Saturday, July 7, 2012

Biking over Sheep Mountain in the 'Snake

Posted By on Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Sean and I planned a big day of mountain biking and we then wanted to finish off the day in the heat of the evening with a run down the Alberton Gorge . We left Hamilton at 0700 and were geared up and pedaling for Sheep Mountain via the fire roads on Jumbo Saddle by 0830.

Riding the high country on Sheep Mountain

We used the two tracks to make it to the trail and then the steep single track started in earnest. The other time I rode this stretch of trail I was well rested and yesterday the steeps burned in the legs. We made it to Blue Point after a couple to three hours of riding and the temps were cool and the trail made its first real descent into the saddle. It took awhile to maneuver the bikes over to Sheep Mountain and we made sure to pull out the map and check the trail junctions. As the one rain shower passed we were camped out in the foundation of the old fire lookout amidst a gathering of thousands of lady bugs.

Wisherd Ridge in the background
  • Wisherd Ridge in the background

We admired the views of the shower moving through and the distant sunshine on the snow fields of St. Joseph Peak and Lolo. From Sheep Mountain, the views were amazing with all of the Rattlesnake spread out right below,
The Rattlesnake Valley
  • The Rattlesnake Valley
the high country of Grey Wolf and St Mary's in the Missions just beyond,
The Mission Mountains
  • The Mission Mountains
the peaks of the Swan Range to the northeast,
The Swan Range beyond Sheep Mountain
and the entire Bitterroot Range from Trapper to Lolo was visible to the south.
The Bitterroot Range beyond the rain shower
  • The Bitterroot Range beyond the rain shower
After the shower passed we picked up where we had left off and began the steep treacherous descent through a series of tight switchbacks and over some snowfields and rocks to the forest trail below which was in really nice shape. Out along the divide for a bit and then the trail began its descent to the East Fork of Rattlesnake Creek. Mostly a side hilling trail and quite narrow, it reminded me of Bitterroot riding as it was more difficult than anything else I had seen in the Rattlesnake.
East Fork Rattlesnake Creek
  • East Fork Rattlesnake Creek
But before too long we had crossed the East Fork and followed the final grades down to the corridor trail. Many miles up the Rattlesnake still we bombed on down this road, scaring a four foot black bear up a tree and enjoying the beauty and remoteness of the urban wilderness environment the Rattlesnake is. What a treasure for Missoula.
Rattlesnake Creek
  • Rattlesnake Creek

We met a friend in town for dinner at the Old Post and then, determined to get wet, we set off for the Alberton Gorge where we ran a quick bike shuttle and then pushed off into the water with air temps in the 80s, shade all around, and the river to ourselves. Sean paddled his open canoe down the short stretch and I kayaked the Remix 69 and the level was medium with quite a powerful punch to the bigger rapids but with never too much boiling or surging water. There were a couple decent waves to catch, though I missed them all, the water felt warm and I spent time upside down cooling of from our long day of multi sporting. By the time we were back on Reserve street nothing was open except Cenex and McDonalds so we pounded some chicken nuggets with the full variety of new sauces, admired the new bar stools and fresh coffee, and thought that nothing could be better.

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