The day started with the soft pitter patter of raindrops on our tarp. Roused from dream-land, I pulled my hat up from over my eyes, it was still the dark grey of not-particularly-close-to-sunrise, so I pulled my hat back down and went back to sleep. Eventually, the rain stopped and I heard Scott get up and head over to pull our food down from the tree. As he got back to the tarp, I looked out again.
“What a gloomy, grey day,” I remarked. The sky was the color of ash.
Breakfast was made and as we were eating, the rain started again. Ugh. It continued as we ate, and when we were done, I declared, “I’m invoking the Brother Bear Clause. I’m not getting up until the rain stops.”
Scott apparently wasn’t going to object as he was the first to lay down, pull his sleeping bag up, and fall fast asleep. In my own half-dream state, I hoped that a bear wouldn’t take advantage of the food scattered all around us while we snoozed.
I’m not sure how long we slept, but when we awoke, the sky was blue and the temperature was warm. We were on the trail at the bright and early hour of 9:45.
We finished the last little bit of our descent from the night before and make quick work of the three road miles to the I-90 crossing. We stopped here for a quick Wi-Fi break and also to let a brief shower pass overhead while we sat under the underpass.
A road climb took us to the Kondo trailhead and we both sighed. Energy levels weren’t exactly through the roof for either of us and we had to make it a few more miles to the Lowland campground until the new trail was supposed to start. Old CDT= generally a bunch of BS.
But, we’d been given wrong information. This trail was newly built too! And really, downright lovely. We cruised happily along with the plan of detouring off route to the campground to eat lunch in a civilized manner: On a picnic table.
When we got to the intersection and saw that the campground was 1/2 mile down the road, we looked at each other, “I don’t really need a picnic table, do you?” So we plopped down on the embankment and pulled out our salami, cheese, and tortillas.
Not two minutes later, we saw two loaded mountain bikers heading up the road from the campground. We were dumbfounded for a second, then Scott realized, “I bet we’re on the new GDMBR that is north of Butte. (The ACA released a new route bypassing some miserable freeway riding north of Butte this year. It’s 11 miles longer, but skips some quality miserable miles.)
Sure enough, Sue and Scott from Anchorage had both quit their jobs, ridden up to Prudhoe Bay and were headed south across the Americas. They were 4,000 miles into their journey and traveling amazingly light for cross-continental riders.
We packed up to start our promised 17 miles of newly built singletrack. We didn’t have to push our bikes once (except to get over a half dozen downed trees), that’s how good it was. Perfectly graded, beautifully built. A dream in the middle of a 3,100 mile trail that has some not-so-dreamy sections. Champion Pass seemed to come in no time.
“So this is where it turns to shit again?” I asked.
But it didn’t. Some (newly?) well built trail helped us gain altitude without walking and a combination of trails and roads kept us moving smoothly northward. A spring that was rumored to be dead was flowing in excess, a plus since we hadn’t see water since morning and were both wanting to avoid a death march to try to find water for dinner.
Then, as always tends to happen on the CDT, the road turned to crud and we partook in our first extended hike-a-bike since who knows when. It was okay. It wasn’t too steep, just loose and rocky, so as far as hike-a-bikes go, the misery factor was rather low.
The descent off the other side wasn’t in much better shape and we bounced along trying to find a campsite. Skies are clear, but I still wanted the tarp up. We are in Montana, after all.
It’s definitely cold, and I’m sort of wishing I had my warmer sleeping bag sent up to Wisdom, but it’s too late now. If all goes according to plan, only 3-4 nights left sleeping out this trip with a stop at the Teepee in Ovando, the Super8 in the Swan Valley (Bear Alley), and then hopefully a night at the Whitefish Bike Retreat. So really, we’re looking at 8 or so more nights total. That’s crazy talk.