Falling in Love on Skalkaho Pass - Montana

Josh and I met at Adventure Cycling in the spring of 2008, we were both 26. I know we seem so together now: cat owners, blog keepers, world travelers, and we make pizza from scratch like once a month, but things were different back then. Neither of us had much experience bicycle touring, or, actually, experience with one another, when we decided to spend our long 4th of July weekend bike touring over Skalkaho Pass. We’d been dating for about two months.

We left in the late afternoon after work (the Montana evening stretches on endlessly) and headed down the road with our borrowed trailers. I felt suddenly shy and couldn’t think of anything to talk about. I decided to pretend I was interviewing a famous guest on television about his childhood and launched in. By the time we reached our first camp-spot on Rock Creek we were both feeling a lot more comfortable—and exhausted! We declined to cook the dinner we’d brought instead opting to eat an entire bag of cookies and then fall asleep without setting up our tent.

Over the years I’ve gotten more used to riding consecutively, but the second day of a tour is always hard for me and the second day of that tour was no exception. My behind was unhappy. My legs complained. I tried to be sunshine-y, but I felt like crying. But then. The coolest thing happened. We made it to the top! And even though it was July, there was still a little snow left. I laughed out loud and threw a snowball. I was proud of my legs for carrying me all the way up, and then we began the long decent, and even though my butt was still sore (and it would take me a long time to get the correct tilt on my seat so that wouldn’t be a problem) I sort of forgot in the midst of being excited about getting to go really fast and checking out all the waterfalls and summer foliage. By the time we got to our friends’ house in Hamilton I couldn’t believe how quickly the day had gone. I’d also remembered an incredibly important fact about Josh: he adored ice-cream as much as I did. We walked over to the neighborhood Dairy Queen and devoured several large cones. Each.

The next day we had breakfast at Hamilton’s local greasy spoon. I don’t remember what it’s called, but if you go through Hamilton—GO THERE. You can’t miss it: There’s a huge coffee cup on the sign and it’s right on the main drag. The coffee is great and the cinnamon rolls are as big as your head.

Our friends had suggested an alternate route back to Missoula, so we meandered the last 50 miles on small country roads. We were pretty quiet as we headed homeward, lulled into silence by our full bellies, the spectacular scenery, and a new sense of comfort with one another. Riding down the dirt road edged by the beautiful Bitterroot Mountain Range, our trailers bounced next to each other, creating twin dust clouds.

Get more information about bike overnights.

Sarah's favorite bike shop in Missoula, MT: Hellgate Cyclery

Photos by Sarah Raz. Top: Josh and Sarah pose in front of Skalkaho Falls. Bottom: Josh can’t help smiling after all the good coffee he drank at Hamilton’s Greasy Spoon Diner.

3 responses so far ↓

Cherie - Apr 6, 2011 at 5:27 AM

This looks like a great ride! Do you have a map of the route you took?

Josh Tack - Apr 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM

Hey Cherie,

I went ahead and mapped the route on MapMyRide.com for you. You can check it out here:

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/31576506

You do need to hop on the interstate between Clinton and the Rock Creek exit (just a few miles, and legal in Montana), but outside of that it was a very low traffic and scenic ride. Also, the grade heading up Skalkaho Pass from the west is pretty gentle, and smooth gravel. The descent down towards Hamilton, however, is steeper, but not scary.

Heading north out of Hamilton, we navigated side roads away from Hwy93, but there have been some new sections of bike path added along Hwy93 since then.

THOMAS - May 24, 2011 at 12:53 PM

The restraunt in Hamilton that the picture is taken by is the Coffee Cup Cafe. Also Skalkaho pass from the west (coming from Hamilton heading east) is the steep side.
Happy riding, TW

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