It was a good plan, it really was. It just need a lot of things to go right in order to be pulled off. I think Scott and I have an amazing amount of faith in each other to be able to pull off stupid stuff…almost to a fault. But today, things didn’t really go our way. But luckily, we’re adaptable, so when 2 hours into the pedaling portion of the day we realized that we weren’t going to make the border before it closed for the night, we decided that we were going to savor the day in Glacier instead and deal with the weather when it showed up.
The plan was simple. Pick up passports at the Whitefish postoffice at 8:30, haul ass across the park for 100 miles, make the border crossing by 6pm, and then pedal the last 30-ish miles to Waterton. We even had a motel reservation there we were so certain of success.
After breakfast, we headed over to the post office at 8:15 and pushed the little side service window bell, hoping they’d get our packages for us (our bounce box was there and needed some items removed and some items added before getting sent home) early so that we could be the first to mail our box back out and be on the road by 8:35. They opened up the window and agreed to get our stuff. They guy came back with our bounce box, but no envelope of passports. “Don’t have them,” he said.
I called my parents. “Do you have the tracking number for the passports?” I’d left them with them figuring that a passport was just one more thing to lose while touring and we could pick them up last minute if we needed them.
“Your brother sent them out,” they said. “Registered mail.”
“Registered mail?” the postman asked, “I have somewhere else to look.” He came back empty handed.
I called my brother. No answer. “Wake up!” I told my phone and dialed the number again. He answered this time and read me the 15+ tracking number. We plugged it into the online tracking, No Match Found. I called my brother back and recited the tracking number, we had it right. By this time, the post office was open, so I stood in line to talk to the same guy.
He plugged the tracking number into his system, “We have no record of this package. Was it sent from a post office?”
“No. One of those pack-and-ship places. I guess I’ll call them.” I checked the hours, not open until 9.
By this time, Dave Chenault had found us at the post office, so we talked bikes and trails for a bit before my phone started ringing. My brother, “I gave you the wrong number, an 8 rubbed off to a 3. But you have an issue, it says Undeliverable and In Transit, I think it’s coming back to Boulder.”
I went back in, just to see where they were. Passports aren’t exactly something you want floating around in USPS land. I gave the same guy the new tracking number and told him that all I wanted to know was where the package was. He disappeared into the back again, and a few minutes later, emerged with my envelope.
“He sent it Priority Express,” he explained.
“I don’t care, as long as it’s here.” But…you have to wonder how many different places they can put general delivery packages. By this time it was past 9 and we scrambled to rearrange our bounce box, stood in line for the 3rd time, and finally got it sent. Whew. Time to boogie!
We rolled the 10 miles back to Columbia Falls and started north towards the park. “What are we averaging?” I asked a couple hours in.
“We’re not going to make the border, are we?” We checked some milages.
“We could put our heads down and hammer and maybe make it,” Scott assessed.
“I vote we tourist it, and we’ll deal with the weather tomorrow.”
The pace slackened. We talked of all sorts of things. The day was beautiful.
We paid our park entrance fee, the discovered that there’s a bike path that comes in from West Glacier (is there a free way to ride in? Anyone?) and toodled along McDonald Lake. Traffic was minimal.
We stopped for a snack at the lodge and watched tourists getting off a scenic boat ride. I wanted to go on a boat ride…but instead, we pedaled on with Logan Pass in our sights, a mere 3,400 climb.
But first, upon a recommendation, we went for a practice 15 minute hike up Avalanche Creek. Totally worth it with cool, swirling pools of water, water falls, and the characteristic super clear and blue water of Montana. What’s the hurry, we have all day to get over the pass.
We’d heard it was a super exposed road with no rail guards. I imagined Million Dollar highway style, but it was way wider and had guard rails the whole way. Traffic was courteous and really, for a National Park, pretty low.
One of those Uh-oh moments…
We climbed, and climbed, and climbed, looking at the cloud pouring over the pass in front of us. Surely we’ll be able to descent out of that…we climbed in to cloud. The temperatures dropped. The wind picked up. We hightailed it to the visitors center, which we knew was closed, and hid in the family bathroom eating a snack and putting on all of our layers. We had 2,000 feet to go down.
It was…cold. After 1,000 feet we had to stop for a Hands-in-the-Pants break to get feeling back. Near the bottom when we got stopped for construction, we had another Hands-in-the-Pants break. Toes were freezing. From the top of the pass, it was 12 miles to a lodge. We pedaled hard to get there. While they had no rooms, they let us use their phone to reserve a cabin in St Mary, 6 miles down the road. We warmed up over a bit of dinner.
Hearing that the general store had wool gloves, we made a quick run over to buy some. We also needed food after we discovered that the cabin we reserved was actually 2.5 miles north of St Mary, so there’d be no place to get more dinner or breakfast. Joy.
The pedaling out of the park wasn’t actually that bad. Windy, spitting snow, but the gloves were doing their job and our cores were toasty. We turned north out of St Mary’s and pedaled the lonely highway for over three miles before the lights of the Glacier Trailhead Cabins appeared. A warm shower hasn’t felt this good the whole trip.
First Montana Yogi!
Tomorrow, we’ll pedal up to Babb five miles up the road and assess the weather and either sit tight for two days and let the storm pass, or if it’s still just spitting snow, pedal the 35 miles to Waterton.
Something’s going to happen…