6/26/2021 – Whitefish to Glacier National Park
43.9 Miles / 702.16 Total Miles
1460 Ft. Elevation Gain / 35,776 Ft. Total Elevation Gain
Our agreement was to be up early and hit the road early, this morning. Not too early, though, because we had a short day—just a little over 40 miles. We were headed to Glacier National Park and had allowed extra time to do some sight seeing, but we had a few other things on our agenda too. As I mentioned yesterday, bicycles can only be on Going to the Sun Road between the hours of 7 and 11 AM. We were planning to stay in Avalanche Campground, which is as far up the Going to the Sun Road as you can stay, before the point in the road where the cycling restriction begins. That way we would have less miles to ride in that short timeframe tomorrow. But Avalanche doesn’t have a shower, so we were going to take a shower at the only campground with a shower, Apgar, then cycle up the road to Avalanche, all the while hoping not to break a sweat.
We were on the road by 7:35, which for me is early, but once again, as were started out, we had difficulty getting going with our navigation. Ed’s Garmin was telling him to go one way, and mine was telling me to go another. How is that even possible? We had to rely on our paper maps and RideWithGPS to figure out which way we should actually go. Problem solved. We moved ahead.
The first part of the day, we rode along the train tracks that pass through Whitefish, till we turned off onto several really nice back roads. Back roads are the best for scenery, traffic (as in much less of it), and seeing where the locals really live, work and play. Today’s ride was cool, scenic easy on the legs—just a perfect little Sunday ride. As we cruised down one of the backroads, we noticed a couple of cyclists up ahead. The trailing rider had a distinctive Adventure Cycling safety triangle hanging around her waist, so as we approach her, I hollered out, “Where did get that Adventure Cycling safety triangle?” And she responded, “I’m on one of their rides right now.” Turns out that she just graduated from high school, and she and her dad are riding one section of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route together, which is a pretty big undertaking for a youngster like her. I was very impressed! Needless to say, we blew past them and probably at the next turn, they went the other direction, because we were heading northeast and they should have been heading south toward Helena..
So with our early start, we arrived before noon at West Glacier, which is kind of like West Yellowstone—a tourist area just outside the park with shops, food, etc. We stopped to pick up some postcards, SPF lip protection (Ed ran out of his and mine fell out of my top tube bag somewhere today), and a huckleberry shake, then headed down the road to actually enter Glacier National Park.
Once in the park, we scoped out the wifi and cell phone service. There wasn’t any to be found, so we set out to do some sight seeing, but there wasn’t much of that either. We stopped at Lake McDonald, and it was spectacular–beautiful beyond words, but there was no place to put on a swimsuit, and my 16” x 36” pack towel would not have worked as a place to sit or a way to dry off. So after hanging out for a while and chatting it up with some other tourists, we headed for the visitor’s center. Wait—what visitor’s center? What was called a visitor’s center was nothing more than a gift shop, and there was a line to get in. And we don’t have room to be toting gifts around anyhow. So we decided to have our lunch in the shade in front of the visitors center, before heading to a nearby campground to take a shower.
As we sat there eating our lunch, we somehow connected with a bushy haired fella named Ed, wearingy a park volunteer shirt, who\ seemed to have the lowdown on the campgrounds and the rules for riding on Going to the Sun Road. He straightened us out on a few things. First, Avalanche Campground is closed, due to Covid, so staying there is out of the question. The next closest open campground before the cycling restrictions was Sprague Creek Campground, 6.4 miles less up the road. Another change: The entire length of Going to the Sun Road is actually closed to cyclists from 4 PM to 7 AM, and our campground was on said road, so we would not be able to cycle up the road to Sprague Creek Campground until 4 PM. Okay, so now we had 6.4 mile further to ride tomorrow and an extra 3 hours to burn today, before riding up the road to our campground. We took our showers, then headed to shady areas of the amphitheater to wait for the road to be open to cyclists, then headed up the road. And we did break a sweat.
Lake McDonald is huge, and our campground was adjacent to it. And what comes with large bodies of water? Grrrr! Mosquitos! The mosquitos were evil and relentless the entire time we were in the campground. I felt like I needed a blood transfusion before I even finished setting up my tent, and I couldn’t find my super duper bug spray anywhere, so had to borrow some of Ed’s. For dinner, we tried 2 varieties of backpacker’s freeze dried beef stroganoff, and my Mountain House entree lost hands down to Ed’s Peak entree. Then after dinner we headed in separate directions to take a swim in the lake, and as cool and refreshing as that sounds, the rocks we had to step on as we waded out in the water killed our feet. I’m talking serious pain! I had to get down on all 4 to get back to shore. I don’t know how Ed managed.
Shortly thereafter, we went to bed, and it wasn’t even dark outside. As most of you know, I’m a night owl, so this is not my way. What is happening to me?