Day 10 – Moose Creek, MT to Clearlake Reservoir, MT

True to the warning label on last nights meal, I was up very early for an evacuation notice.  The sun was just peeking over the eastern hill as I ran/walked to the campground outhouse.

By the time I was done in the outhouse, the sun was painting a wall of light on the western hill that was steadily advancing on our campsite.  I decided to run through some maintenance checks on the Ural, in the cool morning air (once suggested as the best time, by Robert Pirsig).  The air filter was pretty dirty already, so I oiled a replacement and swapped it out.  The valves hadn’t moved at all, which I took as a good sign that the Windmill MK-III wasn’t letting any dust through.

Lola (who partially cleaned out the Taco Soup bowl last night) also had some morning business to attend to.  She’s polite enough to wander way out to the edges of the woods when she goes.

Considering all three of us once raced motorcycles at some time in our life, its safe to say that we are all somewhat competitive.  Wayne and Zina had decided earlier that it was ridiculous that I could get packed up before they had finished rolling up their tent.  I told them that two people meant twice as much gear, but they would hear none of it. The subtle challenge of who could pack up camp quickest had begun.

South out of Rimini, the road winds a bit, and then levels out on top.  Mostly gravel surfaces, with some chunky spots where spring runoff or heavy rain storms had washed away portions of the road.

The rain also brought some pretty colors along the road.  When in bloom, just a handful of these in places can really transform the landscape.

Once you get to the “top” near Winters Camp on Basin Creek Road, you descend about 3000 vertical feet into the actual town of Basin.  Its a narrow winding road, with a good amount of recreational quad and logging traffic. Its best not to act out your Paris-Dakar fantasies here, no matter ho much the road beckons you.  The lower portion of the road was freshly graded, which meant more slides and smiles from the Ural/Dog team.

The access road along I-15 into Butte is in serviceable shape.  Despite the whooped-out areas (likely local quad traffic), and some pretty big puddles, it was still much more fun than spending all that time on the highway.  The speed at which one travels does not always improve the quality of the same trip.

Every report has to have a shot of this 1911 “Tunnel No. 9” in it.  Here’s one with a Ural.  Yes, I honked the horn when I went through it as well.  Tradition you know.

We rode into Butte the rest of the way via highway.  Thankfully it was mostly downhill, so I could maintain somewhat acceptable speeds.  Zina and Wayne wanted to get a new tube to replace the pinch flat in Whitefish, and I wanted to visit my buddy Matt at his tattoo shop down the road.

Matt runs Spadeball Ink Tattoo in Butte.  In addition to being a great person and a very creative artist, he loves dogs too.  Since he runs his own shop, he’s a pretty busy guy.  It was really special to chat with him even for 10 minutes.  He’s done several pieces on me, and they are all excellent.

With fuel and mechanical needs met, it was time to satiate the growling demons in our guts.  Great Harvest Bread Co was founded in Montana and makes some pretty burly sandwiches.  Sadly they have no outdoor seating, but a temporarily shaded back wall would do just fine in a pinch.

While eating our meals, Lola again was accosted for pets.  These kids were very interested in the sidecar, and describing their own dirt-bikes and experiences.  I was starting to feel bad for Simon;  Lola is stealing all his thunder!

We picked up Moose Creek Road in Deerlodge national forest just before the old Pipestone Pass on Rt 2.  It is an absolutely beautiful road, with the southwestern Montana views I was accustomed to from my time in Bozeman.

The partly-cloudy skies provided temporary pockets of air-conditioning.  While the heat wasn’t overbearing, it crept up quickly whenever the sun was bearing straight down on us.  Finding one of those dark, cloud-shaded patches of road was a good a reason to stop and take a photo as any.

Rounding the bend, I saw a black and white blur jump up from the road, and run to the side.  When I slowed and stopped, this happy guy came running up.  I offered the dog water and food, neither of which he was particularly interested in.  Instead, he wanted some shade.

The dog seemed pretty sure of himself, and not in any distress.  I figured it was a working dog, or a farm dog.  He must have just wanted to get away for awhile.  He didn’t pick a bad spot to hang out at either;  The view is incredible.

While passing through Divide, MT. a bunch of guys outside a bus waved me down.  “Our friends broke down a couple miles down the road!  You need to take us down there!” A portly, bearded guy in suspenders shouted excitedly.  I looked over at their 70’s era bus, towing a camper.  “Can’t you guys just drive down there and pick them up?” I asked.  Without answering they said “We can watch your dog for you”.  I blinked and said nothing.  “Just tell them that we are here in Divide, ok?”  Confused, I agreed and took off just as Zina and Wayne rolled up behind me.

I found the van with New York plates on it, a mile and a half up the road. When I pulled in, there was a bunch of people inside with the back doors open. One girl was studiously sniffing something in a rag, while another sprung forth from the pile of clothing and equipment in the back. The other occupants didn’t really look up or notice my presence at all.

I told her about the group of guys in the bus. There was more talk about me leaving Lola to take one of them back to the other group. Again, I blinked and said nothing. “Its only about a mile back, its not far”. I started the bike and rode on. I could only assume this was a group of travelers on their way back from the Rainbow Gathering in Dillon this year.

Maybe I should have given one of them a ride back there, and filled my karma points for the day.  After assessing their situation though;  a flat spare tire, and a bald tire that blew out on the van; it was clear that they hadn’t given much thought to tire wear on a cross-country trip.  I’m willing to help anyone, as long as they are willing to help themselves first.  Peace and Love will get you only so far,  gas and tires get you the rest of the way.

We turned off Rt 43 onto Wise River Polaris Road.  Its a paved deal, that winds slowly at first through the valleys and drainages of Beaverhead national forest.  Further down, the bends and grades get sharper, topping out just under 8,000 feet.  Between the grades and the curves, the Ural stayed in 2nd gear for most of the ride up.  The way down the other side was a different story, and we finally caught up with Wayne and Zina.

Polaris road dumped us out onto Rt 278, that we rode down into Bannack.  Dark, moisture-laden clouds stitched a patchwork across the valley sky, and we decided it was high-time to find someplace to camp.  Setting up a tent in the rain is a miserable job, that simply ends up soaking all your camping gear by the time you are done anyways.

We stopped into Bannack state park to inquire about camping.  Its a preserved ghost town from Montana’s territorial past.  It would have been a great place to camp for the night, if their camping fee was not so high.  While the campsite was nice, the three of us deemed it was not worthy of $27 dollars, and we’d be best to push on.  Consulting the MT Gazetteer I brought with me, we saw two public camp spots just 10 miles down the road at Clark Canyon Reservoir.


Here we found a beautiful view of the reservoir, a pump water well, bathrooms, and even a three-sided shelter with picnic tables for us to use.  The best part?  100% free.

Zina and Wayne made our second communal dinner. Tortellini, pasta sauce, and various canned vegetables with some dinner rolls.  Nobody could accuse us of not eating unhealthy on this trip.  Canned vegetables are only marginally better than a non-stop diet of cheeseburgers and beer, but they are better.  I did dishes while Wayne and Zina offloaded videos, photos and GPS tracks to their laptop.

As things quieted down over dinner and we started revisiting portions of the day with each other.  Suddenly it was if some force in the universe flipped a switch marked “Release horde of ravenous blood-sucking insects”.  I don’t know what kind of bugs these are, but what distinguished them in my mind, was their attacking tactics.

They storm up above your head in formation, building a critical mass. The disconcerting droning noise builds as hundreds of little wings beat furiously 3-4 feet above your head. And then one at a time, continuously and as if on musical time, they dive-bomb onto you in force with an orchestrated attack.

When we finally surrendered and retreated into our tents, they continued the attack! Paying no mind to the nylon that separated them from our sleeping flesh, they hurtled their tiny exoskeletons into the roof of the tent. At one point it sounded like rain. Tonight would be a bad night to accidentally leave a zipper open.

Days Mileage: 182 miles
Total Mileage: 1,688 miles


  1. Ugh, the Rainbow Family. We had them out here in ’04 and it seems like they just recently left the area. My dad is a USFS retiree and was an EMT for years. Some of the stories he has about the Rainbow Family paint a less than spectacular picture of them.

    My personal experience is that they show up on National Forest lands, tear things up, make a huge mess and leave. Yet they are often the “socially conscious” individuals who call for the closing of public lands in order to preserve them.

  2. You’ll stack as numerous pizzas here as you want.

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