Eureka to somewhere south of Columbia Falls
It was already getting harder to get up and get moving and it was only day three. We rolled into the heart of Eureka, stopped at a gas station to refuel with coffee food and the days supplies. The goal was to get to Whitefish about 100 miles away and then press on through the flatter terrain beyond. We had two really big climbs up over Whitefish Divide and then up to Red Meadow Lake.
The day started with a steep little grunt out of town and then some nice rolling pavement. The valley was beautiful and the weather was the same. It was shaping up to be another hot one!
I was riding with Kevin and Sean again and we seemed to all have the same pace and goals for the ride. We rolled up the paved section of the Whitefish climb pretty quickly and made our way to the turn onto the gravel road leading up to the top.
A short break at the top for more sunscreen and a little snack. The sun was already baking us and it was still morning.
What goes up must come down!
The descent off Whitefish Divide was nice and gradual and the view was amazing. The cues said that this area is extremely wild and has a high bear population. I kept waiting to look down and see a grizzly, but never did. There were some really pretty wild flowers in this area though.
Once we hit the bottom it was some rolling terrain on some really wide and washboarded gravel roads. Some were pretty fast but mostly just getting bounced around. The scenery was amazing though. Here is Kevin riding along with some nice mountains in the background.
It was already super hot and we were still in north Montana! What was New Mexico going to be like? It was time for a much needed food break and why not a nice ice bath too. The water was freezing cold but it felt so good on the legs.
Next up was the climb up to Red Meadow Lake. The first half of this climb was great. We were cruising up the nice mellow grade, even riding in the aerobars a little. Then it got real! It got steep and just kept dragging on! At least the scenery was nice.
Then we hit the snow! It was good to experience a little hiking through the snow for the full Tour Divide experience but I know that we were really lucky with the lack of snowpack this year. This lasted for maybe 1/2 mile or so.
After eating a huge meal at the mexican restuarant in Columbia, we headed over to the grocery store to restock on food. Once again it was me walking around the store with that 1,000 yard stare trying to think about what I needed and just drawing a blank. I bumped into Sean Putnam in the store and he had a huge basket full of all sorts of good stuff. I looked in mine and all I had was a package of 8 danishes. I tried really hard to pull it together and ended up running back and forth in the store grabbing whatever I could find. After spending about $30 on junk food I soon realized I had way too much food! How was it all going to fit?
Sean, Kevin and I left the store with heavy bikes and backpacks full of food. At least we were down in the safety of homes and farms at the bottom of the valley and out of grizzly country.
Right as the sun was setting we came across a bike friendly couple who allows Tour Divide riders to camp in their yard. We stopped to say hi but neither of us were ready to stop yet. The couple was standing out in the road looking out into a field with a TD rider and a couple other folks. We asked what they were looking at and they said a huge grizzly bear had just walked through the field!
We all looked at each other in surprise. I thought we were out of grizzly country for at least a short while. It was tempting to stop in the safety of other people but it wasn’t very comforting camping in someones yard a 1/4 mile from where a grizzly was hanging around. We decided to keep going!