Eureka-Tuchuck-Red Meadow Lake-Whitefish


Monday, July 14 (Day 1)


Eureka to Tuchuck Campground


Tuchuck Campground


Mostly sunny a.m.; afternoon clouds



I don't know what it's like to start a trip on a bright sunny day - it doesn't usually happen in my life. We congregated at 8 a.m. in the Ksanka Motel parking area - everyone had arrived by 7:30 p.m. or so last night and all were acquainted.

At breakfast our group became quite convivial. We laughed about many things, much of it silly. My part of putting this all together was technically over, but I felt like a hostess of a party and wanted everyone to have a good time. And yet, I knew that it wasn't my responsibility to make that happen.

After breakfast, we diddled around packing up our bikes. Then off to the Eureka town sign for one of many photo ops. A group picture of the whole doggy group, with each of 10 cameras! And, us taking pictures of us taking pictures of us taking pictures of us.... Group PhotoThen to the store for our individual lunches - a departure from my Adventure Cycling experiences of group lunches. Off to the Sunflower bakery (Ann and Paul were on their bear spray acquisition errand). FINALLY on the road at 10:30 a.m. No, Dorothy we aren't in Kansas anymore, nor are we on an Adventure Cycling trip...not at a "get on the road time" of 10:30 a.m.!

Established on Grave Creek Road. What a beautiful day! Sunny. A few puffy clouds.

A right turn onto Fire Road 114 toward Tuchuck campground. My first time ever off-road, as well as Donkey Xote's first ever off-road tire prints! His first wheel-roll into "on-dirt." My accident prevented any off-road training so the trip would be both my training (riding) and my cross training (pushing) which commenced today.

A 35 mile day with some challenging riding. Nearly immediately the group began to split into smaller riding groups based on ability and speed. None of us were slouchers, but some were less slouchy than others. These groups shifted a bit through the day with the exception of Melissa and Tom always off the front. [An interesting observation: These riding groups shifted around very little throughout the course of the trip.] We gave Tom and Melissa the laminated "campsite occupied" signs that Alan had created. It was pretty obvious that they'd be the first ones to the campgrounds.

There was an interesting change in the rocks near the top of the pass - from "normal" rock gray to something rather pinkish. Wish I knew more geology.

This was an arduous riding day. Parts (or "bits" as Ann/Paul would say) were rather unnerving as Donkey kept trying to slide out from under me over the gravel, rocks, and shale. Near Whitefish Pass, I pushed for about 100 ft. There was an impressive drop-off on the right, and I was already wandering all over the road trying to keep my balance.

After going over the pass and still with a squirrely bike, I let some air out of the tires. That made a huge difference in the stability. It was fun to ride. Air was apparently also seeping out on its own, as I was to discover later.

We rolled into camp; dinner and other chores occurred in fits and starts. Eventually everything got done, but we may need to create a chore chart.

[We didn't need to. This was ones of the joys of this trip! Everyone pitched in and did what they most preferred to do, and helped in other chores along the way. No one felt "put upon" or overly involved in any one chore. Those who liked to cook, cooked. Those with bear bag skills did that, others just did whatever needed doing. Real teamwork! And because no one had assigned chores, no one lapsed into the "not my job" mentality.]

Dinner: Jim's pasta with tomato sauce, mushrooms and canned chicken. Tasty.

[As I write, at 9:30 p.m., the mosquitoes are slamming themselves against my tent trying to gain entry to an easy meal. Paul and Ann are chatting in their tent, a lonely bird calls, and the stream babbles nearby.]

Hanging our bear bags was a challenge in group problem solving. What we had were:

Trees without limbs (tall scrawny lodgepole pines)
Dead trees fallen in large numbers
Pit toilets with flimsy walls (unsuitable for storing food)
Plenty of food to be hung

We scoured the campground (we were the only occupants -- and therefore couldn't sweet-talk someone into storing our food in their camper) for a strategy to get our food out of harm's way.

Norm and Al both found adequate trees for some of the gear. Jim put his boy scout skills to use and came up with the profound idea of the evening: build a teepee from dead trees, and hang the food down the middle. Ingenious!! And, it actually worked! A really astute and determined bear, however, surely could have pushed the whole structure over with one rump waggle.


Tuesday, July 15 (Day 2)


Tuchuck Campground to Red Meadow Lake Campground


Red Meadow Lake


Early a.m. temp. 39degF.; Mostly sunny



The early morning conversation stopper (Melissa), "I saw an elk in camp last night." I don't know if anyone else did. I was asleep. And we had no apparent bear visits.

Up and on the road at 9:15. [This would become our standard roll-out-of-camp time for the rest of the trip.]

It was a glorious sunny morning. The scenery was spectacular. West GlacierMuch of the morning we had views of the west side of the stark mountains rising up from the valley floor of Glacier National Park as we pedaled along North Fork Road. Verdant meadow and forests dotted the roadside, spotted with well constructed and expensive looking log homes (definintely not cabins). Hard to determine if they were summer homes or year 'round homes. Provisioning them in the winter would be a challenge as the roads looked to be impassable during snow season. Passing Frank Somebody's expensive log home built in 1919, with a variety of out-building, the most interesting which was the blue tent pitched in front of the main house.


Although we've had the usual problems with flat tires (picture credit: StrayDawg), no one had serious mechanical problems until today. On the other hand, this was only Day 2 of the trip. My consciousness was raised considerably after seeing how off-road riding rattles everything possible on a bike. One of Carl's metal rear rack attachment straps broke near the turn onto FR 115. He managed to catch a ride with a group of women in a pickup (which needed a push to wonders who had the worse problem here, Carl or them) to get to a bike shop in Columbia Falls. He was then to meet us in Whitefish tomorrow.

After communal lunch along Moose Creek, the group spread out more - Melissa and Tom off the front, their usual position. It was a long slow slog up for 10 miles with my speed frequently as low as 2.5 mph. Fortunately a bit of a cloud cover developed as we began up the hill to give a bit of coolness to the hot day. I walked a bit, but that was harder than riding. Not far from the top of the long hill, we saw relatively fresh grizzly bear scat right on the road. Not steaming fresh. Just not very old. Fresh bear scat on the road gave me an adrenaline rush to stagger up the end of the long hill as fast as my exhausted legs could "spin." ("Spin" being very relative!)

A car passed, slowing Alan and me down and moved us off toward the side of the road. I wanted to leave the whole area quickly, not be detained by a car full of happy chatty tourists enveloped in a protective steel cage. Soon thereafter I tumbled off my bike, going far too slowly to really hurt myself. Scared (really scared) that I would fall on my wounded leg, some internal guidance system sent me the other direction.

As luck would have it, across Red Meadow Lake (more like Red Meadow Large Pond) and up the hillside about the length of two football fields was a large Momma Grizzly browsing through the shrubbery with her two frisky cubs, visible when they managed to get their small heads high above the bushes. She was BIG. Here we were out in the middle of nowhere, camped along the road in a relatively primitive campground in the wilderness, a sow grizzly and two cubs in sight. And we weren't even in a National Park. The family was very visible through 10 power binocs, and yet far enough away that we probably weren't of interest to her. Nevertheless, we were close enough that a few good rolls down the hill would have put her at our feet. Having her within sight was more than a little disconcerting. My bear spray was right next to me in the tent, ready to use.

I developed a slow leak in my rear tire, so at camp I swapped out both the tube and put on my spare tire which had slightly more knobbies on it (Ritchey Speed-Max) than the tires I arrived with (Invert II). My tires were squirrely in the loose rock on each side of the tire tracks, and I went down once because of it. Again, my helmet saved a head bump. It was this opportunity to practice tire changing when I learned that some mt. bike tires have directional rotation. Of course I didn't learn this fine art of mt. bike tires until after I had finished mounting the tire and pumping and pumping and pumping up the tube. Paul sweetly asked, "Do you have the rotation going the correct direction?" "Huh??" I had another go at mounting the tire. Practice is supposed to make perfect.

This mt. bike riding was fun if the tires are matched to the road. However, my tires weren't quite knobby enough - I would have to get a new front tire in Whitefish tomorrow. I planned the itinerary the way I have "bike store opportunities" along the way.

Used my solar shower for the first time ever. Worked pretty well. Better if there weren't a cool breeze blowing at the same time one was naked among the trees with water that was tepid at best.

Dinner: Al's pasta with chicken broth, tomatoes, and chicken. Jim's famous rice pudding.

I was on bear bag duty. Could have picked less important night to do it, I'm sure, with Mom Griz hanging about up there on the hill sniffing out berries and other bear goodies. We were highly motivated to have everything well hung! The Athletic Event of the Year occurred during Bear Bag Exercises. Paul, in an effort to simply fling one rope with a carabiner over another which was strung between two trees, managed to clip the carabiner onto the stationary rope! What dead-eye aim! A one-in-a-million shot! He revised his plan for those particular bags, as the wrong end of the rope was then up the tree.

Peter 208. Peter 208 was a most peculiar cyclist. He pedaled into Red Meadow Lake soon after we did, reeking of a cloyingly sweet after-shave lotion. I mused to myself, "The way he smells, that bear will never go after any of our group!" The most defining characteristic of Peter, however, was not his bear-attracting odor, but that he had his phone number ( painted in 1-5" high numerals on every possible surface on ALL of his gear: tent, tent-fly, every component on his Y-frame bike, all over his B.O.B. trailer. Everywhere! And he was officious, to boot, mumbling about "reporting us to the rangers" because our bear bags were not hung to his satisfaction. Jim had some choice reactive comments.

There's a temptation to send a few things home from Therma-rest chair thing for one, one jersey (and get a t-shirt).

[As I write at 9:40 p.m., it is very light, our desolate road suddenly has 4x4's on it, the birds are twittering, and cyclists are chatting about where to try to meet Carl in Whitefish tomorrow. Oops, Jim got to sleep before I did (we've circled the wagons tonight and are tenting rather close together) - he's already snoring.]


Wednesday, July 16 (Day 3)


Red Meadow Lake to Whitefish


Whitefish KOA


Early a.m. temp = 42F; Sunny and warm



Another sunny start to the day. Maybe this could be the standard for the rest of my cycling trips!

We were beginning to congeal as a group. There was less talk about Alaska, and more about "our trip." We were helping each other: change a tire, hold a mirror for a contact wearer, pitch in for any chore that needed doing, hold a bike...whatever it took to care for each other.

Along the pine forest logging road enroute to Whitefish, it smelled like Christmas.

A grizzly cub was reported on the road early out of our camp and about 2 miles down the road, prior to me getting there. Mother was probably not far away. That got my attention although I didn't hear about it until I was well down the mountain.

On our way down Lower Whitefish Road, an active logging area provided an opportunity to develop new skills: camaraderie while hauling our bikes over downed trees. A small 'dozer angled up the hill to our left growled in neutral gear as we tenuously guided our bikes past it and the logger with the buzzing chainsaw. The loggers didn't seem especially amused at our invasion of "their" road.

Jim or Carl or someone found a terrific deli on the north side of Whitefish on our way into town. We'were on Real Pavement going into Whitefish. I didn't think pavement would ever look so good. Back into civilization with snarling trucks on the road; yuppie resorts on the lake; a highway with lanes marked for bicycles. I prefer the wilderness!

Jim and I stopped at the Post Office on our way through Whitefish (after a stop at Glacier Cyclery for a new tire) to mail home Important Touring Gear/I NeedThis With Me baggage. In a silly mood, we began strewing clothes, cooking gear, and other Useful Items along the sidewalk in front of the post office, our bikes on their sides as bemused companions offered suggestions. We packed up our two large boxes full, Jim shipping off more weight than I, and neither of us wanting the other see how much stuff was headed out nor how much those boxes weighed. Postage: $6, approximately $1/lb. It was worth it. My stove and pot went, since the stove wasn't working properly, as did a cycling jersey (I don't even like cycling jerseys - I can't imagine why I brought two of them), my extra inappropriate tire, and my first layer Polarfleece. Didn't think I needed both since it wasn't that cold. The stainless steel bowl went - a bad purchase last month. A good idea that wasn't. Not only was it heavier (slightly), but food cooled down far too rapidly. For $0.79 at the local grocery store, a plastic replacement was soon in my pannier. Alan had a lexan bowl similar to what I nearly purchased instead of the stainless steel bowl. Jim used a lidded Tupperware type for eating or storing. I had a separate very small container for storage (which eventually was "lost" along the way as it wasn't worth the space).

The state park on Dog Bay, our intended camping location, did not have showers. Not acceptable. The RV park at the Norskman Motel was $14 per tent! Outrageous! We gave it a miss. Instead we went to the Whitefish KOA south of town (off route), up a long hill and then down down down into the KOA. Jim made great afternoon iced tea. Pizza Hut delivered our dinner. What luxury! (No one wanted to pedal back UP that hill out of the KOA unnecessarily.)

Carl was such a hoot! At the end of dinner, he leapt from the table, danced around, with appropriate body English, singing "Happy Birthday" in both English and in self-created unintelligible gibberish, imitating what bad restaurants expect you to tolerate prior to gifting you with a free mediocre dessert. We were doubled up with laughter. I wondered if Carl had ever tried the open mike comedy clubs.

Having a doctor on a trip can change one's attitude about cycling abilities. While discussing our ride down the mountain on the rough forest service roads, Alan's new phrase was "God is my co-pilot and Norm (Doc Dog) is behind me!" in justifying his cavalier approach to the risks of speedy descents. We snickered at the idea of Norm riding sweep so that he could stitch the wounded back together as he came upon them. A little morphine, some sutures - voila! Good as new. (Norm was altogether too accomplished a rider, however, to be happy riding sweep I suspect). Once Norm left (after two weeks) and Alan took a tumble (road rash), he became significantly more conservative, by his own admission.

We're being eaten alive by mosquitoes - head nets are a way of life for some, gobs of DEET infested goo for others, and judicious swatting.

Carl and I took over the two "adult" swings after all the little kids left - flinging ourselves as high into the air as possible, the legs of the swing set wobbling beneath us - the rest of the group watching and smirking. There's something slightly not-of-this world during vigorous swinging. Reverting to a carefree world of hot humid days and evenings punctuated by crickets and lightning bugs.

Route tomorrow was to be a little different so that Tom could get to a bike shop in Columbia Falls. Nor did we want to retrace 6 miles back to the route at the north edge of Whitefish when we were already 3 miles south. As it was, retraced a few miles.

Word to the wise for folks doing this trip: Make SURE that your gear is in tip top shape before you set out. Bike in A-1 condition, no problem zippers, hooks or straps on the panniers, tent poles/zipper working flawlessly. This is a trip which will test your gear.

Return to Trip Table of Contents
Return to Pre-trip Days
Forward to Journal Interlude: Trials and Tribulations of My Tires
Forward to Whitefish-Bigfork-Cedar Creek-Holland Lake

Copyright Judith J. Colwell, 1997. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: May 14, 1998

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