It was hard to drag myself away from Polebridge, but I had to move on. When I had just finished packing up the bike, a black bear ambled past, disappearing into the bushes just as I managed to get my camera out (and yes, I should have been reaching for bear spray, not my camera). So here is the evidence that I’ll never make a good wildlife photographer. You’ll have to take my word for it that there is the slightest glimpse of a bears bottom disappearing into the vegetation.
I decided to take a longer route out – instead of retracing my way to Polebridge (which is about 6 miles off route), I cycled south along road 376 then (following Olivers advice), went west along some forest roads, eventually following some lovely forest singletrack on an abandoned road.
I rejoined the official route, on a long steady climb up to Red Meadow Lake. Glancing back, there were occasional views of the now snow covered Glacier Mountains.
The road was pretty featureless, something that I assumes persuades the occasional motorist to amuse themselves by taking potshots at signposts (oddly enough, Forest Service signs are usually unmarked – either showing that locals respect the Federal Forest, or maybe they are afraid of gun toting forest rangers, or maybe they just use titanium for the signs….
Finally, I topped out the pass and had a picnic at the gloriously scenic Red Meadow Lake
Just over the pass, the sign of summer passing can be seen with snow on higher ground.
From Red Meadow, the road descended down for many miles into increasingly lush countryside to the town of Whitefish.
The forest on this side of the pass is ‘managed’ by the State, not the Federal Government. This means its pretty much a free for all for loggers and other users, and it is visibly less healthy with less wildlife.
Whitefish is both a lake and the town by its shores in a wide valley between mountain ranges.
The area is surprisingly quiet and traffic free. Whitefish is both a local service centre and a tourist town. The downtown manages to have a good mix of local shops, lots of pointless tourist trinket stores, its semi-hippy past is reflected in quite a lot of shops, including (unbelievably for Montana) a vegan restaurant. And most importantly, it has a great bike shop, the Glacier Cyclery.