Elkhorn Hot Springs-Dillon-Butte


Saturday, August 2 (Day 20)


Little Joe Campground to Dillon


Dillon KOA


Early morning temp = 43degF; sunny and hot day



The last day of the trip. I didn't even want to think about it.

It was chilly, clammy and foggy on arising, but there was blue sky behind the fog. I hoped that I could get enough sun on my tent to dry it off, and warm me up, prior to packing and leaving. We all three stood around a bit waiting for the sun to burn off some of the fog. Some, but not enough.

A "make do" breakfast of this and that from various food clutches of lunch items and snacks, since none of us was carrying group breakfast food. Literally reaching to the bottoms of the panniers.

On the road, again at 9 a.m. and immediately up the hill. I was glad that I hadn' t been inclined to do the last 12 miles last night. It would have been impossible. And, we would have missed seeing the reason that this route is designated a National Scenic Highway.

We've been pedaling past prime moose-munching areas - marshy streams full of willow bushes. Even at dusk there have been no obvious moose. Nor at Moose Park (a large meadow so named for the resident moose).

Back into my favorite kind of forest - lodgepole pine. The jagged peaks of the distant Pioneer Mountains to the east assure us that we are still in wild country.

At Elkhorn Hot Springs, we missed everyone else by about 1/2 hr. Instead of trying to catch them, we stopped for lunch and heard, from the waitress, the tales of their experiences last night.

Still acquiring useful "road kill," Alan The Retriever of Lost Objects picked up Ann's light and the yellow lenses for her glasses, both of which must have bounced out of her pack on the rough gravel road.

Polaris - said to be a small town. An exceedingly grand understatement. It is reputed to have one of the tiniest post offices in the nation. It looked to be approximately 12' x 12'.

Eventually we left our gravel road for the highway east into Dillon. The weather was warm, the sun very hot, and we had Badger Pass to climb (6700'). I staggered up it slowly at 4.5 mph with exhausted quads. Yesterday must have been more difficult than I had thought.

After cresting the summit, it was a long downhill toward Dillon. An opportunity to fly! Not. There was a strong head wind and for most of the downhill, I had to pedal.

Entering Dillon, I caught sight of a figure, more of an apparition really, splayed out along the curb. PaulTo my jaundiced eye, he looked like the most destitute of the urban homeless, lying there on the curb at the corner, surrounded by his possessions. Preparing to give this potentially dangerous man with a red bandanna wrapped around his forehead wide berth, I pedaled forward. Upon closer examination, it was one of us! Paul!! Just like the daily brushing of teeth once or twice (or more), Paul sits on the ground and fixes tires and tubes. There he was, on the last hour of the last day of the last week of the "formal" part of our trip, fixing a tire - one mile from camp.

The tire sidewall looked to be more duct tape than rubber. Ever prepared (I wasn't' carrying 70 lbs. for NOTHING), I off-loaded my spare Speed-Max tire for him only moments before Ann pedaled up with a new tire.

Unpacking and repacking my gear in Dillon, I reached into the bottom of my right rear pannier and pulled out....a rock! Not a small gravely rock. A sizable chunk of stone that one could heave a long way. About a one pound rock. I couldn't believe it! How long had I been carrying that rock? Al alluded to perhaps as long as Bigfork. That was two weeks ago! Obviously, this was the cause of all my problems on hills. An unaccounted for anchor. Surely I would have been riding with Melissa and Tom had that rock not been in my pannier - no doubt about it....

I wish the rock story had an ending more noble than me just leaving it in the Dillon KOA. I must have been suffering from 3 weeks of riding, as I did leave it. I should have brought it home and used it for a paperweight (all my office paperweights are "found" materials from biking trips - big old huge bolt, a railroad spike, a railroad "J" shaped thing that somehow goes with the tracks). It was too funny when I discovered that rock...and as one friend emailed, "there isn't a thing in the world wrong with 'catch and release.' After all, trout and bass fishermen do it all the time...returning a wild creature to its native habitat is a noble thing." The rock had been returned to the wild. It would be good to know how long that rock had been there. I think it's a mystery which won't be solved in the near future. No one is talking.

The obvious lesson from the rock, of course, was that my rear panniers were far too large. If an unseen fist sized (like fish, this rock may reach boulder proportions with continuous retelling) rock can live in my pannier, then I'm either not carrying enough gear, or my gear can fit in a smaller pannier. I prefer to think the latter.


Sunday, August 3 (Post trip day 1)


Dillon to Butte (by bus)


Comfort Inn


Early morning temp = 45degF; sunny and hot day



Terrific! Morning sun on my tent. What a concept! With some help with my bike bell/compass I tried to pitch the tent to get the heat and drying effects (the sun is approximately at heading 070 here at this time of year). I didn't want to pack up a damp tent for my bus trip back to Butte.

In contrast to other small towns we'd pedaled through, Dillon seemed to have more of the flavor of a true Western Montana town. There was a realistic feel to the town, not a touristy feel. You knew that Real Work took place.

Sunday in Dillon - little was open. Breakfast restaurant choices were slim. Ever persevering, Paul, Ann and I found one. As luck would have it, the waitress was going to quit the minute her boss arrived, and her performance was at a level matching her attitude. It was one of the very few times in my life where I have not tipped (having been a waitress during some college summers). We did most of the work for our table ourselves; I didn't feel that she deserved a tip from me.

The local DQ (Dairy Queen) employees began to recognize some of us on sight. This was my first exposure to a "Blizzard." The Cappaccino Health Bar combo got my nod. Quite tasty! Today's cones and ice cream cups were lapped up sitting across the street, under a tree canopy as it was hot! in the sun. We didn't look quite so homeless and vagrant as at other times.

We frittered away the day, organizing ourselves and our bikes for leaving Montana. Back Country Bikes & Boards were on tap to receive many of our bikes for UPS shipping. (As luck would have it, UPS went on strike soon thereafter.) We schlepped our gear over to the Town Pump (a local gas station and the bus stop) to await the Butte-bound bus. It was late. Dillon Wall We ensconced ourselves against a shady stone wall and watched teens cruise by. 'Round and 'round and 'round town they went, passing us about every 10 minutes. They seemed as bored as we were. (Photo credit: Underdog. Note "alms for the poor" hat provided by StrayDawg. )

Although the late afternoon bus was delayed, we nevertheless arrived in Butte in time to have a very nice Final Dinner. It was a stark reminder as to how quickly 60 miles can be covered in a vehicle, although any one of us likely had more power up the rolling hills than that bus.

Lydia's Restaurant, recommended to us in our last pass through Butte, is famous for its extensive collection of stained glass windows and lamps, many gleaned from old Victorian building of Butte. With description brochure in hand, one could take a museum tour of stained glass just by walking a circuit through the dining area and bar. The dinner menu was extensive with something that would appeal to a variety of tastes; the prices reasonable; and food excellent and plentiful.


With gusto, we toasted ourselves, our trip and "Wyoming next year!"

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Last Updated: May 14, 1998

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