July 25, 2001 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 25, 2001

TRANSAM 2001 > Montana

Wisdom to Angler's Roost Campground (S. of Hamilton), Montana. (73 mi.) Mile 3353

Montana's historical trails

We said good-bye to Jen this morning as we headed off to a big breakfast at the town's restaurant, while she pedaled westward after her breakfast of an apple and PBJ sandwich. We weren't sure if we'd see her again and wished her well.

Our late start allowed us to visit the Big Hole Battlefield Visitor Center a few miles west of Wisdom. At this site in early August, 1877, the U.S. cavalry surprised a village of 800 sleeping Nez Perce Indians. The Indians were fleeing the army to avoid forced compliance with relocation from their homeland to a smaller reservation.

In the battle that followed, many Indian women and children were killed. This is just one of many battle sites along the Indians' 1,300 mile journey toward freedom before eventually surrendering just south of the Canadian border. We spent at least 2 hours here immersing ourselves in the history of this area, reading books, watching a movie, and trekking down to the tipi poles erected on the sites where the Nez Perce had been camping peacefully. This story never fails to have a profound emotional effect on us.

The 1877 Nez Perce encampment here on the Big Hole River included 59 tipis and 2,000 horses grazing on the treeless slope in the distance. Earlier in July 1806, Captain Clark made camp near here on the Lewis and Clark Expedition's return trip eastward.

As we continued pedaling up over Chief Joseph and Lost Trail Passes, the recent history lesson helped us imagine the experience of those who had preceded us on this historic trail across the Bitterroot Mountains. Captain Clark had complained in his journal that this trail was particularly rocky and hard on the horses' hooves. In our case, we encountered road construction and at least 14 miles of new chip and seal, with gravel so thick in places, that our hands tired from squeezing the brakes to ease ourselves down the steep west side. I guess some things never change.

The Continental Divide crossings are now lower in elevation. The road to the left is fresh gravel.

From the top of Chief Joseph Pass, it was a gorgeous downhill along the Bitterroot River to our destination. I find myself wanting to talk to the landscape and tell it, "Montana, you are a big, beautiful state!" We stopped at Sula on the way down for lunch, the best tuna melts of the trip. Capt. Clark spent a cold night here in 1806, close to where there is now a KOA campground.

Near our destination, we passed a man walking toward his stranded car with a can of gasoline. Mike told the man that he should consider riding a bicycle instead, since Mike "had never run out of gas" since he had been on this bike trip. I can vouch for that.

Our campsite at Angler's Roost Camppground, on the banks of the Bitterroot River

Tomorrow we make it to Missoula, where we are anxious to have a layover day. We have not had a day without riding since Missouri, and though we are feeling stronger than ever, it will be fun to spend time in other ways too.

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