Day 11 – Thursday, June 24th
St. Ignatius, Montana, to Big Arm State Park, Montana
The next morning we got up, checked out of the room, and bicycled over to the Old Timer Cafè, which had wonderful omelets with lots of ham. We both agree that this was the best restaurant of the trip.
The best restaurant of the trip, in Saint Ignatius
At 10:30 AM, we were again cycling north on highway 93. The country was green and verdant, with blue snow-capped mountains (the Mission Range) to the east. The green grass glowed in the mid-morning sun. There were occasional valleys, heading west from the mountains, which we coasted down into and had to climb back out of, but nothing very steep, or overly long.
Climbing, north of Saint Ignatius
Nine-Pipes Reservoir, west of highway 93
It was a beautiful day to cycle, with a light tail-wind. We actually had tail-winds for most of the trip, which attested to our right-choice in going from south to north.
The green, green grass, with the Mission Mountains to the east
The glowing-green grass, with cattle, farms, and snow-capped mountains in the distance, near Pablo
At Pablo, we stopped for a rest break on the shady, grassy, campus of Salish-Kootenai college. I'm sure this is a place one could learn the Salish language, and probably a lot of Native American culture and tradition.
Rest-stop at Salish Kootenai College
There was a bicycle path here, but it ended abruptly. There was another farther on, but it went under the highway, and we didn't know where it went. We were becoming wary of bicycle paths in Montana. I presume the residents know all about where they start, end, and go to, but as cyclists coming through, we had no such information.
As we neared Flathead Lake, we began climbing. To me as an amateur geologist, this appeared to be a terminal moraine (where the ancient glacier pushed its debris to, then stopped pushing, leaving a hill). My guess is that Flathead Lake was scoured out by a glacier, which finally stopped, and melted away, leaving the basin that filled to become the lake.
Our first view of Flathead Lake
This was not much of a hill, but it was a taste of things yet to come, as we had a monster hill west of Polson. I didn't do a profile of the section around Flathead Lake because I didn't remember any big climbs driving there. If I had done a profile, I wouldn't have made the error in judgement, thinking we could make it to Lakeside (on the northwest area of the lake) that day.
Here, we had a choice to stay on highway 93, winding around the west side of the lake, or to take the more direct (and less hilly) highway 35 on the east side of the lake. Having 'flown' over highway 35 using Google Earth, noting that there was no shoulder at all, and heeding the advice of people living in the area, we stayed on highway 93.
Entering Polson – note the Salish word, and translation: Tipi poles above the water
We ate our noon-meal at a restaurant in Polson, then continued cycling to the west now, crossing a bridge over the outlet of the lake, then climbing a monster hill. I was thinking this one hill would be most of the climb, but that hope did not turn out to be correct.
3/4ths of the way up the monster-hill west of Polson, looking back
At the top of the long climb, there was a convenience store and service station where we got a cool drink, and a bit of a rest break. We then continued cycling in a more northerly direction, but it as up-and-down-and-up-and-down. It soon became apparent that there was no way we would make it to Lakeside (where there were motels) before dark.
From the information I had from the Internet (and from asking the locals), there were no places to stay after Big Arm State Park until you were almost to Lakeside (which were also too far to make it before dark). So we decided to stop cycling sooner than daylight would permit, and stay at Big Arm State Park.
I did not make this decision lightly, as it would affect plans for reaching Glacier Park (and camping) the next day, and being picked-up at the park the day after that. I decided we could stay in a motel short of the park, and only have a short ride the following day to our goal, being there long before our ride arrived.
This was the only time we were forced to camp on the trip. At all other places, we got (or could have gotten) a room. However, this was a fortunate option taken, since the campsites at this state park are right on the beach. The temperatures were also much warmer than at Downata Hot Springs (earlier in the trip), and it wasn't rainy at all.
Our camp at Big Arm State Park, late in the day
We were prepared for this, each having two meals of canned food, one of which we ate this night, along with a little trail mix.
On this day, we stopped early, at 6:30 PM, traveling only 42.5 miles, at an average speed of 8.5 miles per hour.
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