Idaho and NW Montana – wide open country

Wow, is this a beautiful – and remote – part of the country or what?  The vistas, the forests, the lakes, the rivers, the deer (and moose!), the empty roads, and, oh, did I forget, the mountains — what an awesome part of God’s country.  And the people — friendly as all get-out, welcoming, incredulous (and supportive) of my trip.

I spent less than 48 hours crossing the panhandle of Idaho.  I passed by the shores of the Pend Oreille River and Lake Pend Oreille, and spent a night in Sandpoint where I got a new chain at the Greasy Fingers Bike Shop and great coffee at Evans Brothers near the old grain tower.  I can see why people rave about this place — the views in every direction are awesome.

After a morning cycling around the north end of this beautiful lake, I passed through Clark Fork and entered Montana just like that.  Two states down, 14 to go.

Almost immediately the immensity of this state presented itself.  Talk about wide open spaces, untraveled roads, enormous vistas, big sky.  I get it now.  Montana is one BIG place.  And I’ve just scratched the surface.image

I had a wonderful cycle up the Bull River Valley, with views of the Cabinet Range peaks, and stopped at the Halfway House on route 56 near Bull Lake.  This is a bar, restaurant, and center-of-action for this valley. It was Saturday night of Memorial Day Weekend, and the locals invited me to camp behind the tavern —  “live band tonight!”  Folks came out of the woods as well as the woodwork — I had no idea so many locals existed in this remote valley.  I was welcomed and included, captured by three 7-8 year old girls who took me under their wings.  This was an extended family who live nearby, collect morels, drive 4-wheel ATVs, and probably have a very different view of the political world.  Yet that never came up — they were so hospitable and friendly, it was a wonderful experience to include them in my world and me in theirs.  Nice folks, close to the earth, good with their kids and loving this remote, rural life.  The sense of family and community was deep.image

I rode through Libby, Montana (site of the notorious WR Grace vermiculite mines and a town that had one of the highest asbestosis death rates in the world, but sleepy and well-kept today).  Upstream, I rode by the Libby Dam (operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), an enormous dam on the Kootanai River that is part of the larger Columbia River system; the lake it creates behind it floods well up into Canada.  I camped on this lake (Koocanusa) and rode along its remote shores for many miles through beautiful forests and quiet roads.image

I turned a corner after Rexford, MT, and suddenly came out into an agricultural valley with views of the Rockies from Banff to Glacier.  What an extraordinary spot, within 5 miles of the Canadian border.image

I camped the night at a town park in Eureka, MT, and spoke with a couple who live in the town.  They agreed with my assessment of its beauty, and said they loved it so much they’d never leave the area.  I can see why.image.jpeg

Onward tomorrow to Whitefish, MT, where I’ll meet Mary Sue and son, Nick, who are coming in on Wednesday.  It’ll be so nice to spend some time with them and chill a few days from the focus on my ride.  After that… Up over Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and onward East!

— Dave

22 thoughts on “Idaho and NW Montana – wide open country

  1. A wonderful part of the country and a favorite of ours, especially the part that is coming up. Glad you are enjoying it. See you in the penultimate state when you get here.

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  2. So happy for you that the ride iss going smoothly for you. Stay safe. Wonderful photos—Yah Dave we agree with you—what a beautiful country

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  3. It’s great to hear from you. Your trip sounds very much like Steinbeck’s book “Travels with Charley” describing his travels across the country which he did by car. May you have a following wind, stay safe and keep in touch. Gerry Seligman

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    1. Funny you mention Steinbeck. One of my friends recommended that I bring “Travels with Charlie” along to read and re-enact. Though he noted that I’m traveling the wrong direction and don’t have a dog with me. Nevertheless, I’m communing with Steinbeck in our common search for America. — Dave

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  4. I am absolutely floored by your endeavor. After leaving you in Riverside we drove back over the pass you just rode up. You’re a beast and I mean that in the best way possible. You have such a positive, admiring attitude that I have confidence your trip will go well. Shining my best wishes for safety on you from afar.
    Much love,
    Jeanne (and Jack too)

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    1. Thanks for the continuing best wishes — I need all the positive energy I can get! It was so fun to see you and Jack in Riverside, WA — Thanks for making the effort to cross paths. I’m getting stronger each day, while the heavy baggage continues to slow me down on the hill climbs. My last big one is coming up: Going to the Sun Road in Glacier N.P. Not yet open due to continued snow slides as they try to clear it, but will be open soon. After that it’s all down hill! Have a great trip to Alaska in your new rig. — Dave

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  5. Love the mix of mountains and wide valleys with beautiful rivers in that part of Montana. Enjoy the mountains while you can. Things will get a lot less spectacular soon at the rate you’re going, when the great plains start up. I’ll be hoping for tail winds for a month for you as you head out into them.

    Very impressive pace so far with those full panniers! Stay healthy and unbitten (by bugs and dogs).

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  6. What an adventure! It brings up so many memories of my own bicycling cross country trip, 30 years ago. My husband and I will be traveling through some of the same country next week on our way to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, but in a car – a quicker but less personal experience. I know that your trip is likely to be as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge – I hope it’s great on both fronts! And thanks for the bird list – my husband the birdwatcher is enjoying that.

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  7. Continuing to wish you well in your grand adventure……You’re right, it’ll be all downhill after the Going-to-the-Sun road! The Great Plains will be a very different experience for you, I expect.

    Your miles/day totals are gonna go WAY up! I envy you the night skies….Big sky nights, without light pollution! AWESOME!!

    Continue decompressing, my friend.

    Henry

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  8. loving the vicarious pleasure of your trip. Good to hear lots of people out there red or blue are still good folks. Mark and I rode up the GTS highway both directions on our tandem and are still married! We got to see a huge Grisly when we stopped to hike at the top. I drove the Loop Loop road recently and thought it would be fun but grueling without 70 pounds of bike and gear. Looking forward to your next blog.

    Hugs! Laurie

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  9. Dave,
    The GTTS Highway was spectacular, especially as there was no motorized traffic to worry about beyond Avalanche Camp ground. I was told to not go beyond the work crew, but they were on the east side and I had accommodations back in Whitefish. The grade wasn’t too bad (5-6%) and the view was outstanding. The NPS is going to start a shuttle “service” for cyclists this summer season, so this may be the last chance to ride it yourself. btw my flat count is now 3 .

    keep the rubber side down and it was good riding with you

    Holden

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    1. Holden — Thanks for the Intel on Going to the Sun Road! Sounds great and a possible option for me to consider to ride to Logan Pass and back on the west side rather than wait for full clearance on the esst. My wife, son and I have been in Whitefish for a few days and are moving up to a cabin at Apgar on Lake McDonald today for another few days. We three might do GTTS tomorrow or Monday while it is still bicycle-only. Good riding to you, and regards to Helene! — Dave

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  10. I think you may be too far north, but I will be interested if you see a Painted Bunting any where. I hear a few have shown up as far north as New Hampshire, so it is possible. What a trip. I can only hope to have half as much of an adventure when I retire.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Larry. I’m regularly hearing Lazuli Buntings, which are our western alternative. Painted Buntings are in the Deep South and Texas, don’t come as far north as my trajectory except rarely. I’ll begin to hear and see Indigo Buntings when I get to eastern Dakotas and Minnesota. It has been impressive for me so far to experience all the birds and bird songs every day — lots of good habitat out here in the country. — Dave

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  11. Dave, thanks for sharing all your photos, I am truely impressed by your motivation to pursue such and adventure! I love reading all your posts and seeing where you are. Stay safe and enjoy!

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  12. Dave, Lake Union is up over 20 degrees C – I hope it is cooler up in the Rockies! Is it all downhill from now? HA!! Ride safely and we’ll send you a couple of raccoons to protect you from those dogs!

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    1. Yikes, that’s not good for the fish, but probably good for the swimmers. Nights are still cool here in the Rockies, but the last few days have been high 80s. Shades of my future as I head east. Keep the raccoons — I haven’t had a dog attack since I left Washington — must have been anti-Seattle types. Enjoy the hot summer. — Dave

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  13. Loving your adventure — and admiring your fortitude! Blackfeet Indian Reservation was the closest Gary and I got to Glacier several years on our road trip through Idaho, Jackson Hole, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and then on up to Red Deer, Canada, Banff, Lake Louise, then back down into Washington and home. I could see Glacier looming to the West and could only dream of how beautiful it was. Another road trip (but for us — on four wheels). Enjoy and stay safe. You are amazing! Maureen

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  14. So have you figured out a tyvek sail across your back on the days with a good tailwind?? Like we used to do on Lake Quannapowitt, ice skating…

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