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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

August 22nd, 2005  · stk

Montana-bound

August 12, 2005

The alarm is set for 5 AM, but Scott wakes at 4:30. He gets up, has a shower and starts moving. It's 5:11 when he wakes Rachel with a kiss and a cheerful (hurry up and let's get going) "Good Morning" kiss.

We fix a bacon and egg breakfast, making one of those home-made egg-McMuffin things (very yummy). Next, we do the dishes, load some perishables into the cooler and then we we're off on our seven-hour drive to Whitefish, Montana. Because we're on the road by 6:20 AM, we arrive in Whitefish around two in the afternoon. It's a very scenic drive south, across the Alberta prairies, but the heavy, dark clouds that hang overhead have an ominous feel. Scattered showers only add to our trepidation.

We cross the Canada/U.S. border and make our way to Glacier National Park, following a route that we'll eventually cycle. We stop briefly at St. Mary, just outside the Park gates. When we step out of the warm minivan, we're shocked by the cold and the wind. We go back to the car to get our fleece jackets and Scott comments, "I didn't bring any warm pants." He's cold in his shorts and sandals and we both wonder what kind of weather is in store for our trip.

We drive to the park gate and pay our entrance fee. The ranger in the booth asks us, "Are you certain you want to be cycling in this kind of weather?"

We hope that the weather will turn and ask, "What's the forecast for the next few days look like?"

"Well, the highs tomorrow are forecasted to be about 35°F, with the chance of snow at higher elevations."

That's not good. Still hopeful, we ask, "Will things be much different on the other side of the pass, in Whitefish?"

"Nope. The weather there is pretty much the same as it is here."

We drive away, trying to reassure ourselves that it's only a two-day forecast. We cling to her one comment, "Once the system passes, it's supposed to be back in the 80's."

Now in Glacier National Park, driving along the "Going to the Sun" road, we note there's no shoulder on the roadway. We'll be riding down this road and Scott will be towing a trailer with the Oop in it, in just a few short days. We'll be exposed to traffic. Hmmm. Not good.

The road rises from St. Mary lake and we begin the ascent to Logan's Pass. We keep climbing and periodically, Scott quietly comments, "This is a lot of uphill."

We're both imagining ourselves laboring up the road, climbing. As we near the top, we lose the view because we're now in the clouds. It doesn't stop people from venturing out, with their raincoats on, hiking along the trails at the summit.

It's Saturday and the roadway is busy, with lots of traffic in both directions.

We drive on, over the Logan's Pass and as we cross to the west side of the mountain, the weather markedly improves. It's warmer, the clouds are higher in the sky and they appear much lighter in color. We can now see the hiking trail descending from the summit, etching a thin line across the mountainside, as far as we can see. It reminds us of our hike from Mexico to Canada along the PCT, following the trail with our eyes, seeing where the trail will take us and the path from which we came.

We drive down the mountain, rounding one tight turn after another, able to see the road-cut as a line in the mountainside ahead of us. We're thankful that we'll be cycling from east-to-west, as it's about half the elevation gain and maybe half the distance to the pass.

We're now off the mountain, on more level ground, crossing Logan Creek. We're following a beautiful, tree-lined road, skirting along the shores of 10-mile-long Lake McDonald. Eventually, it leads us out of Glacier National Park. We turn onto a busy highway, aim the van toward Whitefish and our meeting spot, but first, we stop for a late Burger King lunch in Columbia Falls. We finally pull into Whitefish, but before we head to the Whitefish KOA campground, we drive through town and stop in at the local bike shop. They don't have a replacement mirror for Scott's bike helmet, but we do purchase a flashing LED light for Alex's buggy.

We arrive at the KOA campground around 4 PM and select a site. There's no sign of Dave yet, so we set up camp and sort through the piles of cycling and camping gear. Alex is happy to be out of her car seat and has fun saying "Hi" to everyone within earshot. The campground has a number of cool-looking three-wheeled bicycles for kids, as well as some pedal cars. Rachel returns from the campground office, pushing the Oop along in a too-big-for-her pedal cart. She has fun with it in camp, even though her feet don't reach the pedals. Dad pushes her around (until she crashes and cries because of a bump on her head) and she turns the tables on Dad, pushing him around in the thing (which is way to small for the tubby hubby and does a "wheelie" if he's not careful).

Dave figured that he'd arrive around three, but, knowing Dave, we anticipate he'll pull in around five. Five comes and goes. No sign of Dave. Six passes us by. Still no sign of Dave. "Should we eat dinner, or wait?", Scott asks, his tummy growling. We wait. Finally, as seven o'clock approaches, Dave pulls in.

Big hugs all around. We relax. We start to get excited about the upcoming adventure.

Dave sets up his tent and sorts through his gear. "Should I bring the hatchet?" he askes. (The thing weighs 4 pounds, at least.)

"Dude, I wouldn't," says Scott, "On the PCT, we rarely had a campfire." (Somehow, after hiking the PCT, we both feel that we're beyond campfires. They're a thing of the past.)

Scott starts cooking a home-dehydrated dinner (Beef Stroganoff) and Rachel drives off to stock up on some sale-priced candy bars and to purchase some beer.

Dinner is quickly consumed, as are a couple of beers. It's now time for Alex to go to bed. She has been great all day, fuss-free for the 7-hour drive and having oodles of fun in camp. We change her into her "PJs" and put her into her sleeping bag, inside the tent. For 45 minutes, we watch the tent dance around, as the Oop plays, entertaining us and squealing with delight. The tent door opens, as Alex finally grabs the zipper. Soon, two little fingers are sticking out of a small hole, trying to help the zipper along its track. Seconds later, we see a smiling face peeking out. Rachel rushes over to the tent to provide some parental influence in getting her to sleep. Finally, a half hour later, she is quiet.

Soon thereafter, we all retire to our sleeping bags, anxious about the upcoming ride. Whatever will happen, it begins tomorrow.


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