Days 15 & 16: Swan Valley, Rain

It’s hard to say goodbye to two good people on a five-person team, but that’s what we did this morning when Catherine drove Bill to the airport. Catherine was Sara’s companion for the first two weeks of the trip, and everyone’s helper. Bill was the unfailingly positive guy who always encouraged you to go on and do your best, like a good coach does. He was also a good bike wrench and an excellent straight man. They also bought wine and spun it into raucous laughter. We will miss them. Their last night we celebrated Bill’s 65th birthday a little early, and he held a candle in our group photo.  When they pulled out of the campsite the next morning, the first part of the trip ended and a new chapter began.

We left Glacier and drove to the north end of Flathead Lake to meet Marilyn Wood, Executive Director of the Flathead Land Trust (see separate post). The conversation and tour was so engaging that we didn’t start riding until noon. We headed out of Big Fork after getting fine turkey sandwiches to go at a bakery called The Grateful Bread.

Our route today was south on Montana 83, which runs through the valley of the Swan River. The Swan runs north into Flathead Lake, and a few miles before its terminus it makes a pretty lake of its own. We rode next to it for a few miles and then past a big wetland, the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Immediately after that was the Swan River State Forest. When we weren’t in those, we were in the Flathead National Forest. To the east of the valley was the Continental Divide, represented by the 8,000-foot peaks in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. To the west were equally beautiful and beckoning 8,000-foot peaks of the Mission Mountains Wilderness. Traffic was light and friendly. It was cool and cloudy with a 15-mile an hour crosswind. As the day wore on the clouds broke up, and when we entered Missoula County the road was freshly paved and smooth as glass.

After four quick hours of pedaling we had knocked off 54 miles and were at the U.S. Forest Service Campground in Holland Lake. We found it quiet and clean, with a postcard view of the Rockies and a lake that is pristine except for a restaurant at the far end that boasts about its fine dining on billboards. We ignored it, ate pasta, and hit the sack shortly after dinner, well pleased with ourselves.

Things turned for the worse after midnight. Rain set in and kept going straight until noon on Wednesday. We decided to drive a few miles of the route and went into Seeley Lake to do laundry, recharge the computer, and catch up on business online. Blogging is an awfully glamorous life. The couches in the laundromat were comfy and the connection was fast. Don’t we look hip?