When Jeff and I started out on the Great Divide, Montana seemed so far away, an almost impossible distance to ride. But after about a month of pedaling there we were, roiling through Big Sky Country. Montana has a true western feel with huge vistas, lots of cowboy boots, small country stores (I recommend the one just off route in Ferndale), and big pickups with Montana mudflaps. Jeff needed to get back to Vermont by end of August for work and time was quickly winding down. While we could have pushed a bit harder and taken less rest days, we chose to ride without a time crunch. Unfortunately this meant Jeff and I were parting ways at the Canadian border so he could keep his job. He rode back to Whitefish and spent a few days at the Whitefish Bike Retreat before flying out, while I contracted some stomach ailment and continued on to Banff.
Some notes from Montana and Canada:
- Montana has some great craft brews with Cold Smoke Scotch Ale being a favorite for us
- Unfortunately much of Montana also has some pretty lousy tasting water
- The wide open camping in southern Montana was some of my favorite, but that’s also because we had perfect weather
- It seems much of the state closes on Sunday, not good when a bike shop is needed
- There’s great covered camping in the closed winter parking lot on the way down the hill to Seeley Lake
- The town of Seeley Lake, while a little off route, has most of what you need to resupply
- Jeff and I were fortunate to stay with Tom and Pat Arnone, who host cyclists along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route south of Columbia Falls. Tom is a bicycle frame builder, restores Italian motorcycles, and is a general master craftsman. He’s a fascinating person to spend time with.
- The the Whitefish Bike Retreat has a great singletrack trail that leads back to town
- Watch out for the early morning lawn sprinklers if you camp in the Eureka Town Park
- Heading north from the Canadian border the GDMBR follows pavement for a few miles before turning right into the mountains and up an almost 4,000 foot dirt climb. I was already feeling pretty ill and climbing this in triple digit temperature stomped me hard
- Elkford BC has a new grocery store called the Kootenay Market that’s really well stocked
- There’s great camping on the GDMBR about 4 miles south of Banff
Enjoy the Photos.
While this is the last post for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, there’s still more to come. After finishing in Banff, I pedaled and hitched back to the US border, where I was greeted by the forest fires and smoke that had engulfed the northwest. Finding lots of road closures and detours, I decided to ride to Missoula Montana and regroup.
After visiting the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association and plotting a rough route across the northern U.S., I started pedaling and spent a little over a month riding back to Vermont. Thanks for visiting and stay tuned.