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Actually, it was only two bears, unless you count his riding companion Mark, who may have been grouchy as a bear because it was still early in the morning…. Joe decided to try out Round 2 of 2010 riding in Missoula last weekend, while bringing along Jill and Josh for a weekend of fun in Missoula, including the River City Roots music festival and various other activities. Round 1 three weeks ago was a fun adventure but we ended up exploring (unplanned) as much as riding. This time, Joe vowed to listen to the advice of his older, wiser riding partner (me—Mark). We set out at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning from my house next to the Rattlesnake hills. We rapidly climbed up the old road to Mount Jumbo saddle as the thermometer nudged toward 50 degrees, then caught some excellent sweeping single-track on Sidewinder and Three Larch. We were both feeling great and letting ‘er rip on the buff downhill. As we descended Woods Gulch toward the main Rattlesnake trailhead, I rounded a corner at high speed, and saw a cloud of dust with Joe off his bike. It didn’t look like he wrecked, I thought…what happened? “Bear!” was all I heard, with a momma black bear suddenly in my sights about 50 yards down the trail. Joe had almost nailed the cub (Bear #2) in the trail, which quickly scrambled up a tree between its mother and us. We slowly backed up and luckily, momma didn’t appear all that interested in us. After only a minute or two, the cub quickly climbed/slid back down the tree and both bears romped off into the brush. I had my camera in my jersey pocket but of course, didn’t think to take a photo until it was too late. You’ll have to take our word for it…. We continued the quick descent to the main trailhead, which was half-full already before 9 a.m. A quick climb up Spring Gulch and Curry Gulch, then up the “Jimmy Legs” and Overlook trails, brought us to the Ravine trail, shortly before the Snowbowl overlook. Joe had been on the Ravine trail before, which descends to the Grant Creek road near the Snowbowl turn-off, but I was a Ravine virgin. Swoops, switchbacks, long straightaways…one of the best rides I’ve been on. The three miles of incredible downhill was over much too quickly. We rode back up the Ravine trail (30 minutes of climbing that was actually fairly fun), where I assured Joe that we had at least two more big downhills ahead of us before we had to be home before noon. We cruised down the Overlook trail, past where we had come up, and bombed down Dropout. Then we climbed back up Sawmill Gulch (don’t know the trail name) and the Wren trail, back to Overlook. We took our last long sustained downhill down the Fenceline trail (where Chad and I had actually seen bears in June), which is another great rip. Then we took the “Mandatory” single-track (so-called by the Missoula riders because they “have to” ride it on every trip up the Rattlesnake) paralleling the Sawmill Gulch road back to the trailhead. Two miles of single-track along the creek, followed by a cruise through Lincolnwood subdivision, brought us back to my house. After 35 miles and 5600 vertical feet, we actually both felt great and couldn’t stop smiling…. We wanted to do another variation on Sunday but awoke to a steady drizzle. Round 3 of Missoula riding for Joe will have to wait….

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