Day 9: Lincoln to Helena (64.5 miles, 5,212ft)
After the relative ease—due to paved and dirt road detours away from forest fires—we knew that the ride from Lincoln to Helena would present a bit more of a challenge.
After having crossed to the west side of the continental divide on the second day of our trip, we hadn’t crossed again; today we had three divide crossings ahead of us. Leaving Lincoln we climbed gradually for a number of miles on wider dirt roads, before turning onto a rougher dirt track for the final few, steep and rough miles to the first of the divide crossings—thankfully, our legs were up to the test.
From there we descended sharply toward a valley on the other side and were startled by cows—which, to us with bears on our minds, look conspicuously similar to bears at a distance—that became more numerous as we rode through more settled pasture land.
Near the bottom we passed a wonderful little home and small ranch, whose owners host bikers traveling the GDMBR. The owners weren’t in when we passed, but it looked like one of those wonderful, unique places that’s particularly memorable on a long trip. Besides hosting cyclists, the home is a wonderful place for a quick break—while they weren’t home, the owners had left out a cooler with cold drinks and invitation that riders help themselves to a beverage.
Shortly after the bike-friendly home, we reached a T-intersection in the valley bottom and followed another large dirt road gradually upstream, now moving slower as we biked into a headwind.
Again, as we rode away from homes and fields, the road became rougher and we ascended through forests to the second divide crossing of the day. The ascent was more moderate than the first pass but challenging nonetheless (and deceptive—we passed at least one false high-point). Descending on the other side along a rough road, we again rode into more open pasture country with wonderful, wide views. From here the terrain was relatively flat, with some gentle ascents and descents along reasonably well-maintained dirt roads.
After passing a possibly still functional cargo train stop, called Blosburg (no town or services here), we soon turned left and made a very gradual ascent to the third crossing of the day.
All downhill from there, we continued to a paved highway that the route followed for the last 12 miles into Helena. Once in Helena we biked to the county fairgrounds on the north side of town, where (after some searching) we found the campground on the back, northwest end of the fairground complex. (Note: we heard from some other cyclists later on the trip that staying in the Helena RV park was sort of a sketchy experience.)