Month: July 2018

USA – Great Divide and Glacier National Park

In the beautiful, small town Seeley Lake we rest and plan our onward journey. On the fourth evening we meet the first touring cyclist from Switzerland, Claude, in front of a grocery store and come straight into conversation. Like most cyclists on the Great Divide, he travels from Banff, Canada, to New Mexico. We show him our hidden high school sleeping place with awesome picnic tables. Only with the time we realise who this Claude from Geneva is! Yes, namely Claude Marthaler, who is a very big, well-known touring cyclist in Switzerland. Wow, we are honored to have met him. We have dinner together and very exciting discussions late into the night. Claude is an incredibly sympathic, grounded and an extremely interesting personality. In his whole life, all together, he has been on the road for 16 years 🚴😀. After our common, leisurely breakfast, our ways unfortunately seperate again.

Our start in the Great Divide behind Seeley Lake could not be better. A beautiful, narrow forest path leads us to a pass of 2000 meters. It is a beautiful area with breathtaking views of the snowy mountains. At Clearwater Lake we stop and enjoy a refreshing swim in the lake with a sensational view of the mountains. Wow, that’s just great 👍😀 We immediately decide to stay for the night! The next day uur path leads through a lot of forest. We camp by a stream and enjoy an ice-cold shower with the refreshing stream water. We are out early on Sunday. Every day we look out for a bear, but we haven’t seen one yet. All the more we are surprised about an big animal right in front us. First we think it is a fox and want to continue, but then we stop abruptly when we realise that this is a mountain lion! About 50 meters before us he walks calmly on the road, looks at us and disappears into the forest. We’re honored to have seen this rare wildcat. In the afternoon we turn off the Great Divide and add a single trail on our route. The “Beardance Trail” is a mostly flowy downhill down to Flathead Lake. Luckily no bear shows up, so it is a dance of joy over the beautiful, partly rooted forest paths. Some times the flow is interrupted by some muddy and stony sections, but this is easy to manage. In the evening we are warmly welcomed by our next Warmshower Risa and Jared with their sweet twin boys in Bigfork. We can camp in their big garden.

Unbelievable – on Tuesday July 17th we are already on the road for one year 😳 The time has passed in no time! To celebrate our anniversary we are invited by Risa and Jared for river rafting. We cycle to Columbia Falls, where they pick us up. It is a beautiful, comfortable river trip with many exciting conversations. In the evening they drive us to Whitefish, where we all together visit the Farmer Market with live music. Here in Whitefish we stay overnight with friends of Risa and Jared. Risa, Jared and the two twin boys we have taken into our hearts and they have inspired us with their joy of life and travel enthusiasm! Also their friends Bess and Bo in Whitefish welcomed us warmly.

Interestingly, this morning our plans have changed abruptly. Actually we wanted to go to Eureka on the Great Divide and cycle to Elkford in Canada. But somehow we had the feeling that there is again a lot of gravel road through dense forest. After a conversation in a coffee shop with the Canadian John we realised that we want to go to Banff, Canada, as soon as possible. So we decide to cycle the trail along Whitefish Lake and the following day to Glacier Park. The flowy trail around Whitefish Lake is fantastic and great fun! In the evening we dive into the cold river, because unfortunately once again the access to the lake is everywhere private. But bathing in the river, is a good compensation 😀👍

With a tailwind, the next day we return to the beautiful town of Whitefish and after lunch break we head in the direction of Glacier National Park. As the road “going to the sun” is only open for bicycles until 11.00 o’clock, the alarm rings at 5:00AM. At first it is extremely cold in the shady valley. The higher we get, the more beautiful the alpine mountains become. Traces of the big forest fire in 2003 are still very visible. We enjoy once again cycling a real mountain pass. At 2100m asl. we have reached the highest point of the Logan Pass. From there, like most other countless tourists, we hike to Hidden Lake and enjoy the beautiful, impressive panorama, observe the marmots and the rocky mountain goats. A breezy descent takes us down to St. Mary. It was a long, exhausting, but great day, which we end with a swim in Lower St. Mary Lake. Again with a strong tailwind we cycle to the Canadian border and after a few kilometers we get the desired ride with a pickup to Calgary👍😀.

Total distance: 692.28 km
Max elevation: 2017 m
Min elevation: 804 m
Total climbing: 5522 m
Total descent: -5619 m

USA – Cross Washington Trail

On Wednesday we wait for a dry window and cycle south to the USA border. With our visa we now enter the USA without any problems 🇺🇸. In Bellingham our Warmshower family Colleen, Jan and their son Eliot are waiting for us. It’s just super this Warmshower! Everywhere you are welcomed with open arms and as friends. In this way experiences are exchanged and we get great tips from local cyclists. The next stage to Deception-Park is very nice. On a pasture we see cows with enormously large horns. The nice thing here is, that we can talk to the farmer and get so much interesting information about these Texas Longhorns. In the evening we enjoy our dinner at the beach and have exciting conversations with a couple, who are on the road for the weekend with their minivan, bikes and accordion. Later we meet the retired cyclists Linda and Mike, who have been cycling South America and North America for four years. They invite us to camp on their campsite and we have an exciting exchange. It is also interesting to see how comfort is getting more important in old age and we are amazed at their camping chairs, massage role and the big tent. Military aircrafts thunder over our heads until late into the night. In Oak Harbour, half the population works at the airbase. The island is very beautiful and we enjoy the drive off the highway very much. We take the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend and cycle until late in the evening to Blyn, where we are allowed to camp in front of the Bob’s beautiful house in the forest. For breakfast Bob serves us a tasty smoothie and we can get to know him a little better. A very inspiring and exciting encounter with the author, photographer, musician and of course cyclist.

In Sequim we turn into the Olympic Park and start the Cross Washington Bikepacking Mountainbike Trail. The first part is very wooded. Fortunately we find a clearing for the overnight stay. The next day it goes up and down through the forest. The highlight is a beautiful but partly challenging single trail, which leads along a river over a beautiful forest floor. That’s fun!👍 Only in Quilcene we realize how hot it is and we are happy that we could cycle in the cool forest. Directly at the sea we find a beach access, which is rather rare as many places are private, and decide to spend the night there. We have already pitched our tent when we suddenly realise that the tide is coming in and the sea is getting closer and closer to our tent. So we have no other choice but to look for another place to sleep… After Kingston the trail is very varied! We even have a great view into the snowy mountains of the Olympic Park. From Port Gamble the trail leads through the forest and we are overwhelmed how good the biking with our still heavy bikes on the forest paths goes. It’s quite exhausting, but it’s a lot of fun! In Kingston we are warmly welcomed by our next Warmshower Cody. In the morning his mother makes us a delicious breakfast and we cycle to Bainbridge Island, where the ferry takes us to Seattle. Seattle has a beautiful pier, high skyscrapers and a lot of traffic. So we are glad that there is a separate bike path 👍 A little east of Seattle we will be picked up by our next Warmshower Eric with his car. We are extremely grateful to him, as he lives on an extremely steep hill. We are overwhelmed by the hospitality of Eric and his family! Eric cooks for us, makes waffles for breakfast and in the beautiful garden we have very exciting conversations, where we get to know so much about the USA and also the Mexicans. Eric helps us to solder the power cables of Andi’s bike and brings us to a very professional, multi-storey bike shop. Together with Eric, his wife Loretta and their twins we enjoy once again Indian food in a restaurant. Afterwards Loretta leads us to a beautiful viewpoint, with a breathtaking view over Seattle. After two very relaxing days we say goodbye to Eric and his family and cycle to North Bend at slightly cooler temperatures.

In Snoqualmie we visit the impressive waterfall and then cycle on the Iron Horse Trail, a former railway line, until we find a good place to camp. The next morning it is foggy and cool. The trail leads through a long, dark tunnel. Fortunately we have tailwind, so we are faster in Cle Elum. The track on the Iron Horse Trail is a bit monotonous. From Cle Elum we bike with full bags to Roslyn, where we sleep in a park. The next morning Roslyn turns out to be a beautiful village. In the park there is a dog event, which we enjoy watching: It’s about which dog obeys best and can jump the farthest into the water basin. The Sunday market takes place in the village itself, where we buy delicious apricots and cherries. Much later than planned, we set off again. Wow, these trails behind Roslyn are sensational, but with the steepness and the heat we get a few drops of sweat on our foreheads! 😅 It reminds us of Southern France😀👍 The flowing single trail is a beautiful, narrow forest path, which however has a few sandy sections. At night we are surprised by a rain shower and in the morning it is quite cool. On this day we master many vertical meters. For a short stretch we have to drive on the highway. What traffic this is!!!! As our way then leads again into the lonely and quiet forest, we breathe a sigh of relief. We camp at a forest clearing next to a stream we camp and hang up our food bag. This is always a bit of a challenge: A suitable tree and branch must be found, then a skilful throwing and knotting is required. And depending on the situation, this can quickly take half an hour 🙈….. At fresh 5 degrees Celsius, we wake up the next morning. It must have been much colder that night! On this day a few beautiful single trails are waiting for us and our efforts are rewarded with a sensational, breathtaking view. The path also leads us through a large forest fire area. There must have been a big fire in the last few years! We enjoy the variety of flowers along the way. Shortly before Wenatchee we cycle on an almost never-ending single trail. A few times we have to cross a creek, which challenges our driving skills and courage. 😂 Tired but happy from this beautiful stage we arrive in Wenatchee, where we are warmly welcomed by our Warmshower Kevin with his wife Michelle and the two little children. In their beautiful studio next to the big house and the beautiful garden we can spend the night and recharge our batteries for the next stage.

With a tailwind we cycle along the Columbia river and stop at a farm, where we feast on delicious cherries and juice. After this joyful refreshment we turn off the highway into a side valley and climb up a few meters. A beautiful view is offered from this hill. On the plateau we drive along large grain fields. At a single farm we ask for water and with full bottles we cycle some more kilometers until we want to set up our camp for the night. But then Andi is surprised by a sandy section in a curve and falls. Oh, no! What now? Andi’s knee is open and he’s in great pain. Since the injury looks more like bruising and abrasion, we decide to camp next to the road and hope that the pain will be relieved overnight. The next morning the situation has not improved, the knee is still very painful and a load on the knee is not possible. We already expect worse, but here we have no mobile phone reception and a car will never pass through here. So we check our food supply and stay at this place for another day. Judith goes to the nearby stream to get water and Andi rests. But then the pain gradually subsides after another night Andi can get back on his bike. At least cycling goes better than walking. So we were lucky again and only got away with a blue, open knee. Ufff, our journey continues! Our path leads through the special, impressive and beautiful gorge of the Douglas Creek. We have to cross streams several times. We only make it up an extremely steep ramp in pairs until we see a sensational view of the green, cultivated and irrigated valley. We ask for water at the first house. It’s an exciting encounter with this farmer couple. They warn us of rattlesnakes, which like to stay in the high grass. The area is very dry and there are only trees around the houses. So we stop for our lunch break under a tree of a farm. The farmer couple brings us two camping chairs and offers us a ride in the next town Ephrata. Since Andi’s knee does not hurt when biking, we have tail wind and it mostly goes down, we decline with thanks.

In Ephrata, we are buying food supplies for the next two days. Also the next day we enjoy tailwind. After Moseslake we pass real sand dunes. Several campers camp there and some campers cross the dunes on quads and motorcycles. The area has become flatter and we pass many grain fields and grasslands. Once again we ask a farmer for water and get into conversation. The woman is originally from Einsiedeln in Switzerland, but does not speaks Swiss German and she has never been to Switzerland. The retired man, originally from Norway, lives from his haymaking. In Warden the trail leads onto the old, former railway line John Wayne Pioneer Trail. The track is sandy and we make only slow progress. We let some air out of the tires, which makes it a bit easier to drive through the sandy road. Right next to the trail we camp. The next morning Andi pumps the wheels again, because we decided to change to the asphalted road, which leads parallel to the trail and has only little traffic. In Lind we find a nice coffee. The owner wants to bring the little village back to life with her coffee “Kindra’s coffee bar”. We also learn here that cyclists come by daily. But we didn’t meet anyone in this area. Strengthened we cycle further on lonely roads along large, wide grain fields to Ritzville. Mmh here in the supermarket we find our beloved peanutbutter😋. Again and again we are approached from where we come and where we go. Mostly we just say we started in Seattle, which for most is already an overwhelming, unbelievable distance. We cycle a few kilometres out of the town and camp on one of the few unfenced fields. The next morning we are horrified to discover that the wind direction has changed 😢 As if this were not enough to fight hard against the wind, our shortcut turns on a very bumpy, former railway line and ends on a railway bridge. At this bridge we look down on our trail. The board is extremely steep. With united strength and with the help of a rope (our new bear string) we rope ourselves down. We have to lift the bikes over a fence and balancing on a trunk over a small stream. Then we are back on the right trail. But after a few meters a locked gate blocks our way! So it means once more to take away all our bags and join forces to lift the bike over the gate. Although we are in a very dry area, this trail section is very wet for a short time. Suddenly three eagle owls 🦉 flutter out of the tree. We are quite enchanted by this sight. Unfortunately we are not fast enough to photograph them. The bear string will be used twice this day. From the bridge we draw water from the river. Finally in the late afternoon we find shade in a shelter for tractor and hay. Exhausted we lie down and decide to stay the night in the hope that the wind is again in the back the next day. Secluded from civilization, we don’t get much of Independent Day July 4th. From a distance we hear some fireworks. Such a beautiful place in the shade enjoys also the deer and the wild rabbits. When we meet the farmer the next day and he doesn’t mind if we stay longer, we decide to take a day off here. The following day the wind turned in our favor. We cycle over lonely fields and see two foxes. Now that we choose mainly asphalt roads and wider gravel roads, we make good progress and reach Rosalia at noon. After a good lunch break we drive a few kilometres towards Tekoa and camp behind grain silos. Tekoa, which we reach the next morning, is a cute little village and here ends the Washington Cross Trail.
Conclusion: We can highly recommend the Washington Cross Trail. It was mostly a lot of fun and very varied. A bit wider tyres would have been helpful, because of the partly sandy sections. Then we left the John Wayne Pioneer Trail and took the lonely asphalted roads. This is because the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is not always cyclist friendly with the closed gates, the sandy and rough gravel sections.

The landscape is greener again and it has increasingly shady fir trees. After a few kilometers we are in the new state Idaho. To our surprise, our trail out of Plummer is a very small asphalted cycle path, which used to be a railway line “Coeur d’Alene Trail”. The path leads along a stream and later along the lake. The Americans love strong engines, which can also be seen here on the lake with many speed boats and jet skis. After almost a year we enjoy bathing in a lake again. 😀👍 We start the next day comfortably and cycle on the beautiful bike path like many other Sunday excursionists. Nature is very impressive here. So we marvel at a pond over the beautiful and many water lilies and the pelicans. We are making rapid progress. So we are already in Smelterville in the late afternoon, where our GPS shows 14’000 kilometres. We are approached by an elderly man with a white beard. We start talking, but we have trouble understanding him, because the beard swallows a lot. He is impressed by our way of travel and offers us a ride to the Lookout Pass. This ride is just the right thing for us, because we can gain some time and our tired legs are grateful. Unfortunately, we were not so enthusiastic about the downhill the next day. This Olympian Regional Cycle Route was simply a gravel road in the forest along the freeway. In addition, our second trail was over and it was now the question of how and on which route we would best get into the Great Divide. So we decided to try our luck with hichhicking to the next bigger city Missoula. Barely 5 minutes later the truck driver Dan stops and takes us along. It turns out that he was a successful racing cyclist who won many races in the USA and almost made it to the professional level. Coincidence or providence made him go not only to Missoula, but to Seeley Lake. That’s where it was perfect for us to get into the Great Divide.

Total distance: 1536.97 km
Max elevation: 1722 m
Min elevation: -43 m
Total climbing: 16233 m
Total descent: -15032 m