Sunday, November 30, 2014

GDMBR Trip - Day 2 and 3

Still fighting the mosquitos, we ate breakfast, packed up and left. Tom was running a little slow, but somehow managed to sneak off ahead of Joe and I while we were taking some photos and waiting for him. It turns out that Tom thought we had left him, and since we were only about 100 yards from the start of the descent, he was irritated about us bombing ahead of him. After a bit, he realized that we were behind him, so he stopped and waited for us. The slope was generally downhill, but there were a few good sized rollers on the pavement around Whitefish Lake. Once we hit the edge of town, we stopped at a local burrito place for more food and then rode a few miles to Columbia Falls to buy some additional supplies for the few days. By this time, it was starting to rain a bit, so we put on our rain gear and headed out of town, criss-crossing the paved and gravel roads of the Flathead River Valley. The rain was picking up, and we were starting to get hungry plenty cold when we rolled through Swan River, but there was a line outside of the cafe and they were not taking any more people. We opted to roll on and then go off route a couple of miles to Big Fork in search of food. We pulled around to the back of a bar, pulled our bikes into the courtyard and went inside to warm up. 

The radar indicated that the rain was not letting up for a while, so we ordered food and a beer and pondered the rest of our day. It was still relatively early in the day, so we planned on eating and seeing if we could wait out the storm. After talking to a guy and his girlfriend outside, it turned out that they owned a bar and restaurant down the street. He offered to let us use his dryer to dry our clothes out. We took him up on his offer and returned the favor by purchasing a couple more drinks at his place while we waited. After a while, it was obvious that the rain was going to last a while longer. Since this was a vacation, and not a race, we opted to call it a day and find a place to camp in Big Fork. The gentleman that owned the bar, offered to take Joe to the local state campground in his car, while Tom and I gathered up our now dry clothes. Joe secured us a campsite, and we rode the mile or so to the site, set up camp along with some GDMBR riders, and called it a day. 

The next morning, we loaded up, and then rode uphill to the other side of town for a delicious convenience store breakfast and and additional resupply. A short ride along the river took us back to the route. After about 10 miles, the road turned upward. An hour and half of climbing and a little over 7 miles later, we were at the top. The descent was fast and twisty, and it took a bit of self-control to keep from going too fast. We continued riding in the foothills on the west side of the Swan River for most of the day, so the road just continued to inch upward without much of a break. We met a few more people touring the route, and also saw our first bear tracks. A sow and her cub had walked in along the edge of one of the dirt roads. The sow's paw print was as large as my outstretched hand.

By the afternoon, we approached Holland Lake. Since all three of us were running on fumes, we decided to take an extended break at the lodge. We dried dried out our clothes, soaked our legs in the cold waters of the lake, and, eventually, ate a very expensive dinner in the lobby of the hotel. After dinner, we took advantage of the daylight and got a few more miles in. Another 10 miles of riding up, led us to the shore of Clearwater Lake for the night. The lakeside spot was occupied by a couple of families, and after a search around the edge of the lake, we opted to make camp in a flat spot near the parking area. Since we were in the middle of the forest and there was no bear box, we put all of our stuff into a couple of our seatbags, and hung it from a tree for the night. After 85 miles in the saddle for the day, all three of us crashed out quickly. Before I fell asleep, I looked out of my bivy and marveled at how quiet it was, and how many stars were visible due to the lack of light pollution. It was a gorgeous night to be camping in the woods. 

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