Today was Fleecer Ridge day and it reminded me of the movie Big Wednesday. The movie was about Southern California surfers who proved their muster when a big swell came in. Could we ride up Fleecer? Did we have what it takes? The ride up Fleecer was steep and some what technical. It was important to keep a steady speed on the steep grade to maneuver over the rocks and ruts. The climb was not as steep or as difficult as Poormans Gulch from Lincoln to Helena National Forest. We both made it to the top but unfortunately The route veered off before the top of the hill. Erika turned on the route and I kept climbing following bike tracks and followed the tracks one mile past the route. I refer to the climb as Fleecer plus!
The ride down Fleecer is described in the book as one of the toughest descents on the GDMBR. The first 1.7 miles was steep and technical but manageable. However beyond that point the descent became steeper and covered will loose rocks. I guesstimate that the ridge had a 20% grade and clearly unrideable for those on the GDMBR northbound. We walked our bikes with the brakes on and our bikes skidding. A motorcyclist expertly descended the ridge as Erika walked down. We were impressed with his skills.
After Fleecer we entered Wise River on pavement and crossed Big Hole River, known to be one of the finest rivers for fly fishing in the U.S.The rest of the day was on pavement in one of the most beautiful scenic highways we he ever experienced, the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway.
The Wise River followed the road with the Pioneer Mountains on the east side of the road. There were few cars on the road and the cars and motorcycles that passed gave us a wide berth. Today was a 50 mile day with the last 16 including a steady climb to Elk Grove hot springs. The beautiful scenery of mountains and vast open area with the soothing sound of the river helped push our tired legs forward.
We arrived at the hot springs late and ate dinner at the lodge. Unfortunately we did not have time for a soak. We were headed for the Grasshopper Inn 3 miles south to camp on their front lawn and it was getting dark so we had to move on. The consolation was we got a room at the inn instead of camping out. Staying at the inn was a special treat. The rooms were nice, the breakfast was delicious and the people who worked at the inn were very nice.
During breakfast we saw a slice of local life in south west Montana. Four local ranchers came in for coffee and sat around to talk. The Grasshopper was a way station for us but obviously a community center for those who live in Polaris, MT.