This morning was so chilly that we decided (without any discussion) to sleep in after the alarm. So we left at 9:00, well after all the other bikers who stayed in Dillon.
There was a forest fire not that far away yesterday, so although we were in no danger, we saw the mountains in the distance to the west through a haze of smoke and ash. We talked to people yesterday and this morning to learn what we needed to know about the fire in relationship to our route, so we knew that the highway was open to traffic this morning.
We passed the couple we’d met last night as they were taking a snack break. (We found out later that we had witnessed their only snack break of the day! How did they stay sane all day?) These two were on a tandem recumbent bike, which they say is amazing on the flats, extremely challenging on the ups, and a bit sketchy on the downs. But they are comfortable in their seats. To recap – they’re comfortable in their saddles. All day. Comfortable.
We also came across what we believe to be bighorn sheep! None of them had the distinct big horns, but there may just have been females and babies there.
The descent lasted all the way into the town of Sula, where we said hi to the other 5 bikers from yesterday, then continued on to the next town. By the time we got there, it was getting quite hot out, so we retreated to the shady banks and depths of a river for lunch. We spent a couple hours there, then biked in the direction of Missoula. The smoke got closer and closer, until we had an amazing view of the valleys from which the smoke was pouring out. The sun had also begun to sink lower in the sky, which caused the clouds to light up.
As it sank lower, the sun moved behind some of the smoke, and turned a brilliant shade of red. It was definitely an awe-inspiring sight, both for its beauty and its destructive power. And Aidan’s photos are magnificent.
Just as we neared Hamilton, we found good fortune to be with us yet again. We stopped to talk with two people and their granddaughter who had noticed us from the stop sign, and they ended up inviting us to spend the night at their house a few miles down the road! A couple of genuinely kind and interesting people, who might one day do a bike trip of their own! Thank you, Joe and Denise!