Route: Dillon – Grant, MT
Quote of the day from Saya (age 6): A short squall blew in while we were cycling. After Sho playfully offered to make a sacrifice to the weather god to stop the wind and rain, Saya asked, “Wait, is there a god of farts?”
Before leaving Dillon, Sho, Saya and I bought two days’ worth of meals at a Safeway. Salmon, Idaho, the next town with a place to buy food, is 90 miles away, on the other side of the Lemhi mountain pass. The bike trailer was noticeably heavier, thanks to the extra food and gallons of water I added, making cycling up hills a challenge for me. Meriwether Lewis would have written, “My legs were much fortiegued from the effort.”
We ate lunch at an abandoned gas station (see pic), but the rest of our route was picturesque. The highlight was Clark Canyon Reservoir, a beautiful glistening body of water created by a dam that didn’t exist when the Corp of Discovery passed through here 208 years ago, nearly to the day. At the bottom of the lake is the site of Camp Fortunate, where Sacagawea saw her brother, Cameahwait, for the first time since she had been kidnapped by a Hidatsa raiding party some five years earlier. Her brother, Chief of the Shoshone tribe, agreed to provide Lewis & Clark with horses and a guide over the Continental Divide. The previous month had been one of increasing desperation for Lewis & Clark, as they discovered that there was no all-water route to the Pacific Ocean and that the Rocky Mountains were much more formidable than they had anticipated. The Lewis & Clark expedition most likely would have failed to reach the Pacific Ocean were it not for Sacagawea’s help.
After leaving the reservoir, we cycled along a country highway nearly empty of vehicles. We soon began to smell smoke and eventually could see a charred and smoldering hill in the distance to our left. A brown plume rose from the smoldering fire before being caught by the wind and blown toward us. I found out later that it was a forest fire caused by a lightening strike. The fire reminded me of how vulnerable we are on our heavily laden, slow-moving bicycles, crawling along the base of towering mountains out here in big sky country. Sho’s playful pleas to the weather god started to sound like a prudent precaution.
We decided to spend the night in a small town named Grant with a promising “restaurant, saloon and hotel” that, sadly, was out of business. We found a kind woman named Nancy Taylor working in the local elementary school who allowed us to set up our tent beside the playground. I chatted with Nancy for a while. She grew up in Montana, the descendant of homesteaders, and told me how industrialized farming has made it nearly impossible for family farms to stay in business. We talked about the value of raising children with a sense of belonging to a community and with a connection to nature. She told me about a moose calf that showed up at her house one day. Most likely, it’s mother had been killed. The young moose chose to stay and grew up at Nancy’s home until, one day, it trotted off into the wilderness.
Snuggled next to one another in our tent behind the elementary school, Sho, Saya and I fell asleep to the high-pitched calls of coyotes echoing in the distance.
Here are some pics:
Our lunch spot
Saya loves cucumbers
Is that buffalo real or fake? You decide.
By the beautiful Clark Canyon Reservoir
Nancy Taylor in Grant Elementary School, Montana