Day 112 — CDT done!

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We are done!  Finished with the CDT!

Starting out in New Mexico, exactly four months ago, this moment was anything but certain.  We didn’t even have a plan to make it the final miles to the northern terminus (you can’t ride bikes there), and some of the ideas to reach it were pretty wild.

In the end we went with the longer road approach, and the odd one where we hike southbound from the Canadian side.  It worked out beautifully.

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The hike was icy and awkward.  Then it was slushy and cold.  But it was only 4 miles to the border.

We celebrated, took photos.  After sitting for a snack, 4 hikers walked up! Wolverine, Northern Strider, Snowplow and Beaker. They were finishing the trail too, and two were finishing their triple crown.  Woah.  Pretty cool to share the finish with hikers, just as we have shared the trail with them all summer.

The ferry came by and some people on the boat waved, many took photos.  I yelled out, “we just finished the CDT!!!!”  One of the hikers walked out onto the dock and tried to get them to land and pick us up.  The boat kept going.

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So we walked back.  The ice had softened up, so we were able to jog sections and move faster.  We sung songs and ditties.  Almost done, just a little bit more walking.

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Prince of Wales Hotel

We took a celebratory lunch at the Prince of Wales hotel, which sits on a hill above Waterton, commanding an impressive view.  Sitting at the table, with Eszter, we were able to start letting the finish soak in.  Deep satisfaction and deep gratitude.  Shared with my love and best adventuring partner ever.  It was a moment I wished would never end.

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Chilli and Pepper

A 2:30 shuttle awaited.  They took our bikes without question.  The shuttle from the border to East Glacier was less certain — on the phone they had told me ‘no bikes.’  But there was room — only us and the hikers, and the driver was friendly, so we took front wheels off and threw them in the back.  At Chief Mountain we also saw hikers Chilli and Pepper, finishing their triple crown (the road border crossing is an alternate CDT finish).  Chilli is only 15 years old — super impressive.

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On the way the shuttle took us to Many Glaciers, another impressive spot in the park.  We were pretty happy to see a little more of Glacier.

We’re now in East Glacier, staying at a hostel — again with a bunch of hikers.  Some done, some with just a few days to go. The owner gave us a free slice of pie for finishing!  Score.  All we need now is a rental car, and we’ll be back in Boulder, truly off the trail.

It’s overwhelming to think of how fortunate we are to have pulled this off, and how fortunate we are to have the opportunity and ability to do so.  Grateful, so grateful.  For everything.

Huge thanks to everyone that has helped us along the way.  Thanks for the encouraging comments, the trail beta/suggestions, and for reading along.  The MTB and hiking communities are beyond awesome.

More reflection and definitely more photos to come!

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A final sunset in East Glacier

Day 111 – Canada!

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We made it to Canada!

And it’s not just like a different country, it feels like a completely different world.  These are the Rockies as I’ve never seen them.  Huge, towering, majestic… and covered in snow!  It feels a storybook-esque, like a fantasy land. It feels a little unreal to be finishing this thing, too.

To think how different this place is, different from the humble beginnings of the CDT at Crazy Cook in New Mexico.  Yet here we are, some 3600 miles and 4 months later.

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The day started well.  Low clouds quickly burned off.  The sun came out!

It was cold riding.  Cows were everywhere, pooping all over the road and causing tourists to get stuck and wonder what to do.  The bikepackers will help — they know well how to herd cows.  Heeyaw!  Heeyaw!

Piles of snow plopped off green aspens and spruces.  We climbed and descended steep hills, changing layers embarassingly often.  No way to stay comfortable.

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Chief Mountain and other giants of Glacier struck out of small clouds.  This is big country. 

The border came and went.  Only a few questions.  With any luck we’ll be back in the US soon.  Some hikers end their trip here, at Chief Mountain, but we want to see Waterton and the ‘official’ finish.

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So we keep riding.  Our jaws drop at the first view of the Waterton Valley.

It just gets better as we pedal through it.  There’s a bike path in the park.  Yay Canada!  There are even trails open to bikes… how forward thinking.

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We arrive at the townsite, still slack-jawed.  4 miles of walking is all that remains to reach ‘the end’.  Walking around town, along the shore of the lake, we decide to look for the start of our trail.  It was harder to find than we thought.

“I think my quads are cramping…”

“I’m getting a sideache.”

We’re pathetic!  8 miles out and back tomorrow may hurt us.  Oh how simultaneously strong and weak cyclists can be.  It’s going to be icy and slushy, that’s for sure.  But it’s going to be great.  The end of a journey.

Day 109 and Day 110 — Flexibility. Waiting for sun in Babb, MT.

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If there is one thing the CDT teaches you, it’s flexibility.  The divide decides your pace and whether it makes sense to proceed or not. Sometimes we’ve busted out 70 mile days, others we struggle to hit 20. You can’t be in a hurry or have rigid plans.

It’s funny that of all the things to be anxious about on this trip, getting shut down by snow was probably the least of them. We’re cyclists! We’re fast. We can always put our heads down and hammer it out to Canada. Right?

Turns out we aren’t that fast, even compared to hikers. This trail is hard, and doing this kind of riding for months has taken its toll on us. This isn’t bike touring.  People go bike touring for years. This is trail hiking — with bikes.

For all of us on the CDT it’s been a race against winter. Finish before the snow flies.

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We lost.

We woke up from our little cabin to winter. There is no food to be had there, not even candy bars. So we had no choice but to ride the six miles to the town of Babb.

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The snow was coming down, and blowing right in our faces. The slush was spraying off our rear tires, soaking our behinds. We were plenty warm, but after catching breakfast at the Glacier’s Edge cafe, we were chilled enough that pedaling was less than appealing. We wanted to see Waterton and the finish, not just simply go there and watch it snow.

So we walked across the street to secure a warm room.  At least we got a few miles closer to Canada.

10 miles to Canada from here.  So close but so far. If we’d been 24 hours earlier we would have had no problem finishing it up.  But even smooth travel on pavement can’t be taken for granted on the CDT(bike)!  You have to be flexible.

The road over the divide on the Going To The Sun road has been closed since we rode over it.  I’m glad we got over while we could, and once again, nothing is straighforward on the divide — not even paved roads.

Today is our first zero day since Butte, meaning 11 straight days of riding.  We’re feeling it for sure.  Though in theory everything left is pretty trivial, it’ll still be nice to have a little more energy.

It’s been an absolute blizzard all day today, with a north wind.  It’s beginning to really pile up here in town.  Here’s hoping the forecasters are correct and the sun will come out tomorrow.  We are dreaming of snow covered peaks glimmering in sunbeams.  And most of all we are still dreaming of reaching the terminus of the CDT, as we have been for months.

Day 108 — Glacier!

Well that was fairly to moderately epic!  We made it through Glacier… barely.  It’s snowing outside, but we found ourselves a roof and a warm bed for the night.

We woke up in Whitefish earlier than we needed to. We hit breakfast and were primed and ready for a big day.  Post office 15 minutes before it opened.  Someone came around and found our bounce box.  Great, we can send that along.

But, no passports.  I’ll let Eszter detail the comedy of errors in that debacle, but for a good hour, it was looking like going into Canada was out for us.  Or we’d have to wait several days in Whitefish.

Meanwhile, both Cricket Butler and Dave Chenault popped by the post office.  Perfect, the two people we wanted to see in Whitefish, but didn’t really have time to connect with.

Eventually Eszter came out of the Post with passports in hand.  Go time!

We kept a blistering pace for the 20 miles to Blakenship Bridge, a nice dirt alternate route to West Glacier.  At that point we realized that the passport debacle had put Waterton out of reach for us.  The border crossing closes at 6pm, and we have 7 hours to pedal 80 miles.  Oh, and there’s a line to enter the park, and 30 min construction delays.  Not to mention the 3000 ft climb, wildlife delays, and the fact that we wanted to see the park and not just time trial it.

So, we cooled the pace down and settled in for a day of touristing.

It was quiet lovely — for most of the day.  The divide once again wielded its influence on us in a very heavy handed way.  Just like every other day since mid-May, it was all about the divide.


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But first, we stopped to check out Avalanche Creek.  A friendly older gentleman that we met while taking photos at the park entrance suggested we take the short walk.  It was well worth it — carved and colurful rock with water blasting through narrow corridors.  A nice break from flat pavement, too.

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The climbing began in earnest soon after.  The divide was our high point, at Logan Pass.  It was a grind, for sure, but the views are off the hook.  I see where the ‘crown of the continent’ moniker comes from.  Traffic is pretty thick but we didn’t have any issues and everyone goes slow.

A guy had a scope set up to watch some mountain goats up on the Garden Wall.  Pretty cool to see a mom and kid way up on the cliff, from just below.

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Not long later, we saw a different mom and kid scrambling down to cross the road and get out of the approaching cold front.

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Clouds and mist were pouring over Logan Pass like a slow moving waterfall.  Like a giant mist monster, creeping over the divide to freeze this side.  I knew what was happening — the cold front and likely snow were stuck on the east side of the divide.  Only small portions of it were breaking the boundary.

We enjoyed the warm western air while we could.  Near the top the cold gusts cut right through us.  Bitter.

At the top the visitor center was closed, but the bathrooms were open.  We found ourselves readying for yet another cold National Park ride, finishing up yet another long distance trail. Symmetry.

Coasting downhill with wet clothes and drained bodies is a fantastic recipe to get chilled to the bone.  Our core temps were fine, but extremities were tough to keep with us.  The construction delay didn’t really help matters — we need to pedal to generate warmth!

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The whole east side was socked in, as expected, so we missed all the views in East Glacier. Oh well.

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Just before the construction a silly young bear was chomping on an aspen. First bear I have ever seen that didn’t run away immediately.  Got a really good look at it as it climbed around. They are forest monkeys with such long limbs!

The lodge/restaurant of Rising Sun couldn’t come fast enough.  Temps were in the 30′s even down low, with light mist / snow coming down.

Lodge was full but they were kind enough to call around for us.  A cabin in St. Mary was available — sold!  We ordered some dinner and basked in the warmth of the lodge.

The cabin is actually 3 miles north of St. Mary, so we still had a cold 8 mile ride in the semi-light evening.  The wind was brutal and right in our faces.  Darkness fell.  You know, standard fare for a little epic’ing! 

Our store bought knit gloves kept our hands warm, and I was venting to not overheat before we actually arrived.  That bodes well for riding inbetween snow storms tomorrow.  We still have 40 or so miles to go!

Day 107 — When winter calls, run to the border!

Neither of us slept very well, though the night was not overly cold.  Failing and turning back never tastes good.  But it was absolutely the correct choice for us.  Some mental demons needed a night to be worked out.

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When the sun finally lit the horizon I looked up, through fuzzy eyes.  Are those yellow aspens?  Yes, one aspen right above, completely turned.  Another, half pure gold and half starting.

A beautiful sight, and also a portend of things to come.

We eventually motivated to get moving, knowing it would be very late until the sun would actually rise above the 4000′ Swan Crest we had fooled ourselves into thinking ourselves we would travel.

Our hands and feet froze as we descended down to the highway on dirt.  We warmed up at the Swan Lake Trading Post, our indented destination from the day before.

While eating and grabbing trail snacks we got hit with the news: winter storm incoming.  Weather forecast for east of the divide looked terrible starting Tuesday.  We were coming up a day short.

Not quite sure what to do, we pedaled the divide backroads to Columbia Falls, and gradually hatched a plan.

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Huge burritos in Columbia Falls - oh yeah!

Our biggest issue is that we need passports to get into Canada.  Those are at the Whitefish post office.  Whitefish is unfortunately off route from the most direct path to Glacier.  We should have shipped to Columbia Falls to save ourselves the time and miles.

Every CDT trip has to get stymied by at least one mailing issue.  Here’s ours.

We have one more day of good weather before things turn to 30 degree highs and snow.  That should be just enough to get us to Waterton Park, a mere 125 mile push, mostly on pavement. 

From there it’s a 4 mile hike to the official end of the CDT.  We can do that in the snow and cold, if need be.  What we can’t really do is ride the Going To The Sun road in the snow and gnarly weather.

So we’re slimming down our kits somewhat, made a motel reservation (still carrying camping gear in case) and will hit it with everything we have tomorrow — as soon as post office opens!

Looking forward to seeing Glacier from the seat of a bicycle!