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Continental Divide Trail - Montana Portion

By coolsen - Posted on 27 September 2011

 ..... .The complete ride report for the entire CDT ride is on Adventure Rider at this link: ... .I posted this ride for September 19-24, 2011, to complete the Continental Divide Trail ride I had started earlier this Summer (July) from Antelope Wells, NM, but had to interupt it when my bike (KTM-990) broke down (electrical problem with the side-stand engine cut-off switch that prevented me from starting the bike, and which I could not fix in the field).  This necessitated me transporting it back to Boise to fix it.  Fortunately, it broke down about 40 miles north of Ashton, ID, about the closest point on the CDT to Boise! I completed the initial portion of the CDT from Antelope Wells, NM, to Island Park, ID, with Jim Carney and Lowell Mannering, but they were unable to join me to complete the Montana portion of the CDT with me, so I posted it as a member ride.  I had posted this as a level 3 ride not because the terrain was difficult (most of which was a level 1 and 2), but because of the distances to be traveled each day (~300-400 miles per day) in order to complete it in the time allotted.  One club member expressed interest in doing this ride with me, but backed out when he got a better offer (and I don't blame him; his ride sounded much funner and a lot more advernturous than mine!).  Unfortunately, no one else opted in, so I did this ride with my better half, and we had a great time.  Here we are at Upper Mesa Falls on the Henrys Fork of the Snack River, September 19th, on our way to Island Park to officially start the ride where I had left off two months earlier. We stayed at the Sawtell Mountain Resort just off Highway 20 north of Macks Inn.Starting early the next morning because of the need to cover about 300 miles from Island Park, ID, to Butte, MT, I was greeted with frost on the seat of my bike (temperature was 30 degrees Fahrenheit at 8:00 AM).From the Sawtell Mountain Resort it was up FR 024 about 7-8 miles to Sawtell Peak prior to starting the CDT.It is a very easy gravel road to the top, and the view from Sawtell Peak is spectacular.  This view is looking northwest toward the Gravelly Range in the distance in Montana.To the southeast you get a good view of the Tetons in Wyoming. Here is where my initial ride of the CDT ended July 29th on FR 1214 on the other side of this locked gate (the only one I found on the entire CDT) when my side-stand broke.  This disabled the side-stand ignition safety switch, which I could not bypass in the field (way over-engineered Austrian bike that left me stranded when the side-stand broke!).  I subsequently learned that it takes a specific size resistor to bypass the safety switch, thus allowing you to put the bike in gear after starting it when the side-stand is broken.  This area was so remote that we could not get a truck or trailer into it to haul the bike out.  One of the other riders had to tow me out on my disabled bike about 4 miles back to Highway 20 where I was able to rent a U-haul truck to transport the bike back to Boise to fix it.From here it was a short ride along FR 053 over Red Rock Pass into Montana, past Red Rock Lakes into Lima, and from there over Big Sheep Creek and Medicine Lodge Roads to near Grant, MT.  Along the way you will be traveling on portions of the Old Bannack Road established in 1862 by William A. Clark who resided in Bannack City, MT, then the territorial capital of Montana.  More than a century ago, the Old Bannack road linked Montana's territorial capital, today's ghost town at Bannack State Park, with Corinne, UT, not far from the Transcontinental Railroad.North of Grant, MT, near Highway 278, is Bannack City, one of the best preserved ghost towns in the West.  From Bannack State Park it is all pavement to Wise River (most of it is a 1-1.5 lane FR, the Wise River-Polaris Road) and very scenic.Not far northeast of Wise River is the Fleecer Ridge Drop, a very steep half mile ascent (if you are doing the CDT south to north) which I found too much to handle on a fully loaded big bike.  It is so steep that cyclists coming north to south walk their bikes down this ridge.  You can see it in the left portion of this photo above the tree line as a faint two-track trail.  I came back out and took the bypass around it into Butte, MT.The CDT continues northeast of Butte to Basin, MT, along a series of forest roads through old mining sites, across Highway 12 west of Helena to Lincoln, MT.  From there is it west on Highway 200 to Mineral Hill and south for a short ways on Highways 141 and 271 to Helmville, MT, where you take a fast gravel road through farm country into Ovando, MT, and continue across Highway 200 on Monture Creek and Cottonwood Lakes Roads into Seeley, MT.From Seeley we proceeded north-northeast paralleling either side Highway 83 along a series of forest roads through the Swan Range (east of Highway 83) and the Mission Mountains (west of Highway 83) past Bigfork and Kalispell into Colubia Falls, MT.  We stayed at the Super 8 in Columbia Heights just east of Columbia Falls.  The lobby has an impressive collection of mounted heads.Northwest from Columbia Falls, you travel up Whitefish Lake along Lower and Upper Whitefish Roads (excellent forest roads) turning back east again along Red Meadow Road to the west border of Glacier National Park before turning west again on Trail Creek Road (FR 114) all the way to Highway 93 south of Eureka, MT.  Along the way you pass Red Meadow Lake, a beautiful camping area in the Whitefish Range.Futher north near Glacier National Park you have stunning views of the Starvation Ridge Boundary Mountains to the east in the park.From Eureka you take Airport Road (about a mile west of Highway 93) that comes out 50-100 feet south and parallel to the border giving you an interesting view of the clear-cut demarcation line marking the US-Canadian border through the forest east of Roosville, BC. The official end of the CDT ride for me was at the US Border Patrol Eureka Station less than a couple hundred yards from the boder.  You can not ride right to the border because by the time you get there, it is a one-way road into Canada, and you would have to come back out through US customs, and I did not have my passport.That evening, September 22nd, back in Columbia Falls, we enjoyed a dinner celebrating completion of the CDT Ride which is about 2,700 miles from the Mexican to the Canadian borders. I had a ranch sirloin steak with baked was good! The next day we enjoyed Glacier National Park but were disappointed that the Road to the Sun was closed 16 miles in due to a recent snow storm.  Here we are at the south end of Lake McDonald by the Apgar Visitor Center.  From here we made our way back to Boise along Highway 93 to Challis, ID, then Highway 75 to Stanley and finally Highway 21 to Boise.  The total milage on this trip, the Montana portion of the CDT, was about 1,800 miles.  

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