Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

EPIC Bike Rides you CAN’T Miss this year!

Post by: Jake

Last year Veronica and I really got into road biking, and “accidentally” discovered one of (if not “THE”) the best bike ride in the world.  We drove up to Glacier National Park for our annual July 4th weekend in Hungry Horse, Montana.  Typically, we do a few day hikes in the park, and then watch some amazing fireworks in downtown Hungry Horse.  Last year, however, was a mega snow year and they were still plowing the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.  We happen to have  our bikes so thought it might be fun to do a little road biking during a low traffic time of year.  We didn’t know they allowed bikes past the road closure!   After hearing this, of course we jumped at the opportunity.  With plowing at 95% complete, we were able to bike most of the way towards the summit of Logan Pass.  It’s a memory we’ll NEVER forget, and something I highly encourage everyone to try at least once in their life.

Going-To-The-Sun-Road Glacier National Park, Montana
I’ve been keeping an eye on the plowing at Glacier Here. and it looks like the “ideal” time to try and bike a good stretch of the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be near the End of April through around the 2nd or 3rd week of May.  Check out all the plowing pictures Here.  If you’re planning a trip, plan to bike on a weekend as this is what you’re looking for: “West side road crews will not be plowing on Saturday or Sunday, so there will be no hiker/biker restrictions in place this weekend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.”

Independence Pass, Colorado
As most people in Colorado know, Independence Pass is one of the most scenic passes in the U.S. and it connects Leadville to Aspen.  Every winter it’s closed due to snow, however for a couple weeks before they open the road to cars, the road is completely plowed and open to bikes!  This year the road is scheduled to open to cars on May 24th, so plan accordingly and get up there for one of the most incredible experiences you’ll have on a bike!

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Glacier National Park – Round 2

Post by:  Jake

Last weekend Veronica and I hoped back in the car for the 3.5-hour drive north to Glacier National Park for another fun weekend spent hiking and biking some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.  We played hosts to Pete and Kristin, a couple out of town friends that were visiting with their beautiful 2-year old daughter.  While our last trip to the park was only 3 days prior, the changes we saw between trips were certainly noticeable.  Snow bridges had collapsed, the high country was starting to open, and the water in the raging rivers had begun to recede.

During this trip we spent the first day hiking yet another brand new (to us) trail, this time to Sperry Chalet.  While I have been coming to the park nearly every year for the past 22-years, this easily accessible trail has always looked a bit too daunting to attempt till now.  6.7 miles of steady climbing up 3,300 feet of elevation gain take hikers from Lake McDonald lodge to the 98-year old Sperry Chalet.  While visitors with reservations can get a room for the night at the Chalet, it usually books solid for the summer several months in advance.  That means, to do a day hike to the Chalet you’ll need to hike a total of 13.4 miles up and down quite a bit of elevation.  While the Chalet wasn’t quite open when we arrived (due to the massive snow this year) we did talk to a few employees who stated on a normal day during the summer you can order a hot breakfast, a sack lunch, or a hot dinner from the diner.  Certainly enough motivation for me to come back! 

Our next day in the park we again biked the closed-to-vehicles Going-To-The-Sun-Road.  11-miles up and 11-miles back down on the west side of Logan Pass.  Magnificent views of snow capped peaks and lush forests, hundreds of waterfalls, and abundant wildlife make biking this road an absolute must-do for any cyclist.  As I said in an earlier post, every visit to the park is unique and this was absolutely true again as we saw not one, but two black bears! 

On our last day our intense friends ran a 1/2 marathon, just for the fun of it.  While they were running, we hopped on one of the new free park shuttle busses and rode to Apgar to grab some lunch.  After ordering a couple wraps, we lucked out by getting right back on another shuttle headed back to Avalanche.  We were told busses run an hour apart, so chances are pretty good that you could be waiting for quite a while for one of these busses.  Apparently, only 2% of the parks 2.5-million visitors use the shuttle system, and with an hour wait between tiny little busses it’s no wonder.  Additionally, a car filled with as many people as you can pack in costs $25 to enter the park while each and every biker is charged $15 each to enter! As Pete would say, Edward Abby is rolling in his grave!

Back at the car, we met up with our friends and did one last quick hike up to Avalanche lake.  Although I’ve hiked to Avalanche lake dozens of times, it never gets old.  I could sit at its shore for days staring up at the cliffs with cascading waterfalls pounding down, and mountain goats roaming.  If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a moose down low or some grizzly bears roaming on the high snowfields.  For another perspective of this Glacier Park trip check out our friends blogs here and herePete is a hardcore super distance runner.  He’s been training all summer in the Wasatch mountains of Utah for a 100-mile trail run!  Kristin’s one of the most active mom’s I’ve ever seen, running 1/2 marathons for fun on vacation!  She’s got some outstanding perspectives on raising kids and staying active.

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Glacier National Park — Mountain Biking Beyond the Barriers

Post by:  Jake

Over the 4th of July holiday weekend Veronica and I joined a couple other family members on our annual trip to Glacier National Park.  My family has had a cabin near Glacier for over twenty years and I’ve spent countless summers up there exploring as much of the park as possible. Despite my best efforts there is still so much in the park I have yet to see or experience.  This recent trip was a great example of that.  The famous Going-To-The-Sun-Road is still closed to vehicle traffic and likely will be for the next several weeks as an unbelievable amount of snow is still blanketing the park.  In some areas they’ve seen as much as 300-400% of the average snowpack, and it simply isn’t melting as fast as it would during a “normal” year.

Knowing the road would likely still be closed to vehicle traffic, we thought we’d try something new this year and bring our mountain bikes to bike the section of Logan Pass (Going-To-The-Sun-Road) open to hikers and bikers. Upon arrival, the ranger at the entrance stated there were no restrictions to bike/hiker traffic that morning since the plows were not running.  She stated we could go all the way up to “the big drift” if we wanted, but we’d probably want to turn around there.  I could hardly believe what I was hearing and thought to myself how incredible it will be to bike one of the most beautiful roads in the nation, with zero traffic!

Although the grade is between 6-7%, we never tired out as we could hardly bike 500 feet before stopping for more pictures.  Familiar sites took on a completely new look as we slowly pedaled by, examining the landscape in detail instead of through the windshield or sunroof of a fast moving car. Countless times we stopped right in the middle of the road and set down our bikes wherever we pleased so we could walk a few feet and touch the snow, peer over a cliff, or feel the cascading water dripping down over rocky faces.

Once at “The Big Drift” we locked up our bikes and continued on foot through the last 1/2-mile to the visitors center on top of Logan Pass.  As we walked around the deserted visitor center and empty parking lot, we had an eerie feeling as if we were being filmed in one of those “end of the world” type movies.  I was half expecting a heard of zombies to start chasing us off the mountain.  Instead, we were greeted by unusually shy ground squirrels that hadn’t seen humans in nearly 10 months.

Back on our bikes we started to descend the twisted path.  Speeding around one of the first corners we slammed on our brakes, nearly running head on into a couple very large big horn sheep that were walking up the vacant road.  Not really knowing what to do, our party stared at the sheep while they stared back in similar apprehension.  We scooted over as much as we could on the two-lane road while they simply walked passed in the other lane.  It was truly an up-close once-in-a-lifetime encounter we won’t soon forget.

The next day we biked the west side of Logan Pass, however this time hikers/bikers were restricted to the first 11 miles past the vehicle closure, a few miles shy of the roads summit.  A different landscape, and another unique experience, the west side of Logan Pass proved to be just as incredible as the east side.  While the east side of the park felt relatively deserted, the west side was packed with hikers and bikers traveling up and down the road.  Even with crowds of people we were still able to enjoy the park in a slower, up close and personal fashion, and we enjoyed every second of it!

Even though we’ve visited the park countless times, each trip brings exciting new adventures and experiences.  Biking Going-to-the-Sun-Road without vehicle traffic is truly an incredible experience.  If you ever get the opportunity to do it, jump at the chance.  Unless we can get the parks department to close the road to private vehicle traffic (they can keep running the buss shuttles) one day a week, you’ll have to hit it just before they are done plowing, but before serious road construction starts.  There’s a window of about 2 weeks each year while they are finishing up plowing operations.  Keep an eye on the parks updates to the plowing status and try and plan a trip for a weekend date that falls near the end of the plowing season.  It’s incredibly challenging to plan since the snowpack is different every year, but on normal years the months of May and June are typically the plowing season.  The earliest I’ve ever seen the road open to vehicle traffic is on Memorial Day weekend.  And the latest… well, check back in a few weeks as this year has shattered all previous records.