We said we’d be in Missoula by August 1. To make good on that promise, we need to leave Marion. The forecast predicts temperatures in the 90s, so we give ourselves four days to get there.
Our local expert recommends Thompson River Road. We deviate from the Divide (again) and connect a series of paved and dirt roads from Marion to Missoula.
A lazy morning means a late start, and the sun is already high in the sky. My legs are sluggish and I feel directionless today. We only have 30ish miles to go. What’s the hurry?
The ponderosa pines whisper to me in the wind, luring me in for a nap in their shade.
Huckleberries line the creekside and supplement lunch.
We pedal on, but I’m distracted, constantly looking for a good swimming hole.
Around a bend, we find camping with picnic tables and a swimming hole. This will do. Everyone is happy.
The morning sun is slow to reach the valley floor. I drink tea in my down coat.
Thompson River Road spits us out onto Highway 200. We arrive in Plains and search out burgers and ice cream. After digesting, we swim in the river. Someone fishes from the bridge. The heat is opressive, but I could get used to this, I think.
Down the road, train cars sit idle in Paradise, waiting for a crew.
Back in the ponderosas, we camp for the night.
Morning brings a big climb. At the top, I stretch and eat huckleberries before zipping down.
Soon, we’re cruising through ranchland. There’s not much shade and the sun is climbing. Just when I think we’ll be riding through the afternoon on pavement into Missoula, the Nine Mile Ranger Station appears. There’s big shady trees and green grass.
Coyotes yip in the night as I gaze at the Blue Moon from the tent.