After saying goodbye to the hot springs our muscles came to know and love, our group packed up and set forth on the 43-mile trek over to Townsend, Montana. The ride was beautiful! Even with the early wake up time of five in the morning, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone that the scenery in Montana never gets old.! At this point in the trip, 43 miles seems like nothing to our now-adjusted biking legs. The real killer at this point, is the heat. With temperatures in the 100’s, it became apparent rather quickly of the dangers of such intense heat. The morning ride, even though on paved asphalt, was made tolerable by the slight headwind, which was welcomed by our combination of sun soaked and sweat covered skin. The moment we arrived to the school and unmounted our bikes, was the moment we realized the sun was not our friend today.
Our two wheeled trek across the vast stretches of central Montana, and northward bound up The Rocky Mountain Front, eventually taking us into the belly of the beast that is the Crown of the Continent ecosystem, including the mythic Glacier National Park, was about gaining a more comprehensive and insightful perspective on the complex interrelations of energy systems and climate change in Montana. We have talked to people connected to these issues in some way or another, from all sides of the equation, and there are no clear answers except one: If we keep burning coal (or selling it to burn elsewhere) we might as well not even try.
My name is Ashton Lamb and I am a student at Colorado State University (CSU) studying Parks and Protected Area Management. Along with ten other students from around the country our group has been studying restoration ecology for the last two weeks in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A few days ago our group had the pleasure of speaking with Arnie Dood from Montana’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks service about the issue of Bison in this beautiful state. After some previous studying of the issue with WRFI and my background from CSU learning about conservation I just wanted to say to all Montanans that I believe you have a bright future ahead of you.
The wakeup call was 6:30 this morning below Holder Dam on the mighty Missouri River near Wolf Creek, MT. Today marks the best I have felt at 6:30am on the Fifth of July in my illustrious collegiate career. While working on a paper on a perch above the dam last evening, the Dam operator Tim and his wife came up to watch the fireworks, telling us we had found the best spot in the house to watch the locals celebrate their freedom to light up the night sky with low grade explosives. I asked him a few questions about the dam and how much power it was producing at what flow rates and so on. His wife chimed in and said we should just take a tour of the dam in the morning. Tim agreed and didn’t have to ask me twice, and after 6:30 wake up I asked our instructors if we could work the tour into our schedule, which would mean riding in the heat of the day to Choteau. Liz and Alan agreed the tour fit into the curriculum nicely and we were not scheduled to tour a Hydro-power facility, so we enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast and packed up camp by 8:00 and went to meet Tim after he finished his morning duties.
Today I woke up in the end zone of the Townsend Bulldogs. We were lucky enough to have the chance to set up camp at the local high school the night before. It was an early morning with us being woken up right at 5:00am; and with good reason. We had a long ride to Helena that day, and it was going to be a scorcher out there.
Surviving the stifling heat in Helena, Montana, spurred the WRFI cycling group into discussions about climate change and policy. In the meetings we attended today we were given glimpses of fear, negativity, and hope. Enduring the hot weather, we all hoped that the forecast would be correct in calling for cooler temperatures later in the week. We were also fearful of the implications of the above 90 degree heat snap, possibly representing signs of a rapidly shifting climate.
Today, we had a greatly appreciated full day to rest our rears in White Sulfur Springs. Yesterday was easily our longest day in the saddle so far, and at just under sixty miles, my longest day of cycling ever. Getting here from Harlowton was somewhat of a struggle for many of us, especially with the strong headwinds in the afternoon. Even so, everyone arrived triumphant, ready for a warm soak in the soothing and natural hot springs at the local motel spa.