By Ann Driggers
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Given we only had one day in Missoula we packed in as much as we could. That was easy as, like Grand Junction, this is a city whose character is defined in many ways by the outdoors. So we spent the day doing as Missoulians do.
The M and Mount Sentinel watch over Grizzly cubs in their daily practice.
First we ran the M Trail which leaves directly from the University of Montana campus and home to the Montana Grizzlies (but of course what else would their teams be called?). Many people hike and run this every day as it is so close in to town. The trail reaches the M in less than a mile and carries onto the summit of Mount Sentinel in under two. With great views of the city and valley it also packs in a good workout.
Running up the trail with views of the Rattlesnake Recreation Area in the right background.
After lunch in town we headed out a few miles north to the Rattlesnake Recreation Area which has many trails for hiking and riding. We chose to ride a 10 mile loop called Spring Gulch with a summit lookout over Montana Snowbowl, the local ski area. The trails were exceptionally buff and provided a ripsnorting fast descent.
Big smiles from Chad on the buff singletrack.
In the evening we heard that there were free music concerts in a park alongside the Clark Fork River in the center of downtown. The music and the scene was happening, as was the river. One of the hottest days of the year the water was a very popular place to be. There was a wave adjacent to the park and a big party going on in and around the river.
A kayaker surfs the wave on the Clark Fork River.
The water was teeming with kayakers, tubers, swimmers, bridge jumpers and rafters, all watched by the well lubricated crowd on shore who seemed to be as entertained as those in the water. It was the perfect ending to a very active day in Missoula.
Happy Hour in Missoula.
By Ann Driggers
Thursday, July 30, 2009
A moose takes a dip in the Gallatin River.
We spent four days exploring the outdoors paradise between West Yellowstone and Bozeman along the Gallatin River. Numerous trails provide access to the beautiful Gallatin range. The day after the epic ride, we decided to take it easy and go for a short run up to Lava Lake.
The trail was in the forest all the way to the lake.
Of course we couldn't stop at the lake and decided to continue on to Tabletop Mountain. And as usual our eyes were bigger than our legs. We ended up covering 13 miles and almost 4,000 feet of climbing. My quads got shredded on the run down and I'm still sore.
Luckily the next day it rained so we were forced to take a rest, hanging out in Bozeman and catching up on things like laundry, which was very necessary after our muddy exploits. Our final day we met up with some GJ friends who happened to be in the 'hood. The boys went fishing on the Madison River and had a great time. They actually caught some big fish. Pictures do exist but I don't have my hands on them. I will try and post one later. The girls, me and my friend Krissy Steele, went on an awesome ride to Emerald Lake above Hyalite Canyon, just south of Bozeman. The trail was rocky, rooty and wet and a lot different from the terrain we are used to in the Grand Valley.
Krissy climbs a switchback on the Emerald lake trail.
Emerald Lake was very pretty but we didn't hang out for too long as the mosquitos were bad, the first time we've really seen them out in force on the trip. Now we are headed north again, to Missoula, a town I'm excited to check out. I hear it has a lot of similarities with Grand Junction so I know I'm going to like it.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, July 27, 2009
Note to self: a good night’s sleep is not best accomplished when reading “Bear Safety Tips” right before bed. It does however guarantee a restless night. I tossed and turned, haunted by phrases from the ‘useful’ pamphlet such as “if a bear ‘pops’ its jaws, it’s agitated”, “snaps its teeth”, “intends to eat you”, “bear mauls you continuously”, “fast as lightening”, and finally and rather obviously I thought, “you will panic”. I hadn’t even ventured out of bed and I was on the verge of panicking. The next day Chad and I planned on riding the Little Wapiti Creek trail in the prime grizzly habitat of Big Sky country, Montana. The ride was supposed to be incredible. “If there is an afterlife for mountain bikers it will include singletrack downhills like this” quoted the guidebook. It also happened to mention “this area is serious grizzly country! Make noise!” Riding fast and quietly in such terrain was a recipe for a bear encounter. So that evening, we entered the tourist town of West Yellowstone and armed ourselves with Bear Defense Pepper Spray and bells for our bikes. After mounting the weapons in the optimal position for rapid deployment, we read the accompanying propaganda and fruitlessly tried to sleep. The next morning, groggy and anxious, I tried to calm my mind as we drove towards the trailhead. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, a perfect day for a beautiful ride. I was just being silly. The chances of a bear encounter were slim to none. The crystal clear Gallatin River wound its way through lush meadows of tall grasses and wildflowers over which butterflies flitted. The sereneness of the scenery started to work its magic and I finally felt more settled. And then there it was! A real live grizzly bear! Just 200 feet away! For real! A magnificent beast, its shiny brown coat rippled over its massive body as it lumbered through the meadow. Beautiful. And scary. Holy moly, we weren’t even off the road and the place was overrun with grizzlies! They must be really hungry or something. My heart immediately leapt back into my mouth. A few minutes later we arrived at the trailhead. I pushed thoughts of grizzlies out of my head and focused on the 2,400 foot climb that started off the ride. Evidently the buff singletrack of the downhill wasn’t going to come without prepayment. For an hour we pedaled in our granny gears up a hillside covered with vibrant green grass and wildflowers. It was steep and hot and we were continuously attacked by swarms of nasty flies, crawling between eyes and sunglasses, in the ears and biting our scalps through the holes in our helmets. It was an unwelcome distraction from the bear prevention tactics we were trying to employ. One hand on the handlebars, the other alternated between swiping flies and ringing the bell. As we climbed spectacular scenery behind us unfolded but unfortunately stopping to take in the views only encouraged more vicious fly attacks. We kept on pedaling.
During the final two miles of the climb we left the open, sunny meadows and entered the dark forest. On the plus side the flies left us, but now every brown tree, brown stump and brown rock took upon the appearance of a bear. Ringing my bell, I noisily and nervously made my way through the trees. Without incident we finally arrived at the top of the downhill portion of the ride. The journey to mountain bike nirvana was about to begin. But not quite yet. While in the forest, thunderheads had built to the west and now started to rain on our parade. No matter, we would wait it out. Taking shelter beneath a stump we were still buoyant and giddy about the ride ahead. The rain stopped. We remounted our bikes and made the turn onto the singletrack downhill. This was going to be special ride. An incredible six miles of trail rolled out before us. We just had to make enough noise and the bears would afford us safe passage through their country. Unfortunately we had missed the Hot Tip in the guidebook “Dirt turns to gumbo mud when wet and your bike will not move; do not go after (or during) a rainstorm”. There is no better way to describe what happened next, only to say it was a suffer fest. I have never had to work so hard to go downhill in my life. First we tried riding on the trail but the wheels completely clogged up. After we scrapped off the mud with a stick, we rode through the meadow at the side of the trail, which at least meant we were moving. But every so often we would be unceremoniously dumped to the ground by a log or rock lurking beneath the grass. It was slow going. After a while we thought the trail might have dried out a little. We tried the trail again. Bad idea. Drying mud was even worse than wet mud and harder to remove with a stick. We carried our bikes, now twenty pounds heavier. Throughout it all we tried to remember to ring our bells as we traversed from meadow to forest. In hindsight the foul language emanating from our mouths was probably more than sufficient to scare the bears away.
Note bear spray and bell mounted on very muddy bike.
At last we were in sight of the finish. A mile of trail stretched through the sagebrush, now dry enough with hard pedaling the wheels would finally move. Arriving back at the parking lot we were a sight for sore eyes: absolutely filthy muddy, red welts swelling from fly bites and close to exhaustion. In the end it was the grizzly country that devoured us, not the grizzlies.
Grin and bear it. I manage a smile at the end.
By Ann Driggers
Friday, July 24, 2009
All hands were on deck amidst a flurry of activity this week in preparing for our summer road trip. The Blue Buffalo is prepped and the camper mounted on its back, our home for the next two weeks is packed to the brim. The road is calling us northwards to explore new places and sights unseen. First we will visit some of our old stomping grounds in the Wasatch and Yellowstone before moving onto new territory in Montana. Our goal? It's about the journey, not the destination. Or rather the series of destinations and experiences we will happen upon along the way. Catch a few fish, ride sweet single track, climb a peak, hang out in cool coffee houses, discover a great book, some fine wine and dine, it's all good! Trip reports will be forthcoming along the way.
By Ann Driggers
Monday, July 20, 2009
I recently signed up for Twitter. I will tweet whenever I post on this blog, amongst other twitterings. If you haven't already discovered Twitter, it's fun! To follow along click here.