Day 17: To Missoula, Montana - Florence - Missoula - Salt Lake City 2013 - CycleBlaze

August 17, 2013

Day 17: To Missoula, Montana

After 3 days going up the Clearwater/Lochsa river, today I finally reach the summit at Lolo Pass.

I got up at 7:30 and on the road late at 9:30 after a long talk with the motorcyclists. The day started with 9 miles gentle upstream, followed by 4 miles of mountain climbing with a 5-6% grade. 1700 feet (515m) of climbing from Lochsa Lodge to Lolo Pass. But over 3.5 days I climbed gradually from 756 feet (230m) in Lewiston to 5235 feet (1586m) at Lolo Pass.

Crooked Fork Lochsa river and US 12. The river is small now.
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High in the Bitteroot mountains, with a view of surrounding timber lands.
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5235 feet elevation, my highest point in Idaho. A major divide, but both sides are part of the Columbia watershed.
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I arrived at the summit at about noon and took a long stop at the visitor center. The temperature was about 75F at noon. Beautiful, sunny.

In this area the Idaho-Montana state line follows the crest of the Bitteroot range.
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At Lolo Pass I cross the Bitteroot range. I cross from the state of Idaho to the state of Montana, and from Pacific time to Mountain time.

Both sides are in the Columbia river watershed. East of Lolo pass the route to the Pacific ocean is

Lolo creek
Bitteroot river
Clark Fork river
Pend O'reille river
Columbia river

On the east side US 12 descends steeply for 5 miles, then is gradual downstream along Lolo creek.

Lolo creek.
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I stopped for lunch at Lolo hot springs. It's nice to have a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. I didn't use the hot spring swimming pool. It's not my kind of hot spring.

I had lunch here, but didn't pay to use the hot swimming pool.
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I descended along Lolo creek for 25 miles to the town of Lolo, where US 12 connects to busy 4-lane US 93. Now I'm in the Bitteroot river valley.

Bitteroot valley.
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Looking west, into the sun, at the Bitteroot mountains.
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I pedaled north 13 miles on US 93, roughly following the Bitteroot river downstream to Missoula. The heavy traffic was quite a shock after 2 quiet days on US 12. I followed the Adventure Cycling route across Missoula. Nice neighborhoods. Missoula has an area population of 110,000. It's Montana's second largest city (Helena is larger). It's also the home of the University of Montana which gives it a more cosmopolitan flair than most cities in this part of the country.

Bitteroot river south of Missoula.
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I crossed the Clark Fork river into downtown Missoula and got a room for 2 nights at the Belaire Motel. $65. It's downtown, only 2 blocks from the Adventure Cycling Association office.

Crossing the Clark Fork river into downtown Missoula.
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I walked a total of 3 miles around the downtown area, enjoying unusually vivid red clouds to the west at twilight. Being a college town, many young people were out and about enjoying the show in the sky.

Twilight overlooking the riverfront festival grounds.
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Today I saw a total of 10 westbound bike tourists. Groups of 1, 2, 4, 1, and 2, including 4 women. Today had a high of 90F. The afternoon was mostly cloudy, keeping the temperature moderate.

Day 9 of this tour was sort of a rest day, but tomorrow I will take my first non-travel rest day of the tour. I really need the rest.

Missoula is the halfway point of this tour and the inflection point of the route. I've been trending north so far, but from now on I will go south towards Salt Lake City.

Distance: 59.8 miles (96 km)
Climbing: 2144 feet (650 m)
Average Speed: 10.9 mph (17.4 km/h)
Hiking: 3 miles (4.8 km)

Today's ride: 60 miles (97 km)
Total: 923 miles (1,485 km)

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