT that wasn’t connected yet on the north to a trail that would take us to a trail that would drop us into Butte, but when we found out that it involved several thousand feet of climbing, we quickly nixed the idea. Trail was calling, but town food was calling even louder.

We turned to The Facebook and got a tip: Follow the tracks. They’ll bring you right to town.

Figuring it would beat the freeway, we started down.


What a cool little connection! Spectacular scenery, cool rocks, no cars, and just enough adventure to make us feel like we were doing something really cool. Maybe it was so good because it was unexpected, but I think that it really was just that good.


We went straight to The Outdoorsman, savior shop to many TD riders. Rob got our bikes straight into the shop for new cables and housing and chains. A bit of Stans and potentially new brake pads today and they’re good to go. It’s one of the best shops on the GDMBR route and Rob goes out of his way to help bike tourists and racers alike, which I think it really neat.

We picked up our bounce box and are settled in for a zero.

Scott said the crux of MT was making it to Butte from West Yellowstone. I think it’s the crux of the whole CDT.


The fact that we only have a few more days of actual CDT is starting to hit. My mom sent us our passports for the finish. We’re starting to try to figure out how we’re going to get home, where we want to go on our road trip back to Tucson, and when we’ll actually have a house to move back into.

We’re also mourning the fact that we got word that Mi Ranchito, our go-to hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint in Tucson just went out of business without our patronage over the summer.

It feels a little bit weird. Fall is in the air. The end is near. But there’s still so far to go.


One thought on “CDT Day 96 – Dream riding into Butte

  1. I’ve had the pleasure of riding the CDT around Butte! It’s every bit as amazing as you describe (very much like Tahoe riding). Beware the section outside of Helena (NW of town perhaps?) death by a thousand rocks. I’m just sayin’… Savor the last bit of the journey. We will all miss your stories!

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