I know I’m no longer in the Pacific Northwest when I see “Elk Meatloaf” and “Bison Burgers” as regular items on the menus.
Coming into Whitefish, I found myself humming “America, the beautiful” as I looked at the purple mountain majesties in front of me and stretching for hundreds of miles north to south. The Rockies are a truly inspiring range, no doubt about it.
I arrived via the Stillwater Valley into the edge of Whitefish, Montana, on Tuesday, May 31st (Nick’s birthday, happy #28, my son!). I peddled up a gravel side-road to a little oasis in the forest: the Whitefish Bike Retreat. This is a spot geared for mountain bikers, connected directly to the world-class and world-famous Whitefish Trail, with a lodge and nice camping accommodations, including Yaak Attack ale on tap in the “office.” Cricket Butler is the face of this place, a pleasant former geologist who lives and breaths mountain biking. I highly recommend a stay here if you are anywhere near Whitefish.
(Ya gotta love a host named Cricket at the Whitefish Bike Retreat, 6/1/2016)
The other day I stopped to talk with a couple of young cyclists, Libby and Joey, who were circumnavigating Koocanusa Lake over Memorial Day weekend. They recommended that I stop at the Great Northern Brewing Company’s brewpub in Whitefish, one of the classic, two-story, shiny-copper breweries in the Belgian style. So I did, and I wasn’t disappointed: nice set up, nice people, tasty IPAs, including Going to the Sun and Bluebird Day Double. Worth a stop, indeed. As is Tupelo Grille, across the street, the best restaurant in Whitefish. Excellent food, make a reservation.
I had to find a notary in Whitefish to sign the deed for mom’s house back in Massachusetts. Patti at the local Glacier Bank was so friendly and helpful, and so supportive of my endeavor, that she refused payment for her services. She claimed to be a “small town girl” who took my smile as payment enough. I love this country.
Even remote connections feel good to me on this trip. When I get two horn blasts and a thumbs up from the engineer in the BNSF locomotive pulling a 100+ car-load along an adjacent railroad track in response to my wave, I feel a rush of connection to this person whom I’ll never meet. It’s a big country, yet small civilities matter.
Mary Sue and Nick arrived late on June 1st after a 10-hour drive from Seattle. It is SO good to see them and to have company for a week. We have been exploring the west side of Glacier National Park and adjacent Whitefish, including a fun day mountain biking back at the Bike Retreat and hiking into Avalanche Lake, Huckleberry Lookout and along Bowman Lake. National Parks are supposed to protect jaw-dropping scenery as well as significant ecosystems, and Glacier N.P. does not disappoint. The size of this place is incredible, the mountains huge, the range long, the valleys enormous, the vistas unbelievably awesome. I am beginning to appreciate why Montanans’ use the word BIG to describe much of their state and its attractions.
(It’s great to have company: Nick and Mary Sue join me in Glacier N.P., 6/2/2016)
(A “rest” day with fam: mountain biking on the Whitefish Trail, 6/3/2016)
(Moving from Whitefish into the west side of Glacier N.P., 6/4/2016)
(Nick contemplating the view of Bowman Lake in Glacier N.P., 6/4/2016)
(Mary Sue enjoying the swallowtail butterfly from Huckleberry Lookout in Glacier N.P., 6/5/2016)
This is both a chance for me to relax off the bike for a few days and a chance to visit with Mary Sue and Nick. I have also been waiting patiently for Going to the Sun Road to open up-and-over 6600-foot Logan Pass, the high point, so to speak, of this entire cross-country adventure. Snow-clearing is still underway on the east side of the Pass, so the cross-mountain route stays closed.
As a result, I moved to option B (as recommended by cyclist Holden Hughart, whom I met in Colville more than a week ago). With the Going to the Sun Road closed to traffic but open to bicyclists on the west side, it turned out to be the perfect decision. All three of us rode this unbelievable route sans traffic, to Logan Pass and back to Lake McDonald, on what for all of us was the most stunning as well as challenging ride of our lives.
The ride back down was spectacular and fast — grinning from ear to ear, coasting at 30 miles-per-hour and savoring the payoff after the long climb up. This day is one of those penultimate experiences that we’ll remember forever. What a treat for me to share it with Mary Sue and Nick (we missed you, Veronica!).
The Seattle contingent has to head west tomorrow, as I circle around to the south of the park over Marias Pass (only 5200 feet!), leave the mountains behind me and begin the long stretch east across the high plains.
— Dave (posted 6/7/2016 from Apgar MT)