Day 15: Helena to Lowlands Campground

Miles: 59

Climbing: 6300ish ft

Alternate Title: The Four Horsemen of the Bikepacking Apocalypse

While riding today, I was listening to Good Omens by Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett. It’s fantastic–I’ve read it before, probably in high school– and reading it got me thinking about the four horsemen of apocalypse. More specifically, the four horsemen of the bikepacking apocalypse. The four characters that make me wish for the end of the world (i.e., the end of this tour). 

I decided they are: Climbing, Weather (to include wind, hail, rain), Difficult Terrain, and Mud. 

Now, there are other things that cause difficulty–heat, sun, bugs, cold, fear of animals, cars, boredom, etc. But the four above are the ones that–for me, at least today–can make for an apocalyptically hard day. 

And THIS DAY had them all.

Leaving Helena in the morning was okay, but the route immediately started into a bigger-than-it-seemed-on-paper climb. I had climbed over 2000ft before I was 10 miles into the ride.

Then, came the BIG CLIMB…up and up and up and up and up Lava Mountain…..and when I thought I was nearly at the top? ALMOST TWO MILES of super chunky, super steep, washed out singletrack. I was literally screaming curses as I worked my way (walking and heaving and dragging my bike) through it….or, up it more like.

Now, OF COURSE, in the midst of all this, it starts raining. So, I have to find cover, put on all my rain gear (jacket, rain pants, shoe covers, gloves), just to continue hiking up this GD mountain. The worst moment, I think (of this section of the tough day), was reaching the summit. The land opened up a bit, and I saw my path downward:

Was it a forest road that I could gleefully coast down, forgetting the pain of the morning? Hell no. It was more steep, super rough singletrack. I literally sat at the top of the pass in sprinkling rain and cried.

Luckily, the down bit wasn’t as long as the up bit, and I eventually made it to a road I could actually ride on. This 1 pass over Lava Mtn–about 30 miles–took me over seven hours.

This was a kinda pretty part of the day

I stopped in Basin, MT for lunch (dinner? It was 4pm already) and seriously rethought my plan to do another 25 miles for the day. But did I stop and camp like a normal human? Nope! I kept going……

The elevation gain for the last miles looked very gradual, and it was, but I was exhausted and suffering after the morning. I slowwwwly made my way up the 2nd pass of the day. It was tiring but okay until, around 7pm, it started raining again.

Cold, windy rain didn’t let up until right before I arrived at camp. The slow going got slower as the dirt road turned to mud road. By the time I arrived at lowlands campground, I was too tired to even mind the super loud family in the next site over. I got my tent set up and it immediately started raining again…..so I broke the cardinal rule of Bear Safety and sadly ate poptart in my tent. I got my smellables to the bear box, trudging through the rain in my already soaked raingera, and collpashed into bed, rain beating on my tent. What a frickin’ day. 💀💀💀💀

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