Little did I know when I decided that I would mountain bike to West Glacier, instead of walking the highway due to wildfires, that I would lose the wilderness experience I had become so accustomed to. Instead, biking to West Glacier brought a whole new perspective to the adventure that I was close to completing.
The trek from Missoula to West Glacier was about 200 miles and it would take me right through the heart of Montana with the Mission Mountains to my west and the Swan Mountains to the east. I started out on a rainy day and it stayed that way all day.
The day before I left Missoula, Natalie took me on a 12-mile day hike in the Mission Mountains to an alpine lake that was as beautiful as any lake I saw on the CDT. Not exactly how I planned to spend my day off the trail, but it was well worth it.
I spent my first night in a National Forest Campground and, as usual, a trail angel in the form of the camp host appeared and let me camp at their site and cooked me breakfast in the morning. The next day I biked to a friend of Natalie’s that was a backcountry ranger who lived in an awesome log cabin near the Swan Mountains. She had a beautiful grove of Ponderosa Pines on her property, my favorite tree. Each of her trees had a tag on them. She said the tags carried a scent that would deter the Pine Bark Beetle. The Pine Bark Beetle has been destroying forest throughout the west. Each scent tag costs $8.00 so it is only practical for use by a homeowner.
I thought I would spend an hour or so with her but she insisted that I attend a dinner party with her neighbors and spend the night. The next day the weather was unpleasant with winter storm warnings for elevations over 6500′ and 100% chance of rain including heavy downpours. When I started out in the morning it wasn’t that bad and then I stopped at a small roadside cafe and had lunch. I met a guy from the Netherlands who was biking the Great Divide, which is considered the biking version of the CDT.
While we were in the cafe the rain came down so hard it was dangerous to go out. There were three other people in the café biking the Great Divide too. Two of the individuals were from Switzerland and one was from Norway. The owner of the cafe let us spend the night in his attached office space to avoid the rain. The fella from Norway was a chef so he cooked us a great pasta dinner. I learned a lot about their culture and I think they really enjoyed my sense of humor when discussing American politics.
The following four days I biked to West Glacier and then from West Glacier to Bowman Lake which was on the far west side of the park. Bowman Lake was beautiful and remote. A small little village called Polebridge is an iconic landmark that only the regional people really know about. They have the most incredible bakery with Huckleberry Bear Claws you can’t get anywhere else.
It was a very rough bike ride to Bowman Lake Trailhead and campground; 6 miles of dirt, gravel and rocky road. The campsites were great with spectacular views of the mountains. The next day Karen, Natalie and a friend of hers would come to join me on the final 4-day hike to Canada. Not even a grizzly bear will stop me now.