23 Jul 2010, 10:13pm
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bitterroot to big hole

writing to you from jackson, montana… not to be confused with jackson, wyoming, which we’ll also be going through sometime soon. i gotta do this more often because the longer i wait, the more photos i have to sort through (and upload on sluggish connections) and the more i gotta remember to write about! but for those of you sitting at your computers pressing refresh (right?), here’s an update on our whereabouts and howabouts (still figuring about the whyabouts, to be completely honest).

on wednesday morning in missoula we took our sweet time indeed. they have this thing on wednesdays with live music and a whole bunch of food carts in the park. we also went to the adventure cycling offices again, with our bikes, to get our photo taken for their enormous wall-o’-traveling-cyclists. this is just cyclists who’ve come through missoula this year:

here’s the photo we took for the wall (more or less):

at some ridiculous hour of the afternoon we finally left missoula behind us. from lolo to stevensville there was a bike path beside the highway, so we could ride side-by-side stress-free and (when traffic wasn’t too loud) have a nice conversation. we also got caught in our first thunderstorm! jeez, if i don’t get mauled by a bear, i’m gonna get struck by lightning, huh?

really we dried out pretty quickly, and the sky looked awesome.

there was “cyclist’s-only lodging” listed on our map in hamilton, which i think varies but is often just someone who enjoys hosting cyclists (a la warmshowers but a little more official). the host in hamilton was actually out of town, but she gave us the number of a friend of hers, betsy, who was willing to host us. we set up tent quite happily in her beautiful backyard just up a hill outside of town.

(a. took this photo in the morning while waiting for me to finish packing up my bike)

then in the morning it took us awhile to get out of hamilton, too. we went to the little county museum (i <3 little county museums) and then to a bike shop so a. could replace his front panniers--which were actually my old panniers, a christmas present several years ago, which i took on my first mini-tour to sammamish--which had split completely apart and were barely hanging on to the stuff he had in 'em. and then, of course, we had to stop at the bitterroot brewing company, which had been enthusiastically recommended to us by at least a few different people, and we drank two glasses each of delicious huckleberry wheat beer, and then we were sort of tipsy. so a few miles outside of town, when the short bike path heading south from hamilton ended, we hung out outside of a little shop for awhile before heading on again... at some ridiculous hour of the afternoon.

on the way into darby, we took a little detour along part of one of the alternate routes on our maps, a partly-unpaved road instead of the highway. the highway was gettin’ us down, and i wanted to see how i felt riding on gravel, ’cause i’m thinking about taking the katy trail across missouri if i can swing it. people keep telling me how awful the missouri ozarks are–not that pretty, tons of steep hills, hostile drivers. my favorite was the woman we met today (jan; see below) who said when i asked about it, “oh, i call it misery.” the katy trail is an unpaved rails-to-trails project that stretches pretty much across the whole state (i think). we’ll see. i think i would want to get wider tires with a little more tread.

(old darby road)

we stopped in darby at another old-ranger-station-turned-museum, and i learned (among other things) that smokey the bear was a real live actual bear who, when he was a cub, climbed up a tree during a human-caused forest fire, got serious burns on his feet, was rescued by firefighters, became a national icon, and lived out his life in the national zoo. his first name was “hotfoot.”

as we headed into the sapphire range, we saw lots of evidence of the major fire that swept through here in 2000…

we stopped for the night at lost trail hot springs, a little resort with camping and, yes, a hot springs. a swimming-pool-type hot springs, which seems to be a thing… belknap hot springs were like that, too, and the hot springs we are at tonight(!). anyway, this one was tucked away in the woods and pretty nice.

(disgusting cocktails though)

lost trail hot springs was halfway up the climb to lost trail pass, but the steep part was all this morning. on the way up, we met a solo woman cyclist, our very first!, from san franciso, who was on the lewis & clark trail. she told me not to worry about going it alone, that i’ll be fine and it’ll be awesome. here’s her blog: the world according to jan.

eventually we made it to the pass and had lunch at a rest area on the montana-idaho border (wait… we’re back at the border?). we met a cyclist from new york, rob, who’s on a national parks tour (aca’s “great parks” route). he was just finishing his lunch but we promised to meet him in jackson.

another mile up to chief joseph pass and our first crossing of the continental divide!

and then the lovely descent.

we stopped at big hole national battlefield. we’ve been reading and seeing a lot about the nez perce wars, in museums and visitor centers and on roadside signs, since we’ve been loosely following the nez perce trail since somewhere in idaho. big hole was the site of one of the big (the biggest?) battles of the war. here’s the really rough version: the nez perce signed a treaty with white settlers, establishing a reservation. some time later (i think just a few years), someone struck gold on indian land and there was a huge influx of settlers who overran the reservation. so the government wrote a new treaty that reduced the indians’ land by 90 freakin’ percent and claimed all the land that white miners had invaded for the whites. some of the nez perce signed it, but some refused. they were called “non-treaty” nez perce… and the government didn’t really mess with them for ten years. then they told ‘em they had to move to the reservation (in idaho). with the heaviest of hearts (can you even begin to fucking imagine), they started to, but some stupid warriors killed some stupid settlers to avenge an old wrong, and then a bunch of settlers decided to even the score (again), and some stupid shit went down (i am a little unclear on the details of this part, obviously) and the nez perce had to flee. so they headed over the mountains, pursued by the military and a bunch of civilian volunteers. they slipped around a roadblock and some other exciting stuff, and there was a battle at white bird (the hill we climbed in idaho). the nez perce made it to the bitterroot valley, where they negotiated peace with the settlers there, and made camp in big hole, where they planned to rest for a few days. many of them thought the war was over, but in fact they were still being pursued. and the next morning, the military (and, again, civilian volunteers) attacked at dawn. they fired rifles into tipis where men, women and children alike were asleep. the nez perce rallied, fought, retreated… both sides suffered losses. et cetera. there was a quote that sorta got me at the visitor center at the battlefield. from one of the military guys. loosely paraphrased: “we were ordered to fire into the tipis, which surely killed women and children, and then we entered the camp, but any brutality the men engaged in there was not ordered.” dear people of the world: orders don’t make brutality ok either, ok? christ. all right. anyway. the nez perce fled again. there was another battle and all but two leaders (joseph and white bird) were killed. some of them made it to canada, with white bird. the rest of them surrendered with chief joseph, and were sent to kansas for years before they were allowed to return to their wee tiny reservation in the northwest again. the end.

one thing i have been struggling with: how to reconcile my identity as an american and my love of this land (the american west, oh my god, everything ever said about it is true) with my understanding of its imperialist past and present. i could never belong anywhere else, but i’m not sure i belong here (america), either.

so. after that we rode to jackson. it was pretty flat in the big hole valley. windy off and on. pretty, but the mosquitoes were (are!) a nightmare.

(this hawk–or falcon? what do i know?–caught a rodent of some sort right as we were going by, and then dropped it and sat on this fence post looking sheepish at us)

(i think this sign is from back when the transam was the bikecentennial/bike route 76! first one i’ve seen)

there’s a band (haha, the same band that was playing in missoula on wednesday while we ate lunch) playing in the main lodge at jackson hot springs, and all of jackson seems to be here. i’ve had two well-meaning locals come ask me why i’m not dancing. maybe it’s time to get on it! who am i kidding; it’s way past bedtime. (posting this past midnight; not sure what time it’ll say i posted it.)




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