Jasper, AB to
Denis Kertz, ©2012
I saw a place
advertise a breakfast buffet yesterday so I packed up and headed there. The maître d’ asked me if I was from
It was windy when I left just after 8:30. I stopped at the Prince of Wales Hotel on my way out of town because it was perched atop a peninsula with a view of the lake and the village. The wind was strong enough to threaten to blow me over. It concerned me that the wind might make the day's travel really difficult since I had a couple of steep climbs.
After exiting the park I took 6 south. Fortunately, my wind fears didn't materialize. There were trees and bushes that mostly block the wind and I only had to worry about climbing. As I climbed I got some good views of the park and the lake to make the climbing effort worthwhile.
After the first
climb I left the park behind and made my way after some descending to the next
climb that took me to the
After that it was a little more climbing and then some up and down before a long descent to Hwy 89. After 4 miles on 89 I reached Babb but there was little there. I was hoping I could exchange my Canadian money but no luck. I was able to buy a cold drink with my Canadian money but was charged a 10% fee, which wasn't a great deal since the Canadian dollar was worth more than the US dollar.
It was mostly a mild downhill the rest of the way to St Mary with a little climbing. When I reached St Mary I inquired about currency exchange and a guy suggested trying the Esso Station. The guy there said he didn't know of any currency exchange in the area but as luck would have it a Canadian overheard and offered to exchange my $60 Canadian for $60 US. This was very lucky for me and hopefully worked out for him as well. At a currency exchange I would have gotten more than $60 US but would have had to pay a fee so a straight trade was about a wash for me.
Just after that I
met Al, a local cafe worker, who was planning to tour down the
While checking into the park I learned that the Going-to-the-Sun road was closing on Sept 17. The ranger told me this was so some maintenance work could be done before the snow set in. She said there was the possibility that they might make some arrangements to let hikers and cyclists through on the weekend after the road closure.
The campground was just a short distance into the park but it was basically full except it had a hiker/biker site with one other tent already set up. So I was able to get a site for $5 which was a deal. However, I was really curious about the tent already set up. It was much larger and heavier than I would have expected either a hiker or a cyclist to be carrying.
About an hour
after my arrival my curiosity was answered.
A Columbian couple, Frederick and Aly, roared into camp on a
motorcycle. I don't really think this
was the intent for a hiker/biker site but it was an interesting meeting. Aly didn't stay up very long but
Finally I turned
in around 9pm so I could type my notes and get rested for tomorrow's big climb
The sun was just
making its way over the mountains when I left.
I had 6 miles to a lodge where I expected to get breakfast. I rode along the 9.9 mile long Saint Marry
It was a 12 mile
I stopped for
numerous photographs. A few miles before
the pass the road did a sharp V turn which allowed me to see the road below and
how much climbing I had done. Near noon
the sky started getting hazy from forest fire smoke from
I made the pass just before 1pm and stopped at the small visitor center with a full parking lot. I thought there might be food there but there wasn't so I had my second breakfast there.
From the pass it was all downhill. As I started down I was surprised to see a long line of vehicles coming up to the pass. I thought maybe the weekend traffic had finally really kicked in but shortly I had to wait behind a line of cars going downhill. The backup was the result of a one-lane road due to road construction and that bunched all the traffic together.
When it was our turn to proceed we passed through sections of the road that was prepared for resurfacing. That undoubtedly was the reason for the closure of the road after Sunday, to allow for the actual resurfacing. There was some awesome scenery but there was practically no where to stop. Normally it would have been possible to stop on the side away from the scenery and walk across the road but with nonstop traffic that was impractical.
Eventually the one lane road ended and it was much easier to stop at some vantage points. For a good part of the way down you could look up and see the road etched in the side of the mountains as it stretched towards the pass. Finally the descent was essentially done and the road passed through a pleasant stretch of evergreen forests.
Since many of the
campgrounds were closed after Labor Day my only camping option before West
Glacier was the Apgar Campground. It
also had hiker/biker sites but a little different flavor. Last night's site was one site with room for
3 tents. This campground had individual
sites each set up as a hiker/biker site.
Two were adjacent to each other and one was already taken by Andrew, who
had cycled from south
After settling in I walked a little more than a half mile to the Apgar village for a buffalo burger which was fine.
Andrew got up while I was packing and he was doing some yoga stretching as I waved good-bye. I rode the couple of miles to West Glacier for breakfast. The restaurant there noted that they were closing today as of noon, which seemed a little strange. Seems like they would have just closed at the normal closing hour. Anyway I had a good breakfast with 2 surprising large pancakes and ham.
Leaving town I picked up US2 south. My map showed a detour in a few miles using the back roads but I elected to stay on US2 because the other route had a number of turns and some gravel so US2 was just easier. The price was the noisy traffic but it helped that most of the traffic was oncoming, presumably on the way to Glacier. There was one stretch of 3-4 miles with little or no shoulder but the rest of the way the shoulder was okay although they would have been better still if the rumble strips had been right next to the white line.
I could have
I retraced my
route slightly to just across the
The road ended at Hwy 35 which I then took to Creston, stopping at a store for a cold drink and ham sandwich. By then it was 3:20 and this was turning out to be a longer day than I expected.
There was some climbing on 83 but it was fairly flat. 83 followed along the east side of the lake but trees hid most of the lake view until near the end where there were a couple of good views of the lake.
There was a USFS
campground almost 2 miles outside
I rode on towards
After eating I rode the half mile back to the USFS campground and picked out a site. My biggest concern was how to store my food since there were no food lockers. Since there was no other camper in my loop I chose to stash my food pannier in the outhouse.
I got up at 7am, packed up, and rode the almost 2 miles to town hoping to find breakfast. I wasn't too optimistic to find something open at 8am on a Monday morning but the Trading Post was. You could have anything for breakfast as long as it was a McSwan – ham, eggs, and cheese on toasted bread. This was actually very good, just not quite as filling as I would have liked.
It was obvious this was the town hangout, but then there really wasn't anything else. The proprietors said they saw me riding yesterday afternoon. This place also had a campground and probably would have been a good place to camp with the store accessibility. With my campground price break I felt like I got a free breakfast so I was happy.
As I was leaving
the proprietor tried to tell me it was all downhill to
The first 20 miles of the ride on 83 weren't that great because the trees lining the side of the road blocked most of the scenery. Once I neared Condon the trees thinned out and there were some good views, particularly places where there were some meadows along the road.
In Condon I stopped at 12:15 for my second breakfast at a store where I got milk, a banana, and a cinnamon roll. Along with my cereal stash this was a filling breakfast.
At 2:30 I reached
the crest of the road and the remaining 20 miles to
At 4:30 I neared
With the thought that I probably wasn't going to beat a no fee campground I rode into town looking for food and Internet access. I found it at a service station/hardware store/grocery store that had small pizzas and subs. I got a small pizza and drink and ice cream and after fiddling some I got the WiFi working and checked my email.
It was a luxury to be able to do this and still have plenty of time to get to the campground and set up. I picked a site close to an outhouse for storing my food with no one around until a camper trailer showed up a little later. This place had a small beach with a swimming area so I used it to clean up by dunking myself in the lake and rinsing out my riding clothes which had gone several days without any cleaning.
This was actually
a day where I could have gone on another 10-15 miles but there just weren't any
good facilities any further than
I continued to see forest fire smoke during the day. One field along the road was used as a fire station with a couple of helicopters, one on the ground and one in the air.
It was around freezing when I rode back into town for breakfast so it was good to have breakfast and some time for things to warm up. I rode to the other end of town before I finally found a place serving breakfast. They didn't have pancakes so I opted for a regular breakfast that was a good value for $7.
My goal was to
make at least
Once I reached this intersection it seemed someone turned on a switch and the smoke became a real issue. I had seen and smelled the smoke before but the smoke was just a touch. Now it was in my face. It affected visibility and smell but mostly it irritated my eyes. I had some eye drops for dry eyes but that just seemed to make things worse.
200 was a busy
road but it had a wide shoulder so it was just very noisy. After the one big climb of about 600' I descended
for a bit and then stopped at a convenience store in
At Milltown I
stopped for a quick break for a small pizza and a drink. Then I picked up a road along the Interstate
that took me into
I decided to
continue another 13 miles to Lolo before calling it a day. It was pretty easy getting out of
At Lolo I stopped
at the intersection where 12 heads to the
I paid $15 and was allowed to set up any place in the field. The only problem was there were automatic sprinklers and the woman had to find the nearby sprinkler to turn it off, which was done by setting a weighted bucket over the sprinkler. However, she couldn't find the sprinkler where I had chose to set up. After continual failure we found another sprinkler and I moved my planned tent site nearby.
After a shower I walked across the street to a foodmart that had a sit down area and had another small pizza and typed my notes.
The excitement of the night was the sprinkler system. The woman who collected my tent fee had put a bucket with a concrete block on top of the nearest sprinkler. This was supposed to keep it from popping up and keep it off. It failed. About 1:30am I heard a roar as the sprinkler kicked off. It tipped the bucket over on its side and when the water spray hit the bucket it made a roar. I ended up turning the bucket upside down with the concrete block on top which contained the spray inside the bucket. I also have a Brooks leather saddle on my bike and I always put a plastic bag over the saddle to protect it from water, except I forgot last night so I put the plastic bag over the saddle. I was still worried that the sprinkler was going to create a puddle around the bucket and it might eventually make its way to my tent. However, the sprinkler only stayed on for about 30 minutes and there was no further disaster although another sprinkler occasionally swept over my tent.
I had hoped my tent would dry out from the sprinkler but it was still a little wet in the morning. The only thing that looked like a regular breakfast in town was a casino across the street so I went there. They had a $5 special for ham, eggs, and French toast that was a good deal. They also had WiFi so I was able to check my email.
It was an easy
The big story was
the smoke. It seemed somewhat better
than yesterday but the road went through the
I passed up Stevensville for my second breakfast because Victor was just a short distance away and it was on my side of the road. However, when I got to Victor I found the service station shut down. I thought I was out of luck until I found a grocery store just on the edge of town and had my second breakfast.
It was another 10
It was a modest
climb on the
I tried calling
Judy but there was no cell phone service in the area. It was near 4pm and I figured it would make
sense to get something to eat in
So I dumped my panniers outside the house and headed downhill back to town. I called Judy from the bike shop so she could meet me there and then I left my bike at the shop for pickup tomorrow.
We ate at a
Mexican restaurant in town and then headed home. Judy also drove me past their home to show me
where their property ended. Then we
Then we turned
around and returned home where Judy has been batching it since the spring. Judy's husband, Mike, had formerly been
involved in construction but that went away with the housing bust. Now he was flying tours over
With my bike in the shop, I rode with Judy to school and then commandeered her vehicle. I drove downtown and hung out at a coffee shop for most of the morning. Around 11:30 I walked to the bike shop and found my bike was already done. While my front wheel needed to be trued because of a loose spoke the real culprit for my shimmying was apparently a stem bolt with stripped threads in my threadless stem. So the shop installed a longer bolt and that appeared to take care of the problem, all for $20.
With my bike in hand I drove home where I had mailed a partially worn rear tire ahead of time. Usually I use my rear tire for only a single tour and them I'm reluctant to use it on a second tour for fear that the tread will wear out. This time I started with a previously used rear tire. It still had some tread left and could well have handled the rest of the trip but I switched it out in favor of the other used rear tire I had sent ahead of time because it clearly had enough tread left.
After taking care of a few other odds and ends I returned to town and hung out at the library. Today was open house at Judy's school so she had to be there from 5:30-6:30 so I met her at the school at 6:30 and then we ate at a Subway.
Back at home we got caught up more on family talk and then I packed up my panniers for leaving in the morning.
pancakes for me in the morning, enough that would hopefully power me over
Cycling route actually had me going south and climbing the Lost Trail
Pass. However, I had done that route
twice already. It was very scenic but I
wanted to do something different this time.
Plus with the smoke in the valley it looked like it would actually be a
better choice to get out of the valley via the
The real question today was how bad the gravel would be for climbing to the pass and how bad would it be for descending from the pass, since the pass wasn't especially steep. The first 5 miles were regular pavement and then the road narrowed considerably but the pavement remained for another 3.5 miles. It was narrow enough the vehicles would have to be careful when passing and there were some logging trucks to make it more interesting.
Once the gravel started it was 8 miles of gravel to the pass. The gravel was hard-packed and the loose gravel was small pebbles so that was okay. The main problem was the washboarding. It took extra energy to wander across the road to pick out the level spots which wasn't easy to do when also trying to balance the bike while traveling at 3-4 mph. The combination of less traction and weaving around made it a difficult climb.
The highlight of
the climb to the pass was
It was noon when I reached the top and stopped for my second breakfast. When I was setting up two retired guys stopped and asked if I needed anything but I assured them I was okay. Later I leapfrogged them a couple times as they stopped along the way.
While it was nice to have the climb behind me the descent was no picnic. Because of the washboarding I had to keep the bicycle well under control or pay the price with jarring. There was 5 miles of gravel and then 4 miles of asphalt but then the gravel returned for another 3 miles or so before the gravel was history.
Once the road was back to regular pavement the road left the trees behind to pass through wide open ranch land on rolling land. This was nice scenery except for the smoke that could still be seen in the distance. With the wide open spaces it became fairly warm. As luck would have it, my retired friends passed me again and again asked me if I would like any water. This time I conceded that some cold water would be welcome. So they stopped and handed me a cold water bottle from their stash and left me behind. It didn't take long for that cold water to disappear.
After 46 miles
So when I reached
the end of the climb and
I picked a campsite that was next to a restroom and water and paid $6, half-price with my senior discount. As I passed by the campground host with a couple of other folks I commented that it looked like a quiet evening. Of course, two vehicles with what looked like about 10 college age people promptly arrived and claimed the two sites right next to me.
So I resigned myself to having to share the restroom which only concerned me because I planned to store my food pannier there overnight.
I expected the two young groups next door to be noisy and they were but not in the way I expected. They didn't bother me at all last night but starting around 6am I started hearing slamming doors. When I got up around 7am they were just finishing up packing and they left a few minutes later.
I packed up and
left around 8am.
It was a relatively easy 18 miles to Anaconda where I expected to find breakfast. First, I wanted to get some more cash. The first place, a Wells Fargo bank was closed because of an attempted robbery. The next place had an out-of-service ATM. Finally, the third try was the charm and I got my cash.
I rode a ways through town looking for breakfast so I stopped at the first place I found, a family restaurant. It was an okay breakfast with pancakes, eggs, and bacon but the pancakes were no match for Judy's.
When I left Anaconda,
an old mining town, there was some more descent then the start of a gradual
climb out of the valley. Along the way I
saw 4 pronghorns who bounded away when I stopped for a photo. After 5 miles the road ended and I had to
take about 18 miles of I90 to get to
Interstate is usually not fun but I made it to
I had the option
of either continuing on I90 or continuing south on
But there was a price to pay. First, a group of 4 vehicles passed and the last guy in a pickup truck gunned his vehicle just after he passed, belching out some foul smoke. There was no need for acceleration since he was pinned behind the other vehicles so I think he did it on purpose. I noticed right after he passed that he glanced in his rear view mirror. Charitably I could say he was making sure he was past me before moving over but I tend to think he was deliberately trying to hit me with his junk.
Then just shortly another guy in a pickup pulled onto the road from a side road and coming from the other direction leaned out and yelled something. I didn't catch what he said but I doubt he was offering words of encouragement. So that looked like a score of 3 jerks in one day. These would be the only jerks of the trip so I guess it was just as well to consolidate them in one day.
But these yahoos
were easy to ignore with great scenery on the climb. Some climbs are just monotonous but this one
was interesting because of the twist and turns and the occasional views of what
was left below on the climb. When I
I rode into
Then I retired to my room and used the WiFi to check on email.
I took my time getting ready to leave since I wasn't sure how early something would be open for breakfast and I didn't expect a long day. There were two breakfast places that I knew were closed on Sundays so it was no given something was available but BB's just down the street was. I had a good breakfast of 2 pancakes, eggs, and bacon. By the time I was finishing up the place was getting pretty full.
Next I rode to the west side of town for some grocery shopping. When I was done a guy was waiting outside by my bike. He had ridden across the country in 1976 as part of the bicentennial celebration and was naturally interested in my trip. He had some recent misfortune where he lost his cabin in a forest fire so talking about cycling was probably a welcome diversion for him.
By the time I left town it was 9:45. It was a mile to the east side of town and I found there was a motel/RV park not far past my motel which I hadn’t ridden far enough yesterday to notice. It looked like it would have been cheaper but there was a No Vacancy sign up so it might have already been full when I rode into town...
My goal for the
day was Ennis which was a little over 50 miles away with one major climb. I rode east on MT2 and just before the road
went under the Interstate I turned right onto
When I turned south on 359 the real ride began, through a sprawling landscape of rolling fields, hills, and mountains. There were a lot of irrigated fields and some cattle grazing. It was great riding with panoramic views in every direction. The only down side was the smoke that obscured the mountains in the distance. I saw a few more pronghorns but as soon as I stopped they took off so I got a photo of running pronghorns.
After 14 miles
359 ended and I picked up 287 south towards Ennis and
Riding on 287 was similar to 359 except there was a little more traffic. There were also rumble strips that made the shoulder unattractive so I did most of my riding just left of the white line. Scenery continued to be very nice with huge rolling fields and some irrigated ones.
After 10 miles I came to Norris where I stopped at a foodmart for a cold drink. There a guy told me about the upcoming climb which he said was 5 miles long and 2 miles of steep climbing. Usually non-cyclists don't have a clue about distances but this guy was pretty accurate. It was a steep 2-mile climb with great views, especially looking back from near the top. The shoulder was also better. It still had the rumble strips but the shoulder was wider and rideable. That was good because traffic picked up noticeably after Norris.
It was a fast 3 mile descent from the top where I hit 40 mph but spent most of the time in the 30s. Then it was another flat 7 miles to Ennis. It was 5pm and I rode through town looking for a place to eat and for breakfast as well. I ended up at a sports grill because there were other cars there so I figured the place must be reasonable. I had a decent chicken sandwich.
Then I rode south
and crossed the
There was one other camper already on location and a camper pulling a vehicle behind showed up later. Otherwise it looked to be a quiet Sunday night.
It was a short
ride back into town for breakfast. I
stopped at a cafe and ran into sticker shock - $7 for 2 pancakes. Their pancakes+eggs+bacon was more expensive
than the same meal at
I left town a
little after 8:30 and crossed the Madison River which I would be following
upstream most of the day to
Shortly after I
Our conversation was interesting as we rode side-by-side. Like yesterday the rumble strip made it difficult to ride on the shoulder unless you were willing to focus on the foot of space and not check out the scenery. I wasn't willing to do that so I rode just left of the white line whereas this guy was riding on the shoulder. Every once in a while he drifted into the rumbles.
This guy was much faster (and younger) than me so he eventually took off. Shortly after, the shoulder widened considerably and I was able to ride the shoulder without concern. Not too much later the headwind pretty much abated although it would come back for short periods. That was a major relief as I had visions of the headwind increasing throughout the day which, for the most part, was cloudy with a blocked sun and a reasonably cool day which was good.
The scenery was
again very nice with mountains lining the valley on both sides. It became obvious starting with Ennis that
this was fly fishing country. There were
several fly fishing stores in town and a couple along the road and some lodges
catering to fly fishing. In a couple
areas there were boats floating down the
One concern I had was there really wasn't a good place to stop and have my second breakfast so when I saw a rectangular box next to a gate along side the road I stopped around noon. I don't know what the box was for but it was a great place for me to sit while I had my second breakfast.
This was one of
those days where you just pedaled along and hoped you got where you wanted
before darkness set in. I did find a
store just before the road entered the
As I climbed up
into the canyon I rode along
passing the east end of the lake there was a campground on one side and a cafe
on the other. At that point I realized
it was 5pm and I still had 20 miles to
Next up was
When I reached the intersection of 287 and 191 it was 6:30pm and I had 8 miles to town. I could also see what looked like some rain to the northeast that didn't look like it would affect me. However, as soon as I turned south on 287/191 I was hit again with some headwind. It wasn't that strong but I didn't need this as I was racing darkness. Then I started feeling some occasional drops of water. Over time the drops increased and eventually I had to put on my rain gear since it seemed to be steadily increasing although it never rained very hard. I also turned on my rear blinkie light which along with the reflective stripes on my rear panniers made me very visible to traffic coming from behind.
I never stopped to put on my front headlight because it would have required some digging around in my pannier and I didn't want to take the time and I could see well enough to ride. However, it was pretty dark riding the last 4 miles into town so it was a relief to make it finally around 7:30pm.
With the light rain the first priority was to get out of the rain. There was supposed to be a hostel in town that I was considering but I gave up on it since I didn't know exactly where it was and conditions weren't conducive to riding around searching. So I stopped at the Ho Hum Motel that looked like it had to be on the inexpensive end for the town. I got a room for $70 for a satisfactory room but not for that price but it was the price for being in a very touristy town.
After cleaning up I went out in search of food in my rain gear. There was a pizza and pasta place very close by and I had a good pizza.
A long and tiring
day that I hoped wouldn't be repeated very soon.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2012. All rights reserved.