Cape Gazette

SEA TO SHINING SEA: In a county bigger than Delaware

By Dennis Forney | Jun 14, 2013
A ranch in the Big Hole Valley with the Bitterroot Range in the background.  These ranches are isolated affairs.

DILLON, MONTANA — DAY 31 - June 13, 2013 -Sage brushing across America. The road was just about flat between Jackson and Dillon, a distance of about 48 miles. On either side of us were vast meadows and pastures, endless clumps of sagebrush, narrow rivers and creeks and mountains of the 7,000 to 9,000-foot variety. Most importantly, we had a tailwind of about 25 mph pushing us along at about 23 mph.  The same tailwind joined with gravity to push us down the backside of Big Hole Pass at more than 40 mph. Too fast but the bikes felt good and it was nice to click off more miles.  We made 67 miles on this day. We never would have made Dillon without the tailwind. We turned into the wind to make the last five-mile push into Dillon.  That made us appreciate the tailwind we had much of the day even more.  With it in our face on flat ground, we were barely making 7.

We averaged 10.1 over the 67 miles including getting up and over two passes and total ascent for the day of 3,534 feet. Our total now is 1,214 miles

The manager at the KOA Campground told us we're in Beaverhead County, Montana.  "The county is 110 miles by 70 miles with fewer than 10,000 people."

"That's bigger than out entire state," I said.  And I thought, Delaware has more than 800,000 people.  It's big out here.  Open space and sage brush go on forever.

Nice people.  And the Orioles beat Boston last night in the bottom of the 13th.  First game of a four-gamer series.  Oakland beat the dreaded Yankees, also in extra innings.  A good weekend for baseball.

Train whistle blowing in the distance, steady rain falling on the fly of the tent, and a rooster crowing on the other side of the Beaverhead River. Writing this propped up against bags inside the tent.  38 degrees outside.  Glad those threatening thunderstorms back east didn't cause much trouble.  If this rain stops we may start heading toward Virginia City.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

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When I first saw one of the Big Hole Valley hay derricks I thought Punkin' Chunker.  Like a wide trebouchet.  Here's what happens.  After ranchers drain the flooded meadows and let the tall grass dry, they cut the grass and gather great bundles of hay.  They move the derricks from place to place.  Loose bundles of hay are placed on the lower end of the pivoting piece.  When it is full of big bunch of hay, horses are used to pivot the hay-loaded derrick high into the air until the hay tumbles off what has become the upper end to begin a stack.  They keep up this process until the height of the stack reaches the derrick's limit.  Then the derrick is moved to another spot for another stack.  That's why they call the Big Hole Valley the land of 10,000 hay stacks.  The hay gets the beef cattle through the long Montana winters.
In the flooded meadows of Big Hole Valley, I kept seeing red-wing type blackbirds except these had yellow faces and white bars on their wings.  Their song has a similar pattern as the red-rings but a different grouping of songs.  One man told me they are a subspecies.  Here's one on a fence post.  They're wary and I couldn't get closer for a better photo.
Ranchers use all kinds of different fencing techniques to keep their cattle contained.
Signs leading into the countless small western towns offer a sense of the community culture.  This one is about a mile outside Jackson, Montana, which the map says has a population of about 38.  The town's main attraction is its hot springs whch heat a number of houses and businesses.  The next photos are of the Jackson Lodge where we stopped for a rest and a soak.  On a Thursday morning, we had the place to ourselves.  The outdoor hot springs pool held 103-degree water.  They charged us $7 for a soak and a towel.  Worth every penny of it.
The interior of the lodge.
The hot springs pool.
The bar at Jackson Lodge, lorded over by buffalo, moose and elk heads.  Fully stocked and available all day. Orange-juice martini for breakfast?  Not so much. Great people at Jackson Lodge.  It's worth going out of the way for.  They made us a ham and cheese and roast beef sandwich for the road.
Black angus cattle and their spring calves are a constant across the Montana prairie.  Altitude here about 6,000 feet.
Here is one of the white highway fatality crosses maintained by the Montana American Legion, adorned with a privately maintained cross.  These are constant reminders of the perils of the open road.
Comments (1)
Posted by: Susan Frederick | Jun 14, 2013 17:37

Love that lodge!  It looks so clean it sparkles.  Montana looks like it should be a continent all by itself.

Stay safe, downhill racers.

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