Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 8: Modoc Road to Ridge (2189)

There are Tour Divide riders in town. The Tour Divide is a bike packing race or tour that follows the Continental Divide. Although the route overlaps with the CDT at times, it avoids wilderness areas and tends to opt for dirt roads.  And instead of covering 20-30 miles per day, Tour Divide riders may cover 100-200 miles or more in a single day, allowing for more frequent resupplies.

Lima is a tiny town, with a motel, a small cafe, and an Exxon gas station with a convenience store.  But the store obviously caters to Tour Divide riders and hikers, with plentiful snack options, including ziplock bags with snack-sized portions of carrot sticks and other fresh food. We saw two Tour Divide riders stocking up while we were purchasing our own supplies. 

Back on the trail, large sheep and cattle ranches give way to the rolling greenish-gold hills of the open range. Wild irises, lupine, and other wildflowers provide a splash of color. Antelope bound away across the fields as we approach. A furry striped badger dashes across the trail into a waiting hole, then plays peek-a-boo, popping out to see if we have left, then retreating into his hole, only to pop out again a minute later.  A red-tailed hawk soars overhead. 

The trail climbs up steeply, following a ridge top fence line along the Idaho/Montana border for endless miles. Late in the afternoon a strong wind comes up, its relentless gusts pushing us into the sharp, barbed wire. Across the valley, a large herd of antelope eye us warily from a neighboring hillside. We chase a herd of elk from hilltop to hilltop, their hooves pounding out a path for us to follow. 

We listen to echoes of thunder as angry clouds drench a nearby ridge with torrents of rain. Bare hills stretch endlessly in every direction, and we wonder where we will ever find shelter from the storm. Just as the sun is beginning to slip behind the distant mountains, we find a sheltered spot on the ridge and fall asleep to the echoing hoots of a pair of owls. 

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