Lava Mountain Trail – Wise River, Mn. ; 173km distance, 2,470m climbing, 11hrs 15mins moving time.
There is nothing quite like waking up on top of a mountain shivering. A mountain you know to be a bear hotspot so you slept out in a field. Bears never go into fields you’d assured yourself. Now, eat the burrito while you sit in your bivi. There’s a good boy. Tasty boy.
A quick early morning hit of singletrack from the top of the Lava Mountain trail. The lack of sleep the night before had caught up and I’d opted to stop early. A real nights sleep was the plan, but it was too cold. Just a few hours shivering and wishing for more layers. Down the long descent getting colder by the meter until I’ve been spat out at the gravel road to Basin. Although marked on the maps as a town, it’s not, really it’s not. Nothing open, probably too early if it was anyway, so grab some things from my bags – a Poptart and half a Subway. Relax and eat, you’ve not done that yet today. The trail kicks up again and I start to warm up on the long gradual climb. A 35km railway graded climb – boring, but it gets the job done.
I cross the Continental Divide a few times and finally intersect with the CDT hiking trail. How these thru-hikers live here day to day for months on end I don’t know. Far crazier than we are. The trails not that interesting and the weather still looms above my head, it wants to rain, biding it’s time until it can cause me the most misery. On the plus side I’m not needing much water, and I don’t have much, so that’s fine with me.
It doesn’t get much better as I ride towards Butte. And when I get there..awful. What a total shithole. I stop at a garage and refill bottles and snacks. I’m hungry for proper food and leave the route to try and find somewhere that doesn’t look like it will give me dysentery. Turns out that option is a Subway. Again. Wonderful. I realise that the town is not a place I want to spend much time in, so I cram some food and coffee in my face and ride towards the way out all the time the massive Berkeley Pit lurking on the horizon. A US Superfund site polluted with copper tailings and arsenic. It’s not the first time I’ve seen how the greed of people in the US has ruined massive parts of their country. But this is the most brutal example of it yet. I leave in a grim mood.
Riding through the “community bird pond” paid for by the mining company all I can think of is how making one bird reserve will not allow anyone to forgive you for how badly you’ve fucked the earth. I pop through an underpass and get SPOTstalked again, by Josh Kato….wait WTF he is supposed to be up the front racing? I stop and talk with Josh. He’s hurt his knee after an incident with a car. I shake my head and wish him well. He doesn’t look happy that he’s not racing, but he wishes me well. I climb out of the town and hit more roadside trail, I can’t wait to be done with this place.
Hours and hours of gravel pass under my tyres but I move into the forest again before breaking into open plains. The skies are getting darker and I know I’m about to get hit by a storm front. I start to push on the pedals knowing what is coming. Fleecer Ridge – the first of the real danger places on the route, and not somewhere I want to get caught out in a storm. As I get to the bottom of the ridge it happens. The first pitter patter of rain, followed by distant rolling thunder and lightning. It’s time to do what a fell runner does best – go uphill, on foot, fast. I ride as much of the super steep climb as I can before dismounting and starting an aggressive push up, knowing that I’m going to be walking down the other side.
Steep does not explain this descent. I’m not even sure I’d ride it – in the dry – on my full sus – with a dropper. I zig and zag across the slate strewn fellside to get down. As I get to the double track at the bottom I can start to ride and BOOM the lightning and thunder are in sync. Close, far too close. I go as quick as I dare through the single track to get down to the river pushing, pushing for treecover, happy I’m not on a metal bike. As I get to the road it’s over, I’ve dropped so much height that I’ve come out the bottom of it. It’s all kicking off up there and I know that I was lucky. Riding into Wise River I get the store 5 minutes before it closes. I get into the pub, order a room for the night as I need to clean and dry everything. It’s expensive, I don’t care, I order food and beer and dry my kit by the roaring fire. I order my second beer as Justin walks in. I’ve not seen another racer in two days. I’m happy to see him, even if he looks screwed. Mike rolls in a few mins later. They manage to get food just in time. We eat, shower, then hit the bed. I set the alarm for early and go to bed. Tomorrow marks the first week end. Time to start speeding up again.