Friday, 30 July 2010

Missoula, Montana to White Bird, Idaho

Well folks, the last few weeks have been hectic and we have had the most spectacular scenery/cycling/wildlife/history (cowboys, Indians and Gold Rushes) but this has not included much internet access.

We crossed the Continental Divide for the final time at Lolo Pass and indulged in the free hot chocolate at the visitor's centre (cue log cabin in the forest) as we tried to warm up from the cold rain, thunder and lightning all around us! I suppose it had to happen sooner or later - all the other high altitude biking had been in pretty-much blue cloudless skies. By the time we had descended into the thick green forests we were freezing. The forests carpet the steep hill sides, with the mountains all around towering above and disappearing into puffy white underbellies of the clouds, a bit like how photos of rainforests look. The trees for some reason were an order of magnitude taller than any we had seen to date - old hulks of cedar, pine, spruce and all adding to the stillness and coolness at ground level. Luckily, one of our group knows us only too well and had already reserved the last remaining cabin for the night as the travellers sought refuge.

The road from Powell to Syringa is rightly labelled a scenic byway. Our 70 miles of cruising downhill follows rightly named Clearwater River - nice cycling but only if the wood truckers don't run you over (I have a nifty mirror on my glasses to keep an eye on what's steaming up our back - I strongly believe this will become an iconic fashion statement... perhaps!). Each twist in the valley presented the same scene of crashing white water, towering cloud-licked mountains and thick lush green trees. We stayed at a cosy log cabin and whilst Luc frequented the hot tub, Robin went for a very little run!

Syringa to White Bird involved about three turns - positively a navigation overload from the previous day! We followed the wider calmer Clearwater River before turning at the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. The Nez Perce tribe had in the 19 Century originally lived in the Montana/Idaho mountains but landownership conflicts with all the pioneers (gold rush prompted) had broken the peace at White Bird battleground afterwhich they desperately attempted to avoid the US military attacks by moving east, along the route we were following. The story is not all one-sided but at places like Big Hole in the wide Big Hole Valley, the soldiers attacked the Nez Perce camp with attrocities to many women and childern. Sadly they didn't escape to the freedom of Canada, instead they were intercepted and banished to Oklahoma. Sorry, digression.

Disappointingly none of the towns we passed through this morning had cafes open for breakfast before attacked two mammoth hills totalling 2000feet of climb but fortunately between them, Grangeville had a wonderful milkshake stall (30 flavours - we only tried 2!), and then the what goes up must come down theory was proven with a zooming 8 mile downhill. Nice.

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