I took a rest day in Eureka Montana because I’m having an ankle problem. Well, really more of an achilles tendon problem; specifically, the little sac that secretes synovial fluid where the tendon attaches into the muscles on the calf became aggravated from the extremely steep hills in the terrain through the Flathead valley. I’ve figured out how to cycle so that it doesn’t hurt, but it requires quite a bit of mindfulness to be sure I am not dropping my heel on the downstroke, which can be more difficult when the hills get steep again. On the restful day in Eureka, I went to two grocery stores, an auto parts store, a laundromat, a hardware store, a restaurant, the library, and the post office in search of the supplies I needed for the next section, and this is how rest days in town go, running mindless errands for hours. Though it’s more fun to do this when most of the time I’m out in the sticks, wrestling with bears and rebuilding Lolita out of leaves and twigs.

The ride from Eureka to Whitefish is lovely, climbing back into the Rockies over the Whitefish divide, dropping down beside the Flathead river from days earlier and riding along the western flank of Glacier national Park, and then climbing back up to the Whitefish divide before dropping into Whitefish. Cyclists on this kind of trip tend to accumulate, the way unique and beautiful snowflakes stick together when they get soggy. By the time I had made  the first Whitefish divide crossing, there were six of us, which made a nice mass of bikes heading down hill.

Little dots representing cyclists whizzing down the hill, Glacier in the distance

When I said I wouldn’t see anything as beautiful as the wild valleys around the flathead river in Canada, I was clearly very mistaken. Some of the sections on this last stretch out of Eureka were astonishing: sharp-edged mountains in saturated greens backed by huge blue skies, little turquoise-green lakes nestled into the folds of rock.

Red Meadow Lake on the Whitefish Divide

Dropping down from the first crossing of the Whitefish divide, the mountains of Glacier National Park came into view, filling the horizon, all broken, hard, and jagged bits thrusting skyward like teeth. I’m still in the heavily-forested regions of northwestern Montana, and as such, the route passed through the remains of multiple fires, one which burned over 40,000 acres the summer of the big fires in Yellowstone (that was in 1988, I believe). As a result, the state began a very proactive version of forest management on it’s state lands, which is clearly evidenced as one transitions from the Flathead national Forest to the Stillwater State forest. The latter, by comparison to the former, has somewhat of an over-managed look to it: over-thinned, over-logged, over-roaded. But it wasn’t too long before I rolled into Whitefish and to Glacier Cyclery, where they are taking care of Lolita for me. She’s getting all her achey bits replaced, which will make both of us happier. As long as there isn’t any more gritty paste to ride through, which it looks like there won’ be since it’s a heat wave around here (and everywhere from the sound of it) with temperatures in the 90s.

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