Sunday, September 10, 2006

Montana - Big Sky Country

We just got back from a doozy of a trip. The plan - head up through Tetons and Yellowstone en route to visit a peculiar Red Barn hidden deep in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. Visit people and do some bike riding. Simple enough.

As on time as we ever are, we managed to get out of town around 8pm the Thurs before Labor Day. After driving all night (and I mean all night, we arrived at 4:20am) we finally arrived at our first destination - Jackson, Wyoming, just outside of Teton Nat'l Park. After 4 hours of sleep (nap?)I got up to sneak in a bike ride while the girls still slept. I'm glad I pried my eyes open that early, too. It was a fantastic ride. I hopped on the bike and meandered through town. It was early enough that the town was just starting to awaken. I rolled through downtown and up to the base of Snow King Mountain, the local ski hill that is literally in town in Jackson. The locals had recommended a ride on the other side of the mountain, but my watch was telling me that I would run short on time with that plan. I picked up a map at the base and decided to start climbing. The jeep road/double track to the top of the mountain was steep, but non technical and worth the climb. The views of town and the Tetons were outstanding.
The map showed a sliver of a trail going off the other side of the mountain. If I hit it right, the ridge trail looked to take me to within blocks of the hotel. Perfect. From the top, the narrow ridge trail slung me off the back side,
where I caught some smooth but uber steep riding that dumped me off almost at the front door of the hotel. It was all completely smooth and buff. Life was good that day. We got the car packed up and headed out after some tourist sight seeing in town. We banged out both Teton
and Yellowstone in one day via automobile. We toured like lazy Americans, I know, but we were on a schedule! Good thing, too, as the schedule got derailed in Ennis, MT at the local DQ. But that's another story entirely, purple hair and all. We finally got to our end destination shortly after midnight. Beers were consumed as we celebrated our arrival in the Bitterroot. It had been too long. Way too long. I was told I was in for a suprise for Saturday. Preparing for the worst, I nodded off on the sofa of Casa de Kirk.

The Jahoney rolled up at 9am pronto Saturday morning with none other than Chaybo behind the wheel. We hopped in and headed north to Missoula (the only liberal place in all of MT) for New Belgium Brewery's MT edition of Tour de Fat. Definitely Tour de Weirdness and Fun. Here's some random photos:

We wrapped up the day with the creation of more recycling. Throw everyone's wife and 5 kids into the mix and it was Bedlam. Serious fun, that is. It ended up being a late one. Everyone was tired but happy. We called it a night when we experienced the simultaneous meltdown of the abovementioned 5 kids.

Sunday was the real gem of the trip. Threat of afternoon thunderstorms wasn't a factor, so we lazily rolled out around noon on Sunday to ride. We rode all day on all types of terrain. I gotta say, especially after just returning from a trip to Crested Butte. The Butte has the views, no doubt, but the riding cannot even touch what we rode in SW Montana. It was awesome. The following shots were from the Sunday ride. We rode up and around that ridge and back. Big. Big Sky Country Big.

It wasn't entirely uphill.

Ok, there were some fantastic views. Especially this one with the Pintlars in the background.

We kicked back with the kids on Labor Day, acknowleding the thankless laboring of our wives, the great mothers that they are. Labor Day was their day so we hung back with the kids. We did go for a night ride, though :). It was great but there are no photos. I'd like to say that's because it was dark but it was really because I forgot the camera. Bdiddy and I snuck out for a quick lap around Lake Como. I wish we could've hit it during the day so we could amaze ourselves with beautiful views, but it was not too be. What was to be was dark, rocks, dust, rocks, and enough smoke from neighboring forest fires to choke Smokey Bear, and more rocks. Did I mention the rocks? Montana is rocky. Another late night it was. We got back to the car around 11:30. Just a few beers and we were lights out sleepy. Good thing Taco Hell was open late, too.

The local yocals had to work Tues so it was another lazy day hanging out Montana. The ladies went hiking and the kids and I played. We were still able to sneak in a quick after work ride since it was our last night there and all. The ride? Think about heading up to Lions Gulch at 7pm this time of year. Not necessarily the smartest of ideas, but adventure was definitely had. It was rocky there, too. And steep.
We made it up to Camas Lake in the daylight yet. Check out how clear the water is.

We didn't stick around, though. It was getting dark quick, so we turned around to back from whence we came. We had to ride by Braille going down. I only fell once and considered myself lucky. Bdiddy opted out of the gas fume smelling ride down in the Jahoney and busted out with his helmet light. Chad and I hopped in and took the creative way down the mountain. As rocky as the singletrack is up there, the jeep roads are in great shape. We picked Bdiddy up at the bottom and rolled back to town.

We arose the next day bright and early, packed up, and said our good byes. It was a long drive back but I miss it already. Thanks Chaybo and Bdiddy for showing me some kickass riding up there, and an all around fantastic time. Next time won't be so long coming, I promise!

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