Monday, August 30, 2010

Western Montana

I'm in Washington!! But first off a quick review of the past however many days (I loose track of time like nothing).

So, riding out of Whitefish I headed south towards Missoula. On the way I pulled over to talk to a cyclists who was stopped in the middle of a hill talking aloud to himself. Now, I hate to stop in the middle of hills, but it was obvious this guy needed to talk. He'd just started riding the Continental Divide trail (from Canada to Mexico on single track and dirt roads). His second day was so bad he had gotten off the trails and onto paved roads where I met him, he was thinking of calling it quits. He is also from Seattle and a seasoned tourer, but I couldn't believe the amount of stuff he had with him: full front and rear panniers as well as a fully loaded Bob trailer! Lugging around all that weight I'm not surprised he got off the dirt. We talked awhile, then rode on, but I was quite a bit faster and ended up losing him pretty quick.

That night I rode out to Inky's river cabin, my Warmshowers host for the next number of days. I met Inky and Danny and their friends Ellen and John also stopped in for the night. I had a blast listening to the four of them, all such interesting and spunky people! The cabin is a historical site on the outlet of a beautiful lake. We ended the evening roasting s'mores, I think those were the first of my whole trip!

Ellen, Inky, and John with Holly
From the cabin, I rode on to Missoula where I stayed in Inky's house with Danny and Inky's daughter, Meghan. She lives up in the hills out of town surrounded by public land and with a gorgeous view of the valley. I spent the next three days resting, catching up on a few things, and exploring Missoula. It was wonderful to not feel rushed.
I visited the University of Montana and met with the chair of the geography department graduate program. We had a good talk, but I came to realize that I'm still a few years away from applying to grad school. I'm glad I found that out for sure.

University of Montana and "the big M"
Missoula had lots going on. They had a summer food festival and concert series both Wednesday afternoon and Thursday evening, which I enjoyed listing to lots of classic rock covers. I was impressed with the showing for a weekly event. Otherwise I wandered around town, spent lots of time in the library, cleaned up my bike, and caught up with lots of friends on the phone which was wonderful.
Weekly summer Out to Lunch food and music gathering


A great view of smoke from Inky's house
On my way out of town, I stopped in at Adventure cycling Association's headquarters. They told me they see around 600 tourers a year! They have it all figured out, Jill, one of the magazine editors, gave me a tour of the building, they have a lounge for tourers with books, maps, computer, ice cream and pop. I had my portrait taken with my bike and signed their registry. I also got a chance to speak with the head of ACA's tour's about leading trips for them; I'd have to wait two years unfortunately, but it's be a lot of fun. I also spoke with Jill about writing an article for their magazine, I'm pretty excited about the idea and need to get a proposal out in the next few weeks!

Adventure Cycling Association
From Missoula I rode northwest towards Idaho. Not having had a hard days ride in what seems like a long time, I rode myself to exhaustion the last three days. Idaho was a quick crossing through nice river valley's and along the lake.

Lots of river valley riding; nice and flat for the most part!


In Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille

Riding across Pend Oreille

I spent last night just 3 miles from the Washington boarder and was ecstatic to cross over this morning. Now I'm in Spokane, meeting up with a friend in the area this evening. Then I (hopefully) will get picked up and driven back to Montana for a friends wedding. So, it'll be a few days before I continue riding west. I figure I have only 5-6 actual riding days left which is crazy, but I still have lots of stops to make to drag out the 13 days left in my year...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rockies

The Rockies...umm...yeah, they're big and beautiful and I could stay around these mountains for a long time.

So, I met up with Iain in Jasper and we set off down the Icefields Parkway which runs between Jasper and Banff. This area is the "jem of Canada," full of tourists and a haven for cyclists which were everywhere. The road was fantastic with a good shoulder as it climbed and wound around and over the mountains. The views were stunning, it's hard to think of a more beautiful place to ride in North America.






Columbia Icefield



Some killer descents





Iain and me
Not having ridden in the three years since his cross-country tour, and coming fresh off of two months of leading hiking courses, Iain was a great sport ridding through his soreness, back and knee pain. This was a beautiful, but very challanging section to meet me for; we climbed a lot!



Gorgeous lakes

This was the longest time by far that I've spent riding with anyone on this trip; Iain and I were together for 10 days. I'm sure I was a big pain at times as I've realized just how used to my own routine I am; I'll admit I had some difficulties sharing my journey and changing my routine. However, it was good for me to be challenged and remember that I'm going to have to start compromising again once I enter back into the world of non-touring.
Riding into Banff we had some storms come through and bring fresh snow to the mountains. I'd hoped I wouldn't see that until September, but oh well. We waited out some heavy rain in Banff, then had to bundle up against the rain and cold the next day. We'd planed on staying up high and climbing an extra pass, but with the weather decided to instead retreat to the foothills. The roads there turned out to be fantastic, beautiful rolling through the hay fields with the high mountains on the horizon.

Fresh snow up in the mountains!


Way too cold for the middle of August


This property had hats on top of every fence post, there were hundreds of them.

We past through Waterton Lakes NP, then crossed the boarder back into the US. With every singe car in front of getting getting a thorough search, I was sure we'd get the same. However, they just asked us a few quick questions and sent us on our way. This was the first time ever that it was easier to get back into the US then it was to get into Canada. I wasn't as excited to return to the US as I thought I'd be, maybe it feels too close to finishing.
Our next stop was Glacier National Park. We stayed in the campground, which was a zoo, and started off the next morning climbing up the Going-to-the-Sun road which crosses 50 miles through the park. It was a good 12 miles climb with a steady grade, slow but comfortable. They're doing a whole bunch of construction on the road, so we got stopped in each place and had to wait 10-30 minutes to pass-gave me a break anyway. Up at the top at Logan Pass, we crossed the Continental Divide and made our way down the 30 miles of downhill-maybe 15 of which were 6% grade. After we got through the construction and bad pavement at top, we got onto new surface and had a blast winding down the narrow road blasted into the cliff. It's really something!

Enjoying the view while waiting for construction

Iain and I then rode into Whitefish (after stopping for huckleberry milkshakes!) where he was catching the train the next day back to Seattle. Our arrival was perfect, just in time for the farmer's market which we were both very impressed with. Both being in search of a good ski town to move to, we immediately liked the area.
Strangely enough, that evening when I called my parents, my dad told me about a ski coaching job that the Whitefish team had just posted. So, the next day I made some calls and was able to meet with one of the board members, Linda to talk about the program. She then invited me to spend the night with her family which was wonderful. I got the scoop on the team and the town and am very excited about the possibility of living here! Iain took off and I headed back into Glacier NP the next morning to do a little hiking.
With my hip bothering me, I was cautious, starting with a short hike to Hidden Lake. After getting past the lines of people, it was a glorious place.

Hidden Lake

Mountain goats were everywhere, I probably saw 25 on this little hike including lots of kids

The next day I took the shuttle back up to Logan Pass and set out on a point to point hike nearly following the Continental Divide. With perfect weather, the views were incredible and wildflowers were everywhere. I nibbled on wild chives all along the traverse. My hip was feeling good and I was happy to be on my feet. The last few miles were though a burned area and teeming with saskatoons, huckleberries, raspberries, and thimbleberries. The hike down was slow as I gorged myself on my favorite treats!

Looking up valley from the Highline Trail, the Going-to-the-Sun road is below


This gal was part of a herd of 15 sheep right along the trail

After returning from the hike, I high-tailed it back to Whitefish (so much back and forth!), and back to the Engh-Grady families place. This morning I helped out with a mountain run they put on to benefit the nordic team and was able to meet a bunch of the athletes and their parents which was a lot of fun.

Dave, Linda, Cassy, Maddy, and their dog Sage
It's been a crazy last few weeks. I can't believe how well some things have worked out, but that seems to happen a lot on this trip (I sure hope that continues once I finish). From here in Whitefish I'm headed down to Missoula where I'll spend a few days as I continue to take my time here in Montana. I'm so close to being back to Seattle, but still have three weeks before my year is up, so I want to make the most of it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alberta

Really, I do have the best of intentions and want to keep this blog up, but life always seems to get in the way. However, being busy usually means having fun. Once again, I'll keep this short and am having picture issues so will just bring it up to date until a few days ago when I got to Jasper. I'll have to catch up on the rest another day.

So, I made it through Saskatchewan. The last 50km where even quite nice with rolling hills. Entering Alberta it flattened out once again and I was anxious to move west. Back in Dauphin, MB, Gary told me about a Bluegrass Festival outside of Edmonton in Stony Plain. My timing worked out perfectly to catch the last day of the Blueberry Bluegrass Festival. So, I spent a fabulous music filled day relaxing in the sunshine. The festival was low-key which I loved and had bands playing from 11am-midnight from all over the US and Canada. Such a great way to spend a day off the bike!



Rhona Vincent's family band started off the morning with gospel hour.


The scene

From Stony Plain, I made my way west and got stuck back on a big road. It was noisy and busy and not much fun. I then made it into Edson where I met my couchsurfing couple, Gary and Judy. Gary works for Sustainable Resources Development as a land planner and gave me a tour of his work. I rode out of town to their home, and Gary drove the vehicle for Judy and I to take a little float trip down the river near their home. It was lots of fun, a gorgeous river and finally clear clean water again!



Gary and Judy

The next morning I got a ride back into Edson with Gary and met up with Robert. I'd met Robert at the library the day before and he'd invited me to ride out to an air show in the next town that day. We had a nice 100km ride to Whitecourt for the air show, wonderful once again to ride unloaded. The program was full of historical planes, acrobatic planes, and the Canadian Snowbirds. This was my first real air show, it was pretty neat and I had great company.



Tanker showing off how they fight fire from the air (I was happy to hear it was just colored water).


One of the Snowbirds

The next day was spent in Edson, exploring the secrets of town as Robert showed me around. We filled up on saskatoons, took a swim in the river, and I even played ultimate that night (which made me more sore then I've been in months!). Robert and I decided to ride to Jasper together we we took off the next morning.

The air was full of smoke from fires up north, so we couldn't see the Rockies until we were practically in them. Even through the haze, I couldn't have been more happy to be back in the mountains.

Robert and I explored the water falls, relaxed in the hot springs, and walked Maligne Canyon. It was wonderful to have a someone familiar with the area and someone to share the experience with as we did many things I wouldn't have done alone.


Robert and me at Maligne Canyon


Maligne Canyon

We also took a little hike up Signal Mountain which overlooks Jasper. The trail was more of an old, overgrown road until near the top. We got above the tree line and were graced with vibrant paintbrush and columbine amongst the moss and heather. We scrambled up to the summit for a quick rest before the cold and incoming storm forced us down. It felt so good to hike again, though it reminded me how out of shape I'm in. On the way down, my hip started to bother me and resulted in me seriously limping for the next four days. Fortunately it was ok on the bike and is now better walking.


View from the top of Signal Mt


Edith Lake with Pyramid Mt

In Jasper Robert and I took a four block-two hour historical walking tour of town. It was interesting to learn about the history of the place. Jasper is a crazy town, nice looking and surrounded by majestic scenery, but so busy with tourists it's very overwhelming for me. In town Robert and I parted and I met Iain, my friend who took that train in to ride with me back down into Montana.

So, that's all I'll write for the moment. I' m in Black Diamond, AB right now, should be back in the States in 2-3 days!