Today's 78 mile trek started out quite chilly, with temperatures in the high fifties. It was several hours before it warmed up enough to me to cycle without a jacket. No complaints here, it is much easier pedaling in cool temperatures.
Leaving Missoula, the route was primarily on Hwy 200 and followed the Clark Fork River and then the Blackfoot River. Being Saturday, the fishermen were already on the rivers in various flotilla, including boats, kayaks, rafts, etc.
After about 20 miles, the route moved away from the rivers. At that point several things started changing. The traffic that went past changed from fishermen to "explorers" with trucks topped with kayaks and pick-ups filled with four-wheelers. The kayakers headed to more intense rapids, I suppose, and the off-roaders to explore the vast country that is Montana. The land changed as well. The mountains became the backdrop as the land opened up to broader fields, pastures and prairies. The auburn hued bark of the Ponderosa Pine that dominated the landscape began to be mixed with broad-leaf and white trunk stands of Birch and Alder trees.
The main events of the day, however, were the critter sightings.
The deer were prevalent. While I am impressed, apparently others are not. At breakfast in downtown Missoula, I saw a mother and fawn out by the river. During the ride, I saw numerous, including a foursome that loped from the side of the mountain to feast on wildflowers in a meadow. They were not bothered by the motorized traffic that zoomed past, but were certainly troubled by a bicyclist slowly spinning alongside the road in a bright yellow vest. I was able to snap a few decent pictures of them before they had enough of this stranger, and effortlessly cleared the fence and the road before they scampered up the other mountain slope.
A herd of Elk in the distance, prairie dogs comically scampering about, chipmunks laughing as they out-pace me up a hill, even a badger, should be added to the list of sightings. Also, beavers and river otters from the days before.
A Bald Eagle soared above my route for several minutes. He was quite intimating, to tell the truth. Barn Swallows, American Kestrels, Red-Winged Black-Birds and Western Tanager (very colorful) were all spotted as well. I hope to learn how to identify more in the coming weeks.
After a lunch stop at a convenience store, the tailwinds picked up for the last 40 miles where I am over-nighting in Lincoln, MT (pop. 1000). Tomorrow is about 90 miles to Great Falls, MT.
Pandora mix: Stevie Wonder. Yes, indeed.