7/6/17. Day 19. McDonald Lake Lodge to St. Mary (Going to the Sun Road)
Miles: 39.2 Total Miles: 885.7
Elevation: 3707.3 Total Elevation: 25,570.6 - but my Garmin stopped working for a few days, so this is a low estimate….
EARTHQUAKE! We awoke with a fright at 12:30am with our bed and the whole cabin swaying roughly … We realized it was an earthquake! The house trembled and we dashed to the doorway frame not know what else was to come. That was the biggie, with a couple of small after shocks. Talk about an eye opener! The rest of the grounds seemed peaceful and we wondered if we had dreamed it, but definitely not.
4:45am the alarm tells us it’s time to get going. We brew coffee in the room, had 2 hard boiled eggs but only ate one (they didn’t seem right and after Doug’s last experience, we didn’t want to risk it.), some banana bread, a couple bites of a protein bar and we were on the road when it was just light enough at 5:30am.
[ Here comes the climb!
For the first 10 miles, we had a peaceful and gentle climb along Logan Creek...then the fun began! A sign warned us that the next 12 miles would be steeper, and sure enough, it was a steady climb. We rubbernecked to see the amazing Rocky Mountains grow around us. Each corner brought a new awesome view.
A few other cyclists (without bags) passed us on the way up - we asked if they’d like a couple of our bags, but none took us up on the offer. The cars came in clumps and were generally careful in getting around us without trouble since there was very little oncoming traffic. This is a 2 lane road with NO shoulder - sometimes with the rock wall as the border to the road.
After we went around the “loop” (a 180 degree turn), we were now riding on the steep drop-off side. There was a low rock wall or guard rail - and thousands of feet down. This didn’t bother me, but it was not Doug’s favorite.
We came from the road way below...
I can only say that the views of the mountains were spectacular, we kept a steady (slow) pace, and we were so pleased when we reached Logan Pass at 6466 feet after 3 hours and 10 minutes of climbing. It was only 8:30am!
We hung out at the visitor center, went for walk around, ate PB & bagels, and Doug played the Strauss Horn Concerto on his mini-horn to mark the occasion of crossing the continental divide.
Wild mountain lilies
Down to St. Mary’s was a 10 mile down-hill bomb (we actually had to use our brakes to slow for the speed limit of 25 in one section) and easy pedal up and down for the rest of the ride to the St. Mary’s national park campground.
Heading east, down to St. Mary
We are at a hiker/biker spot for $5 each. Sweet! Now it’s just 10:45am.
They are serious - but this is as close as we came to seeing a bear here.
We walked to the town of St. Mary (¼ mile away) for lunch at the only restaurant (delicious beef burgundy soup & salad). We were disappointed at the grocery store, which was more of a junk food store, so went to the camping store/gift shop and bought some freeze dried backpacker food for dinner.
Back at the campground, it is SO HOT (over 90) so we took a nap (of course) then went for a thigh-high soak in the cold St. Mary’s River followed by a quick dunk.
St. Mary River with the walk into "town"
Sitting at our picnic table we are constantly harassed by biting flies. There are warnings about bears here and so all our food is in the “Bear Box”.
We made our backpacker dinners of “sweet and sour pork” and “beef stroganoff” - they were decent, easy to prepare (just add water and eat it out of the bag) and will definately do in a pinch. But I think we’ll only buy them as a last resort.
We’ll make it an early evening so we can get an early start to beat the heat tomorrow.
The other campers in the hiker/biker tent area arrived - Brendan on his bike from Boston and 2 women who are using the campsite as base for day hikes in Glacier. Brendan is riding the Northern Tier route from Boston to Seattle and was full of energy, even after his 70 mile day.
Shared hiker/biker tent area $5 each! Showers were free.
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