June 28, 2001

6/28/01 Ennis, MT

74.8 miles

Richard, my roommate, turned out to be a pretty nice guy. We chatted a bit before going to sleep. I had worried that my getting up early would disturb him, but it turned out he was getting up even earlier to catch a ride to Seattle.

I felt better after a good night's sleep. Got packed and headed down the street as the town slept on. All except the baker. Had a wonderful fresh cinnamon roll at "Jocee's Baking Company" before leaving town.

The term "stealth camping" refers to just finding a spot off in the woods to camp where no one will see you. Usually, this means without the land owner's permission. Before I had begun this trip, I thought I'd be doing more of this type of camping. And I might have if I were with someone. But I'm already too isolated on this trip. So, the campgrounds are my way of getting some meaningful social interaction. But that didn't stop me from seeing some good spots to stealth camp outside of West Yellowstone.

The ride along Hebgen Lake generally followed the beautiful shoreline, with the mountains looming overhead. At the "Kirkwood Store" Craig told me that he's seen a lot fewer cyclists this year than last. When I asked about the lake, he told me it's a favorite for ice fishermen in the winter, along with snowmobiling.

Earthquake Lake has a very different story. On August 17, 1959, at almost midnight, an earthquake hit the area, measuring 7.5 (the 4th strongest quake measured to that date). The result was a landslide of 80 million tons of rock. An entire face of the mountain crashed down into the Madison River Canyon. Twenty-eight people died, most in the campground that was partially buried. The natural dam created by the landslide made Earthquake Lake. You can still see where the landslide occurred.

You can see where the mountain just slide off

As I continued to follow the Madison River downstream, I began to feel those tailwinds. After so many days and weeks fighting the wind, it was pure joy to fly down the road. Soon I met John and Bryer, a New Zealand couple headed east. And then I ran into a women's tour group.

Luna Tours is based in Montana and emphasizes "outdoor adventures for women." But as a fellow cyclist, I was welcome to a few Powerbars and Gatorade. They were on a supported ride "in our backyard," one of the leaders said. The ladies seemed very interested in my ride. A thought came to me that I should get a company like Luna Tours to work with TWU to organize an annual fund-raising ride, but with the students participating this time.

As the day progressed, so did my tailwind increase. I found myself even flying up the uphills. I put the bike into my big charm ring and reveled at the speeds I was attaining on this relatively flat road.

I probably saw more fishermen today than I've seen altogether this entire trip. Besides fly fishing with waders, I saw a lot of McKenzie drift boats, a kind of flatboat with the ends upturned. Turns out that the Madison River here is the mecca of fly fishermen.

Gone fishin'

I treated myself to lunch at the Chuckwagon Café in Cameron. It was part of one building housing the Blue Moon Saloon, a café, a store, and the post office. And gambling is legal in Montana, as evident with the slot machines I saw in the bar.

Saw the Luna ladies outside of "Cowboy Heaven", an ice cream and espresso shop in Ennis. "You gotta try it!" one woman said. So I exchanged pleasant small-talk with the owner, Kelly Kivlin, as I drank my root beer float.

Ennis reminds me a lot of Dubois, Wyoming. Only here, the western motif is enhanced with the addition of fishing. At the entrance to town is a steel sculpture of a fly fisherman catching a big one. And the tourists the fishing brings in are big business. The several blocks of downtown shops were doing brisk business.

Alan and Maggie showed up after doing a 90-mile day. "How could you not keep going with that tailwind!" Alan beamed. I'm happy to see them again. We're camped at the "Campers Corner," not far from downtown. Also in town is a Cycle America group of about 80 riders staying at the high school. They're heading east, also a charity ride.

Besides talking with Alan and Maggie, I met Rich and Jill, who are in an RV in our campground. Jill says they've done a short bike trip, but would like to get into it more. Rich was kind enough to drop a few beers by our tents. Between the two of them, they brought four bikes. Right now they're here for the fishing, but we talked about options for more biking.

Actually, a very fine day. Tomorrow, it's on through Virginia City, the only town on the National Register of Historic Places, and maybe on to Dillon.