Friday, August 8, 2014

Packing, U-locks, and Nothing.


I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten on a plane in one country and gotten off in another. It’s always somewhat stressful to land in a new place, but even more so when that sort of traveling has not happened in a while. The worst part about packing for this trip is I keep remembering things I should take, then forgetting what it was I had remembered.

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Long term gear review: Rhode Gear Gorilla U-Lock

What is there to really say? I bought this in 1991 to lock up my old Raleigh mountain bike, and used it thousands of times since. I’d keep using it, but after so much locking and unlocking the key has lost all of its grooves and is essentially round. It still works, kinda, but someday soon it will probably quit me, and I don’t want that to happen in the “lock” position.

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Bottom line: a worthwhile purchase. Rhode Gear, however, seems to have gone out of the lock business.

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Slow time.

What’s this? A weekend with no objectives? Feels weird. Just picking blueberries and watching the current.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Degrees of freedom.

Laura made here annual milk run to Atlanta this month and took the baby, leaving me with two weeks of wretched bachelor excessiveness: too much biking, too much skiing, too much hiking, too much red meat, too much red wine, etc., etc. But as usual, when things get tough, I roll up my sleeves and look at the tattoo on my bulging bicep, and that gives me the inspiration and strength to forge on:

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Sunrise ski run on Logan Pass. In the parking lot, in the half-dawn of morning, a Japanese tourist came up to me and said "Ski run closed. You make trouble for ranger." Must have been something going around, because later that day, by Ptarmigan Lake, an earnest hiker stopped me and said that the tunnel was closed. It was open.

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Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can now gather all sorts of data on meaningless activities. Here's the run-down from 14 days of riding solo:

city biking: 15 miles
skiing: 4 runs, 9 miles, 2,400 vertical feet
hiking: 67.1 miles, 9,900 vertical feet
mountain biking: 143.9 miles, 13,900 vertical feet

Back in Glacier, I hiked the famous Iceberg Lake Trail, realizing only too late I had left my skis in the car:

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More from Iceberg:

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I also did the Highline:

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High above the Highline Trail -- it rained and blew hard for about 90 minutes, all the while with the temperature in the high 40s. I got some shelter at the Granite Park Chalet, then emerged to this:

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Grinnell Peak and its glacier. It's hard to capture the wild and desolate starkness of hiking all day to peer into something ancient and empty like this:

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And looking down on the Salamander Glacier:

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Glacier is full of wildlife, like this creepy huge chipmunk:

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Here is some deer they have stuffed in front of a mural in the visitor center, where I spent most of my time watching interpretive movies and getting brochures:

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The view from Ptarmigan Pass, near where the tunnel was supposedly closed:

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An evening stroll around Swiftcurrent Lake:

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Early morning at St. Mary:

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Biking in Ninemile -- who knew?

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More from Ninemile:

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Driving the family car without family in it, I also went to Yellowstone and the Beartooth-Absaroka. Lady of the Lake, just north of Yellowstone.

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From near the summit of Wilse (11,800 feet) in the Beartooth.

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I actually pulled the plug on Wilse about 150 feet below the summit because this guy was hogging the trail. I went left, he went right: both faced with overhanging cornices, vertical rock, and glacier ice, we were soon back looking at each other.

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Humiliating loser's descent from Wilse:

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Random lake (actually, Gardner, I think) on the Beartooth Plateau. Any given 10 square miles of the Beartooth will easily have 100 lakes, ranging from backyard-sized plunge pools to something a mile long. So, yeah, basically: God's Mosquito Country.

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I camped at a trailhead the second night, and as it was getting dark a truck pulling a boat pulled up and set up camp near me. It was a ranching couple from Red Lodge, and they made me some gin and tonics. The guy was a talker, and mostly he talked about grizzly bears. "Oh, the griz around here mostly just keep to themselves," he said at one point. Not a minute later he was practically in my face -- "These are not the fat and happy griz you have over in the Flathead. These guys are lean and mean!" And then, a bit later, "Oh, the grizzlies now are mostly down low in heavy timber where the berries are." And a bit later: "You got to watch out all around here -- this is griz country."

Alas, no griz. Only a stupid black bear. The bears somehow get at all the huckleberries first. SO NOT FAIR!

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This is the last run of the season. I mean it. No more. That's it.

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Homeward bound.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Independence Day.

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**Probably** the last ski day of the year -- and as usual, in Killed Colt Cirque, where the snow is still deep. Skied 76 days this year -- less than last year but about the same as the year before, though 2013-2014 had more days both of cross country and in groups. The first day on skis was Nov. 10, the last was July 4, equating to a nearly eight full months.

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge:

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You get just a sense of scope of the country driving down the freeway, but the lakes themselves are 30 jarring dirt road miles from there. Typical Montana epic landscape, but a lot of mozzies and two flat tires.

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More day-biking on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, this time in the tail end of Montana and up at the headwaters of the Missouri.

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Rainy Lake with the baby, to give Laura 24 hours of pre-race peace and quiet.

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We only found Rainy Lake because we were looking for the Morrell-Clearwater Road. The campground is not signed, has no water, and only has five spots -- four of which you have to walk into.

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We went back north to the Swan pick up where we left the Great Divide route in June, and in the process struck a compromise: I get to bike on dirt roads, and the baby gets to watch Lightning McQueen for the 157th time. (This probably qualifies as one of those things I said I'd never do.)

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Cedar Creek.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014


Headed south to ski before going north to bike.

The Beaverheads.

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Of course, the ski trip included some biking too, and the bike trip included some snow. (James: "I like my snowboard so much I take it hiking and biking.")

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I took the baby to Ovando.

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Whew -- there's rocks in these creeks too.

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A week later: who knew Butte had such great biking?

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Apparently everyone does now, since it was just highlighted in Bicycle Magazine.

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Kicking it on the Continental Divide Trail, which is not the Great Divide Trail -- except for when it is.

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Butte has completely neglected to advertise the fact that it's home to 4.5 miles of the Old Milwaukee rail road, which is now a trail which features two tunnels and one 110-foot high trestle.

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Pigeon Creek, a random free forest service campground.

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After much teeth gnashing and hair pulling I managed to upload 4G of topo maps to my Garmin eTrex 20 and a .gpx track for the Great Divide bike route. This would have been much easier had I simply opted to pay for the maps; $80 gets you three states on a micro SD card which you flip into the machine. For $12 I got my own card and lot of online sympathy from other handheld GPS users who have tried with indeterminate success to install free public domain maps on their units. After securing some additional bandwidth and detailed instructions, I think we're ready to go.

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