Swan Lake, MT to Seeley Lake, MT

58.1 mi / 11.4 mph / 2080 ft. climbing
Home: River Point Lolo National Forest Campground

Despite yesterday’s heat that necessitated a cool-down in Swan Lake, we woke early to a cool 48 degree morning, so the mountain climate is still doing its magic thing.

Less magic was the flat we discovered on Rett’s rear tire shortly after leaving the campground. You always feel “ugh, why didn’t we check the tires before rolling out?”, but flats are rare enough for us that developing such a habit would feel just as much like an inefficient use of time as spending 20 minutes this morning in front of the volunteer fire station does. Late yesterday she had rolled through some tar, and the tar on the tire would collect gravel until it rubbed annoyingly on the fender every time the wheel went around. It was nearly impossible to get the tar off, so I figured the best option was letting the road wear it off, but now I was cursing that laziness on this second long day in a row, because I was sure the tar had picked up something sharp enough to work through the tire. But no, it turned out to just be a shard of glass in an unrelated part of the tire.

Rett made up for the delay by moving faster than I expected she’d be doing after yesterday’s long ride. In 22 months, this would be only the second time that we’d exceed 110 miles in a 2-day period. The other was when we came into La Paz in Baja, and that finished with a long downhill, while this 2nd day was a long slow climb.

Mountains to the left.
Mountains to the right.

Halfway through this limited-services area I knew we would hit our one opportunity for groceries in a 36 hour period. I was expecting “glorified gas station”, but somehow this not-even-in-a-town mercantile was more like “smaller Whole Foods”. It had some of the fanciest groceries we’ve seen since…Seattle? But not just specialty items, it had standard stock too. We were so hungry for 2nd breakfast we made a quick purchase and ate that on their deck before going in for a real shopping round because Rett knew it was going to take a lot of time and effort to look through all the options. We ended up getting gnocchi and Pendleton sausage for dinner.

A little further down the road at the Condon (also not really a town) gas station we got a bag of ice to help battle the heat. Rett really wanted to make it 40 miles before stopping for lunch, but she was wilting, so luckily I convinced her to stop in a quiet crossroad where we could find shade. The steep hill that came after lunch is what finally convinced her that I’d made the right call.

Traffic on only-option MT-83 got somehow a bit worse today, so it was a joy once we were able to turn off onto gorgeous, empty Boy Scout Road once we neared the town of Seeley Lake. Unfortunately that meant we were heading to our campground on the west side of the lake, while town was on the east side, so no cold drinks or other amenities despite not being far from them as the crow flies.

Finally some peaceful riding on Boy Scout Road.
A nice fixer-upper.

At the National Forest campground I was surprised to see zero bear boxes anywhere. Hmm, that’s not good. Options: play dumb, and just leave our food in our panniers (which really wouldn’t be that much of a risk); find the host and ask how cyclists are supposed to keep their food bear-safe (and take the small risk of being told “oh, sorry, you’re not allowed to camp here”); or, ask a fellow camper if they’d be willing to store our food in their vehicle (and then let us retrieve it super-early in the morning).

First step, and a way to put off any decision, was to get another cool-down swim/shower in Seeley Lake (vault toilets and water spigots are the only amenities at this campground again). Apparently procrastination works, because after we returned the camp host came to us, saw the bikes, and….”I guess you’ll be needing a portable bear box? I’ll bring one over.” A portable bear box?! I’d never even heard of such a thing! It basically looks like an aluminum cooler (minus the insulation) with a couple of knobs (that bears can’t operate) to secure the lid. Now having seen one, I’m actually surprised that they aren’t more common. I’ve always wondered why campgrounds go to the trouble and expense of installing a bear box at every site (Glacier is a bit unusual in having a less than 1:1 ratio), when many (most?) go unused by RV and car campers. It seems having a set of portable ones available would be a lot cheaper. Though not nearly as useful (we use our bear boxes as extra tables, rain protection, garbage storage, etc.) so hopefully the idea doesn’t actually catch on.

A portable bear box! What a concept!
The view from inside our no-chance-of-rain tent.



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