Aug 5 24 miles to Waferers State Park at BIgfork
Another take it easy short day to let the dogs rest up. Most of the roads were on rural roads, not too many hills. Bigfork, MT was having their summer arts fair on the main street, which we walked right through. Created lots of attention. We have possibly the best camping site I've ever had-all by ourselves right on the shore of Flathead Lake, the biggest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, it was hazy due to smoke blowing in from forest fires in Washington.
Aug 6 39 miles to Cedar Creek Campground. Six mile climb with a 2000 ft elevation change. You engineers figure out the grade. On gravel, I average about 2-3 MPH. Figure out the time, and don't forget a stop every 1/2 mile or so to water the dogs and a lunch break in there somewhere. Needless to say, it was a long, hot climb. Then a breezy 45 minutes down the back side. It's always a shame to lose all the elevation you work so hard to gain. This was our longest day yet and didn't get to the campground till 7 PM. By the time we get all out chores done (cooking, filtering water and filling all the bottles, hanging our bear bag, cleaning up and taking care of the dogs) it's dark. We are in a state forest campground (the others were National Forest). We haven't paid for one of these primitive sites yet. There's tables and outhouses, but no water, except the lake or stream. We have a very pretty site tonight, right on a creek. And no one else around. However the outhouses leave much to be desired-a pit with a wooden box on it. Jodie and Todd-remember Muddy Gap?
So far, all the roads have been the same. There's rough gravel and then there's small boulders to navigate around. And sometimes there's small boulders you can't navigate around that really give you a pounding. Everything is very dry here, which means dust. Our panniers, which are blue, red and orange, are now all a fine gray. And when a car passes, they can't help but create a dust storm to clog your lungs and turn your hair dirty gray. But dry and dusty is better than the alternative-wet and muddy. Believe me, I could live without rain on a bike trip.
The dogs are faring well. The old man (Lander, not Jon) seems stiff in the morning, but then again, so am I. So he gets this aspirin and I get my Advil and on we go. Their pads look good-dry and dusty, but we treat them every day with stuff called "blue foot". They both have raw spots on their chest from their harnesses, but they are not open or bleeding. We have some good wound care cream we put on it. And they get their nightly brushing, which they love, and sometimes a doggy massage. They have taken ownership of the trailers. They actually jump in there and ask to ride when they are tired. Unfortunately, when it's uphill, they have to run, and we hate to explain that to them as we kick them out again. It is really getting hot and that is getting to them, not to mention the rest of us. We stop at every mountain creek we can to let them get wet. Sometimes we take our shirts off and wet them as well. It's painfully cold putting them back on, but sure feels good a few minutes later going down the road.
Aug 7 21,8 miles to a motel north of Conden.
The heat seems to have swelled to an abnormal high of over 90 today. The hills were only moderate, but we were too hot to pull the dogs up and they were too hot to run. At 3 PM, we still had 18 miles to go to our destination. So we bailed out and ran 2 miles off route to a motel. We picked up hamburger at a market and cooked on their grill. And had a real shower!
Aug 8 29.9 miles to Clearwater Lake "Fellows it's too rough to feed ya"
Since we cut yesterday short, we got to last night's original destination about noon today. It seemed way too early to stop, and yet the next campground was way too far. We decided to head to Clearwater lake, where we could camp undesignated (meaning there' no campsite, we were just on the shore of the lake). It also knocked off one hill, only leaving one instead of two for tomorrow. We finally hit pay dirt-a couple miles of old two track that had been closed and grown in with weeds and trees, making it a singletrack trail only. Unfortunately, we are both unfamiliar with and paranoid of bears and this was a little too desolate for our comfort. At the same time, a thunderstorm hit. Not much rain but lots of fireworks. So here we are, all by ourselves, in shoulder-high weeds, with booming and cracking all around, ringing our bear bells and clutching our pepper spray, imagining a grizzly at every turn. We were glad to get back to "civilization", where we may not see a car, but we could.
Clearwater Lake was a beautiful mountain lake, 1/2 mile down a steep path (which we had to push our bikes up in the morning). The loons were singing all night long, in a number of different cries. I have never heard them so loud. In the morning, we saw four very close to our site.
We had just gotten there and cleaned up a bit, when dark clouds moved in. (remember I said I could do without rain on a bike trip). So we hurriedly set up the tent when a huge gust of wind blew the bikes over and took away clothes, helmets, maps and anything not anchored down. The booming was starting again as we hurriedly threw stuff in the tent, tied our bikes to a tree and crawled in the tent. The wind was really whipping, first from one direction and then from another. Jon, the weather channel junkie, suspected that the entire low was passing over us very quickly, and that's why the wind did a complete 180 turn. After a couple hours, there seemed to be a lull, in the storm, but the rain was still coming. We emerged from the tent, but then the wind whipped up the other direction and we decided dinner was not going to happen that night. So after 8 long hours of riding, we quick had a piece of bread and PB-hardly enough to replenish our depleted stores. We knew we had to get the food hung in a tree, quite a feat with the wind and the rain and the skinny, spindly trees with dead branches. Our first attempt got it about 7 feet off the ground-any self respecting bear could have gotten it. We retreated for another hour into the tent. Then, during another break, we tried to fix our poor, sagging bag. Not much better and the wind was picking up again. We had to give up and just do a lot of praying that no bear lived in the area. We slept in our rainsuits that night, afraid that the whole tent would go. Finally, the storm died in the middle of the night, the bear bag survived intact, and we survived another (hungry) night in bear country