Day 34: Beartooth Pass — Cooke City, MT to Belfry, MT – June 1

Daily miles – 85. Total miles – 1917.

Today started off very early for me! I woke up at 2:30 am and looked around for Matt and Lori, but no dice. When I realized the time, I figured either there had been a delay with their flight somehow, or something bad had happened! I didn’t sleep much the rest of the nice since I ramped up my full-on worry senses. I was able to check my voicemail messages in the morning at the lodge and the first message from Matt said they were at the airport and everything looked to be on time. The second message said “Mike. Disaster…”. Ironically, I was totally relieved to hear that – I knew it must mean the plane was delayed. It turned out, their flight was cancelled so they were stranded in Salt Lake City for the night and would arrive in Bozeman around 11am. I called Matt’s cell and reached him so we planned for Chandra and I to start riding and Matt and Lori would drive straight to Red Lodge, look for us there, and if we were not yet there, they would start up the pass to find us.

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We had a terrible and overpriced breakfast in Cooke City, but then checked out from the cabin and started heading toward the Beartooth Highway.  The first 5 miles were gravel with really sharp rocks and, while we did not cop a flat then, we certainly put some unwelcome wear on the tires that we did not need.  The gravel section ended as we descended from an 8000 foot pass down in to Wyoming again heading toward the junction of the Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Highway (that goes to Cody, WY).  With the gravel done, we enjoyed a very desolate section of road, descending along a river with trees and meadows all around.

In a flat section, I noticed an Elk standing on the shoulder of the road.  But … I soon realized it’s legs were about the size of my waist, and it took a few seconds for us to both realize it was a Grizzly Bear!  Checking out a meadow and walking in our direction!!  We are not sure if it saw us, so we carefully turned around and headed back from chence we came.  A couple cars passed in our original travel direction and we took advantage of the fact that they scared the bear back off the road and followed them.  We didn’t have an adrenaline rush, but were pretty excited.  We also figured we should put the hammer down a fair bit to discourage a chase!  We cruised by at 27 mph hoping that was enough even if it got interested in us.  We had some reserves and, as Chandra said, “If that thing was really chasing us, we could have fired some more energy and gone faster!”

A few more miles of descent led to the beginning of the climbing – from around 7,000 to the summit at 10,974 .  The climbing came in stages – first a long grunt up onto the Beartooth Plateau and then a final push to the West Summit.Â

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We got one flat on the way up but otherwise just ground our way through meadows, waterfalls, lakes, and beautiful scenery up throught the plateau.  The sky had some puffy clouds and the wind was cool, but no lightning clouds seemed to be forming and we felt like it was perfect conditions.  Behind us, the mountains continued to grow filling the skyline with a jagged snow-peaked range and we got light snow and wind as we climbed above treeline.  We reached the summit around 2pm, took a couple pictures, and then had to endure a short descent followed by a final short, steep climb before diving through the switchbacks toward Red Lodge.Â

A little bit into the main descent, the drum brake stuck in the the on position.  When I tried to disengage it, the cable went slack, got bound up in a chainring, and broke as we tried to pedal.  So…we pulled off into a turnout to replace the cable.  We hadn’t eaten much but a couple Hammer gels and Mojo bars all day, so we were starving while I worked on the bike.  Chandra ate peanut butter with a spoon straight from the jar!Â

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As we finished up replacing the cable, a black rental SUV pulled up with Matt and Lori on board!!  We were all so stoked to see each other!!!  Lori had made scones originally planned for our breakfast that morning.  Instead, Chandra chased her around the car for one while I had one and did a little scone dance!Â

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 Matt and Lori drove up to the summit while we continued the descent with the plan to meet up later in Red Lodge.

As we continued, the same problem occurred with the drum brake – thinking it was road grime from all the rain – so we had to leave it engaged most of the descent.  It reminded me just how much we rely on the brake to regulate speed on the descents!  When we got to flat sections, Chandra had to manually release it as I backed off on the cable.  The end result was a slow and controlled descent all the way into Red Lodge.  We all met up again, had coffee, and agreed to drop another long descent into the Clark Fork river valley to find a place to camp for the night and shorten the already long ride for tomorrow.  We ended up sneak-camping along the road near a field, but it’s cool.  Matt and Lori brought provisions, picked up cold beers, and are making dinner tonight.  We all couldn’t be happier!Â

Over 5,000 feet of climbing, a grizzly bear, snow, chilly windy mountain weather, almost 6,000 feet of epic descent….Today was so the character of what we’ve been dreaming about since concieving of this trip so long ago now.  Phase 3 – the real mountains – and now a support car for a couple days.  We are relishing in the company of such great family/friends to share this part of the journey with.  Could not be happier!

3 thoughts on “Day 34: Beartooth Pass — Cooke City, MT to Belfry, MT – June 1

  1. I’m glad you got some postings up. I was going through some serious withdrawal…checking your blog is part of my morning routine! Sounds like some awesome adventures in Montana and whoa mama…that stretch on the Interstate with construction sounded trecherous! Yikes. We’re jealous of Matt & Lori getting to share this adventure with you guys and provide a little support (and beer) along the way. We’re headed up (by car!) to the North Shore this weekend. Miss you guys! -Keiko, Chance, Kaiya & “Tonbo”

  2. finally figured out how to send a message. We miss you guys! Glad to hear that you learned a few things about wildlife from that boar, and didn’t tackle the grizzly head on!

    Say hi to Matt and Lori!

    Dan

  3. Ref Keiko’s comment about routine. Checking in with TalulaT is a big part of mine. Right before I start the CFP study routine. I told Aunt Mary about this blog, she will be checking in…..

    I always assumed “Support” implied beer, if not also scotch. Was that just me?

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