Tour 2019 – Day 7

Fringes of Mist, a Bell

Where does it begin? All remote solitude,
all recluse distances bidding dusk farewell,

it follows thought’s landscape far and wide,
scatters out and drifts thinning mist away.

Glimpsed in the still night of autumn wilds,
a lone mountain monk wanders back home.

-Wei Ying-wu
translated by David Hinton in Mountain Home

And the shadow glides below
The nights get pretty cold but this days clear blue sky was going to bring temperatures to the uppers 80s. I wanted to do as much riding in the morning as I could. I quickly rode through Lincoln turned toward the hills and rode for a while through rolling hills toward Stampede Pass. The route eventually turned off the road to the Pass and up a rocky, steep grade along a burbling creek. This was the toughest riding to date: the rocks were large and had to be weaved around and the grade was the steepest I’ve done on this trip. This would be how the bulk of the days riding would go. After this long, steep stretch it flattened out a bit at nearly 7000 feet. As I began to descend I crossed the Continental Divide Trail for the first time this trip. Over 200 miles without encountering the trail and I’d cross it three times today.

The descent was also challenging, it was similarly steep rocky and rutted. It required intense concentration. Fast gravel descents remind me of downhill skiing: you have to make countless decisions every second, picking a line, staying upright. Gravel is just a lot less forgiving if you wipe out. This descent took me down into a big valley and the character of the surroundings had changed. A lot more arid now with dusty tan hillsides dotted with green trees.

As I rode out of the valley and back into the hills I was passed by more than a dozen women on ATVs along with a couple support vehicles. Something is happening here &c. This second climb wasn’t as difficult as the first, but it was now the heat of the day. When I turned up Empire Creek it was again rocky and rutted and steeper. I passed an old mine up here and cattle freely roamed over the path. Again a bit past the high point of this section I encountered and overlapped for a spell the Continental Divide Trail.

This was a followed by another long descent into a dusty valley and some winding around the roads in the valley and finally the last climb up to Priest Pass. This, for a change, was a mostly loose gravel road. Not too long and not too steep, but it was to the only official “pass” of the day. At the top, 6000 feet up, it was just myself and some heifers. One last long descent on the same loose gravel roads and I reached the highway.

Priest Pass

It had been brutally windy all day and as I rode the hwy – all downhill – it was a severe headwind. But I still coasted into Helena as the shadows grew long. I found a cheap motel for the night as I need to do some stuff in town.

no barrier between
earth and
along this ridge
everything reduces to a
single point
brought home
by the bones of
poking out
amidst the living

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