Up in Smoke

We have been looking forward to cycling in the Rocky Mountains for a long time. Ever since returning home from South America, in fact. The plan was to meet the El’s (Ellen and Elmar) somewhere in the Rockies in the northern US and ride north with them into Canada.

The plan was hatched August, 2014, when we parted ways in Cusco, Perú. Jan and I went north to cycle in the Cordillera Blanca, and flew home from Ecuador in October, 2014, but the El’s kept cycling north through South and Central America and Mexico, eventually picking up the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the US, a trail that runs from Antelope Wells, New Mexico, to Banff, Alberta.

It’s been a long, dry summer and forest fires have been raging all over the northwestern US and southern BC. The smoke in Whitefish was thick when we arrived but the good news was that the fire in Glacier National Park had been extinguished and the Going to the Sun Road was open again to cyclists.

To get my Surly ECR to fit on the roof rack I had to put 26"x2" wheels on it. The 29"x3" don't fit.
To get my Surly ECR to fit on the roof rack I had to put 26″x2″ wheels on it. The 29″x3″ don’t fit.

Our friends Cathy and Walt put us up at their place in Whitefish and Ellen and Elmar cycled into town the next day. We spent two months cycling together in Bolivia and Perú and became good friends, so it was a great reunion for all of us.

One year after we said our goodbyes in Cusco, Peru, El and El arrive in Whitefish, MT.
One year after we said our goodbyes in Cusco, Peru, El and El arrive in Whitefish, MT.
After two years on the road, Ellen needs new gloves.
After two years on the road, Ellen needs new gloves.
BBQ steak and corn. From left: Cathy, Jan Ellen, Elmar and Walt
BBQ steak and corn. From left: Cathy, Jan Ellen, Elmar and Walt

We spent another day hanging out in Whitefish with our generous hosts Cathy and Walt who took us on a smokey, sunset booze cruise on Whitefish Lake, with dinner after at a local restaurant.

A sunset booze cruise with Cathy and Walt, our friends in Whitefish who hosted us.
A sunset booze cruise with Cathy and Walt, our friends in Whitefish who hosted us.
A smokey sunset over Whitefish Lake.
A smokey sunset over Whitefish Lake.

With the bikes loaded, we headed north into Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, the smoke covered the landscape like a blanket and views of the mountains were very limited. Regardless, it was great to be out cycling again with friends.

Ellen, Jan and Elmar ready to roll after picking up a new, lighter tent.
Ellen, Jan and Elmar ready to roll after picking up a new, lighter tent.

While camped at St. Mary’s on the west side of Glacier, a fierce thunderstorm in the evening cleared the air and by morning we had gorgeous clear skies for a short ride north into Many Glaciers. Sadly, the glaciers in the park have all but disappeared and will likely all be gone in another 10 years. I wonder if they will rename it “Used to be Many Glaciers.”

Cycling through a recent burn on Going to the Sun Road.
Cycling through a recent burn on Going to the Sun Road.
Looking back up Going to the Sun Road at St. Mary's. An overnight thunderstorm cleared the smoke out of the area for a few hours.
Looking back up Going to the Sun Road at St. Mary’s. An overnight thunderstorm cleared the smoke out of the area for a few hours.

The clear skies didn’t last as fires to the west raged on pushing a plume of smoke over a large swath of the US and Canada and sadly causing loss of life and property. Nothing we could do but ride on and hope for the fires to burn out or rain to bring them under control.

A clear morning over Lake Shelburne as we cycle into Many Glaciers.
A clear morning over Lake Shelburne as we cycle into Many Glaciers.
The smoke returning over Lake Shelburne from fires burning to the west.
The smoke returning over Lake Shelburne from fires burning to the west.
Jan at Red Rock Falls in Many Glaciers.
Jan at Red Rock Falls in Many Glaciers.

We crossed the border into Canada at Chief Mountain, a small border post between Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, and cycled into the town of Waterton Lakes, crossing paths with a small black bear on the bike path.

Jan along the Chief Mountain Highway on our way to the border crossing back into Canada.
Jan along the Chief Mountain Highway on our way to the border crossing back into Canada.
The Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lake National Park.
The Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lake National Park.
Elmar contemplating the head wind on Hwy. 507 outside Pincher Creek.
Elmar contemplating the head wind on Hwy. 507 outside Pincher Creek.
Enjoying a baked goody break along the road to the Crowsnest Pass.
Enjoying a baked goody break along the road to the Crowsnest Pass.
On Hwy. 507 to the Crowsnest Pass.
On Hwy. 507 to the Crowsnest Pass.

North we cycled along the smokey rolling hills of southwestern Alberta into the Crowsnest Pass, the southern-most crossing of the Rocky Mountains between Alberta and British Columbia. A friend of the El’s generously offered his house for us to stay in while he was away working. Thank you Wim!

Wim's place in the Crowsnest Pass.
Wim’s place in the Crowsnest Pass.

Here is a map of our ride so far. Click on it for more information.

Glacier elevation profile
Glacier elevation profile

Here are some more photos.

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6 thoughts on “Up in Smoke

  1. So many memories I LOVE that ride, definitely one of my favourites. I am very glad you could do that. Your pictures are very beautiful as ever but the scenery lends itself to those magical camera clicks. So good to see you in the saddle. Do not come back, keep riding so we can keep reading

  2. Beste mensen wat leuk jullie zo samen te zien.
    En wat een prachtige foto,s wij zijn Simon en Leni de ouders van Ellen en Elmar .
    Wij dat jullie een veilige en een mooie fietstocht hebben .
    Good luck and take care.👍👍👍👍👍

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