The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Taking on the Deer Creek-Pattee Canyon Loop

Adventure Saturday is the time I designate each week to get out of the house and explore Montana. This week, I did a 17.6 mile mountain bike loop recommended to me by Ted as tame enough for the Sweetpea to handle with no problem.

Since the weather looked promising, I also decided to unveil my brand new alter ego: Lycra Grrl. (My spectacular ex-choir teacher and stupendous human being Kelly Carlisle used to go by the name “Spandex Man” when he would show up to school wearing spandex.) Lycra Grrl dons a Super Relax jersey and thermal jacket with bike shorts. When not biking, Lycra Grrl fights for truth, justice, and for bike clothing manufacturers to make bigger sizes.

The Deer Creek-Pattee Canyon Loop starts and ends at the University of Montana. The first section is technically the most difficult, as the Kim Williams Nature Trail is unpaved east of Missoula, so I took it fairly slow over the bumpy, gravelly trail to avoid falling over or getting a pinch flat. When the trail ends past East Missoula, I continued along single track that parallels the railroad. Rifle shots started ringing out a bit before my turn at Deer Creek Road, and I learned that I had been skirting Deer Creek Shooting Center. Yeeps!

Deer Creek Road quickly turned to dirt dusted lightly with gravel, with the first couple of miles pock marked with potholes. The potholes were a breeze to navigate when I looked for the straight lines of level ground between them. It was also here that the climbing started.

And goodness me, there was a lot of climbing.

It was during this very long climb that I realized my fatal error. I should have eaten lunch before leaving my house instead of skipping to leave “on time,” and/or I should have brought more food than just a single Clif Bar. My hands were shaking about halfway up, so I ate what I had. Fortunately, the little energy bar instantly powered me up and single-handedly saved the day!

When I had finally chugged up almost to the top, I enjoyed a cool drink from Deer Creek and a small clearing that afforded the best view of the ride (above). Ominous clouds started moving in again, and I soon pulled over to put my jacket and helmet back on, both of which I had removed on the long climb up. I was now on Pattee Canyon Drive, and the road soon became paved again.

What had taken more than an hour to climb took about 15 minutes to descend. A moment of cold rain caught me on the way down, but I quickly outpaced it. After navigating some new areas of Missoula by bike,  I was back at the University of Montana, taking photos of the Thriller Bears (left) before tackling the last mile home.

About that climb: my sources/calculations suggest that I climbed about 1300 feet, roughly equivalent to climbing two Mount Tabors, if you were starting from the Willamette River. All the climbing happened in about five miles. Not that impressive to many bikey people I know, but it was the perfect challenge for me. And that’s supposed to be what I’m doing this summer, is expanding my capabilities in terms of hill climbing and distances.

Lycra Grrl may very well make another appearance next Adventure Saturday. Tune in next week! Same bikey time! Same bikey channel!



Filed under Bicycles, Montana

4 responses to “The Adventures of Lycra Grrl: Taking on the Deer Creek-Pattee Canyon Loop

  1. Excellent work! Or I guess Excellent Play! would be more appropriate. 🙂

  2. Sounds beautiful & fun! Great job–with the gravel and dirt riding you’re totally going to be ready for cyclocross this fall!

  3. jj

    sounds like an awesome ride!

  4. Nancy

    Sounds like a beautiful ride… I’ve made that same mistake of not eating prior or not bringing sufficient refueling for the ride. Not any more. All it takes is once. Shaking while doing a technical or just long ride is no fun.

    Hey, in the “small world” category – I too know Kelly Carlisle! How about that….I think he is one of the most wonderful people on this planet.

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