Beaverhead Nat'l Forest (3m S of Chief Joseph Pass)
Camp (Beaverhead Nat'l Forest)
Warm & Sunny, then Rain, Hail, & Cold
This was a great morning! Why...because of our great breakfast! Terry gave us orange juice, coffee and tea to drink. Then she made us pancakes and eggs over easy, and also gave us peaches and grapefruit to go with our breakfast! Mmm!
After breakfast, Terry and Carl told us stories of their fathers who were both in the military. Carl's dad heroically shot down a kamikaze fighter pilot and then crashed into the ocean himself because his plane ran out of fuel. He was rescued by a military boat though.
Before we left, they gave us the names of some people to contact along our way that we could stay with. It felt so great to know that we had some leads on places to stay. Not knowing where we're going to stay each night is something we've learned to live with, but it's still a little stressful at times, so this was a big help. Here's a picture of Carl, Terry, and their new, 19 day old granddaughter, Riley Marie.
When we left, we biked south towards our biggest day yet - a day with TWO (count them: 1, 2) mountain passes!
The sky was looking a little ominous as we headed out, but we're starting to get used to odd, dark cloud formations around the mountains. If the sky looked like this in a non-mountainous setting, you'd need to seek shelter, but oddly enough, when the sky looks like this in the mountains, it doesn't really mean too much. Weird!
Nathan thought we should coordinate our eating with our approach to the passes. The passes were right next to each other, and as soon as we finished the first one, we would make a left onto a new road and start right up the 2nd one...so it was really more like one gigantic pass.
So, to takle our big double-pass, we had lunch about 20 miles before we hit it. Then, 10 miles before it, we stopped for some coffee (caffeinated). And then, we started up Big Hole Pass. (I think that's a weird name for a mountain pass, because it's certainly NOT a hole, it's a peak!)
Big Hole pass took 7 miles of upward climbing to summit. We followed our old mountain pass guideline of riding for 1 mile then taking a break. It was hard, but we felt great - much better than we felt going up Lolo Pass in Idaho. I think Nathan's eating idea works!
We were 6 miles into the 7 mile uphill when it suddenly got cold, windy and dark. We stopped an put on our rain suites JUST in time. As soon as we had them on, we felt the tell-tale giant gust of wind. Soon after, it started pouring, and then it started hailing!! This is the 2nd time we've been hailed on on our bikes. This was just little hail again though. We haven't had any big, dangerous hail.
We kept on pushing for the top, and fortunately, the storm only lasted a few minutes and then disappeared. We kept on rain suites on anyway though, because we've learned not to trust mountain weather.
And then, we made it to the top of Big Hole Pass! We happily leaned our bikes against a picnic table outside the visitor's center (it was closed for the season), ate bananas, and split a caramel Milky Way bar. I've never had one before. All it is is caramel with a chocolate coating on the outside - DELICIOUS! I think I'm developing a love of caramel on this trip.
Our rest break was great, but we knew we still had the 2nd pass, and the start of it was waiting right outside Big Hole Pass's visitor center. The 2nd pass is called Chief Joseph Pass, and we only had one more mile to climb to get to the top of it.
Compared to the 7 miles we'd already done, this last mile felt like a piece of cake (I'm sure the caramel Milky Way helped!). When we got to the top of Chief Joseph Pass, we had completed 8 miles of steep, uphill biking, and we had climbed about 3,000 feet from where we got our coffee! We were now standing at approximately 7,200 feet. We took a video to document our accomplishment!
After we took the video, a lady drove by and told us there was a moose and her two baby moose (moose-lings?) just about a mile down the road. We were excited to see them, so we stopped where she told us, but we never saw them - bummer.
It was getting late so we decided to stop and camp. There was only one official campground and several unofficial pull-off's that could be used as camping areas. The official campground cost $7 for the night, but all the pull-off's were free. I was a little nervous to camp in one of the pull-off's, because it was just in the middle of no where and it felt very wild, but Nathan wasn't scared. So, since he thought it was OK, we tried it.
We set up our tent, and then found a spot a ways down the path away from our tent to cook, go to the bathroom, and hang our bear bag. We had a surprisingly yummy dinner of ramen mixed with ravioli and melted mozzarella on top, peanut butter/trail mix sandwiches, and cookies.
Then we went to bed and I had visions of all kinds of baby animals wandering into our campsite and all of their protective and defensive mothers coming after them.