Hundreds of cyclists of all ages gathered at Travelers Rest State Park in Lolo on Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of the Bitterroot Trail bike trail that now connects Hamilton to Missoula.

Ginny Sullivan with Adventure Cycling said the completion of the trail was meant to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Missoula-based cycling organization.

"It's Adventure Cycling's 40th anniversary, and we've brought cyclists in from all over the world to celebrate with us," Sullivan said. "We started in 1976 with a big bike ride all over the country, and we used this corridor, and to this day our Trans-America and our Lewis and Clark Bicycle Trail also follow this corridor. It's so important because now we have a safe corridor to get from Lolo to Missoula."

One of the many cyclists on hand to celebrate was 78 year-old Ethel MacDonald, who has cycled all over the world, now with her small dog who travels in a basket on the front of her bike.

"I'm a Missoula resident and I've been working on this trail with a lot of other people for a long, long time," McDonald said. "I was wondering if this would ever happen in my biking life, and so I'm getting a little teared up about it."I've been biking seriously since 2002, mostly in Europe and now in the US, and I have Adventure Cycling to thank for that."

Ritchie Doyle is a Lewis and Clark Expedition actor who created horse-head cardboard cutouts and fastened them to several bicycles belonging to volunteers who were portraying various members of the Lewis and Clark party.

"I will be, as Meriweather, duly reporting this expedition to President Jefferson," Doyle said. "We're going to be exploring this new trail, and I had to find nine volunteers along with five Indian guides, as I had 210 years ago this month as we left Travelers Rest."

Iron Man competitor and Hamilton resident Jim Wood had biked to Lolo on the new trail along with dozens of others from the Bitterroot, and had advice for anyone who wanted to get started cycling.

"Go to a good bike shop and get a decent bike, and have it fit for you," Wood said. "Your local bike shops will really do good by you. Whatever kind of riding you want to do, those local bike shops will get you set up."

A cycling fair was held in Silver Park later Saturday afternoon.

Local officials were on hand as the ribbon was cut to officially open the Bitterroot Trail.


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