Closed due to bears! I seen one grizzly about 30 miles in from the start of my ride of the Tour Divide in Banff. I do not carry bear spray, just a whistle around my neck. When I smell, feel, or am entering blind corners I toot my whistle. Ironically enough I am entering my first feel and blind corner with whistle in mouth and I turn the corner to have a grizz give me a double take look. He was probably less then 10 yards away and gently walked off into the woods. I accepted this as a welcoming greeting to the trail and thought he spread the word to the other bears out there saying “it’s OK, JayP is out here, he will do no harm, let’s just leave him alone”.
An interesting first night. I had a great first day and make it to the Forest Service Butts Cabin some 210 miles from the start. I arrive there bout 11p.m. and was planning a 3 hour sleep. The cabin was empty of people but gear spread out. I contemplate the stay and ultimately nestle into the corner feeling like it is a public type safety cabin and if there is room, all are welcome. I set an alarm for 2:30 a.m. and pass out. All of sudden about 2 o’clock I awaken by headlights coming through the window. I scurry up stumbling for my shorts (i sleep naked to air my body out), turn on my headlamp and swing open the door to let the people know someone is in the cabin. Crawling back up in my bag I sit there as the door swings open with 2 headlamps shining in my eyes with someone yelling “who is in my cabin, what are you doing here”. I quickly spill out “I am here by myself, I am a touring cyclist, my name is Jay, I thought this was a public cabin, I will leave right now, it’s time for me to go, I just got here a couple hours ago”. They disappear outside, I hide back in my bag and they come back in saying “it’s OK, you don’t have to leave”. I explain what I am doing and was getting ready to leave anyway. It turns out they were actually working and they were out counting, looking for owls. Had a few minute conversation with them as we both found each others stories interesting for being out there epically at the time of morning. They thought I was pretty strange as I left at 2:30a.m. riding my bike into the dark in a heavily concentrated bear area, as they just said they ran into one. It was awesome as it gave me a boost of energy just to have conversation and it initially motivated me to get up and out. I can’t blame those girls for being a bit apprehensive and I am glad it wasn’t a redneck with a shot gun!
I came across more touring cyclist this year then ever before. It’s awesome to stop for a few minutes to hear where they are from and how there journey is going. Lots of people on “holiday” from other countries. It seems as if they all knew what I was up too and were like you don’t have to stop – blah, blah, aren’t you after the record. Reality is I am not out there with my head pinned down. Part of the experience is experiencing others and I do look around, smell the flowers per say, take pictures and say hello to my fellow trail riders.
I posted this to FB and I fully enjoy these types of moments. Lunch at Holland Lake in MT., 1 mile off course, a very special spot to enjoy a lunch in a very quiet tranquil setting. Could have easily taken a nap there…
Cresting the Montana/Idaho divide was memorable due to how the day started out and finished. Waking up in Lima at 3a.m. on the hotel’s laundry floor (was planning on getting a room but they were full and the laundry room was cheap – free!) with it pouring rain had me turn over for a few more winks till it stopped. After the brutal head wind day prior my knees were killing me and my body was giving me the finger a bit. The road leading me through to Lakeview and to the border was soft, the sky was cloudy, and the slight head wind was just enough to feel like I was going slow, although also feeling like I was working hard. It was just one of those days where it takes a half day just to warm up, literally a half day. Crossing the border into Idaho certainly gave me a boost as it is very close to wear I live. Feeling better, getting resupplied and tummy full I had a great run on the Rail Trail. Thinking ahead with a goal to make it to Flagg Ranch before the store/restaurant closed was my task at hand. All while scanning the cloudy sky and distant storms I thought I would be safe. Not. While entering the gravel of Grassy Lake Road I was swallowed by a pretty intense, thunder filled rain storm. So, I got to enjoy a full on side ways type rain storm the entire time while crossing into Wyoming all night long. Unfortunately I did not arrive till midnight and the services were closed but fortunately the lobby was open. I loitered and hung out in front of the fireplace till things were dry. It all of a sudden stopped raining, cleared up and the full moon was a poppin’. I geared up and rode via. moonlight with no lights till 3a.m. It was an amazing night where I felt I connected with a good friend who passed on this past winter in the Tetons. The experience gives me the chills as I write this is it was another powerful moment of my ride. I truly felt like I was “tripping” as the timing of everything just took my mind and body to anther place.
Doing the route multiple times gives great insight to what is coming, but it is not always good. This 8 mile section last year took me ALL night in the pouring rain as I carried/pushed my bike through the sage next to the road. The clay on route is no joke and will stop you in your tracks and there is plenty of it along the way. This particular day it was lightly raining on/off and all the long prior I could not help but think about entering this area and having to experience what I have before. Fortunately it was not the case but it was stressing me out all morning.
Seeing the route change and experiencing the road conditions differently each and every time is part of the fun for me. The impact through logging, beetle kill, climate and humans is all very noticeable from year to year. The road that really wasn’t a road is now a road. The sweet buff section last year was a complete mess this year. The forest of last year may not exist this year. All things of change. No 2 Tour Divide runs will ever be the same.
3 cross country trips in the shoes…10,000+ miles and going strong!
To be continued…