Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 21 Sunday 7/26/09 St. Mary to Cut Bank,MT

Day 21 Sunday 7/26/09 St. Mary to Cut Bank, MT 63 Miles 825 total miles The plan to leave St. Mary campground at 8 was delayed by neither my new riding partner, Gary Evans , nor I being ready dto leave at the agreed upon time. We took a little longer, getting over to the St. Mary Lodge and grabbing a cup of coffee, getting connected with wireless and then finally got underway around 9:45 ... Making the initial ascent on US 87 out of the St. Mary area in a light drizzle, up St. Mary Ridge, which is a massive moraine through burned out lodgepole pine forests, the aftermath of pine bark beetle infestations. At the top of that first ridge, there was a great overlook back towards the park and out towards the plains that were our inevitable destination that day. We climbed a second ridge and then descended it down towards the Cut Bank Creek drainage where we turned east, headed down the drainage into the Blackfeet Reservation. The first 10 miles or so of that gradual descent were euphoric, with the plains ahead beckoning us, the mountains getting smaller in our mirrors and our sapeed sometimes exceeding 25 mph, which is a pretty good clip. Then the reality of the reservation roads hit us-- lots more trash and especially broken glass on the roadsides. Unfortunate, but with a little bit of aware riding we managed to get through there without a flat. We arrived in Browning around lunchtime where we stopped for a drink, some WIFI and a visit to the local IGA where we spit the ingredients for a veritable sidewalk banquet and answered questions of curious passers-by. "How far you going? " "Where you coming from?" "How many miles can you do in a day?" After lunch, we set our sights on Cut Bank, another 30 or so miles away where we would spend the night. The Montana camping guide I obtained from he chamber of commerce Libby showed that Cut Bank had public camping, and when we got to town we commenced to look for it to no avail, so we stopped at a local casino to ask directions. We discovered that the said campground had been closed for several years and the lady at the bar, Liz, offered for us to camp in her yard, after clearing it, of course, with her husband, Pat, with a quick phone call. She let us know that her 4 year old, Vladimir, would be there to greet us and be full of questions and directions, it being his back yard and all... It was a very welcome place to stay and after clearing some of young Vladimir's toys out of the way to make room for our tents, we set up for the night, did some laundry, went out to a big dinner at the Cut Bank Café and returned for showers and a solid night's sleep-- except for the 6 or so trains that thundered through town all night long, whistles blaring, as we are on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe's Hi-Line, one of the most frequented tracks in the country with 35 to 40 trains a day rolling through every little town out here.

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