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And if these mountains had eyes, they would wake to find two strangers in their fences, standing in admiration as a breathing red pours its tinge upon earth’s shore. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.” –Donald Miller
Today I’m just sitting in the forest with nothing at all to do. Nothing. I woke up here, I will be here all day and camp right here tonight. There’s a few mosquitoes which seem to become hordes in the evening but are fine right now. It’s pretty nice! Well, the biking trip is over. This might be my last blog post for a while, but maybe I can write some updates while working in Glacier National Park for the summer.
It’s warm today, I’m halfway up some random mountain… a slight view through the trees, the breeze feels unbelievably good. It feels like June today. The way June is supposed to feel back in Massachusetts. When you’re travelling, you find the season’s act differently everywhere you go. Spring for me was warm and dry, winter for me was one part hot and sultry, one part cool and mild with flowering trees everywhere. It makes me contemplate to have stepped back into ‘normal’ northern June. I’m doing a lot of contemplating today…
So yes, travelling can be great at times but other times can be extremely rough. Just listen to how the last few days have been! …
5/26- travelling east to Glacier Park – 40 miles
Left Kalispell late after shopping lazily at a health food store, then the big grocery store. I sat for a long time under a tree in a lonely parking lot enjoying the nice weather and warm breeze. But as I finally biked off, I saw massive thunderheads in the sky.
I decided to wait it out and stop at a great little café where I was treated to an incredible Reuben sandwich while the clouds ripped open outside in lightning and thunder. Everything became quickly soaked and the storm passed. I left and made it to the small town of Evergreen when the next system was coming through. It was obvious something was about to happen, a line a pitch black clouds hung above me in the sky. There was lightning.
Right as it began I took shelter under an enormous concrete awning at a lonely U-haul place. Then the storm came down in hail so violent it knocked a street sign off its post and flash flooded the parking lot! I was in awe of this storm, I was giddy! Sitting completely dry under my awning as the rain poured down practically in waterfalls all around me, walling me into a beautifully private shelter. I stood at the edge of the shelter watching it, my arms stretched out with joy as an enormous bolt of lightning cleaved the sky with an earsplitting crack.
I biked once it ended through the flooded streets and became covered with mud and dirt and splashed by passing cars. It was a bit annoying but I was having a fine day riding. One more storm came through and I sheltered under an awning but only caught the edge of it. I watched the rain squall make the mountains white briefly, and you could clearly see it was blowing off to the south.
I continued through the town of Colombia Falls. This will be the town where I check in with Xanterra company for the job orientation on June 7th. So I’ll have to get back here once I drop off the bicycle at Many Glacier. I saw the office and the hotel I’ll stay at, and I kept biking…
Soon I was in the mountains. The road became fantastic as it passed a vaguely familiar area from long ago. The area by the Hungry Horse Reservoir, here the Flathead River has a wall of cliffs on one side and carved into it is the railroad. The Great Northern Railroad, the train passed above an area of colorful graffiti expertly placed on a precarious cliff face. I know this railroad, it crosses the Pacific Crest Trail at Stevens Pass, it crosses the Continental Divide here at Marias Pass. Where ever I travel, it always crosses the mountains in these same places… huh. Something about it is incredibly nostalgic. It means I’m back here.
There are cliffs above the road as well, the Flathead flowing strongly on the other side. Water is pouring down the cliffs, everything is wet. I kept going and at a dirt pullout from the highway a water fountain was set up. It said ‘not a public drinking source’ or something like that but was clearly safe to drink. It was a stand with four fountains on it all literally shooting out water at maxium pressure, beside it was a pipe which was gushing in a violent spurt, soaking the entire area. It was so clean, so pure and tasted like melted snow.
From there I biked a ways, through the small town of Hungry Horse and the day was getting late. It took a few tries to find a camp spot because I was being picky, but eventually found a very sheltered place in the trees. I needed a lot of shelter to deal with the drizzling rain which had been off and on. I tucked myself away into a tiny nook, tarp overhead, and cooked dinner very comfortably. It was rainy outside and I was dry and perfect. I slept great that night.
5/27 – Going to the Sun road! ??miles, but about 14 hours of riding.
Dawn woke me up as I intended it to. I struggled, as always, but I got up and attacked the day. I had to get up early, as early as possible. I had to get into Glacier National Park today, and if they love one thing it’s rules. The place is run as a very strict police state. They would just love to tell me I can’t do the thing I’m trying to do. So… I must enter the park before the toll booths open in the morning, also so I can avoid paying 20$. I successfully was underway at 6AM.
But what am I trying to do that’s so illicit? Well… nothing really. I am trying to bike over Going-to-the-Sun road. I think it might be closed, it might only be opened to the Bird Woman Falls Overlook, one might only be allowed to bike on it when the road crews aren’t working. I’m not 100% sure I just know there are rules. I’m trying to get through to St. Mary on the other side VIA Going-to-the-Sun road, and while that might seem unlikely and I know it going in, I have to try. Someone will have to stop me at some point, and I will wait until that happens but… the less people I talk to the less people can tell me ‘NO’. Also… if I can’t make it over this epic scenic road and have to come back the way I came, I might have to camp in the woods within the National Park, and that’s against the rules.
I had been trying to time the weather ever since Missoula. It said it would be good on the weekend, it said it would be good next week, I tried to wait and bike slower, it changed its mind and said it would be bad next week, it would be good on the weekend. I went back to biking faster. It changed its mind a few times, finally settling that it would be good on Friday. Thursday night it said this and I was prepared to ride the Sun road Friday, but of course Friday morning the forecast has changed, back to bad! I figured, well, it’s just always bad around here, there’s nothing I can do. I set off and the morning was foggy, with fog breaking and hanging in fantastic shapes all around the mountains. The sky was full of clouds and the sky didn’t end until it touched the ground. Everything swirled in it.
I arrived in West Glacier before the town was awake. I was nervous getting to the park gate, did I beat them? Yes I did! No one was there and I coasted in. I sat in the forest to rest and everything was so soaking wet. The leaves were glowing green, everything was fresh and mossy. This is just such a wet place, and that turns it into a kind of paradise. I passed Apgar, and then was riding along the shore of Lake McDonald. The mist clung to the mountains on the opposite shore, the lake a pastel turquoise against the hazy blue mountains. The trees sparkling green in the dim light and the leaves reminded me of Acadia National Park in Maine.
I kept going. Made it to the opposite end of Lake McDonald and was having a glorious time, this road was an excellent bike ride. I got to where the road was closed to cars and passed on, I did see other bikers and other people stirring in the morning by now. That’s about when it started to rain on me. I was a little mad at the rain, crap, why do I have to be doing Going-to-the-Sun road in the rain?
Then I saw it all at once. A cloud parted and Mt. Oberlin and Bird Woman Falls jumped out of the mist. “WOAH! What is that?!” Was my reaction. It was just an enormous rock, but it was more. It was a mountain, but unlike any mountain I’ve seen on this trip. It was a sculpture, a structure, it was an unearthly, god-like formation! Clouds encircled it gracefully, water poured off it. Yes! This is Glacier I’m here!
After that the road began going up, up, up. It showed me the glaciated valley which framed Oberlin. So green, the rocky form rising so stark. But then the downpour started again. The road passed through a tunnel and I stopped there to wait out the rain. The tunnel had openings in its sides and looked out to the north where I watched as a large burned forest on those slopes became hazy white with rain. Waterfalls poured down in drizzling cascades over all the tunnels entrances. Sitting there under shelter and looking and listening to the waterfalls crashing down, I could pretend it was actually raining REALLY hard outside! I made some friends who were biking down in the rain, other people who will be working in the park. Hopefully I’ll be seeing them again.
I continued the ride, but it was terribly cold. My toes had all gone numb and I had spent my time in the frigid tunnel taking off my shoes and socks, warming my socks between my legs and massaging feeling back into my toes. Now as I climbed a switchback on the road, the rain came back. My shoes were drenched again before long, as this time I could find no shelter. The road ended on one side in a dramatic cliff down to the valley below. On the other side of the road was a dramatic cliff leading straight up. There was nothing to protect me, so I rode on, angry. Ugh, I know I won’t be able to pass the Bird Woman Falls Overlook, I know the road is closed because of avalanche destruction, I should just turn around now. Why keep biking up this, it’s miserable and exhausting me. I see the view now, it’s fantastic, but I’ll have to go an extra 100 miles to get around the mountains anyway, I should be working my efforts to that.
But I didn’t turn around, too stubborn I guess. Eventually the system passed and the sun came shining faintly. Back to massaging my toes, angrily frustrated now. But I kept climbing. Water was everywhere, it poured off the cliffs down on to the road and turned the road into a river. I passed the ‘Weeping Wall,’ a cascade falling onto the pavement. The cloudy day did nothing to ruin my view, it only enhanced it and made everything marvelous beyond belief. Other mountains could be seen now beside Oberlin, including Mt. Clements and beyond was Mt. Reynolds completely snow covered. I found it amazing… these mountains looked so grand, as though I’ve never seen mountains so grand as these. Yet… I knew all their names. Three years ago I called this place home for a short time, but everything still looked new to me today.
I made it to the Bird Woman Falls Overlook and the road was gated with a sign which read, travelers going any further will be prosecuted. Okay well, I’m done, time to turn around. I took a break where I saw a shelter, a small staircase leading down to an overlook and a large tree. I sat under the tree right as the rain came back. I felt destroyed, the wet, cold climb had taken a lot out of me and sitting here I knew the only way back was a long descent which would leave me freezing. I procrastinated that, and then the rain came down hard. I wouldn’t leave until it stopped raining.
I curled up under the tree, within its large roots, and there I stayed totally dry as all the mountains vanished under the storm. It was so cold at this elevation I threw on additional layers, I could feel the cold seeping in my shoes. Like that, curled tightly, I was able to drift off to a light sleep. Some people woke me up, other bikers taking shelter here, I talked to them a bit.
It took nearly an hour laying under the tree, the people eventually left to bike down in the rain but I would not be doing that. Biking down a mountain in the rain is the worst thing ever and I’ve learned this already. But then finally the clouds parted and the sun came out dramatically, warm for the first time. The stoic rock formations reappeared all around me, and I was elated by the view. The road crew had showed up coming from their work for the day. At this time it is about 3PM.
One guy starts talking to me and I wind up telling him my story, which he is impressed by. I tell him I was trying to cross the Sun road and get to St. Mary. He said to me, “Well, we’re done working now, you can try to keep going if you want.” Hmm, I was definitely prepared to turn around and head down, but how can I resist a challenge! “There’s snow on the road though,” he told me, “You probably won’t be able to get through. You can go see it for yourself…” Who knows, maybe I can get through! It seems I have to try.
So in the renewed sunshine I set off climbing again! Although I felt pretty lousy, my body under duress from these extreme conditions. Everything was gorgeous and I passed a couple waterfalls which were huge. But then, as I got higher I saw it coming… like it had been all day… the next system. Off in the valley to the north, the landscape washed with that hazy white of rain. Before long it was on me, and there was no shelter to speak of. Even less up here, if that’s possible, the cliffs were only higher and more dramatic. I was soon soaked again, but then it stopped, the sun came back out.
I climbed higher still and met the snowline. My view was unbelievable, so I knew whatever was to come it was worth it to climb up here. The snow was piled in massive drifts beside the road, the plows had cut through them and I biked on the strip of pavement between the snow. One snowbank I saw must’ve been 40 feet high.
But then I saw it… that same valley to the north darkening with rain again, always meaning its coming right for me. Coming from the north… from CANADA! Of course! But this time I saw the rain falling in curtains. It was an ominous sight… uh oh… looks like a bad one. And slowly the sky turned yellow. At this point the cliffs were more vicious than anywhere else, rising in jagged ledges cloaked in ice up to the mountain summits. The road built into them crossed a massive waterfall and was fixed in place with stone pillars like a gothic cathedral. It started with freezing rain, bouncing off my jacket.
But then the wind hit me all at once. It must’ve been a 100 mph wind gust and it sent me flying forward out of control up the mountain! To keep biking with the wind I had to put the bike in second gear, climbing the mountain in second gear, I’ve never done that before! It wasn’t long riding in that erratic state that the hail came in one enormous burst, washing over everything and whiting out the view. I was very near Logan Pass now, which was covered completely with 20 feet of snow, the plows had cut their trails through it. I watched as the hail was carried sideways over the pass. I couldn’t keep biking in it, I had to stop but there was nothing for shelter. There were snowbanks along both sides of the road, and I stood next to one for a semblance of shelter, but it did nothing to protect me.
I couldn’t keep biking up. I turned my back to the storm and stood there waiting for it to stop. There’s only so much one person can endure, but I just had to keep enduring. It soon turned to snow, and became a full on white-out blizzard. Great. I can’t bike up because if the snow is planning to never stop and start sticking to the ground, I’ll need to start heading down. However, I don’t want to bike down in this storm, that will be dangerous, but I will do it once it seems like it’s more dangerous to stay here.
I felt a little ridiculous standing there in it and had to laugh a bit at myself. At some point I started talking to the storm, “Listen… haven’t I been through enough today??… You know… you could stop? I mean you could keep going, but… how bout stopping maybe? Stopping’s really the cool thing to do nowadays, stopping, yup, all the storms are doing it… STOP, C’MON!!! You know I’ll probably shut up and stop being so annoying if you…. like stop.”
Eventually it did, I probably stood there for half an hour though. The mountains broke through the clouds in the epic way they do. Not much had stuck to the wet pavement, and I kept pressing on upwards! To Logan Pass! I made it finally, and wound through the snow drifts. I saw the epic view on the other side, looking towards Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. Hey, I don’t see any snow blocking the road, I’m going to make it! But then I went down the other side and there it was, an avalanche slide. I climbed on top of it, it looked like they had been driving trucks on top of it, it was flattened. I could try to bring the bike over it… it might be a little soft and it’s about 6PM now, late in the day. I need to get down before the next storm comes. I just had no energy for it.
I turned around, climbed back up to Logan Pass, and started the freezing, extreme descent. I’ll just take the extra 100 miles around like I know I’m supposed to, at least I made Logan Pass. I’ve really gotten sick of riding downhill these days. I felt completely awful. But the sun was shining bright now, all the storms seemed to have left. The view was out of this world, the clouds were moving fast. They twisted around everything, they grew and changed, ballooning up from the valley and dissipating into nothing. It was like riding through heaven.
I stopped in the sun to massage my toes again, feeling beyond fatigued. I had decided when standing in that snow storm, if I ever make it down from here, damnit I’m just going to get a hotel room! Eventually after a bit more flying fast, I made it to the bottom of the road. It was about 16 miles further to West Glacier and that hotel. I biked on. I saw a grizzly bear in the road, able to tell the difference from a black/brown bear by his distinctive shoulder hump. I took out my camera to try and photograph him. I had to cross his path. I moved up a little closer and made some noises, but he didn’t run. He busied himself just eating leaves! Why would he want to bother me or my food if he can just eat leaves! Then when I did cross his path, I guess he hadn’t heard me because he was startled. He gave me this look of terror with his eyebrows raised, an amazingly human look on his face. He ran away into the bushes before I could get a picture.
As I continued biking I was falling asleep at the wheel! I was so exhausted from all the rain today, I could barely keep my eyes open. I decided, you know what would be more luxurious than a hotel tonight? Stopping RIGHT NOW. So I did. I found a small dirt road with a gate in front of it leading into the forest, I followed it down and found a great spot to camp. Sheltered from any further rain, and I was nearly asleep before I even had my dinner cooked.
(I know I just inserted 50 pictures into this blog… bear with me!)
5/28 – only 12 miles…
I had fallen asleep at 8PM and didn’t wake up until 9AM. I may not have even gotten up then, except a wolverine had entered my camp! I woke up to it scratching on the tree, it was up the truck a few feet and clutching it with its claws. A very rare sight! The size of a small bear and thick, with a face like a badger or something. I’m not even 100% sure what it was, but I’m pretty sure a wolverine as I googled pictures of it later. It was a very frightening sight! It just stared at me with intense, human-like eyes, not afraid… I was in awe of it for a few moments, then just reacted by banging my cooking pot with its lid to make a racket and scare it off.
Then I sat there, feeling like shit. I didn’t feel like moving. I slowly packed up. I wasn’t able to leave camp until nearly 11AM. When I did leave I felt nauseous. Biking I felt nauseous.
I only had 12 miles until West Glacier and I couldn’t do it. I had to keep sitting down, laying down, closing my eyes. Sometimes biking I was ready to puke. I had thought, oh I’ll treat myself to a hot burger in West Glacier, it’ll be great. But that’s not what I wanted at all. It did not sound good anymore, all that sounded good was sleeping.
When I did get to West Glacier I was confused why I felt so lousy, and it was 2PM. I couldn’t make progress today. Yesterday wrecked me. I decided… I’ll just get the hotel room.
So I did, and I crashed. I did get that burger, it turned my stomach, then I went to sleep before 8PM and slept all the way until 8AM the next day.
5/29 – nowhere…
In the morning I did not feel good still, then I had attacks of diarrhea over and over. I talked to my mom about it, and finally so kind of her, she bought me another night at the hotel. I have all this extra time anyway before the job starts. Might as well rest while I need it. I fell back asleep at 11, and slept until 5PM. Even after that I didn’t do anything all evening and was weak. I ate healthy food, yogurt, hummus, rice cakes, a red bell pepper and a ‘naked juice’ from the expensive grocery store in West Glacier.
Even though I did nothing all day, my wild dreams gave me the sense that I had a full day of biking! I rode through distant lands, a hillside town above an inland lake, possibly in Northern California. I rode over a dirt avalanche and got my first flat tire of the trip. My brother came to visit me at the hotel…
That night I wound up staying awake really late looking at the internet because I had slept all day, of course!
5/30 – 30 miles – Marias Pass
Today, unfortunately I had to leave. I was still having diarrhea and feeling delicate. I took a long time to go and sat at a picnic table in front of the restaurant for a long time. Then I went in to the restaurant to order a bowl of soup and I ran into three old friends! Alex, Sean and Xenja from Many Glacier, people I had been friends with on Facebook this whole time but haven’t seen in three years! But I recognized them like no time had passed, it was amazing! We hugged and talked about our trips, they congratulated me on my trip. They’ll be working at St. Mary this summer so I’ll be seeing them around. That was pretty cool.
Eventually, after eating a bit, I left. But soon after leaving I had to sit back down. Why do I feel this way!! I was upset. I had to have diarrhea in the woods. I kept on biking. Unfortunately it was going to be a very difficult bike ride for the next 56 miles to the town of East Glacier. It was uphill the entire way to climb Marias pass, but punctuated with small downhills and then re-climbing all the lost elevation over and over.
I was pedaling uphill and my stomach hurt. I wasn’t having any fun. It was drizzly weather and I was sweating under my raincoat. Sweat was dripping down my face. You just have to keep pedaling, that’s the only answer here! I got to the top of the hill, stood there for a moment and felt awful. Then I puked. Just a little bit. Oh damn. Then I puked A LOT! Still standing on the bicycle. All the cars passing get to watch me puke, I thought later… These passing cars always catch a glimpse of me at the worst moments, like when I fall off the bike, crash into the guard rail, stumble out into the lane. Or taking a crap, or peeing, or whatever unsavory thing it is that I’m doing on the side of the road… If they could all collect each of their one second clips of me into a bigger picture it would really show how much of a hot mess I am out here! Fortunately everyone only gets the one second clip…
So I sat back in the forest for a long time. I mediated and prayed over it. I need to stop being sick. Then I felt the sickness leaving me.
I got back on the bicycle and found I felt miraculously fine. Sometimes puking will do that, but there was no explaining it, I felt great! I biked on downhill, up the next, and through the gorgeous countryside. Mountains walled me in, the Flathead River was flowing through sparkling turquoise. I didn’t feel sick at all anymore and cruised for the net 30 miles! Towards the end I didn’t feel quite as good, so I just stopped biking and setup camp. At least I made it somewhere! I was in a dark grove of trees surrounded by orchids. It was a nice spot, and it rained but I was well sheltered. I realized it had been raining on me consistently for 12 days, ever since Idaho. But the weather forecast for the future was good!
5/31 –East Glacier – something like 35 miles.
In the morning I continued biking. I felt… delicate… but fine. I didn’t have diarrhea really, just kind of. I wondered if I got sick from water, got sick from food, got sick from “poor camp hygiene.” Whatever it was, as long as it’s not giardia!!!
It was a pretty difficult uphill battle to climb Marias Pass. The Great Northern Railroad would come along with that peaceful crashing beside me every so often, I had been listening to it at night to these last couple nights. I really like it. Eventually I made the top, the scenery was pretty good but nothing spectacular.
East Glacier just seemed so far away today. Finally I did get there though. I sat down at Brownies, the little bakery/hostel in town. I used to eat here once and a while… I love this place. I love this town… They made me a turkey hummus wrap which was fantastic, and I got a blueberry cream cheese pastry. I bought a couple of the most incredibly perfect nectarines at the grocery store in town.
Then I sat at the lonely train station, closed. Nobody was there. I sat there for hours doing my blog and internet things. It was beautiful weather today like it was supposed to be. The station was so peaceful, then it would be interrupted briefly by the Great Northern passing through, then the peace would be even more so in contrast to the noisy train that just passed. I felt wistful today. The Amtrak stops here and goes directly to Boston, home. To hop onboard and go home… Maybe I will be eventually.
I didn’t get too much father today. I made it out of town and started climbing the Looking Glass Road. I nearly cried when I passed the Two Medicine River, suddenly overcome with memories and emotions. The view became fantastic from that scenic drive as it gazed directly into the Two Medicine Valley, with the huge lake right beneath me. I decided to stop there, and climbed the enormous dirt cliff beside the road. I setup camp in the trees with an awesome view. It was one of the finest spots of all.
6/1 – St. Mary – probably 25 miles
I woke up and by some luck got myself and my bike back down the dirt cliff without any injuries. Then I biked the Looking Glass Road. I didn’t feel sick today, well… I think I always feel sick now. Sick with exhaustion, just weak, just ready to be done. This trip has had its own short life. It started with birth at Panamint Springs and everything was exciting and everything was ahead. It went through its childhood in Nevada, and was a young adult by Idaho which is when I felt strong and capable to handle this lifestyle. In Montana, the trip was aging still and by now it has reached its old age… This might be the most beautiful part of the trip but I’m ready for it to be over too.
The sun was out today and everything looked amazing. It was a very steep, winding climb to the top of the road, and then without any warning at all I was flying downhill.
The view… there was something extremely special about it. The mountains were huge here, snow-streaked, They were sitting separate from each other on top of their own foothills. The land looked like a well thought out painting, the trees patched the slopes, empty grass also patched the slopes. I biked through stunted aspen trees and cotton floated through the air like snow. Everything was shining so brightly green, but the mountains were dull, dull and bright, some kind of purple… the plains stretched out to the east in rolling empty hills. The place was paradise. One of the most beautiful roads of the entire trip, possibly my personal favorite, and I get to live here! Wow.
Whether or not the Looking Glass road was the most beautiful of the entire trip, it was probably the most FUN! The road went flying down at an alarming rate and I tore around the corners. I had said I had gotten sick of going downhill, but this totally changed my mind! This one was awesome. Then I hit the bottom and had to immediately climb back up.
At some point it was only 15 miles to St. Mary, but it was so far! 15 miles around here is harder than 15 miles anywhere. It’s straight up and straight down, and, whatever the case, it was taking me a long time to get anywhere. The scenery being so good does help though. Soon I saw Divide Mountain, which brought memories floating back of a good time I once had climbing that easy little peak.
The road climbed up onto the shoulder of Divide Mountain and I realized how fantastically beautifully that mountain truly was. The burned forest was all around me, the plains stretched out forever in one direction. I saw the occasional beargrass bloom, and other flowers. I also had lots of bugs flying in my eyes and mouth as I’d go down hills. Soon I saw St. Mary, and all the fantastic mountains around it. Going-to-the-Sun Mountain stood out carved in its magnificent, unique way. A chunk of stone, a castle of god-like proportions. I could see Red Eagle Mountain too, which has three summits like the head of an eagle and its wingtips, all red. Beneath was St. Mary Lake twisting elegantly between the peaks. This lake… I’ve seen it everywhere. I saw it inside a container of sour cream, I saw it on a poster in Nevada, you see it in magazines, and everywhere on the internet to describe the beauty of nature or the beauty of America. I’m glad to be here.
I raced down the mountain towards the view, and quickly was in the town of St. Mary. Everything was closed for the season and I was extremely hungry, but the restaurant Johnsons was open. I sat down and ate there, and I got the “Bear Attack” which is just whatever the cook wants to make you. It was like an Indian Taco, on crunchy, soft fry bread, smothered in cheese with hamburger meat, roasted red peppers, bananas peppers, sautéed onions and cabbage, it was the best meal I’ve ever had! With homemade chicken and rice soup and an overabundance of French fries. It was kind of amazing for me to finish it all, and I sat eating for a crazy long time.
Then I left. I realized I didn’t have cell service here. This means I won’t have cell service where I’m living or anywhere near it… That’s a shame, maybe I’ll try to get a new plan, not sure yet… I may soon become impossible to reach. I took a few more breaks, and then I was in Babb. Chief Mountain stuck its head out above the range, wow! Look at that imposing chunk of unabashed stone! I snapped a picture. Then I looked at the picture on my camera, and the pictures glared back at me with this insane, sinister look. AH!! I deleted it immediately! Oh yeah I forgot, you aren’t supposed to photograph Chief Mountain less you want that dreaded curse of the Blackfeet tribe.
I was in Babb… I was almost home… I turned on the Many Glacier Road. 12 miles more is all this entire bike ride amounts to. It was an amazing feeling and kind of hit me all at once; to have crossed the country. I soon saw Lake Sherburne, and there they were. The mountains from 3 years ago cast in evening light. When I saw them I stopped. I camped somewhere where I couldn’t see them. Now I knew I had to deal with the nazi national park rules again, so it’s back undercover for me. I’d have to wake up at dawn to cross its border undetected, so as not to accidently reveal my intentions to anyone. I camped in bushes, it rained a bit. My spot was not so glorious, but it was cozy in some bushes and I liked it.
6/2 – One month from the start, the last day of the ride… Many Glacier
I woke up at dawn or even before, a deluge of rain woke me up. Great. I sat there. Wet, predawn, wondering if I should pack my things before they get wetter or if I should wait for the rain to stop before packing. I did a little of both, but when the sun rose I could tell by the pink clouds it was fantastic, and I ran out to the road to see the Lake Sherburne scene alight with fire.
I packed up and biked towards it, it soon becoming dim and gloomy again. The road is very rough, I followed it and passed into Glacier Park before they opened, unnoticed. Then I sat and relaxed. I looked at the lake, I looked at Mt. Siyeh, behind Wynn and Allen…. I could see where Snow Moon Lake rested in its alpine basin. I biked further and I saw the scene, I couldn’t stop staring at the cliff my friend fell off of. Right there… where it’s always been… like a middle finger thrust up, so violent. Apikuni, and Altyn and Grinnell Point in the center of the circus. I wondered why I came back here…
I got to Swiftcurrent Lake which showcases the entire scene in all its ridiculous glory. End. Destination. What a cool feeling. The place is incredibly beautiful and I wandered a little around the construction at the Many Glacier hotel. The place was roped off, there were employees milling around, I even saw someone I distinctly recognized. Everything was dark with clouds and sprinkling rain.
I biked the final two miles to Swifturrent Motor Inn, where I’ll be spending my summer. When I got there, I walked the biked into the woods by the rushing creek. The side of Grinnell Point towered high above, Mt. Wilbur stood pompous and proud, angry and aggressive. The summit is a cut diamond encrusted with ice. She can be seen well from this part of the valley.
I sat by the creek for a very long time. I had found a great hidden spot there in the woods and eventually I ripped everything out of the saddlebags and out of my backpack and spread it all out. I rearranged it and packed it all into my backpack, at least all the things I needed to have. Then I sat and thought about the trip. I retraced the route in my mind slowly, recounting all the roads I came through in Montana, all the roads I travelled in Idaho, all the way through Nevada and back to California. It took me a long time to remember it all and put it down in memory. It was a sublime trip. Then I said goodbye to the bike, I shouldered my backpack and I walked out of the woods.
It was raining now, and I became wet but it was alright. I walked. I had to stop under a telephone booth and massage my toes again! I kept walking. I made it back to Many Glacier. Kept walking. The wind was ferocious, blowing hard rain into my back. I watched as the rain came down soaking the road. I turned and looked back at the mountains. Grinnell Point would scream at me every time I’d look at it. It would blast my face with wind and rain and I couldn’t look. The mountains here are so furious and intense you can’t even look at them!
I walked pretty far down the road, stopping under a nice big tree to eat a can of corn and peppered beef jerky and cookies. Then on a whim, I said, okay, let’s hitchhike! I stuck out my thumb and bam! Like magic I was picked up immediately by three little Asian girls. They were from Iowa, studying, then they’d head back to Malaysia. I told them about my trip and they were impressed. They were on a road trip.
They were headed to East Glacier and that’s where I was headed too. (I had to go to the town of Colombia Falls near Kalispell now, for the job orientation. It felt far away so I figured I better start heading there. Then Xanterra will shuttle me back to the Many Glacier area.) But then… I got out of the car when we got to Babb, and said goodbye to them. I figured, okay, I’ve bothered them long enough, let’s walk a bit then catch a new ride.
I walked a bit. It wasn’t raining out here, on the plains. The mountains brooding and dark off in the distance, and the mountains by St. Mary could be seen again. It was really a gorgeous, dark day here. I thought about it. I really could go use the library, that would be helpful to me, print out some sheet music to learn on the piano at Many Glacier, and some recipes too. I thought on a whim, maybe I’ll go to Cut Bank. That town was way out on the plains, about 70 miles from here to the East, the opposite direction that I’d need to go to get to Colombia Falls.
A car pulled up without me even having to hitch and asked if I wanted a ride. Okay sure! A nice guy, younger, Canadian, with a dog and a camper shell on his truck. He was a firefighter in Alberta but gets 6 days off at a time and goes on long road trips exploring. He took me to Browning, quickly I was there.
We talked about the Indian reservations though and how rough they are. Oh yeah, I forgot, here in Montana and in the north the reservations are often really bad! He said he was attacked by people with bats in one of these towns. Ah crap, okay, goodbye! Now here I am on the streets on Browning, stranded, and oh yeah I forgot, it’s kind of a dangerous town. I don’t really believe in danger though, at least from crime and people, I did hitchhike all through Mexico recently and was FINE, so I figured I’ll be fine. But then right away some crazy, toothless fucker comes up to me and asks me all kinds of questions, and he really did make me feel quite intimidated, like he was going to try and rob me. I was overly friendly and then said a very blunt goodbye to him and quickly walked away.
So I walked through the ghetto town and got to the outskirts. I stuck out my thumb feeling all kinds of apprehension. I was almost picked up by some other crazies, they probably would have been fine but they weren’t going all the way to Cut Bank and they did seem pretty sketchy so I turned them down. Then I was picked up by a really beautiful and kind looking young woman who was a nurse in Browning. She took me to Cut Bank. She had grown up in a bus in Arizona and had been living here through the wild winters for 8 years.
I got to Cut Bank unsure of why I came. I thought I’d stay in a hotel but it cost 65$! Ahh… that’s a bit too much. The main street of the town was all torn up under construction. The weather was crazy! Really interesting, I was told by my firefighter friend earlier that in fact Eastern Alberta and Eastern Montana has one area that is considered ‘desert’. Because of the mountains casting a rain shadow, the plains are dry. I felt it happen. Today it was raining in the mountains quite a lot, but out on the plains it was just dark and cloudy. When I arrived in Browning further out on the plains it was extremely windy, and less cloudy. When I arrived in Cut Bank further eastward still, it was completely sunny and the wind was more insane than anywhere else! My nurse friend told me it’s always windier in Cut Bank, and the winds are almost always blowing, and they always blow east. “Why is it windier in Cut Bank than Browning?” she said, “Because this town sucks more!”
But then as I walked the streets of Cut Bank I realized I really didn’t like it at all. If anything I DO prefer Browning which is funny… The main street was all ripped up but it didn’t have anything good on it anyway. The town was all industry. Seemed full of hicks. Or crazies. It was a very small town, 110 miles from Lethbridge, 110 miles from Great Falls, 110 miles from Kalispell… the MIDDLE of nowhere. I decided to try to find somewhere to camp instead of the expensive hotel.
I walked up a hill to the end of a dead road and came to a place where the town abruptly ended in massive cliffs down to a river. Wow, didn’t expect that! It was beautiful. And it looked like a place to camp! Although it may have been on someone’s property kind of, there were some houses around… I went down to it, there was a big bush sheltering me from the violent wind. Yeah, I think I found my spot! I left my things there tentatively… knowing it was a little bit more exposed than I would like… people maybe could see the spot from the edge of this road.
I then went to the library and had a beautiful time. After that I went to find something to eat in this poor excuse for a town. The only places to eat were also casinos. I went in the bar/casino for some pizza, was given the stink eye by some hick. The waitress had half her teeth, I don’t know, I hate this place. The pizza was really pathetic I didn’t have my hopes up, but it did the trick. Then I went back to my bush where I slept for the first time without my sleeping pad because it was so comfy! I did kind of feel like I was hiding there, like I didn’t want to leave the bush or else I might be seen and I did not like that feeling at all. Oh well… I was a bit sad today.
6/3 – Killing Time
I woke up in the bush feeling incredibly refreshed and good! Today I did NOT feel sick, and that was nice. The wind and sunlight blew through the bush. I knew I had nothing to do today, so I laid and read my book. But then some person was standing on the hill above me. I don’t know if he could see me or not. He disappeared. I kept reading but felt really uneasy. Then he was back. He was holding a stick. I’m not sure if he was a kid or not. He disappeared again, he seemed to be looking at the view but I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me. I packed up, and having slept unusually in all my day clothes, I was ready to go real quick.
As I left I climbed the hill and the person was yelling something at me, trying to summon my attention. I ignored him and walked away quickly. I didn’t like that. Bad start to my morning. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went back to the library which was closed and sat on a bench reading my book. Can I not come to a library to read, okay!?
Anyway… I went to McDonalds and charged my phone there for a while. I eavesdropped on some old people, “Back in my day, my parents never complained about aches and pains, and my father lived to 93! I’m not even 80 and I’ve got aches and pains!” Their conversation was really interesting. I think they were a casualty of this horrible system we’re living under which is poisoning us so it can medicate us and make huge profit in all different kinds of ways while intentionally harming it’s people and mind controlling them and all that. I feel fortunate that I am growing up in an age where that stuff is exposed and I can try to save myself. Ate an ice cream anyway, then, let’s get out of here!
I stood hitching for a long time. I watched all the people in the cars, judging them. Stupid hicks, not picking me up. “Judge not, lest ye be judged…” but here I am standing on the side of the road letting everyone judge me as some vagrant and think whatever they want. So I’m fine to judge them then! A guy drives by in an enormous, unnecessary RV dragging his regular car behind it and throws his arms up in the air at me, like, “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!” Oh I dunno, you don’t have enough space for me in that thing? The thing is, I know I’ll never get picked up by an RV, not to be too judgemental, but it just never seems to happen, and I hitchhike at them anyway just to prove it to myself… “fascist pigs!” curses!
Okay so I was feeling a little cynical, and then feeling a little desperate too. Why I came here I don’t know, there’s a library in Colombia Falls. I must just have an unhealthy addiction to travelling. Finally, a lady picked me up, she had probably driven by an hour before and when she still saw me, felt bad and picked me up. Thank God for her though. She lived on a farm here, and went to Arizona in the wintertime.
She took me to Browning. Back in that weird little town, I liked it a little better this time around though. Compared to Cut Bank. I walked across the town, it was colder and cloudier! Still rather nice out though. Then I caught my next ride, a Blackfoot guy, real ragged looking, no seatbelts in his truck and the passage seat reclined all the way back with stuff all over it. I sat ontop of it, 5 enormous cracks in the windshield ran its length in every direction and two mangy, cute, little dogs in the pickup bed with no tailgate. At some point a gas can fell out onto the highway and we turned around and I opened the door to swoop it up and keep driving.
He brought me back to East Glacier. Now if there’s one town I REALLY LIKE it’s this one. What a wonderful place. And it was cloudy and quite cold again, I put my sweatshirt back on! So interesting today to really pay attention to this dynamic climate. I sat down again at Brownies and ate pastries and a slice of pizza.
Then I wandered off. I could spend the night here. I’ll go to Colombia Falls now and I can stay in the woods there. I’ll stay in the woods in the same spot for two nights. Then I have a hotel room reserved for two nights and after that the job starts.
I laid in the woods in East Glacier beside the road for a long time… looking up to the trees…
Finally I was back to hitchhiking and I was feeling pretty good. The weather was so perfect today. Nobody picked me up for a long time but that was fine. I felt pretty free. Finally a Blackfoot lady picked me up. She was real with me and I liked it. She said, “You sure do ask a lot of questions don’t you.” and I said, “Well I’ve told my story so many times cuz everyone wants to hear it but I would be real happy to just shut up!” But instead we talked and I told her EVERYTHING. She was great I told her all about my life beyond just the biking trip and she gave me advice to think about. She was pretty cool and we became friends.
We drove over Marias Pass, through West Glacier and she dropped me off in Colombia Falls where I got an ice cream at Dairy Queen. Then I was on my own again…
I walked. Really far. I knew I’d have to walk really far before I’d find a place in the woods. My bag was pretty heavy… I left town and kept walking. I made it to a small town next door. I was heading towards the mountains. Finally I forked off a little backroad, and when that road decided to head into the woods I was happy about it. But there were houses everywhere, I needed to get passed the houses and to the woods behind it. I found a house for sale with no one there and crossed into the forest.
Still in the forest there were houses. There’s houses everywhere, there’s really no space left around this country, even though sometimes it seems like there’s tons of space. It’s all bought up, it’s all off limits, it wants you to play the game. Fuck their game! Sorry. Even way out in Nevada where there is so little and so much freedom and so much open space, it’s all fenced off… it all “belongs” to someone. I appreciate so much organizations like the BLM which conserve our public lands.
So I bushwhacked through a bunch of people’s backyard woods for a while, and I probably had walked 5 miles or more, a good three hours and it was getting to be about 9PM but the sun still shines strong around here at that time. It wasn’t until I was actually climbing the mountain, which from Colombia Falls had looked so distant, before I found any free space to camp. I climbed pretty far up the thing and finally was completely exhausted and spent.
I dropped, and I camped among a horde of mosquitoes. They really were just the cherry on top of this lousy, weird day I had.
Today I woke up in the forest, the mosquitoes were totally gone in the night, they came back in the morning. I just zipped up my bug net on my bivvy and wasn’t bothered by them. Then by mid-morning they left.
I didn’t move hardly at all until about 1PM. It was really lovely. I read my book, I’m reading Carrot Quinn’s “Thru-hiking Will Break Your Heart.” I’ve carried it this whole way but haven’t read it, I read almost the entire book today. She’s a hero to me, because she writes her blog about hiking the trails in America, and she self-published this book which is a really enjoyable read. I met her once too.
Today I watched the insects mostly. God they were annoying, this part of the forest has a TON of bugs. I’m on the western slopes now, a place which receives more water than the eastern and is generally warmer. I watched the transformation, as the morning mosquitoes left and were replaced by flies slowly, then the ants came slowly. Bees and sweat bees came exploring around at midday when the heat of the sun was the strongest, and the ants and flies went crazy! They were crawling all over me all the time, and at some point I said to them, “Leave me alone, I’m not bothering you can you just not walk on me! You can walk on all my things just not me!” Trying to pick an ant off my pants as it slips away into them and my leggings and disappears forever.
All I did today was walk to a crystal stream flowing through the woods. The water was so clean and I washed my cooking pot in it, then I cooked some brown rice but ran out of fuel so the rice was a bit crunchy. I also got lost walking to the stream and back.
The forest was really gorgeous though, the suns progression through the sky all day and how it changed. It made me think, the sun is pretty destructive. In the heat of the day, even here in the north, you don’t want to be under it for too long. It gets too hot. It seems very scientific. A huge ball of fire up there, and we’re just here on this rock which is spinning and just so happens that everything is perfect. We’re touched by its heat just long enough, we can withstand that. From it blooms all this beauty, and all this love and emotion and crazy world we live in. Or is it all chaos like the society of the flies and ants? If I think our human society is chaos, check out their society! My God I wouldn’t want to live in that. Whatever is going on here though in this divine and marvelous universe we live in, in this forest, on this planet, floating in space under that ball of fire which cooks everything just perfectly… it is really beautiful.
As the sun went lower through the pine trees the earth went back to cooling off as it does. Warms up, then cools off. Each hour of the day was so specific to itself. 2PM definitely the roughest time of the day in this forest. But by about 6 the bugs had all calmed down, and the temperature was just perfect for me as a human. I reeellllaaaxxeed.
Now I’m still relaxing as it gets dark. The mosquitoes are back now but they aren’t nearly as bad tonight! I think last night they followed my scent through the forest to swarm on me and tonight since I haven’t moved they haven’t found me. Huh. Amazing. So I’m busying myself by killing them and feeding them to the ants. The ants pick up their corpses and carry them away.
Nighttime is not so bad in the forest.
Okay well that’s the end of this blog for now, thanks for reading all this silliness hope you enjoyed! I’m trying to publish my own book as well, so maybe I can make that happen this summer we’ll see. I might write some more blog posts too because the adventure is never over but I’m going to take a break for a while and learn how to play some music on the piano and get settled into life in Many Glacier. Take care everyone