Montana Island Challenge – 12 Hours of Mountain Biking

This year was my first time to attend the Montana Island Challenge, a fundraiser for several youth groups in Lewistown, Montana.

The event consisted of a 12 hour night time mountain biking ride starting Friday, August 19 at 7pm and ending at 7am Saturday morning. Saturday’s other events were a half marathon and two 8K and 11K hikes.

I was not a participant, instead I was a spectator who took photos of the mountain biking event. I thought the mountain biking course was rugged even in an ATV side by side (Ranger). I’m not a mountain biker!

The location for the Montana Island Challenge was the Half Moon Ranch in the Snowy Mountains about 45 minutes southeast of Lewistown. One of the benefits of participating in the Montana Island Challenge is getting to bike, hike or run on private land.

The drive to Half Moon Ranch was beautiful – I only stopped twice to take scenic photos but I could have stopped several more times. I couldn’t believe how green the Snowy Mountains looked, especially for late August. But, the clock was ticking and I didn’t want to be late for the start of the mountain biking event.

I checked in at the registration desk and the organizer offered to let me see the mountain biking course and said one of his sons could drive me around the 5 1/2 mile route. I gladly accepted and off we went.

The starting point for mountain biking was on the road in to Half Moon Ranch, still fairly rugged for me. We must have gone about a mile on that road and then turned off and began to climb. I was glad I had a seat belt on!

Each major corner or turn was marked by a fluorescent dot on a stake and hazards such as low hanging tree limbs had fluorescent ribbon tied on them. I can’t begin to imagine how many volunteer hours went in to setting up this event.

At 7pm the mountain bikers took off and then I went to a pre-determined position on a mountainside that was almost the end of the 5 1/2 mile loop. It took about 35 minutes from the start of the race until the first mountain biker came by me. I did get a photo but I decided I needed to keep my eye on the slowly sinking sun. I would need to continually move a bit until it was dark so I could catch the rest of the bikers finishing their first loop.

I stayed until about 9pm and then worked my way down the mountain to the registration area. People were camped nearby and would spend the night tallying the riders’ completed loops. The mountain bikers were having an amazing time and most weren’t out to set any records, just to suport a great cause and have a good time on their bike. Some were riding in teams where one team member rode a loop while the others sat out.

The Montana Island Challenge is named after the island mountain ranges that surround Lewistown and are found in many areas in Central Montana. As I stood on the mountainside waiting for bikers I thought it would be great to do this type of race in all of our island ranges – a great idea, lots of work though.

I wish I could have stayed for Saturday’s running and hiking events but I had more work to do in a different area. So, back to Lewistown I drove. The sun had set and it was dark the entire way but it was a starry night with an almost full moon. I didn’t take any photos on this drive but it was tempting.

I was tired and I was chilled after standing in damp grass on a mountain in dwindling sunlight, but I was happy for having seen this amazing event!







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