Polebridge to Seeley Lake, Montana

Delving into the Montanan forests...

Delving into Montanan forests...

For this next segment of the ride, I’m travelling with Robert – who came on one of our trips in Northern India and then joined me on an epic, impromptu high altitude hike and bike – and his friend Chris, from Cambridge. Chris is a dab hand at the wheelie, so he’s promised to teach me the tricks of the trade. Maybe not fully loaded though…

Originally we’d planned to meet further south in Bozeman, but I’m running so late (what’s new, hey) that they’ve headed north instead. Which will mean I’ll have some company over the next few weeks.

Much of the Great Divide is along quiet gravel roads, like the climb up to Red Meadow Lake.

Chris, on his Trek hardtail, pulling an Edingburgh Co-op singlewheel trailer.

Tearing ourselves away from Polebridge after one last, lingering resupply at the bakery, we began the long climb up to Red Meadow Lake. Up top was a clear pool of water and a lovely picnic site, which preceded an epic, at times rocky descent down to the well groomed resort town of Whitefish.

Remington.

This is hunting country, and ammo shells were scattered about like cigarette stubs.

There, we pulled over for spares at Glacier Cyclery. Tim, sporting a blond shaved head, long sideburns and a moustache, invited us over to his place for a house party in Colombia Falls,  ten miles down the road. I love tapping into these local bike cult scenes, where everyone lives and breathes two wheels. For this occasion, the required bike dress was an old, beaten up cruiser – curvy, balloon-tyred Schwinns and Konas filled the yard. After supping dubious moonshine, we leapt on our steeds and headed out to a local bar to sample the night life…

Nice attention to detail...

Nice attention to detail...

There, I bumped into Jeff and Jason, and his dog Lucy, back in Alaska. The two brothers were riding with their dad, and, unbelievably, Jason's dog Lucy. Jason bike sported classic cat litter panniers and he carried a good five pounds of food for his hound.

It's a small world. At Tim's I bumped into Jeff and Jason (fag in mouth), who I'd first met back in Northern Alaska. The two brothers have been riding south with their dad and, unbelievably, Jason's dog Lucy. In a welcome break from Ortlieb's watertight panniers, Jason's Soma Groove sported homemade cat litter crates; he also carries a good five pounds of food for his hound. I don't know how he makes it up those passes.

We all crashed out at Tim's. Including Lucy.

We all crashed out at Tim's. Including Lucy.

Unfortunately for Chris, who’s allergic to cats and dogs, Tim and his girlfriend Megan live with two boistrous hounds, as well as their sinister pet tarantula Cheryl. Not only that, but it seemed everyone who partied that night brought a hound too, until the place was overun with furry animals chasing each others tails. Poor Chris had to beat a hasty retreat to the garage. It wasn’t so bad though, as he got to sleep the night beside Tim’s enviable bike collection.

In the morning, everyone piled their cruisers onto a trailer, and headed up a local mountain, only to tear back down again, swigging beer as they went. Unfortunately, we had to take to the road once more...

In the morning, the gang piled their cruisers onto a makeshift trailer and headed up a local mountain, only to tear back down again, swigging beer as they went. No such debauchery for us; we had to take to the road once more.

From Columbia Falls, we skirted round the Swan Mountains. Running parallel to the highway, our route unravelled on the other side of the river, a world away from tarmac.

Although the Great Divide Ride isn't abundant in singletrack, there are some nice moments to spice things up.

Although the Great Divide Ride isn't exactly abundant in singletrack, there are some nice moments to spice things up.

Robert takes a cruise down towards Swan Lake.

Robert takes a cruise down towards Swan Lake.

Camping out for the night by Elk Creek.

Camping out for the night by Elk Creek.

After some 6500kms of hard, loaded use, my rear Schwalbe Marathon Extreme gave up the ghost.

After some 6500kms of hard, loaded use, my rear Schwalbe Marathon Extreme finally gave up the ghost. Luckily I had a spare Marathon Supreme to keep me rolling.

Rugged, rustic Montana is flag-flying country, no doubt about it.

Rugged, rustic Montana is flag-flying country, no doubt about it.

Most of the time, we could cycle alongside each other and chat.

Much of the time, the The Great Divide Route weaves through National Forest, where we could cycle alongside each other. On the long climbs, we all found our own pace.

Our next pass wound its way up towards Richmond Peak, skirting round the mountain side on a gravel road that spiralled ever higher in concentric circles, dwindling down to little more than a loose slice of singletrack, high above the valley floor.

Half way up, we dropped down to Clearwater Lake, for a picnic lunch and a cooling dip.

Half way up, we detoured over to Clearwater Lake, for a picnic lunch, a tent drying session after an icy night, and a refreshing dip. The waters were turquoise - ignore the frigid temperature and it could have been Thailand...

Then it was back on the bikes again, head down, hearts pumping, higher and higher, riding amongst wild flowers and tufts are grass swamping the trail.

Jason's crossed Africa, and now is on his way down to the tip of South America.

As we climbed ever higher, the road funneled down to singletrack. This is Jeff - having crossed Africa, he and his brother are now is on their way down to the tip of South America. Lucy the pooch is just ahead.

Reward for our toils came in the form of a massive singletrack descent down to Seeley Lake.

Finally. Reward for our toils came in the form of a sweet, swoopy descent down to Seeley Lake. Very, very nice. Running a slick tyre at the back wasn't ideal, and I just managed to hold it together until the bottom, where I pinch flatted.

From here, Chris and Robert are heading on to Helena, while I’m taking a detour to bike-friendly Missoula, to meet the guys at the Adventure Cycling Organisation – and get myself a new tyre…

4 thoughts on “Polebridge to Seeley Lake, Montana

  1. Scott

    Cass,
    Amazing! How envious I am every time you post. What I wouldn’t give to be out there again this year! Wasn’t Richmond Peak just stellar?!

    Carousel bags are on the way!

    Call when you get a chance…

    Scott

    Reply
  2. Tris

    Cass
    This looks amazing, I’m loving following the journey even if it is only a vicarious enjoyment. Brilliant and inspiring, keep on peddlin’
    All the best
    Tris

    Reply
  3. Simon Giles

    Hey Cass…sorry I missed your IM on Skype earlier in the week…was in NYC on business. Would love to catch up though. Drop me an email and we can try and catch up. The leaves are turning in the West Country now…off to do the Marshfield Mudlark tomorrow 10k offroad trail run into St. Catherine’s Valley.

    Dreaming of Baja!

    S

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Gallup to Pie Town, New Mexico « while out riding

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