Friday, July 3, 2015

Great Divide-Whitefish to Basin

I'm starting to get me legs underneath me. I feel good, especially at the beginning of the day. The cumulative effects of climbing, miles and heat do wear on me by the end of the day though. After a great night of sleep on Sunday at the Whitefish Bike Retreat (which included pastries and coffee in the morning), they had me loaded and on the van by 8:30 on Monday morning to get to the Glacier Cyclery to try to get Hulk fixed.

The beast is back! #hulksmash #uyridesdivide #surlyecr #upandrolling

Thanks again to Stephen Willis for getting me a new seatpost. It's made a difference. They said that they could make the bike tubeless again, the sealant had closed a lot of the hole. And when they took apart the tire, they found two metal wires, about 1-1.25 inches long which is why my tube wasn't holding air. A basic rule of changing a flat tire is to look and feel and make sure that whatever caused the flat is not there. I did not follow that rule because I was careless and in a hurry.

I sent some mail and had lunch and got rolling about 1:00. First 40 something miles pretty flat as I passed through residential areas of Whitefish, Columbia Falls and into the more pastoral areas of Swan River and Ferndale. At a convenience store in Ferndale where I devoured pizza and ice cream, I made the decision to keep riding, even though it was nearly 7:00. I pedaled into the Flathead National Forest, looking for a decent place to camp. It was a long climb into the forest and then I descended. I rode past the Swan River Wildlife Refuge and kept pedaling until after 9:00, thankfully it doesn't get dark until close to 10:00. Filtered water and set up camp-- what a miserable experience. The mosquitoes were so bad! They were chasing me as I rode, I could see them between my legs. At camp, they swarmed. I doused myself in bug spray, but I'm sure I've contracted malaria or West Nile.

Mosquito heaven

The next morning, I wake up at 5:30 and after coffee and packing, I'm off at about 7:15. That's sort of been my routine. I get up early because I'm still on East Coast time or maybe because the sun is bright already. But I don't set an alarm. Oh, the mosquitoes are still there.

Show me the way

I miss one of my turns because the National Forests around here have so many roads going in all directions and the signage isn't always good or there. I decide not to turn around and just ride out to the main road. That allows me to ride through Condon (pop 300) to get some lunch before attacking the big climb of the day.

When I turn on Forest Road, it's a long 20+ mile climb to over 6,000 feet to a trail that wraps around Richmond Peak. It was hot, of course, and and the climb took nearly over 3 hours. But it was not without excitement. I stopped and helped two kids because their four wheeler was stranded. We pushed it to the top of a hill and let the roll down. I heard the engine crank as I walked back towards my bike. A few minutes later, I round a bend and there's a bear on the road. Just walking and not paying attention. I stop quickly and pull the safety off the bear spray. It sees me. I talk to it and the watch it dart to it's left. The bear was about 50 feet way from me. Needless to say, my heart rate was high. I'm also glad I got those kids rolling, because that wasn't too far from where they were stranded.

Getting ready to be fun

You never reach Richmond peak, you just kind of go around it near the top. I was exhausted. I stopped at a spring to filter water not because I needed it but because it was an excuse to stop. I probably did need it though considering the heat was high 90s. But the climb is about to be worth it. The trail that wraps around the mountain becomes singletrack, and good one at that. It's fast, scenic and smooth. The trail falls off to the left, so no mistakes that way. But it was a blast, even if I couldn't go as fast as I would have on my regular mountain bike.

My Trail

After a long downhill, I pedal on Cottonwood Lakes, which is in the Lolo National Forest. I find a great campsite not too far off the road. And the best part, hardly any mosquitoes. For some reason, they were nonexistent. I didn't even use bug spray. But the flies. So many flies. I sat by the stream and made dinner and washed clothes. Headed to bed early. Was awaken once by a really loud car that drove by and a second time by headlights of a truck that turned into my campsite. I'm 80 yards from the road and he backed up and parked at a site closer to the road. Of all the places he could have parked and slept, he wanted to be here. He didn't even set up a tent. I went to sleep hoping I wouldn't have to wake up and fight some stranger.

In the morning, my neighbor was up before me. He was walking around and looking lost but left before I broke camp. Again, I was riding by 7:15. 25 miles or so to Ovando where I got breakfast at the Stray Bullet Cafe. Highway 200 runs to Lincoln, but the Great Divide takes you over Huckleberry Pass. After rolling through some dusty roads with horses, it's a 6 mile climb to the pass. Again, slow and steady. By the time I get to Lincoln, I decide I want to stay. I've just spent two nights in the woods with bugs, strange people and worrisome noises. There is a motel that has bunkhouses for riders but they said it never did well and they could only offer me a room for $60. A good price, but I still didn't want to stay. So, I made the decision to see if I could get over Stemple Pass and the first crossing of the Continental Divide since Elk Pass in Canada. It was a good decision because I meant I got to stay at Barbara's cabin.

Huckleberry View


You actually don't cross at Stemple Pass, you take another road that the map warns is difficult to an unnamed pass. It climbed only about 4 miles through some really neat forests and logging areas, but the last 1.5 miles were brutal. I did something I rarely have to do. I pushed. Sure, I'll stop and rest on climbs but then I'll get back on the bike and ride. This was so steep and so late in the day that I couldn't even ride it. I would push for 2-3 minutes, would ride and then push more until I got to the top. The descent was fast and fun. I had to wait for cows to clear the road. Then I realized that I scared them and if I rode, they would scatter. I watched on pregnant cow slip a few feet down a bank as she was escaping me. I felt bad about that.

Neat trees

Spent the night at the Llama Lodge.

This morning, I was off for my usual 7:15 departure. Only I didn't have to break camp. Started climbing pretty early into the ride. Went over the Divide. Met Felix from Switzerland, who was riding Northbound on a front suspension mountain bike with a trailer. He said he liked it but he carried too much stuff (a danger and common entrapment of the trailer).

No Motorize vehicles
Crossed the Divide about 12 miles later and rode fast down to US 12. Had to deal with construction on the dirt road that was the Remini Alternate. The first part of the climb off Rimini Road was steep and tough with lots of large loose rocks. A guy in a truck tells me there's a Frenchman ahead riding the route (I never see him). About 6,500 feet, the trail takes you up these trails that are so steep and eroded that I spend a lot of time pushing. It's hard and tiring. I thought I might make Butte today. Nope, not going to happen. I even push the bike down the downhill sections because it's so rocky and steep. I read about a guy who fell a few years ago, cut his leg and got an infection and wasn't ablt to finish the ride. I didn't want that to be me.

When I got back on an actual forest road, the speeds were really fast. The road was well graded and I could let go. 8 miles down to Basin and it flew by. Checked into the campground here in Basin. Took a shower and shaved for the first time in nearly four days. The hosts, Diane and John, asked me if I wanted some of their leftover food from dinner-- they had sausage, vegetable tray, baked beans. I said sure, it saved me from having to ride to go get a meal and it was free. She kept bring food while I was sitting-- chips and salsa,, homemade bread, beer. I didn't turn anything down, I was so famished. I'm also thankful for the generosity of others.

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