Montana- Butte to Dell

Enjoyed the night in Butte taking in the Montana Folk Festival.  Stages set amongst the mining headframes hosted a weekend of activity with golf carts whisking people up and down the streets of Butte from one stage to the next.  I perched high on the hill listening to a great Memphis band and enjoyed a Cold Smoke, NW Montana’s finest dark beer and pulled pork sandwich. Butte is a pretty cool town full of great turn of the century architecture with some great spots set in the nooks and crannies.  It definitely belies its first impression as a beat up old mining town. When I turned the corner onto Park Street and a pizza joint was blasting Sugar Man, I knew it had some solid soul.

Park and Main Cafe served up a mean French toast breakfast sandwich and a few cups of coffee before I

got back into low gear wandering up above Butte back on gravelly goodness.

Over the Continental Divide (CD#6) onto the east side brought out Montana's best rolling grazing land and skies that lead to miles of neck craning in all directions.

I teamed up with this awesomely motley crew doing their "Epic Divide Tour" of Montana.  Kelly sporting the American flag and his sister Mazie decided the Divide was in order after watching Ride the Divide.   Bill, the only one of the three who'd ridden a bike in the last decade kept both of them running while his wife Barbara sagged ahead to set up some serious "glamping" spreads. They were a nice contrast to some of the hardcore Dividers and proof that a good attitude is all that's necessary to enjoy the Divide.  

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The afternoon brought the famed Fleecer Ridge into play as Bill and I eased up the front side

and noodled out the backside amongst the sage into the expanse awaiting the drop...

With rear wheels locked up, we skidded our bikes down what lived up to be a truly memorable section of the Divide before fist bumping at the bottom with ear to ear smiles marveling at the steepness only understood when looking down it. 

Descending into the town of Wise-River, we all regrouped and headed out to Boulder Campground where Barbara laid out an epic spread.  She clearly was doing the heavy lifting during the day while the rest of us just turned cranks.  I offered up a bruised tomato and a banged up avocado, but they were having none of it.

Out onto some mellow hard pack along the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway the following morning, we enjoyed side-by-side crank turning

as alpine meadows ushered us towards Polaris 

and Montana's sky continued to steal my heart in its bigness.  

With Old Glory rolled up and Mazie's mileage countdown complete in the don't blink town of Polaris, Bill and I rolled off a few more miles together towards Bannack State Park where the Montana license plate water bottle cage was set aside for future tours.  Sad to see these guys pack up their "Epic Divide Montana" tour - good fun and grateful that a late afternoon hail storm brought us together for a few days of laughs and story swapping.  

Bannack State Park is a ghost town where it all began for the Montana gold rush in 1862 when gold was discovered in nearby Grasshopper Creek.  Bannack had a brief stint as the Territorial Capital of Montana before getting muscled out by Virginia City, MT and finally shuttering its doors in the 1950.  Today some 60 buildings still stand, many of which can be accessed.

 I looked for a few cans of red paint before the Colonel and I drifted out of town the following morning

onto the high plains with Nima and Aaren who eased into Bannack the night before after a few days of tracking the fat squiggly lines in the dust.

Nothing but sage and epic skies.

and more skies...

and a shady ditch for lunch.

Up and over the days pass with a little pushing thrown in for good measure.

This baby rolled in and laughed at our attempts to outrun it with streaks of lightning, hail, thunder, and sideways rain that soaked us into submission and refuge at the Calf-A in Dell where we regrouped over sour cream and cherry and peanut butter and chocolate slabs of pie and apologized for the puddles under the table.

You always deliver Montana.