9th July – 15th of July, KooCanUsa to Whitefish
Yes this week we crossed the border between Canada and USA. But before we did this we want to enjoy for the last time one of the great lakes in Canada. At the National Campground we find a great spot at the KooCanUsa lake and enjoy a lazy Sunday.
One of the big differences between USA and Canada will be the cost of camping. For this spot, which offers beside a great view only a table, flat piece of land, running potable water (one for 20 camping spots) and a pit toilet, we pay 36 Canadian Dollars. In USA we have all of the above with pay showers for 12 US dollars (don’t know if this will stay like that).
At KooCanUsa we are lucky as there are almost no mosquitos. According to one of the locals it seems that some lakes around here are so festered that people are recommended to not go to those lakes. Lucky us.
On Monday is the big day of crossing the border. As we will cross by bike and authorities know that 3 months for the GDMR is short we organised a 10 year visa (you need to leave every 6 months). We organised this way before we left. You need to fill-in a lot of info on line, have a meeting with the consul (in our case it was in Amsterdam) and you need to prove you have sufficient financial funding to support your trip. This visa should give us even easier access than ESTA.
Over rolling mountains and yellow Tobaco Plains we stop by a very small gas station for some coffee. She is selling everything except coffee and the only next possibility is in US, Eureka, 20km further down the road.
At the border we join a significant row of cars and slowly progress until it is our turn. After some questions we need to go inside for some more questions and a new stamp.
And then we passed the border, if we want we can stay in the US till January 2018!
The first restaurant is our first stop, rain is coming down hard when we enjoy a great sandwich with smoked beef and fries.
Eureka is a town of 3.000 people where we do our first USA shopping for at least 2 days. We pass 2 motels but don’t check and by the time we are downtown and discover the community campground is nothing more than a piece of grass, we both don’t want to peddle back up to the motels anymore. Is this fun because of its simplicity or just stupid because you’re in the middle of a town with nothing but a piece of grass? It is actually stupid, because we need to go to the toilet in the gas station across the road and “wash” in the breakfast restaurant. And the train track is running next to the river, lucky us it was quiet during the night. Laundry was not possible as water supply just broke down just when I arrived… Only benefit of being in town is dinner and breakfast made for us. We meet Doug who is biking from coast to coast.
Eureka, at 800 m, is the lowest town of the GDMT but the highest on the US map. (with a sweet open-air museum).
From now on we will go South with sidesteps to different National Parks. US start is heavy, going to 1,600 meters for our first Great Divide crossing in the US (11 more to follow). Over a very bumpy road going up and down. Quite an assault on Franks shoulders and the bikes. But we did not have to push them, getting stronger (and it was less steep than Canada). At clearings and above 1.500 meters we see a beautiful, candle like, feathery grass: bear grass.
At Tuchuck campground we can choose whichever campsite we want. We are the only ones staying that night. First come, first serve, no service (pack out/pack in, do not leave any trace). Table, flat piece of land, pit toilet and bear lockers for free, no registration required, no fee. What a service!
Sitting in the sun, next to a fast flowing creek, with green and red pebbles, surrounded by dense forest feels eerie but in a positive way. After two nights, Richard , local cowboy with 2 Australian Cattle Dogs, tells the story that this campground has already been used for centuries by the Indians when they travelled from one valley to the other. Was it this spirit I felt and made us stay for another day? Alone in the woods.
Only at lunch time the first two Dutch on a bike (Santos and ID Worxs) pass by, Frans & his friend need to combine a few days as they have less than 60 days to travel the whole route.
But they have done similar trips before and are up to the challenge. It is good to see some people are packed in a similar way as we are.
Next night we are not alone at the campground. Matt, a local, mountain biked the whole day and will now sleep under the star as he calls a tent a bear burrito….which reminds me of our first night here. Just in bed and something stumbling around our tent. Frank, with bear spray, checking what was the matter, but it were deer, checking if we had left something to eat.
After the refreshing day we are up for a new challenge, which would be relative easy, so we start slow, take a lot of pictures of the forest which was burned down in 1988, in such a devastating fire that even Ponderosa Pine tree older than 350 years which have withstood several bush fires were killed.
The last 10 km are a killer and we are both glad we arrive at Red Meadows Lake.
Again a free campsite with bear lockers and pit toilet. The only thing you need to do is leave no trace (pack in, pack out).
Renato from Italy, also GDMR, is biking the route on his own and built his own bike!
Dianne& Steven and two friends are passing by on their Polaris Ranger XP with 900 cc 4 stroke engine. Great way to see things if you are no longer that mobile!
And we meet John E. Moore who has written 13 books of lakes and wildlife in Montana but mainly concentrates on fishing books. He will now be travelling till September to revisit some lakes and if needed make updates.
He is so sweet to give us 4 graylings that Frank professionally cleans and we have this time Chilli with mashed potatoes (instant) and fresh fish! Jammy! John does not want to join but Renato is happy we share. The more people the better! Really happy to have met John, who shares all his knowledge about the area, fish and other wildlife with us.
Going down to Whitefish we wind through dense forest, with some 90 degree corners, so making a lot of noise resulting in no bears! This is the area of the huckleberry (similar to our blue berries) and people are skimming the forest floor, harvesting this delicious fruit!
Going down the hill some good work is done a road grader, I think at home we call this a scraper. These are all gravel roads and weather and traffic haves a huge impact resulting in washboard, potholes and loose rocks. You always have to watch the road as potholes are difficult to see in the shade and will rattle your teeth.
Whitefish is a small community focused on winter sports. They even claim to have had the first rope pulled skiers in US.
During the past days we did not have any connectivity as our Canadian Telephone Card run out of data and we only now can look for a major US phone card. But first try to find a motel as I am in desperate need of a bed and leaving the stuff the stuff (not have to think about bear lockers etc).
Glacier Cyclers has given us an up-dated overview of all available hotels and the first one we drop by “Downtown Inn” is so sweet to call 6 others to finally find us a room at “Chalet Motel” 1 mile out-of-town but in hindsight located at the perfect spot: across a shopping mall with an outdoor shop, great convenient store and the shuttle to Glacier Park. Fluffy white towels and clean sheets make it a small paradise.
For connectivity we go to Vernizon as this was also recommended by the bicycle shop. Happy we did go to the store instead of buying a card at the grocery store. It took the store manager Dana more than 30 min to make it work but now we have US connectivity with lots of data (if there is GSM at least) Thanks Dana for helping us out in such a positive way and for the dinner tip: Ciao Mambo. Pasta Isabella, Pasta Gamba and Eggplant in the oven together with a great bottle of Red Wine celebrated being back in civilization.
Saturday we use to discover further the sweet little town as on Saturday the stores but also hairdressers are open. We first wanted to visit Glacier National Park but decided to try to find a hairdresser. After 9 weeks on the road I would love to have some pampering and a very short haircut. No luck, called 7 different people but they were all full so you still have to look at the Wilders look for the next period of time. Time flies and with some computer work, calls and shopping the Saturday slips through your fingers.
To try at home: Salt Lick: Salty Caramel Icecream, with warm caramel sauce, good wipped cream and cashew nuts! Addictive, even for Frank! Note fromFrank; the best icecream ever!
Next week’s blog: Glacier National Park and traveling to Ovando, town of 50 people.
PS do you know why you should take two dogs in bear country? If one dog sees a bear he will come to you, leading the bear to you. If you have two dogs, they will support each other and try to chase the bear away (Richard)
New Wildlife spotting; Western Tanager