Saturday July 25, 2009, 34 miles (55 km) – Total so far: 3,685 miles (5,930 km)
We had company for supper last night. He was a cute little squirrel until he ran under the table and over our sandal-shod feet. Then he startled us and became a potentially rabid varmit.
We had a short ride today, largely because there’s another 50 miles to the next town, campground, motel, place to stay. 80 miles is rather tough, 30 is pretty short, but we’ll make it up in the next week or so.
There is a bike path from Apgar to the park entrance, but they’ve had bear sightings on the path, so we took the road down to West Glacier, where we had a fine breakfast. We were still hoping to get a package that was supposed to have been forwarded from Lolo, but no luck. It’s an art form to get mail on the road; you have to guess how far you’ll go, and how fast the post office can get your package there. We’ve had several post offices tell us they’re the end of the line; when the last pickup from the mail box is 10:00 a.m., you tend to believe them. They just laugh in the P.O. when you tell them the package was supposed to be delivered in 2-3 days! And of course, a tailwind or headwind will mess with your schedule, too. Most post offices are pretty good about forwarding general delivery mail; you just write down “Forward my general delivery mail to West Middle of Nowhere” and sign it. But sometimes you run into a stickler, who wants you to fill out a change of address form, then send it to Memphis to get the stickers to forward the mail.
Unlike Thursday, we stayed on U.S. 2 from West Glacier through Coram into Columbia Falls. Most of the route was broad, with good shoulders. And it was paved, saving legs, shoulders, and fillings from the dirt road we rode in on. There was a 2:1 or better ratio of traffic headed into the park to traffic leaving. The shoulder ended as we approached the South Fork Flathead River bridge just outside Hungry Horse. (No, I didn’t make that name up!). There were two miles of narrow road, and the slow pickup pulling the trailer didn’t catch up for the first mile. After that, the dozen vehicles behind snuck past us, but they were generally courteous.
From outside Columbia Falls, we got our last look at Glacier. We turned back into downtown, but they were getting ready for a parade, so we high-tailed it west out of town. U.S. 2 turned south toward Kalispell, taking 3/4 of the traffic with it, then we turned onto a back road that was virtually empty of any other traffic.
Glacier National Park really came into existence as a result of Hill’s Great Northern Railway trying to drum up business around the turn of the twentieth century by building hotels around the periphery of what’s now the park, and shuttling visitors around. They used a Swiss Alps theme for a fair number of the buildings in the park, but I didn’t expect to see the theme extending 30 miles outside the park!
The station is at the north end of the town square. The library is at the southeast side, and I was able to get the personnel forms printed out here I need to extend this vacation a few more weeks. On the southwest corner is a (micro) brewery and tasting saloon that makes me want to stay even longer!