If you’re going to bicycle through a popular National Park, make sure it’s on a national holiday. Just kidding. Really do your best not to do that.
September 3: Hallelujah almost no wind finds me today! I climbed about 1700 feet total for the day, and complete 25 miles in the first 3 hours. That’s over 8 miles an hour! Compare that to my 5 mile-an-hour struggle in the wind from previous days. I stay the night in East Glacier, where I meet an Irish couple who are taking a year to bicycle circuitously from Canada to Mexico. I find out that the “Going to the Sun Road,” one of the two passes through the mountains in Glacier, is closed due to a wildfire. While this is one of the most iconic roads in the US, part of me is happy the nature is forcing my hand into taking the less challenging Marias Pass.
September 4: Winter is here. I’m not in Westeros but it sure feels like it. I wake up at 5:30am and it is 45 degrees (F). Somehow Montana knows it’s Labor Day and therefore summer must be turned to the off position. I put on all my clothes. Dobby refuses the leave the sleeping bag, which he crawled into with me during the night. I know today I cross the Rocky Mountains. I will be biking through Glacier National Park on Labor Day, one of the biggest travel weekends of the year. I will be going over the biggest mountain pass since the Kancamagus Highway all the way back in New Hampshire.
I could have planned this better.
In anticipation of a brutal day, I eat breakfast at a diner in East Glacier at 6:30am. I am hoping that I can beat some of the traffic. My breakfast covers all the food groups, plus dessert.
In anticlimactic fashion, Marias Pass is…. easy. I do not even get off my bike. This is the only mountain pass that does not require me to drag my bike behind me in order to reach the top. I climb a mere 600 feet to the top, but the ride was incredible. The rivers are both blue and clear, running over smooth volcanic pebbles that span all the colors of the rainbow. My wonderment cannot be dampened by the insane amount of vacationers driving too close and honking at me. I’m not even looking in their direction. The scenery is amazing, and I can’t wait to go back and visit one day.
I have a long lunch at the cafe of a campground in the park. I’m unable to camp within the park boundaries due to the proximity of wildfires. All the wildfires mean that the bear populations are being forced closer to humans than usual, and as a result any soft-sided camping accommodations (like a tent or a pop-up camper) were disallowed until further notice.
I push on until I reach Glacier Campground, located just outside the west gate of the park.
I meet the Irish couple again, they are staying here as well. They offer me a beer, which I accept. Who refuses a beer from an irishman, I think.
September 5: Glacier Campground has an eatery called Sunflower Cafe. It. Is. SO good. This is the end of their season so some of their items have been discontinued but it does not matter. Everything they have is delicious. The cafe is an open air establishment with long picnic tables. I sit down to eat and I am soon joined by the irish couple. We sit and talk late into the morning, and by the time I get up I realize I have already decided to take a zero day.
Naturally I go back to bed. This is one upside to the cooler temperatures: day sleeping in my tent without feeling like a turkey roasting in an oven.
I finally get up and walk to an outfitter store, thinking that it might be time for some warmer clothing. I check the price tags and settle for some Mountain House granola instant breakfasts instead.
The air is very smoky, we hear that the nearest wildfire is a mere 12 miles away. I contemplate my mortality and inability to escape a raging inferno on a bicycle while continuing to laze around. I hear that there are also fires near Eureka, a town on the Northern Tier, meaning I am going to have to go off route.
We have traveled 2,684 miles.