Cold this morning! My lousy tent position created a slanted and lumpy floor last night. I kept ending up in a side corner and woke up very early, still yawning. It surprised me to find Phil and Jack up and packing at 6:30AM.
Alas, we find the nearby Swan Lake Cafe closed and for sale. There is a general store slated to open at 8AM, but Jack and Phil don’t want to wait for it.
A Starbucks doubleshot works out OK for my breakfast, and while I fiddle with it Jack and Phil take off. They seem impatient this morning but for what I’m not really sure. Maybe just cold and hungry. I finally get rolling, but find it uncomfortably frigid once on the road. Several stops are needed to make adjustments, e.g. heavy gloves, arm warmers, full zipping of rain jacket, knitted beanie, etc. Those heavy gloves are godsent I reckon – the other guys’ fingers must be freezing in these conditions.
And then…about 1-1/2 mile south of Swan Lake…the sighting! It was one of those sightings that is so grand you just keep going for a few seconds, then ask yourself, wow, what did I just see? I slowly stop the bike, get out my camera, then very slowly walk it backwards. There he is, a full grown full rack moose 30 yards away in a meadow. At first I thought, in disbelief, wait, that’s a big brown bronze statue in someone’s backyard, right? Then I see a regular rhythm of condensation from the nostrils. WOWWWWW! He sizes me up and I wonder if he might get upset, but we both remain quiet and I get a few photos. Phenomenal – I’d always wanted to see one.
The other guys are at least 2 miles ahead by now – wow, sure hope they’d seen this fellow. I check my phone to text them but have zero cell signal.
Twenty eight more miles and 1000 feet of climbing with no services. Along the way, I spy a deer who sprang on all fours in parallel with me for at least a few hundred yards. OK, not quite as cool as the moose but pretty cool.
We regroup in Condon, MT and purchase a few snacks, meeting a group of 5 touring motorcyclists. At least it’s finally warming up a little. We then spin 4 more to the Hungry Bear Steak House, where we meet them again. A burger for Rich, a French Dip for Phil, and a grilled cheese for Jack – all good and we sure need the fuel!
Unfortunately, MT83 gets quite shitty south of the Missoula County line. I find that ironic, in that the American Cycling Association lives in this county. A little more local advocacy please. Still, it’s a long beautiful isolated ride through gorgeous pine country. We’re riding more or less along the Swan River passing numerous lakes, including Summit Lake, Rainy Lake, Lake Alva, and Lake Inez. Jack is pulling the train today but stops every 6 miles or so to keep the group intact.
We reach Seeley Lake, a possible spot for camping. Unfortunately, the campsite is closed due to fires. Jack and I score some ice cream at The Ice Cream Place while Phil fills on beer at The Filling Station across the street. It’s another 8 miles to Salmon Lake State Park, assisted by both a slight downhill and slight tailwind. Sweet!
As usual we start scoping sites but are grabbed by the host and escorted to the hiker/biker area. Wow – it is really fantastic. Maybe the best bicycle-oriented campsite we have ever seen. The site itself is an elevated flat with views over Salmon Lake and completely out of sight of the RVs. There is dedicated AC power, water, tables, tent pads, and there is even a permanently mounted bike holder for working on your bike. All for $10pp. Now that’s a nice welcome!
Idyllic – doesn’t get any better. We chill and set up and vegetate and meditate. A nice warm breeze blows in from over the lake. We stroll to the lake shore and skip rocks and crack jokes. We spy a bald eagle. The evening is perfectly lovely.
Jack hits the pillow, I sit and scribble travel notes, Phil sets up his Christmas lights. It’s just super nice out.
I think about tomorrow. Only 46 miles or so to our planned finish in Missoula. This is surely the last time I will use my tent for a while. When I consider the pleasure both my tent and my Surly have provided this tour, well, those are 2 huge value purchases.
I consider that my packing for this trip had actually been pretty damned good. Among the few items I did not use: fleeced rain pants (too warm), 1 of my long sleeve base layers, 1 pair of riding socks, thin thermal leggings. I wore my pair of shorts but only twice. I also barely used a thin thermal top shirt, only as street clothes. Everything else was extensively used. So happy to have brought those heavy gloves.
The breezes are subsiding. I wonder again how cold it will get tonight?
Today’s Ride: 66.4 miles
Today’s Climbing: 2,280 feet
More Stats: http://cyclemeter.com/51ced2364be66c17/Cycle-20170816-0711
Tour Total So Far: 755.8 miles