Glacier Ride 2015 was a resounding success! Thirty incredible riders rode 250 miles of the most stunning scenery in America.
The result was a trip of a lifetime and more than $100,000 raised to support bicycle projects, sustainable transportation and research in Glacier National Park through the efforts of the Glacier National Park Conservancy. These inaugural Glacier Riders were greeted by the Glacier National Park Superintendent as leaders for alternate transportation in the park, a vitally important issue as Glacier visitation continues to expand, putting increasing pressure upon fragile resources. Bicycling is increasing in the park as visitors looks for a healthier, engaging way to experience Glacier. The Park Service is interested in all park users having a sustainable and safe means to explore Glacier, and these riders are on the forefront of how the next generation of people will see the parks.
The week seemed liked a never ending highlight reel of epic vistas, inspiring talks, and plenty of wildlife. Here is a recap of the incredible week that these riders shared together.
Day one began with a lovely spin up the quiet Camas Road and a visit to the iconic North Fork of the Flathead River. Riders saw their first bear foraging on the side of the road on their way back to camp. The evening ended at the Apgar Camp near Lake McDonald, where park ranger and interpreter, Bill Shustrom, joined riders to tell stories and give an overview of Glacier’s immense geologic history. Glacier National Park Conservancy CEO Mark Priess inspired riders with a lively talk about GNPC’s work in the park and announced that the Glacier Riders fully funded a very important project in the 2016 Glacier Field Guide related to cycling in the park. The Field Guide highlights and identifies the park’s highest priorities in education, preservation, and research to ensure the highest and best use of private support, and full leverage of federal dollars. The group was excited to hear that their hard work fundraising was going to support such great projects!
The Glacier Riders at the start in West Glacier
Entering Glacier National Park
Sunset on Lake McDonald
Special interpretive talk for Glacier Riders in camp with a lengendary Glacier Park Ranger
Day 2 was a very early morning as riders prepared for one of the most epic rides in the world. Our camp chefs made sure our riders were fed and caffeinated before they started riding at 7am to climb Going-to-the-Sun Road. The main climb, from Avalanche Campground to Logan Pass, is a 16-mile sustained climb covering 3,200 feet in elevation in which you cross the Continental Divide (Elevation: 6,646 ft). Quite the accomplishment for a Wednesday morning! By 11am, everyone was gathered at the Pass with a stunning view of Mt. Reynolds and Clements Mountains towering over fields of wildflowers, and the long knife-like edge of the Garden Wall framing the view to the north. The red rock peaks of the Eastern side of the Continental Divide stood like statues against a lush, glacier-molded U-shape valley where our riders would pedal in the afternoon. Groups of big horn sheep and mountain goats foraged near the roads and trails in this stunning landscape.
Getting our climb on Going-to-the-Sun Road
Exquisite bike parking at Logan Pass
Riders make it to the top!
Riding down from Logan Pass included beautiful stops at Sunrift Gorge and St. Mary Lake, as well as a view of Jackson Glacier. Jackson Glacier is one of only 25 remaining glaciers in the entire park, compared to the 150 that existed there in 1850.
Glacier Riders enjoying the view of Jackson Glacier on their way down Going-to-the-Sun Road
That night, the group camped in an aspen field in St. Mary along the Eastern border of the park where we heard from Jeff Mow, the Glacier National Park Superintendent. Most of Jeff’s 26-year career with the National Park Service (NPS) has been in Alaska. Over the course of 22 years in Alaska, Jeff served as a law enforcement ranger, Chief Ranger, Management Assistant, and Superintendent across seven NPS units. Most recently he had assignments as the superintendent of Kenai Fjords National Park and the acting superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve. Jeff joined us for a engaging talk about the future of the park and efforts by the Park Service to address climate change.
Jeff discussed how to prepare the park and its services to address the needs of millennials who are less interested in driving and more interested in bicycling and using shared transportation. Dinner that night included Super Pasta – a legendary Glacier Guides meal and a camp favorite. The meal is a high energy, high protein vegetarian dish that is perfect for fueling riders for the big ride into Canada the following day!
Glacier Riders with Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow
Today’s ride clocked in at 70 miles which included an optional spin down the Many Glacier Road to visit the Many Glacier Hotel. From here, riders had stunning lakeside views of Grinnell Point towering above Swiftcurrent Lake. The Many Glacier Valley is world-famous for its incredible bear habitat, its wildflowers, and Grinnell Glacier, a glacier that is a centerpiece of climate research in the park.
View of Grinnell Point over Swiftcurrent Lake
After riding in and out of the Many Glacier Valley, riders continued their northward journey to the U.S./Canada border by pedaling along Chief Mountain Highway with epic views of Chief Mountain. The mountain is one of the most prominent peaks and rock formations along the Rocky Mountain Front, a 200 mi (320 km) long overthrust fault, known as the Lewis Overthrust, which extends from central Montana into southern Alberta, Canada. Chief Mountain remains sacred to many First Nations peoples from both the US and Canada. Natives from all over North America travel to the base of the mountain for sweet grass ceremonies, placing of prayer flags and other religious rites.
Glacier Rider with the iconic Chief Mountain in the background
Riders crossed the border and descended in the Waterton Valley and Waterton Lakes National Park. In 1932, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was formed from Waterton and Glacier, and became the world’s first International Peace Park. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was dedicated to world peace by Sir Charles Arthur Mander on behalf of Rotary International. This small park has incredible diversity for its size and the main highlight is Waterton Lake — the deepest in the Canadian Rockies — overlooked by the historic Prince of Wales Hotel (another National Historic Site!). Waterton, itself, is a World Biosphere Reserve. The group camped along Waterton Lake, the grassy campground ringed by mountains. Waterton is known for its abundant wildlife in the small townsite. It’s not uncommon to see big horn sheep walking the streets, and that night we enjoyed the antics of Columbian ground squirrels who build tunnels throughout the camp!
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is the world’s first International Peace Park
Today was a layover day to rest up for the big ride back to the U.S. the following day. Riders had the option to learn about Waterton by hiking or taking a guided boat tour down the length of Waterton Lake. Many of our riders opted for the long boat ride to the Goat Haunt area of the park and a short hike to Kootenai Lake. Some of our riders completed the hike to stunningly beautiful Crypt Lake, which includes a wire assisted traverse, ladder assisted climb, and a tunnel. This difficult but epic hike is consistently voted one of Canada’s best!
Group photo at Kootenai Lake
The wire assisted traverse, ladder, and tunnel on the approach to Crypt Lake
That evening riders gathered in camp for an impromptu game of croquet before Waterton Park Superintendent Ifan Thomas joined us to speak about the region that he manages. Ifan has 26 years experience with Parks Canada and, before moving to Waterton, had been the Field Unit Superintendent for the Western Arctic, which included Aulavik, Ivvavik and Tuktuk Nogait National Parks and two other national landmarks. In this position, Thomas is responsible for the stewardship of the southern Alberta sites, protection of their ecological and commemorative integrity, and for creating and promoting meaningful visitor experience opportunities.
Waterton Park Superintendent Ifan Thomas speaks to riders in camp
A sign near camp! Deer disco party?
No, no, no 🙂 Deer can be aggressive when protecting their offspring, so visitors, especially those with dogs, are warned to steer clear of deer!
Today the Glacier Riders had the option to attempt a big ‘Imperial’ century ride (100 miles+) or a ‘Metric’ century ride (100 kilometers+). Anticipation was high for this epic day, with imperial century riders departing camp at 7am. Riders retraced our route out of Waterton, back across the border, and south to St. Mary, Montana where they began a gorgeous ride along Looking Glass Pass. The Pass is a quiet climb into the Two Medicine Valley of Glacier that is known as the sister road to Going-to-the-Sun Road. The climb continued to Two Medicine Lake, where Sinopah Mountain dominates the view from its position on the western terminus of the lake. Immediately to the north, Rising Wolf Mountain rises over 4,450 feet above the lake. Riders fueled up at the camp store before beginning the descent out of Two Medicine to the Glacier Park Lodge. The ride ended with a screaming tailwind to our camp (some riders were averaging more than 40mph uphill!) at the Tipi Village on the Blackfeet Reservation. In the last mile of the 105 miles, riders turned into a headwind which made for a grueling finale. But of course, the leader staff were quick to cheer them on with cold beer, good food and spectacular views of the Great Prairie as it transitions into the Rocky Mountain Front.
Quiet morning riding
Encountering small, local wildlife at Two Medicine
Climbing into the clouds
At mile 80 of the century!
Our camp on the last night
To complete our circumnavigation of Glacier and Waterton National Parks, this tired-legged crew returned to West Glacier via raft along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. While temperatures exceeded 100 degrees in the park for several weeks before Glacier Ride, a cold front moved in helping to drive away smoke from nearby fires in Washington and as far away as Alaska, clearing the skies. The temperature dropped to 65 degrees which made for a beautiful, but cooler raft trip. Neoprene booties and splashshirts were distributed to the riders, but those who sat in the front of the rafts definitely got a cold dousing as they hit the rapids! While it was cooler, overall river temperatures are on the rise which is putting unusual stress on Glacier’s unique and diverse fish population.
We reached the end of our charitable adventure right where we began in West Glacier, Montana. These individuals accomplished an astounding ride and journey through two national parks and their efforts will never be forgotten.
A huge congratulations to our two top fundraisers (Greg Olsen and John Grossman below) who raised more than $12,000 each!
Something delicious after a 75 mile day
See you in 2016!
REGISTRATION FOR GLACIER RIDE 2016 IS NOW OPEN. LIMITED SPACE. LEARN MORE HERE.