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Banff to Missoula...the great north parks and big sky country

USA | Thursday, 25 September 2008 | Views [6799]

mountain goat on the sperry glacier trail

mountain goat on the sperry glacier trail

After a chilly week tent bound with the flu in Banff, and spending time with friends, it was time for us to hit the road again with winter nipping at our heels and a lot of mountains between us and the desert country. As soon as we left Banff along the Bow Valley Parkway the sun began to shine and warmed our spirits.

Anna on the climb out of Castle junction with Castle mountain in the background

A little weary from the flu, it took several days to find our strength again. We followed highway 93 down the Kootenay river valley, through the Kootenay National Park, crossing the continental divide, passing through glacial river valleys and large burnt out hillsides of pines from fires in the 90's and this decade. We awoke to frozen tents, and water at Vermillon crossing, so while the days were sunny, the nights well below zero degrees celsius.

Frozen morning camps along the Kootenay River

A rare portrait of the two of us taken by some fellow bikers

A major climb over Sinclair pass then downhill off the mountains all the way to Radium Hot Springs where we soaked our weary legs...the best way yet to end a day of hard cycling! We met two cyclists, John and Eli, biking from Kodiak Alaska to Jackson Wyoming, so we shared a campspot and stories with these guys before they powered on the next day.

The change from Canada back into the States at Roosville Montana was quite dramatic, big open skies, golden fields, ranches, red barns, big pick up trucks and cowboys! All of a sudden we didnt feel so comfortable just in cycling knicks walking into a shop with 'Budweiser - hunters welcome' out front and leather cowboy boots the norm...so out came the over shorts!

We decided to take a detour into Glacier National Park to ride the going-to-the-sun road to Logan Pass and maybe a rest day off the bikes while the sun was still shining and the skies blue. Unfortunately we were a day late with road works blocking the road from West Glacier to Logan Pass and a two day detour around the eastern end of the park not really an option.

The 'Not Going to the Sun Road' for us...unfortunately closed a day earlier

As a alternative we decided to head to the mountains for a day hike up to Sperry Glacier trail...a lazy 18 mile return trip with an elevation gain of 4,500 feet! The reward was in the last few miles where high up above the tree line we walked across red and green rock scree slopes, over waterfalls fed by glacial streams, views of carved rock faces, alpine meadows, hoary marmots whistling from the boulders and then a group of five mountain goats on the trail. They didn't move for us, this was their domain. So we shared a few moments with them in their mountain paradise and began our descent. One mountain goat stood high above us on a rock, they truly are the kings of that mountain kingdom.

Ali hiking the Sperry glacier trail

Kings of the mountain kingdom, mountain goats

At Glacier NP we also met up with Thomas and Colin from Belgium, they were one day into a year long bike trip from Whitefish Montana to Bolivia. We were inspired by their enthusiasm and excitement heading out on a big trip, and shared with them stories of the road, fellow cyclists and the usual map dreaming.

Thomas and Colin from Belgium, with Ali

Finally the blue skies broke and we rode through drizzling cold rain through the Swan Valley. After entering the Laughing Horse Lodge dripping wet, we warmed by the fire and enjoyed hot coffee and a cooked 'second breakfast' (something we have learnt from fellow cyclists Ken and Neill). A friendly local couple shared a story of a motorbike trip through South America, and must have felt sorry for us pedalling on in the rain and paid our bill while leaving without us knowing. This was a generous gesture that summed up the hospitality we have received on the road especially in Montana.

Missoula MT was our next destination to visit the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) office and plan our journey to Jackson WY. A huge storm dumped down rain (the heaviest of the trip so far) as we rolled into Missoula. So with an already wet tent, we found the first motel we could in the downpour 'the Ponderosa' and checked in after a month in the tent. Red plush carpet, with our tent set up inside we dried all of our gear and dropped pine needles everywhere.

At the ACA we met Greg Siple, one of the founders of the organisation and also the first (along with his wife) to ride their bikes from Alaska to Tierra Del Fuego in Argentina in 1973-74. He showed us around the ACA offices: a shrine to bicycle touring with old touring bikes hung on the walls, black and white portraits of bike tourists from the 70's, 80's and 90's, walls of maps and routes through the US, a library of bike related matter and a bunch of dedicated staff committed to getting more people touring the country on bikes. Greg showed us his special collection of black and whites from that original north to south expedition from Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Alaska. He asked us to return the next day with our loaded bikes to take black and white photos of us to add to his portrait collection, which we did and we feel privileged to become part of that collection.

The ACA adventure cyclist portraits - Ali seems to have a problem keeping his arms straight, while Anna seems more comfortable in her role!

After meeting Greg we feel even more inspired to complete the journey to Argentina, and he makes us feel like it is achievable, that we should follow our dream and we are not the only crazy ones who believe in this journey. The next step however will be Jackson in Wyoming where we will leave the rocky mountains.

happy pedalling, blue skies ahead

from the fuego team

Alister and Anna

Tags: adventure cycling association, canada, cycling, cycling friends, hiking, montana, national parks, usa, wildlife

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