Whitefish, over to the North Fork and back
I chased a bear. Not on purpose of course. On the first day of three, I had just crested the Whitefish Divide and was carefully navigating my bike along a rocky downhill road. All the sudden as I looked up, saw a galloping black bear ahead, running away. He must have been along the road, heard me coming and then decided to bolt. Not sure what else to do, I continued cycling after him (but letting him safely get away) and from then until rest of the day, I made extra noise rounding corners.
It was a three day, ~90 mile ride primarily on gravel. This time I followed the guide book directions of where to stop. Overall, it was three not extremely difficult days, through some rugged terrain. Riding started simple enough starting from Eureka. At the motel this morning were at least three riders. Chris (who you’ll see later), myself and Scott one of the Scottish riders. Scott and his other rider (David) I had met before Elkford and they had decided they had different goals – so David forged ahead and Scott was going to make an easy pavement ride to Whitefish, catch a train and spend his US holiday other than on the divide.
The route went for a mile along US 93 before turning to the back roads. Once again, some nice pretty and paved routes, though also with a few short hills. After 9 miles back to US 93 and then at 10.8 miles the real adventure started.
Above is the photo of Graves Creek Road. Started paved and reasonable grade.
Quite a few deer in this area.
The road slowly followed the creek uphill. In total there would be ~2000 ft of climb before reaching the summit.
After ten miles, the pavement ended and it became a good quality gravel road. Notice they even bothered to occasionally trim the worst of the trees overlapping the road, so can’t be so rugged yet.
Chris who had been in motel this morning, also came past. Chris is from Oberlin, OH area and had ridden the southern half of the Great Divide last year and was riding other bits this year. He cautioned the NM section was particularly challenging as water was not always found even at the infrequent locations shown on the map. (The more I hear of NM section, more I suspect I’ll be on paved roads and not GDMBR by then).
After a few miles of good gravel, the road steepened and much bigger climbing began. I decided to walk the last two miles to top of Whitefish Divide. On the way down is where I encountered the bear mentioned above (sorry no photos, both myself and bear were excited enough).
From the top, mostly descent of 5.6 miles and there was Tochuck Campground. While it was still early afternoon, I decided to stop partially since I’d decided to follow the guidebook and partially since there wasn’t an immediately obvious campground close, particularly one with bear containers.
Later that evening another GDMBR cyclist came through. She was a young woman who was probably slower than me, but with a lot of drive. Only cyclist I had met so far that didn’t take the Fernie alternative.
It was cold overnight. My little thermometer above was still above freezing, but my bike computer recorded -2.7C (27F). Campground was hidden in the trees and I mostly got breakfast before sun really reached down.
A fairly common breakfast is ramen noodles, tuna and oatmeal (not together).
From here I followed the road downhill for 9 miles. Slowly it became less rocky which was nice. At the bottom, the road intersected with the North Fork road.
This road was wider, but at least as rough. Also surprising how much “No Trespassing” signs as well as private cabins were found here. In hindsight I was glad I’d stayed in the campground since not clear it would be easy to just camp beside the road without being on private property.
At the 18 mile mark, the climb started up Red Meadow road. This would be ~1500ft spread over a dozen miles. Both the road surface and the climb were surprisingly nice. Except for the last two miles, I could just go into lower gear and slowly pedal my way up.
These berries were found along the way.
Again, it was early afternoon, but decided to follow the guidebook again. It got cloudy and briefly rained on two occasions. Otherwise, it was nice camping near Red Meadow Lake. They also had bear containers here.
In the evening it rained again.
Cold morning. There was ice on the tent and ice on the picnic table.
Some mist coming up from the lake shortly before sunrise. I thought I might wait until the sun came down the mountain.
However, even though the sun hit the highest peaks close to sunrise, nearly two hours later it still hadn’t gotten to the campground, so finally gave up and packed in an icy tent. Definitely has me cautious about too much camping at elevation.
My bike computer recorded -1.7C (29F) even at 9am when I started, so expect it was a few degrees colder before then. My sleeping bag is warm enough but still a bit chilly to ride early in the morning. The initial descent was rocky again most of the first 5.6 miles to Upper Whitefish Lake. After that it got better and was predominantly downhill.
At 22 miles I came to pavement again.
Hooray! However, a few shorter little hills to climb along Whitefish Lake and I was in middle of downtown. Now some errands to take care of:
- Glacier Cyclery replaced my pedals. Best guess is the horrible racket heard before Eureka was one of the bearings falling apart. Still have slow leak in back tire, but will figure this out tomorrow before departure.
- Went to post office to pick up a SIM card I had let Amazon send “General Delivery”. Unfortunately, when the sender uses UPS, that doesn’t seem to work and UPS bounces it back as “invalid address”. Only cost me $1 to try and Safeway nearby had the same SIM card kits
- Connected with few people I know in the area and made arrangements to meet up.
Overall, I’m glad I did this three day out and back over the Whitefish Divide as well as tried to follow the guidebook list of three easy days. From here, I’m considering doing a bit more main highway rather than GDMBR, though I’m also told the immediate next bits are not that difficult.