Tuesday July 21, 2009, 54 miles (87 km) – Total so far: 3,524 miles (5,671 km)
Wary of traffic, we left Missoula by 7:00. I was reminded of a Norman Maclean line about the half-light of the canyon, as downtown Missoula is shadowed by two hills just to the east at dawn. The sun was pretty well up in the sky as we came around them, almost to East Missoula. Practically no traffic, they could take the interstate into town. Nice riding through Milltown, where we crossed the Blackfoot River, then turned up the canyon through Bonner.
Here I was ambushed by a stealth rumble strip. I didn’t see the blasted thing, but I sure found it! Montana likes to repave with chip-seal, also known as tar and gravel. That erases the visible signature of the rumble strip, except in oblique strong light. The canyon blocked the direct sunlight, so I only knew I’d hit it when I heard and felt the results. Nasty.
The canyon was visually striking, with the forested sides and the contrast between the lighted and shadowed sides. Strangely, I think the river got bigger as we climbed. Maybe it’s a municipal water source for Missoula or one of the smaller towns.
After a dozen miles, we left the river and followed a creek (or is that a ditch?) up, around a ridge, and found a valley that reminded both of us of an Appalachian cove. Wide, long (6-8 miles), flat, farmed, and ringed by forested ridges. It was beautiful.
At the top of this cove, we cut over the ridge and back to the Blackfoot. Nice little downhill, and then we turned north at Clearwater Junction, climbing along the Clearwater River. It really is clear water, as most of the rivers out in Montana have been. We passed Salmon Lake, which is a gem surrounded by ridges. And thus we came to Seeley Lake, where there’s a large sawmill.
Our nice big shoulder (with the ninja rumble strip) disappeared north of Clearwater Junction, but the logging trucks we’ve seen so far have been driven by good, professional drivers. Wish I could say the same about the Mustangs and 50 foot RVs! I’d really like to see some restrictive training and licensing requirements for those monster RVs.
We’re not quite a third of the way up to Glacier, but we’re on our way. I should be able to post tomorrow night, but the next night, I may be in a no-net zone inside the park.