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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

Filed in:Cycling

Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

August 22nd, 2005  · stk

Day 2 - Olney, MT to Loon Lake, BC (46.7 Miles)

4h 16m ride time – 10.9 mph avg - 34.0 mph max

August 14, 2005

The Oop wakes us a tad before seven o’clock. She is eager to get going with her day, despite the morning chill. We try to linger, as long as possible, in our warm sleeping bags, but it’s tough, with a toddler bouncing around, inside the tent. When we hear Dave leave his tent and trundle off to the outhouse, we decide we can’t postpone the inevitable.

Our little girl, full of enthusiasm in the tent, is clingy the minute we're outside. We figure it must be the frigid morning air. She's dressed in fleece-lined jeans, a T-shirt, an acrylic sweater, a cotton cardigan and finally, a fleece-lined, nylon jacket. With both the cardigan hood and a cotton hat on, she's still cold. Her gloveless hands are red and cold, as is her red, runny nose. She whimpers a tiny bit and Dad takes her over to a spot where the first rays of sunlight are penetrating to the forest floor and soon, she's much happier.

This morning, Dave says, "It’s my seven-month wedding anniversary." He confides that it bothered him that he was unable to talk with Karen last night. (There’s good news, however, because he’s able to get cell phone reception on the way into Fortine today and again, just outside Eureka. The first time he calls, he gets her voice mail, but the second time, during the afternoon, he speaks with her. Ah … newlyweds!)

We get out of camp at about 9:30, after a hot oatmeal breakfast with coffee and hot chocolate. We pull onto Highway 93 and a mile later, pull in at the restaurant and bar that Dave cycled to, last night. We stop only to refill our water bottles with tap water and Dave orders a coffee to go, but still, it takes us the better part of 20 minutes to get out on the road again.

On Highway 93, we encounter a few small, rolling hills. On one such uphill section, an oncoming pickup truck whips to the side of the road, coming to a halt. A young guy jumps out. He dashes across the road and starts chasing Rachel up the hill! "What the heck?" she wonders. He doesn’t call out or say anything and it all seems very spooky. Seconds later, she sees Scott stopped ahead, holding up the lid to a cooler. Scott’s glad that he wasn’t much further up the road when the thing came flying out of the towed boat and skipped across the highway, just several yards ahead of where he was pedaling.

We carry on, making slow progress because we must stop a couple of times – the Oop is fussy in her buggy. We let her out for a while, so she can run around, but we just have to load her back in again, so we can go further. At about 11 o’clock, we reach the gas station and store in Fortine. We stop to pick up some beef jerky and then leave the highway, following Meadow Creek road and the Adventure Cycling route map. We’re thankful to get off the busier highway and onto the quiet, more scenic road. We enjoy the ability to ride two - and even three- abreast, but the road has quite a bit of loose gravel on it, so we must watch where we ride. We enjoy the road for about 2 miles, then suddenly, the road is covered in freshly-graded, loose gravel. Our pleasant ride is now a laborious grind and pushing through the gravel slows us down by 3-4 mph. Wouldn’t you know, we have to climb a big hill. Yuck. It was tough, but we keep going, hoping that when we turn off onto Tobacco Road, in 1.5 miles, we’ll be back on a paved surface. No such luck. The turn off is under construction as well, laying a bed of gravel in preparation for new pavement. Rachel stops a rare motorist and inquires if the remaining 11 miles is the same.

"Yep," he says, "All the way to Eureka is under construction. Though, if you go on a bit further, just after the railroad tracks is a road that you can take back to Highway 93."

Doing this, we’ll bypass 7 miles of gravel, so everyone agrees that this is our best option.

Cycling on, we’re surprised to find the pavement return, but it doesn’t last and we reaffirm our decision to return to Highway 93. After a couple of brief downhill runs, we cross the tracks and turn onto the paved road that we’ve been told will lead us back to the highway.

We take a collective sigh. It’s nice to be back on hard, smooth pavement. The gravel is difficult to traverse with laden bikes and skinny road tires. It really drains your energy.

At noon and before we return to the highway, we cross a stream and decide to stop for lunch. We return to the turnout, just before the bridge and dig out the small, Styrofoam cooler that Scott found on the side of the road, yesterday. It’s done a great job of keeping the cheese, salami and other stuff cool in the hot sun. We dive into the food – a slice or two of cheese, salami, banana-nut bread, peanut butter, chips and we wash it all down with Gatorade. It’s a tasty lunch and sufficient to fuel our fire for a few more miles.

We finish lunch and in a short while, regain the highway. The miles pass more quickly, now that we’re on pavement and traveling on a better-graded road. Soon, we’re pulling into Eureka.

It’s larger than the towns we’ve cycled through since Whitefish. For one thing, it has more than one store! We stop outside a chain grocery store and refill our water bottles at a water fountain in the neighboring park. We meet a couple that is cycling the Great Divide Route. They’re riding a tandem mountain bike, towing a BOB trailer (very cool).

We leave Eureka and note the temperature posted on a marquee at a nearby bank – 82°F. It feels warmer than that, but we’re riding under a cloudless sky, with the sun beating down on us. We opt to stay on the highway, rather than take an Adventure Cycling route side road. We’re leery of gravel, but the next camping opportunity is in an RV Park, just off Highway 93, two miles before the side road returns to the highway.

We ride along, unable to determine if we’re climbing or on level ground. Maybe we’re just riding into a bit of a headwind? We stop and tend to Alex a couple of miles out of town. A few miles later, we’re at the RV Park. We pull onto the grassy lawn and consider our options. It’s a nice RV Park. There’s grass everywhere, it’s quiet and (the kicker) there’s a restaurant and bar right across the street. We could have cold beer and a dinner out!

It’s just before three in the afternoon. We’ve come 35 miles, about the same as yesterday. We pull out the map. The next camping spot is 10 miles further up the road, in Canada, but it’s two miles off the highway and doesn’t have water. It is, however, a British Columbia Provincial campground, which Rachel knows will be even nicer (and more quiet) than this RV Park, situated right off a highway. It’s a tough choice.

10 miles more, 2 miles off-route for a quiet, but waterless, campground by a lake? Or should we call it a day at 35 miles and opt for a grassy, but noisier, RV Park right along the highway (with a restaurant across the street)?


We consulted the elevation profile on the Adventure Cycling map. It shows a climb - more elevation gain and the steepest so far – just after the border crossing. Do we have it in us? It’s only our second day, but we’re feeling like we’re starting to find our cycling legs. We decide to push on.

Before the trip, Scott had read that the elevation profile on the Adventure Cycling map is often inaccurate and we now we know why. We almost let the prospect of that climb sway our decision in the direction of camping at the RV Park, just outside Roosville. We’ve now passed where the climb should have been and we have yet to see it. Poof. Gone. (Not that we’re complaining, mind you, but had we decided to camp and then struck out in the morning, discovered that the climb was non-existent, we’d have been upset.)

On the road, we find that it’s not far to the Canadian border. When we arrive, we’re not sure if we should line up with the cars or report inside. Because there weren’t any signs indicating we should report inside, we stay in the car lane and wait our turn. No matter how few cars there are on the highway, there always seems to be a line of them at the border. We wait behind three cars, for our opportunity to pull forward. It’s a good thing, though, as we have to dig our passports out from our panniers.

When it’s our turn, we walk up to the window and hand over our passports.

Once citizenship is established, we’re asked, "So, how is it that you all know each other?" We explain about our 1999 Big Ride Across America. Most of the questions are lobbed in Dave’s direction. "How long are you going to be in Canada? What kind of work do you do? How much money do you have with you? Do you have access to more if you run out?"

Presumably satisfied that we weren’t running guns, smuggling drugs or in any other way undesirable - other than our body odor, perhaps - we were waved on with a smile, "Ride safe and have a good trip."

The ride toward Grasmere is pleasant, but the wind can’t figure out if it wants to be with us or against us. We form a pace line, with Dave in the lead and we quickly cruise the remaining miles into Grasmere. We pull off at the gas station and store (the only buildings in sight) and we fill our gallon water bag, pick up some cold beer and cider drinks and eat an ice cream cone (which Alex loves - "I-beam", she says, stabbing a spoon into her tiny bowl of chocolate ice cream and smearing it across her face). After having a great treat and making a huge mess, we clean her face and her back into the buggy. We cycle up the side road heading toward the Loon Lake recreation site.

The two-mile ride into the lake, on a gravel road, isn’t fun. It starts out, right off the bat, with a very steep hill, then winding around a bit, eventually dumping us down an equally steep hill, into the campground. Nevertheless, we eventually arrive at the Loon Lake Forest Service Recreation Site and as soon as we pull into the camping area, we know it’s worth the 2-mile gravel ride (though we're not looking forward to the ride back out). Because it’s Sunday night, there are many campsites available and we select one next to the lake. Dave hops off his bike, kicks off his shoes and dives into the water. We opt to put the tent up first, then we change the Oop into her bathing suit, before taking her "wimming".

Scott takes to the lake water like a fish. The Oop is pretty wary, because it’s not the heated pool she’s used to. Rachel, who dislikes cold water (anything less than 80°F is considered ‘cold’) is equally as tentative. We all end up getting wet and feel much refreshed, having rinsed off the day’s dirt and sweat.

The Oop has a blast running around the campground, collecting rocks and sorting them on the picnic table. It’s late and we give her a few mouthfuls of food, then it’s off to bed.

We are enjoying our beer, cider and good conversation. Rachel journals, into the night, using a headlamp for illumination. The sun has long since set and it’s starting to cool down. Today’s been a good day of riding and now that we’re confident we’ve found our legs, we’re ready to face the climb to the Continental Divide at Crowsnest Pass and anything else this loop trip has to offer.

Rachel heads off to bed, while Dave and Scott stay up to talk and explore the lake. They catch crayfish and Dave finds a bullfrog, by listening for it’s call. It’s late and they finally decide to go to bed themselves.

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