Tour Divide – Day 4: Columbia Falls to Seeley Lake

Adventure by Bike, Bikepacking, Biking, Cycling, Endurance Racing, GDMBR, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Holland Lake Lodge, Magic Cycles, Montana, Richmond Peak, ride the divide, Salsa Cycles, Tour Divide

After rolling on past where the grizzly had been seen the sun began setting.  We started wondering if or when we would find a good place to camp for the night.  Then we passed a school and the back playground was pretty inviting.  Not to mention it was fenced in so no grizzly bear could get in!  Kevin, Sean and I set up camp and were out in no time.

The next morning we rolled out pretty early continuing on the nice rolling pavement.  Soon enough we came to Ferndale where there was a little cafe open.  It was tempting to stop and scarf down a couple huge breakfast meals but we were aiming for Seeley Lake and it was still another 100 miles away.  Plus I had eaten enough junk food already that I was kind of feeling full.  A triple shot of espresso did just the trick though!

There was a lot of hard climbing ahead and one of the climbs seemed to just go on forever and ever and ever.  On the descent I was letting it go pretty good when all of the sudden I got caught in a little rut and next thing you know my front wheel was heading straight for the ditch!  It wasn’t looking good as several down trees and branches were clogging the way and I was headed straight for them.  After the dust cleared I was laying there on my side with my bike on top of me.  I got up and realized my bike was laying on the side with the derailleur and I thought after sliding into home plate I would have surely torn something off.  I pulled the bike out, picked out all the sticks and dirt and grass, gave the crank a spin and everything seemed to be alright.  My derailleur seemed straight and everything was in working order.  Once I made sure my bike was okay I checked myself for injuries.  My ass was a little sore and upon inspection I realized I ripped a hole in my shorts and had a pretty good raspberry.  All in all though, I got off pretty good.

Eventually I made my way to the Holland Lake Lodge with Sean.  We decided to stop in for some food before heading up the infamous Richmond Peak.  The Lodge was really neat and had a great view so it was a welcoming stop.

After filling our bellies we were off to climb Richmond Peak.  The weather was beautiful and we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

 Nothing like a little hike-a-bike!

 Richmond peak drags on forever!  Here, Sean demonstrates how it makes you feel.

 The climb eventually works its way out of the thick forest and provides some pretty amazing views.  Most of which I didn’t notice because at the same time, the grade steepens and soles get crushed.

Making our way up and onto the singletrack.  We were lucky that there wasn’t really any snow in the trail this year.  There was a little thunder going off on the other side of the mountain though.  It didn’t seem too alarming at the time.

 Amazing views!

Almost to the top!  It was shortly after this point that the grade eases and we started working our way around to a different side of the mountain.  The closer we got to the gap the worse the thunder was. Then we started seeing flashes of lightning.  We were basically headed right for the storm on the other side of the mountain.  Then the batteries in my GPS went dead.  I came to a junction where Peter was looking at his GPS and map deciding which was the correct way.  I wasn’t much help since my GPS was dead and my cues hadn’t been turned to the current spot.  Right then a huge clap of thunder and lightning went off and we both just started riding whatever way looked best, DOWN!  We were both standing on our pedals but also ducking at the same time.  As if making ourselves that much lower would be better.  More flashes of lightning and thunder were going off all around us.  We were getting lower but were still pretty much near the top of the ridge.  I remember saying to myself out loud “I don’t want to die up here!”  And right after that moment the loudest, brightest crack of lightning hit about 50 yards in front of us.  We could see the smoke almost instantaneous from where the lightning struck.  Peter looked back at me as if he saw a ghost.  We passed through where it had struck and you could smell the crispy spruce and fir trees.  We just kept flying down the hill trying to get lower and out of the way of the storm.  I didn’t even know if we were going the right way, I just kept pedaling.

Finally, we made our way out of the storm and the sky was blue again.  I put new batteries in my GPS, made sure I was on course and headed for Seeley Lake.