Today, I biked the western portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Past the Avalanche Lake trailhead, it is closed to cars. I learnt of this from some bikers I ran into at the trailhead yesterday.

I rented a bike from a company in the park and took a shuttle up to the trailhead. I had this idea that the ride was 7 miles out and 7 miles back from the distance of a vaguely similar route I had punched in to OSMAnd+ earlier. (I was quite wrong)

The ride was gorgeous.

ride-with-bikers

ride-with-mountains

After some time, the road grew steep. I was confident in my athletic capabilities as a spry 23 year old man, and I raced up to this first view:

low-view

It had been almost 7 miles by my estimate, so I started back up the hill with plenty of willpower. But the road just did not end.

I saw more spectacles:

mid-view

jack-at-mid-view

My rear got sorer and sorer. The road became steeper. My rental bike was a 9-speed, and its lowest gear was simply not low enough for this road. To match the speed of the people around me, I had my pedals going at about a half-rotation per second. Not very energy-efficient. So I would sprint a bit on my bike, then get off and walk until I got my breath back, then sprint again. I would zig-zag up the road on my bike to decrease the incline, but there were so many bikes flying downhill that I didn't have much breadth of road to work with.

more-bikers

As if the exhaustion of my body were not enough, I was subject to some mental torture as well.

I neglected to mention this earlier, but e-bike rentals were offered too. And they were popular.

This was no problem on the flat portion. They went a little faster, but not too much. Some of them would blast music (it was always the e-bikers), but that was OK because they were out of earshot quickly. But oh boy, watching a family of eight including an obese dad and ancient grandma whiz past me, lazily chatting and not sweating or huffing a bit, as I'm inching up this cursed hill, rather ground my gears. I pedaled alongside another real biker and we whinged together. After one guy raced past us going about 30 miles an hour on full assist, not even moving his pedals, she remarked "I see another one of those guys, I'm running him off the road."

Needless to say, my opinion of e-bikes declined over the course of the day.

I met a variety of people on the way up. At the top, I met Amberlee (?). She was from Canada and on a month-long trip to Glacier, Yellowstone, Grant Teton, etc. She told me that if I wanted more rugged mountainous views like this,

rugged-mountain-top

then I should go to the east side of the park. I really wanted to.

I also talked to a park volunteer at the top who informed me the ride was 14 miles each way, not 7. That explained some things.

There were so many great views in that last half-mile.

valley-with-river

twin-peaks

waterfall

Oh, and here's me:

jack-with-peaks

The ride back down was euphoric. I recorded the whole thing here (err... it will be there, once I get a good internet connection).

I had a close encounter with a couple of bear cubs (or yearlings?) near the end. They crossed the road in front of me and scared the crap out of me. I was pointing the camera off at some mountain at the time so you only see a glimpse of them when I turn my camera behind me after the crisis is past.

I reached the bottom just in time to catch the shuttle back. I had a nice talk with some of the employees and riders. Many of them were from Montana, and I learnt that there are a lot more music festivals and other entertainment than I thought Montana could support given how sparsely populated it is.

I had some Huckleberry ice cream in Apgar village by the park entrance. I bumped into Amberlee again and we chatted for probably an hour. She is a researcher on the efficacy of public school lunch programs. She has appeared on national TV in Canada and met Justin Trudeau. She was well travelled, and such a good conversationalist that I believe she could hold a conversation with a brick and keep it interesting.

I got back to the campground rather late and parked at the end of the campground by the lake to bathe. I was hassled by a guy who had a nearby campsite. He seemed to think he had claim to the adjacent road and was ready to protect it. "Hey! You're not supposed to be here!" I told him I was just bathing, I'd be gone in 5, and he turned back muttering. He loudly said to himself, "Ah, a California plate, that explains it."

Cretin.

Not the best end to a day. But nevertheless.

It was a very good day.


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