Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lakes, Trucks & Trees

I'm heading into Glacier National Park this evening!  In the next 2 weeks, expect to find me in: Browning, Helena and Bozeman, MT.  After a few days in Bozeman, I'll be heading into Yellowstone NP, followed by Grand Teton and a stopover in Jackson, WY.  If you're around, let me know!

8/4/11 Day 26: Kellogg, ID to near Thompson Falls, MT: 30 miles

Having cleared the Pacific states now by a long shot, I wonder when I will next see the ocean. Today was the bumpiest ride I've had by far, and in the top 3 for steepness as well. Somehow I once again ended up on a gravel forest service road in the middle of nowhere. I wish Google would tell me which roads are paved and which are not. I survived, with a positive attitude most of the way, and rode through some beautiful country on my way to an amazing campsite. There were a few times during my descent that my hands got so tired from braking that I thought I wouldn't be able to stop. Steep, rocky, twisty descents are not nearly as fun as smooth, flat paved ones.

Yesterday, I woke up fairly late after watching “The King's Speech” the night before. Jessica, with whom I was couch-surfing, made a big breakfast for us and another friend who spent the night. I then rode into town, and Jessica made the bike shop at the ski resort where she works available to me so that I could clean and tune-up my bike. The shop was fully equipped, and I spent an hour or two getting my bike back into tip-top cleanliness, but I am having some minor issues which I don't understand how to fix. They can wait.

After being treated to a great lunch at a local Mexican Restaurant by Jessica's boss, Janet, I helped the two of them move computers and equipment for the season pass office from one room to another. I was then shown into the indoor water park that the resort runs, and Jessica hung around to take a few pictures of me on the artificial surfing wave which is the main attraction at the park. I had never been to an indoor water park before, and had a great time sliding down watery tunnels in an inner tube, trying my luck at the surf wave, and splashing around in the many pools.

Later that night, I cooked up a big dinner full of greens and garlic. It was tasty and satisfying.

Day 27: near Thompson Falls, MT to Hot Springs, MT: 66 miles

Today started off hot and sunny, riding down the rest of the dirt road on which I passed over the Idaho/Montana border, and camped next to last night. When I hit pavement, I stopped to clean my drive-train of dust and debris, and almost cursed myself for not jumping into the little creek next to my campsite before leaving. Descending through the Montana hills was an experience of beauty and solitude. There was hardly any shoulder on the small highway, but it didn't seem to matter due to the light traffic. Hills full of evergreens, clear, flowing streams, and gray, hard rock cliffs shooting up from the ground at diagonal angles filled my view.

Shortly after I finished my lunch break, the clouds that had been looming in the sky started to release their water. Light waves of thunder followed lightning bursts in the distance, and small drops landed on me as I tried to outrun something more serious. Eventually, I stopped to cover all of my things with rain-proofing, and soon, it was dumping. I ducked under the awning of a firehouse in Plains, MT to put on my raincoat and continue on. The rain didn't last long, so I took off my coat, and the hills that I was going up and down kept my body warm enough not to need an extra layer through the small showers I continued to encounter.

This evening, I am camped at Camas Hot Springs in Hot Springs, MT. Hot Springs is a small, touristy town tucked into the hills of western Montana. Leroy, the local who collects money for use of the hot-springs, showed up soon after my arrival, and I paid him to soak and camp. After setting up my tent and eating dinner, several locals showed up and we all chatted about farming and yurts and backpacking. One of the locals owns a natural food store, and another builds yurts when he's not running permaculture classes. I was in like-minded company. Leroy, who is “a big, mean Indian,” to hear him tell it, (the springs are on tribal land) told a story about nearly burning up camp Pendleton when he was a marine there before the Vietnam war. The whole experience was a great taste of local life. I could see myself getting to know these folks better.

8/6/11 Day 28: Hot Springs, MT to Big Fork, MT: 65 miles

Montana has lots of trees, but not where the highways are. I found myself starved for shade today, but managed to find one giant cottonwood accessible from the highway. The shoulders on the highways here are not designed with cyclists in mind, and everyone drives a big truck. I was honked at more than once, and I don't think it was in a friendly way. I did not feel threatened, and I remain very visible with a rear light blinking at all times, giant yellow panniers and an orange safety vest. The RV to human ratio here is very high. People are camped all over the place, on private and public land, next to rivers and in the middle of empty fields. I saw one large pickup with a big camper shell towing a double-level trailer with an ATV on top and a boat on the bottom, and there was a scooter strapped to the front of the truck as well. I feel like that image sums up the general attitude of much of Montana, but the folks I met at Camas hot springs have already shown me another attitude.

On my way out of Hot Springs, I stopped at the Natural Foods store that belonged to one of the gentlemen I had met the night before. It was well stocked, well priced, and I picked up everything I needed for less than I expected to spend.

For much of the day I was pedaling around Flathead Lake. This large, natural lake fills a low spot just west of the Rockies, and has small towns sprinkled all around it. The lake with the backdrop of the Rockies was quite stunning, but power lines and housing developments kept me from getting many good photos. I picked up batch of delicious local cherries.

Upon arriving in Bigfork, I was flagged down by Randi De Santa Anna, the mother of one of my best friends in high school, with whom I had made arrangements to camp this evening. Good timing led me into a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant with stimulating conversation from then through the rest of the evening. Randi and her husband Juan had a booth for Juan's photography at an art fair in Bigfork for the weekend, and Juan and Randi have both done wilderness therapy in the past. We had much to talk about.   You can see Juan's photos here:

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