Day 73 – East Glacier, MT to West Glacier, MT – 57 miles
We had a very nice, restful 2 days at Brownie’s hostel in East Glacier as we waited for the wind to subside. With fresh legs we set out this morning for Marias Pass, about 12 miles up the road, where we cross the Continental Divide. It was a steady climb for much of those first 12 miles but the grade was gentle and some of the time was even spent in the middle chainring. We made it to the pass fairly painlessly in about 80 minutes. What a thrill it was to see the sign marking the Continental Divide!! In the months leading up to the trip we had both discussed the need to work out, eat less, eat better, drink less beer, all in an effort to get our butts/fannies/backsides/asses across the Rockies- well today we did it!! Of course as we ride and as we learn more, we know that this is probably one of the easiest passes we will climb – there are steeper and higher passes in the Cascades. So while we are happy with our accomplishment, we know there is much more work ahead. As much as we’d like to think “it’s all downhill from here” we know better! But, right after the pass we did have downhills! Wonderful stretches of three or four miles without pedaling, a great reward for the climbing we had been doing. We rode with our drag brake to control the descent and take in as much as we could. It’s amazing the change of scenery we have seen in the last 50 miles of riding! It was only a few miles back when we were in the plains with views of nothing but fields of grass lands, and within a blink of an eye we are into mountains, huge trees and thick forests! The pace of the bike ride highlights this difference … We spent how many days in the plains, and now we are in a whole new world!!
The reality of the days ride came about 5 miles from our overnight town of West Glacier. Even though the Adventuring Cycling contour map made it look like it was “all downhill” we did have sneaking climbs and sneaky winds that made the last miles challenging. It is so strange riding in the mountains! The dizzying heights & gargantuan mountains distort your perception to the point where something that looks like a downhill is in fact a granny-gear uphill! The other thing is the strange way the mountains funnel the wind in crazy directions – at various times today, we experienced tailwinds, headwinds, crosswinds & no wind.
The route we took is the alternate route thru Glacier National Park. The regular route includes Going to the Sun Road and an additional 100 miles, or so into Canada. We have visited Glacier before (via car) and our goal this summer is to get to the Pacific so we took this alternate route. Maybe some day we’ll come back & ride Going to the Sun Road. 🙂 Our fellow cyclist, Gina, whom we met in Shelby said that they did Going to the Sun Road on the night of the full moon earlier this month & said it was the highlight of her trip. Evidently the bike shop in nearby Whitefish organizes a ride up that road each month on the night of the full moon, which sounds awesome!
We came across only one eastbound rider today: Mike Scott, from the nearby town of Hungry Horse, MT who was just setting out on on a multi-day ride, having recently finished a ride along the Pacific Coast. He was looking strong, riding up to the pass & after we left him, we were amazed at the climbs he had already ridden today. He gave us some local road information.
At Goat Lick Crossing, we skipped the observation area because we saw a bunch of cars pulled over up ahead. Sure enough, this was just the place recommended by a guy in Havre last week. There was a large group of them up on the mountainside, including a kid following it’s mama.
Near the end of the ride, as we approached West Glacier, the road seemed to hang on the edge of the cliff. It made it quite unnerving to ride the shoulder!
Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention the smell of the air! Mmmmm! Pine fresh mountain air! And not a hint of smoke from the forest fires that we smelled the past few days!
Our overnight hotel does not have TV! Jim was wondering if they can legally call it a motel? Or at the least, shouldn’t that be a disclosure sign on the front lawn?
We finished the day with Shawn’s college roommate, Norma and her husband, Bill – both of whom are fellow Michigan Tech alumni – and their daughter, Andrea. They’re on their way to Seattle (via car). We had dinner together and us MTU alumni played euchre. (The girls won 2 out of 3.). Fun night!
Before the Continental Divide:
After the Divide: