48.77 Miles; 4,163 Feet of Gain; Glacier Meadows RV Park to St. Mary, MT
The soft grass of the open meadows of the campground led to a unstirring rest. The sun rose early, but we didn't get up until nearly 7 am. We took our time to pack up, enjoy the large wind-blocking pavilion, charge our electronics, and double-check our new itinerary was feasible along the highways of East Glacier. There didn't seem to be too much beta surrounding road-riding this area, but we knew it provided the only sure access to St. Mary with the given blockage of snow up on the pass of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Janna and I spilled out from the campground to the highway and began a morning of climbing. In the cold, I love starting with a climb to warm up my muscles and stoke the internal metabolism of my body to catch my body in warmth. Bear Creek came tumbling down, its flow opposite our climb, its waters crashing and flowing through green meadows and darkened woods. We reached Marias Pass at 5216 feet by mid-morning where the lowest Continental Divide Crossing in Montana straddled Glacier National Park's mountains to the west and the sprawling grasslands to the east. A large obelisk sat commemorated to Theodore Roosevelt from the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
After a short break, we jumped back on the highway and coasted down from the pass into the ever-expanse of waving grass on the northern prairies. We crossed the border between the National Forest and entered the Blackfeet Nation at East Glacier (Omah-ko-yis). We bought some food from a small store, ate a little lunch, and then started finally heading northwards along the creased spine between flatlands and mountain-rise on our lefts. We pedaled through thickening aspen stands intercut with waterways coursing away from the peaks. All morning we pedaled up and down hills that invariably led us higher and higher into elevations spanning off the land. The pass on Highway 89 was preceded by arriving at Two Medicine Lake - it was a spectacular alpine lake lit with effervescent green and gray, licking the land with sentinel snow peaks making its backdrop in the heart of Glacier National Park. We stopped to take an insane number of photos of the spectacular lake.
We ascended the pass proper and dropped down a sharp grade into the further heart of the Blackfeet Nation. We were really in the rolling grasslands of the plans now and the snowy peaks seemed further west. Janna and I spun out on Highway 49 north spending hours in long-daylight. We passed by two Continental Divide Hikers heading south on the highway's shoulder as Glacier NP had closed part of the CDT to backpacker use due to an aggressive, food-motivated presence of Grizzlies. We also ran into two bikepackers from Switzerland riding in the opposite direction of us. Their intent was Mexico, but they were taking their time to see Canadian and American national parks on the way there. They warned us of grizzlies ahead, so we we kept our eyes peeled.
Eventually, we reached a massive highway road construction project and were forced to stop riding. The construction zone was so massive that construction workers told us we would not be allowed to ride across the several miles of maintenance in front of us. We were alarmed about how to proceed forward. The "pilot car" leading traffic told us we could load our bikes and bodies in the back of the construction truck and that they would drive us, and the following traffic, through the construction. We lugged our massive and heavy bikepacking setups into the orange-cone filled bed of the pickup, squashed our bodies to, and were sped away into a gravel mess of large dumptrucks and traffic speeding to keep up with the pilot car. Our driver helped us quickly unload on the other side of the construction zone so he could turn around and shuttle as pilot vehicle the traffic waiting on the other side.
We stepped off to the side and retightened/adjusted our gear. Janna and I now sat parallel to Divide Mountain on our left. To our rights, a thick, seemingly inpentreable forest of young conifers stretched into the distance. Ahead of us, St. Mary Lake and the East Flattop Mountains of Glacier National Park took up the entire plane of view. We sped downwards passing through old burn zones ripe with neon successional growth, rotting logs, and punctuated granite spires. We came to a monument to the Blackfeet Nation and stared at an overlook of the valley below. With that, we sped down to St. Mary and arrived at Johnson's RV Park and its awesome tent camping set up in the aspen grove weaving through its grounds. The owners told us to store our food in the laundry room to avoid issues with grizzlies that often patrolled the campground at night. Janna and I caught some warm showers and then rode into town to the small grocery store. We found some lentil burgers and fruit that we cooked in the store's microwave and ate at a table before returning to camp and sleeping before the sun's arc crossed past the horizon.