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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm finally getting around to posting this ride report. I've been dreaming about doing this ride ever since I moved to MT. After multiple failed attempts to get a group together, Billy Haug and I finally bit the bullet and set a date when we both could do it, rain or shine, company or not. He was moving back to MN in August of '06, so we had to do it before then. Unfortunately, July 2nd was the only day we could do it. It also happened to co-incide with the national HOG rally, which was being held in Billings that weekend. Everyone, it seemed, who owned a Harley Davidson motorcycle had converged on Billings and was out riding that Sunday.

We got a late start that morning as I was on call the night before. We didn't get to Red Lodge until about 10:30 am and then had to drive to Cooke City to set up a shuttle. By the time we had eaten, gotten back to Red Lodge, and started riding, it was 2:45 pm. Thank goodness for long days.

We started from the Silver Run parking area just outside of Red Lodge and made our way up to the switchbacks. From here it is about 20 miles to the vista point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Soon after we started, the clouds started to gather, and the weather began to look more ominous. One can never rely on the weather to be constant up in the mountains. As we made our way up the switch-backs, the sky got darker and darker. Eventually we found ourselves in a summer rainstorm on the final switch-back before the vista point. We kicked it into high gear and made a bee-line for the toilets. The wind made the rain very cold. Fortunately it didn't snow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
In short order the sun started to break through and the rain stopped. We emerged from our smelly shelters to enjoy the clean air and amazing view. Fortunately there wasn't much wind, but as we continued on and climbed out of the canyon, we came to more exposed areas and the wind picked up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
We crossed the state line and continued climbing. Once you get up onto the plateau, the scenery changes dramatically. Sloping pine forrests become rolling tundra. There are small alpine lakes scattered everywhere, with occasional deep gorges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
We reached the East Summit and took a break. The climbing was starting to take its toll. By now the wind chill was setting, so out came the jackets. At the top of the East Summit is a ski lift (rope tow) which is operated by Red Lodge Mountain ski resort. Apparently they have a spring/summer ski program up here while there is still enough snow. Looking over the edge, one would almost have to have a death wish to ski down this slope!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Time was ticking away and there wasn't much daylight left, so we pressed on. From here we go our first glimps of the WY side and Sunlight Basin. A short downhill :D and then more switch-backs :cryin: As we started up towards the West Summit, we got our first glimps of the Bears Tooth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Finally, at the top of the West Summit, we took another break, and chatted with some tourists that were up there, who graciously agreed to take our pictures. From here it was mostly downhill, until near the end. What a welcome change!

The road descends through meadows, past alpine lakes and scattered patches of forrest. I think the WY side is almost more beautiful than the MT side. They're quite different.

Eventually we get to "The Top of The World" store. We were hoping to pick up some drinks and snacks, but they were closed. This would become somewhat problematic later on in the ride--more on that later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
As we got lower in the valley, the trees became thicker again. We passed by Beartooth Falls and stopped for some pictures. Pilot peak now started to come into view. Finally we got to the junction of Hwy 296 (Chief Joseph scenic byway), which goes over Dead Indian Pass.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
From the junction with Hwy 296, the road follows the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone river for a while, gradually climbing back up towards Cooke City. The closer we got to Cooke City, the steeper the road became. Pilot Peak really seems to dominate the scenery here. Just beautiful!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Once we crossed the state line back into MT, the road turned to hard packed gravel. By now we were really feeling the knock. Those gu's and cytomax just weren't enough. Slowly, we inched our way up the pass, as the daylight was fast falling around us. This was going to be close! Finally, what a welcome sight it was to see the top of the pass. From here it was another few miles downhill in the dusk on gravel roads into Cooke City. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen.

We finally made it back to our car. By now it was practically dark. 60+ miles, 6:30 hrs. Lesson learned: take enough food with you, or arrange for some SAG along the way!
 

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Excellent pics, great narrative. Thanks, johng.
 

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Insight Driver said:
I was really impressed. I hope this is an inspiration for others to post ride reports. I am also very pleased that you broke it up into multiple messages. It worked very, very well. Thanks for posting it.
You do know that probably 1/2 of the threads in the Commuting/Touring Forum are ride reports, right?


http://forums.roadbikereview.com/forumdisplay.php?f=76
 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It's been many years since I first laid eyes on Red Lodge MT and over a year since I've been in that area. I appreciate the great photos and story. Thanks.
 

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Fantastic Ride Report

johngfoster said:
Once we crossed the state line back into MT, the road turned to hard packed gravel. By now we were really feeling the knock. Those gu's and cytomax just weren't enough. Slowly, we inched our way up the pass, as the daylight was fast falling around us. This was going to be close! Finally, what a welcome sight it was to see the top of the pass. From here it was another few miles downhill in the dusk on gravel roads into Cooke City. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen.

We finally made it back to our car. By now it was practically dark. 60+ miles, 6:30 hrs. Lesson learned: take enough food with you, or arrange for some SAG along the way!
Great report and some beautiful pictures. I think I want to ride that route some day.
 
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