Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wisdom, MT

Day 35: Saturday, June 22, 2013
Chief Joseph Pass to Wisdom: 19 miles

It rained all night. And it was cold. I didn't want to get out of bed.

And so I didn't. The rain finally let up around eleven. Wet gloves (the second pair), wet shoes, wet tent. Even with the sun peeking through the clouds, I didn't feel like getting on the road just yet. A hearty breakfast of taco soup (Bear Creek dehydrated, rehydrated) warmed my innards, and the dishwater warmed my fingers. After that, it was all downhill.

Literally. The road descends from the pass all the way to Wisdom in the Big Hole valley. Even with a late start, I figured I could make it to the top of Big Hole Pass and camp up there - where, in 1981, we had had the best night of the trip. But plans have a way of changing.

The Big Hole Battlefield, a national historical site and interpretive center that tells the story of the Nez Perce and the battle they fought there, and their subsequent flight, was only a few miles down the road. I stopped and ended up staying there over an hour. The half-hour movie is really outstanding, and the displays are very informative and bring home the story of how white man's greed decimated the native lands.

On the way out, I bumped into five other cyclists who were just arriving. Tyler and Katie are from New Hampshire, and are cycling back there from the west coast. Nik, Ruth, and Meredith (R&M are sisters) are from the Chicago area and are headed back there and then on to Maine, generally via the Northern Tier route; but they're on the TransAmerica Trail for a while. And they range from 1/4 to 1/3 my age. (Well, that's stretching it a bit, but it sounds good and it's almost true.)

I arrived in Wisdom (a whole 16 miles downhill), and, after that wet night, was darn ready for a hot lunch. Tyler and Katie were there, so I joined them for what turned out to be supper - after all, what with stopping at the interpretive center, it was already after 5:00. Then the Chicago Three cycled in. Everybody else was ready to stop for the night. Companions are always enjoyable, so I decided to stay. We (most of us) headed for the American Legion Park, and ended up in the midst of 17 cyclists: 11 doing a Wounded Warrior ride to raise funds for disabled veterans, a Brit named Simon riding a beautiful Dawes Galaxy, and a Thai from Maryland named Angus riding east-to-west.

One more reason our plans changed: the Rainbow Gathering. The others had planned to stay in Jackson, at the lodge/hot springs. That would have been a wonderful experience - see Dennis and Becky's blog, especially the photos to see what we missed, thanks to the Montana Highway Patrol. The presence of the Rainbow people forced a change in our plans. At this point, I'll assume you know who and what they are; if not, wait a few days and I'll explain more. The lodge was booked solid for three weeks by county and state police. So that was a very good reason to stay in Wisdom.

Wisdom, while not the center of Rainbow activity, was not immune to the fallout. After we had had supper, a fight started on the main drag, and a bottle was thrown through the window of the grocery store. Apparently someone had picked up a hitchhiker, and one party tried to rip the other off, and the fight began. It didn't take long before the place was swarming with cops.

Sunlit dandelions in the Big Hole

I'm glad I didn't go on to camp on top of the pass. Storm clouds threatened, and we heard stories of snow up there just the day before. In spite of Wisdom's legendary mosquitoes (see my 1981 journal entry!), we had a great evening, enjoying both an outstanding Big Hole sunset and a monster moon: the full moon in perigee.

stile at sundet
Nik and a Wounded Warrior rider enjoy the sunset.
The stile permits access to a stream for fishermen.

Monster moon over Wisdom
Monster moon over Wisdom

pump at sunset
The pump provided the campground's water.

moon and bike
Moon over my ami


  1. Hi Bret! Looks like you are running a little behind? But I'm sure you'll get caught up before the 4th of July. Ha! Anyway, the Rainbow people I knew might not be the same ones you are talking about. Are you going to tell us about them?

    1. I planned to do a blog entry just about the Rainbow Gathering. But, as usual, I'm about four days in arrears. Tonight I'm motelling it, so I may have a chance to catch up. We'll see...


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