Waouw, time flies, already a month that I crossed the 49th parallel and so many unforgettable experiences have filled my heart and soul with joy!
After exploring Glacier National Park’s trails network, I jumped on the famous Great Divide Mountain Bike Route - a mainly dirt roads itinerary running along the divide from Jasper to Mexico - with the intention to follow it until the snow blocks me, most likely on Colorado high plateau. To put things into perspective, I am a road cyclist with NO-NADA-AUCUNE mountain biking experience or skills and my first gravel ride was the Dempster Highway a few weeks back, at the beginning of my trip. But, you know, when your first bike tour is 30.000km long and across the Americas, why not starting your off-road career on the GDMBR, with a gravel bike ?
Well, fortune favors the brave and so far I have had such an amazingly enjoyable, challenging and rewarding three-ish weeks in Montana. The first half of the route was mostly in the forest and the second one was, unexpectedly, in high-desert landscape. Regardless, the riding through either scenery was breathtaking and very diverse. Tons of fun were had with some gravel grinding, pavement flying, steep climb sweating (and swearing), downhill bombing and technical singletrack hike-a-biking. Did I regret it? Not for the tiniest second. Did I wish I had another set-up ? Not at all but the contrary! My new best friend allows me to have a non-stop blast, either with high-speed on the hard-packed dirt roads or with rougher rides on the bumpier sections, or with hard-core pushes on the ascents. I guess we all have fun in different ways, and I found mine.
Other than the limitless enjoyment, two aspects will be remembered from this part of the trip.
First, the funny weather. The short Autumn season brought some interesting torrential rainfalls turning the gravel roads into mudholes and the riding into something pretty miserable, let's admit it. But it has not just been wet, it has also been cold. Before you knew it, winter was trying to make its way with nights below freezing and snow accumulating at higher altitudes. I had to adapt and tried to plan my riding accordingly, pushing into the sunny days and sheltering on the stormy ones. My body was actually (and still is) happy that something forced me to give it a rest… Ain’t no rest for the wicked ya know.
Second and last but not least, people’s endless kindness. Looking back at it, I still cannot believe how lucky I have been to meet such friendly and generous beings. I will forever be grateful to : Hunter and Felicia who took care of my bike while I was hiking in Glacier and fed me with the best beignets I had in a long time ; to the Isaak family who hosted me very last minute and cooked a plethora of fresh veggies to give me a break from dehydrated mashed potatoes and peanut butter on tortillas ; to the small Ovando’s community who offered me gallons of warm coffee and an eccentric roof (a XIXth century jail) on a rainy day ; to Barbara and John who provide free cabins stashed with food to cyclists ; to Tim who welcomed me in his artist’s studio ; to John who proffered me a home, fresh sushi, home-roasted coffee, a trip to natural hot-springs and an introduction to curling while I was unexpectedly stuck in his town awaiting for a new back-wheel after cracking mine on a probably too intense descent ; to Travis who rescued me from a snowstorm, hosted me in his “man cave”, supplied me with the tastiest pancakes and a memorable expedition to show how much snow there is at higher altitude getting his truck stuck into the snowy ditch. All those people, plus all the others I chatted with along the way , are the true heroes that make this journey possible, singular and magnificent. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to cross their paths and hear their stories.
It looks like the weather is pushing me off the Divide a little sooner than expected so I will try to get some hiking done in the gorgeous Wind River Range’s wilderness before heading to drier climate in Utah.
From the shelter of our home
We tend to fear the unknown
The rest of the world looks crazy
But is actually filled with beauty
Take a deep breath and leave your fort
Challenge yourself, widen your comfort
Realize that in every direction
Humans face the same questions
Answer the call of the road
Step out and go abroad
You might be terrified
Go, you will be gratified
Gaze around, isn't it marvellous
Everything Nature offers is gorgeous
They say you’ll be killed by madness
But you will be welcomed by kindness
Après une longue journée
A vélo ou à pied
Le corps et la tête
Accusent les kilomètres
Arrive le moment
D’installer le camp
Ici c’est bien ?
Un peu plus loin ?
Je pourrais pousser
Jusqu'à la nuit tombée
Au pire je m’installe
Éclairé par la frontale
Mais pourquoi pas
S'arrêter là ?
Pose ton sac
Apprécie le bivouac
Sans plus attendre
Monter la tente
Plus précieux que l’or
J’allume mon trésor
Seul sans solitude
Proche de la béatitude
J’ai trouvé un frère
Le brasier, sa lumière
Cerné par le calme
J’observe la flamme
Les heures peuvent s'écouler
Je suis hypnotisé
A prendre le temps
De savourer le moment
Les yeux dans les yeux
Avec mon feu
Believe it or not, crossing the imaginary line that the 49th parallel is - the border between Canada and the USA - was an overwhelming process. Despite the fact that the mountains, the plants and the animals are the same, the humans codes change and I had to adapt. In the meantime, as I was riding towards Glaciers National Park’s entrance, I realized I had absolutely no clue about where I was headed neither of anything else I would do. All I knew was that I was going south, that I was hoping to catch up with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and that I wanted to check out some of the hiking trails in the area. I tried to keep it easy and cycled over the world famous Going-to-the-sun road but is was not doing justice to the surrounding scenery plus I was already sick of the intense, uncautious, traffic and the crazy amount of people rushing everywhere. After figuring out the US Parks backcountry permits system, I left my bike at a campground and hit the trails again.
Over 6 days I covered 250km, gazed at almost all GNP’s highlights, swam in 8 different lakes, went over a dozen passes and last but not least, experienced the mentally toughest roller coaster of the journey, switching from absolute joy to the darkest darkness of inner storms filled with doubts and fears. The Canadian leg of the trip was sort of lined up beforehand and I was adventuring in a familiar environment. Now I was truly stepping into the total unplanned unknown and it was vertiginous. Time and distance started to freak me out but the absolute beauty of the pristine landscape always dragged me back to the moment and made me realize that it was just my mind messing up with me. At the end of the day it reinforced my willingness to dive into the unknown without planning and let things be. Day after day, learning to let it go a little bit more and fully trusting Burroughs quote : “Leap, and the net will appear.''
The idea of improvising my route day after day was confirmed by all the recommendations made by the people I met on my way. Being back on busy Nation Parks trails was shocking after wandering in the Canadian wilderness but it was the opportunity to meet tons of nice folks and scribble down their favorite secret or not-so-secret sports, trails and rides along the divide. The itinerary is slowly building itself up. It was also the perfect way to adapt to the American style and general mindset (it here is one).
Another big difference between the endless Canadian Wilderness and the US National Park was the amount of wildlife I encountered. On the Northern side of the border I would run into an animal every other day because there is so much room that they can live their lives and see humans every now-and-then. Here I had several close encounters everyday. On one side it was awesome. Seeing wildlife is always such a privilege. But at the same time it made me sad because I realized the horrific lack of room they have to roam. The density of population out of the park keeps them in it but even there they have nowhere to go without being bothered by humans. (fun facts : in the US there is no “bear policy” in the out of park campgrounds where in Canada it is bear country everywhere) The amazing trails system takes you everywhere to experience Nature’s beauty but it means that animals do not have the possibility to avoid those noisy bipeds. Everything always comes down the debate between arrangement for enjoyment and protection…
But why bears stick around here then ? Seeing the amount of berries I shoveled in my mouth over those few days, I cannot blame them!
Anyway, it was the perfect way to get me back on track and with my hip starting to hurt again, it is definitely time to jump on the bike again. Let’s pedal south !
Tramping, cycling, running, skiing, travelling, I keep exploring this amazing planet we live on. The following texts give an insight of my various wanderings. From poetry to trip reports or thoughts on particular subjects, this pages try to reflect how I travel through this modern world.