And Then There Were Eight

by Victor DeLeo

It was cold enough to snow and we were about to ride our bikes.  There were ten of us that gray morning, shivering at a trailhead that would take us over the Continental Divide within Southwest Montana.  The plan–go from Mile to Sheep Creek–would take all day.  We were all having second thoughts. 

“Maybe we could get coffee in West until it warms up,” one rider suggested. Although it sounded like a perfect idea, that would mean we’d have to ride a shorter, alternative ride.  

Some of us jogged in place.  Others blew into their fists.  Sunset was nine hours away, and we were wasting time.  

That morning, before sunrise, I peeled myself from bed like a hangover. I packed lunch, dinner, and enough water I could have showered with it.  After eating a breakfast fit for three, I sat, or rather bounced, in a cargo van for an hour and half.  While the September weather may not have been cooperating, I was invested in this ride. 

“I’m in.”  I said.  Others followed, some retreated.

And then there were eight. 

We started pedaling through a meadow colored like sand.  But this was no beach.  Long sleeved, we climbed the gradual slope and made our own heat.  And soon, the aesthetics of this big, bold countryside had overcome all our senses. 

We passed old growth forests and fat yellow aspens.  We crossed streams, circled lakes, and flip-flopped through multiple ecosystems.  With enough switchbacks to satisfy a downhiller, and single track as buffed as an alpine slide, this journey delivered thrills that squelched exhaustion and chill.  And at the pinnacle of the Continental Divide, there it was, the legendary emblem “CDT” on a carved wooden plaque.  It was like being granted a trophy for our all-day effort.  

Or maybe the trophy was eating lunch on the saddle of Bald Mountain and reaching the remote, high alpine of the Montana backcountry.  We’d gone farther than man could reach by foot in one day.  To find peace among menacing mountains, to reach views that airplanes provide, and to share it all with the pleasant company of eight adventurers, we were grateful–grateful to have able bodies, a trusty map, and most importantly, our bikes. 

The end.

If you go…Take a map, carry bear spray, bring a lot of food.  The day could last nine hours.  Be sure to choose enjoyable company. 

Thanks to the Big Sky Mountain Bike Alliance and its accompanying riders:

Kevin Budd

Matt Jennings

Matt Kendziorski

Dave Neal

Louie Nottingham

Hanna Powell

Micah Vitoff


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