Entry and Waiver Form
I've often thought that a ride around the Tobacco Root Mountains would make a nice route for randonneurs. Thus I present "Search for Plummer's Gold". The name of the route derives from it's passage through Montana's rough and tumble past along the gold fields of Alder Gulch near Virginia City-one time Montana's territorial capitol. Legend has it that Virginia City's Sheriff Henry Plummer, who was accused of being the leader of an outlaw gang called the Innocents, offered to bring back his weight in gold to the Vigilantes if they spared his life. The plea fell on deaf ears, and Plummer met his end dangling from a noose in the winter of 1864. Ever since rumors have persisted, and treasure hunters have hunted, for Plummer's gold-thought to be buried somewhere in the hills around Virginia City.
The ride starts out near Three Forks at I-90 Exit 274 and goes to Ennis. In between Ennis and Three Forks is a long, but not so steep climb called Harrison Hill. This hill will get you warmed up for things to come-but with this hill there's no downhill payoff. It just gets you to the high plains around the small town of Harrison. After Norris, you hit a much steeper hill. Norris Hill kicks up to 7% grades and it does have a heart stopping downhill into the Madison Valley. But that's not all! After Ennis you start climbing-first gradually-and then in earnest as you go over a 7000 foot high-10mile long monster. The hill has a false summit-you'll actually go downhill for a little ways-but you're not done. There another mile or so of climbing before a fast descent into Virginia City.
The rest of the route flattens out on the way to Whitehall Montana in the Jefferson River valley before going over some rollers back to Three Forks. The ride has approximately 7600 feet of climbing concentrated in the three hills previously mentioned-all within the first sixty miles.
The route overlaps Adventure Cycling's Trans-America route from Ennis to Twin Bridges. In the summer months it's very likely that you will encounter cross-country touring cyclists on this stretch.
Search for Plummer's Gold Permanent (Route No. 487) is open to any RUSA member. Get in touch with me if you want to ride this route and we'll work out the details.
I rode this route for the first time on October 19, 2008 with a Garmin GPS unit. I created a map and info page with photos about this ride for Bicycling Magazine's Rides Website. Click on "trip details" on the map below to get to the info page and photos.