WHITEFISH, Mont. – Subsequent days on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route have gotten easier, but the challenge is still the same. It took a few days for me to settle into a routine of riding my bike all day and camping at night. For a first bikepacking trip, perhaps choosing the Great Divide at the end of the season, two days after returning from Burning Man, without a lot of training or preparation was probably not the best idea.
It’s camping (eh … mostly) and it’s bike riding. I’ve done both before; however, this route through the Canadian Rockies and now Montana has given me a chance to rethink how I define “uphill,” and exactly what a “decent” could be. Montana has been a bit of an experience so far.
The big difference is the international border crossing – my first on a bike.
Montana also has more pavement than other sections and plains in addition to mountains. Civilization is closer than northern parts, but getting back out of the grasp of AT&T’s robust mobile signal isn’t that difficult. And in those off-the-grid locations bears are still a problem. The wet ground and soaked wood make campfires almost impossible.
It’s not really a problem. I didn’t need campfires for cooking and it wasn’t cold enough where I really needed the heat source. I did have a good little fire going about 5 or 6 times at the Tuchuck Campground on the way to Whitefish.
Another plus is that surface water is plentiful on most of this part of the route, there is almost no traffic and every direction is a phenomenal view.
After I got rolling after that difficult night, I found myself bogged down in a spirit-crushing climb that went on forever. Every turn revealed the dirt road reaching higher to the heavens, sometimes steeper, sometimes a little less so. Steeper until I reached the top of the pass and began the long, glorious descent to Whitefish.
The road scrubbed off a lot of that elevation with no hesitation down a hell-ride “road,” and eventually became more civilized, delivering me back to the pavement with a pleasant, smooth ride with about 4 pedal strokes in 20 miles.
From here in Whitefish I’ll head to Columbia Falls for a weekend with my wife. With these delays and my late start, I may be stopped in Colorado (or elsewhere) due to snow and I’m ok with that. I’m not racing.
I don’t have sponsors to appease or anything like that. I have the freedom to do whatever I want, so while the planned end of this tour is Antelope Wells, NM, the actual end can be anywhere.