Morning low clouds obscure the mountain tops. At our morning route meeting, Julie explains the roads to ride to get to lunch at Wolf Creek and then on to Helena where we'll spend tonight and tomorrow's rest day.
The prairie is changing to a terrain of more small buttes with trees. Our Big Sky views are gone; we now have "shorter" vistas. On our left, Chuck points out a hawk and asks if I see it. "Yes, but I see two of them. I don't think they are hawks. They're too big."
Now both birds are on our right, and they are not hawks, but golden eagles.
Magnificent! Three of us stop to watch. To our amazement, we are privileged to watch an event that most of us only ever experience through PBS nature programs. This golden eagle pair, high in the morning sky, dance the mating ritual of the ages, talons clasped, vents together. Joined, they plummet earthward, enormous wings outstretched, auto-rotating like a helicopter settling out of the sky. Perilously close to the ground they separate, one to our right, the other to our left, disappearing. We are captivated by this sight, watching in incredulous disbelief at our good fortune.
Shortly after leaving lunch at Wolf Creek, rugged red rock cliffs loom above. The creek gurgles close by. Predominant trees are evergreen, providing a nice contrast to the rock. Christmas colors along Wolf Creek.
At our final water stop for the day we are told that after a long incline, we will have a great downhill into Helena. A GREAT downhill. A city. The capitol of Montana. We roll into camp and my first impression is that everyone is splayed out at picnic tables, writing. 4:30 p.m. and it's journal time at the old campground.
This KOA has good amenities: pool, hot tub, and excellent laundry facilities. Many of our group congregate in the laundry room, feeding stockpiled quarters into hungry washing machines. Calls of "Anyone want to add to my load?" resound. The hot tub is full of Bike Centennial riders laughing, splashing and massaging sore quads.