May 23, 2015

Day 66: Red Lodge

Again the weather played a major role in the day's events. I know it is boring, but more weather stories to come!

The climb to Beartooth Pass was hard work but well worth the effort. At the start the sun was out and so were the clouds. By the time I reached the summit the clouds had won out.

So I started the descent fully booted and spurred ready for some freezing wind chill. Little did I appreciate what was to come.

So the 28 mile descent consists of a steep section, which is an excellent piece of road engineering, followed by a shallower gradient into Red Lodge.

Well, the reason it was dry on the ascent was because all of the precipitation was falling on the other side of the mountain!

The amazing thing is that we appear to be stuck in a vicious circle: it precipitates, and just as quickly evaporates to produce new clouds, which shortly thereafter dump their load. I watched this happening during a break in my descent. But what followed was completely unexpected.

I reached the shallower section of the descent and could see some darker clouds in the direction of travel, but they seemed no worse than others that I'd seen today. I was approximately 9 miles from Red Lodge.

A minute or so later the heavens opened and very large drops of rain had me soaked within a couple of minutes. Then the hail, thunder and lightning started. The road became covered in hail, such that the road markings were not discernable, and the thunder and lightning was too close for comfort. Given the biblical nature of the storm I didn't stop to take photographs but, instead, decided to bail out and take shelter at Rock Creek Resort, where the receptionist offered me a coffee to warm up with.

Some hour or so later I left in drizzle thinking that all that was left to do was cycle the last five miles to Red Lodge to a motel where I could dry out and so could my gear. Yet more expense! Then, with about 2 miles to go, a rear wheel puncture brought me to an abrupt halt, but at least it was no longer raining!

Tomorrow it is either another traverse of Beartooth Pass in the opposite direction into Yellowstone Park or stay in Montana and connect up with the Lewis and Clark route. It will depend on tomorrow's weather forecast.