Today we crossed the Rockies. It took about 2 hours. By this I mean that we crossed over the continental divide, and all water that falls here flows east rather than west. It should be stated that we crossed over at pretty much the lowest altitude possible, but still! Having climbed all of yesterday next to the Clearwater and then Lochsa rivers, we had 15 miles to go to the top of Lolo pass. The water was pretty much all white by this point, and we were climbing at a higher grade than yesterday, but only the last 3 or 4 miles were steep. The map had lied to James again, who thought the last five miles would have a short descent in the middle of two steep climbs. There was no descent, but the lie had me thinking I was still working on the ‘first’ hill when actually I was at least 50% of the way up the ‘second’ – nice. The surrounding hills were incredibly steep and close, with firs and pines rising like scales up the slopes, very dark and quiet. We reached the top of the pass, the beginning of Montana, and the new Mountain Time Zone by about 11 (12?), and had celebratory PB sandwiches.
The descent down the other side was great, of course, in terms of easy riding, but also spectacular. Montana is ridiculously beautiful (so far), and somehow exactly what I expected it to be. The valleys open up into much more open, inviting spaces. Fences are made of slim logs, houses of slightly bigger ones. Appaloosa horses munch on fields of waving meadow grasses below piney, snow-speckled peaks. Really, really awesome.
We detoured 10 miles off our route to hit Missoula, needing more supplies than smaller towns could give us (a new sleeping pad, sunglasses not held together with superglue). Missoula is a college town of 60 000, and has a really great feel to it. Staying at a hostel near the town centre, we celebrated our achievement with steaks (which seemed fitting) and beer (which is always fitting after a big climb).