Day 21: Hamilton to Sula, MT (42 miles)
We were really lucky to be able to spend the day on this route. Montana provides so much beauty that every mile is really a gift. I usually ride mostly by myself, but I rode with Mike (female) most of the day. We talked about what we saw and suggested great photo ops along the way. It was a very nice change for me. The day as a whole was one of the best of the trip and it is up there on my list of best days on a bike.
We have been in the Bitterroot mountains for some time now and they do not disappoint in any regard. Much of our route followed a river winding its way through the mountains and the mountains themselves had burned recently. It was amazing to see that some houses seemed to survive and to see how the vegetation was coming back. There was all this color on the ground and stark black tree trunks sticking up above.
We hoped to see some wildlife, but saw none. There were roadside signs about the efforts to save mountain sheep, but we did not see any. The river seemed like it would be a perfect place for a moose to be, but we did not see any. That was the only disappointment. The land itself was full of beautiful rock formations and gently rolling hills down in the valley along the river.
The road was a major route (US 93) and the shoulders were there some of the time and not at others, but there was not a lot of traffic that when there were cars, they were courteous and gave us space. It had none of the feel of some of the rides in Idaho where similar shoulder situations were terrifying.
The last little bit of the ride was clearly trending up. A sign of what is to come in the next leg of our journey. But before we spent too long on the climb, we turned onto a gravel road and went down into the Lost Trail Hot Springs resort(?). I guess the fabulous hot springs pool does provide it with a bit of a resort feel, but besides the water, resort is not a word that would easily come to mind.
The accommodations last night were very rustic cabins. Three of us shared mine, though I was lucky enough to get the single room. The manager told me when I checked in that they have had a bear around, tossing garbage cans, and suggested that it was important to be careful with food. One of our tour found a bear paw print and took a great picture of the print next to her, much smaller, hand. I decided that I would put my left-over almond butter and jelly sandwich in the small fridge in my room rather than leave it out where it could be sniffed out by a hungry bear. Our cabin did not really seem to be hungry bear proof.