*this is very long, but I think it’s worth the read*
So day three of our ride was a little crazy to put it lightly. After a hot breakfast and a conversation with a local coal miner named Steve, we headed out around 7. We started out with about 20 miles of riding on the rode. It was beautiful, everything was super misty and there were little creeks that seemed to start out of nowhere. Also on the road, we had lots of experiences with coal. Coal mining is one of the main ways to make a living in the area we were riding through. So while we were on the road we passed three coal mines and many a coal ruck. Unfortunately, they gave off a lot of dust that got into our eyes and forced us to breathe strictly through our noses. I couldn’t imagine working in one.
Eventually we hit the dirt section and we were officially in bear country, more specifically we were in the area with the highest concentration of grizzly bears in North America. I began to ring the bell we bought to scare off bears almost every 100 yards. It was slow going as dirt is a rather loose term or the road we were on. Due to the moisture in the air and the rainstorm the previous night, the trail was mud. It was the sticky kind of mud that made it really hard to pedal and it even clogged my bike’s mudflap at one point. After getting out of the worst of the mud and finishing our climb over a pass we stopped for a quick candy bar break (if you ever make it to Canada and are craving a candy bar, I highly suggest Oh Henry! or Wunderbar). After our break we headed down the other side of the pass, hoping to makeup the time we’d lost to the mud. However, on our descent we discovered the trail lead into a river. Thinking we’d just have to ford it we took off our socks and shoes and pushed our bikes across. When we got to the other side, there was no trail to be found. My dad hiked through brush- bear spray in hand with safety off- and saw the trail started back on the other side of the river. So we took our shoes and socks back off and walked back through the water, which was freezing. We had to hike through it for about 200 feet before putting our shoes back on. We then looked at the trail and found the trail had, in fact, become a river. At that point we were sick of taking our shoes off, so we decided just to ride through the river. We had to ride through 7 or 8 more rivers and several marshes. I’d like to say that I made it through all of them while my dad fell over in one. I felt very pleased with myself. After the river crossings got more sparse, our ride downhill went much quicker, until we hit the bottom that is. There, we discovered a large sign reading “Bridge Out”. We looked out to see a rushing, forty-foot wide river that looked incredibly deep. There was a decent amount of cussing at this part, but I’m not going to write that. We decided our best option was to walk across. We left our shoes and socks on at this point, since they were already soaked from all the river riding, rolled up our shorts and crossed. My poor dad crossed three times, twice carrying bikes on his shoulders and a third time to help me. We got to the other side and ate lunch, cursing the river the whole time.
After lunch we started the second part of our day, with no rivers!! The trail was perfectly dry and we made up a lot of time. It was a really fun section to ride on as the dirt was pretty firmly packed and we could move much faster. We made it over the top of what we thought was our second pass and were beginning our descent to the campground when we got a text from my mom on the Garmin. It read, “You’re going the wrong way!”. We checked the Garmin and the map and while our location was of trail on the Garmin, our location seemed to match up with where we should be on the map, so we ignored it and continued riding. At a bridge crossing my mom texted us again, saying she didn’t know why we were going that way, but we needed to either turn around or cross the bridge we were at and come to her, cutting off over 100 miles of the Great Divide Trail. While the second option seemed nicer considering we now had to go uphill quite a ways, we went with the first because this trip is about doing the Great Divide for Alzheimer’s, not just the parts we feel like doing because they’re easier. So we headed back up the way we came for about 7 miles until reaching the turn we had missed, making and 82 mile day a 96 mile day. We now had to climb again over Flathead Pass, which was very long and very steep. Every time we got to the top of a hill, we went downhill for a little ways, thinking it was over, then another steep hill would appear out of the clouds. It was also pouring on us at this point, I should mention. After forever, the uphills stopped and the downhill began. We went for miles on the downhill, and still couldn’t find Wigwam Campground, where we would be staying for the night. We considered just camping on the side of the trail at one point, but I wanted to push on and just get there. Eventually after a very long time, we found the campground. By the time we got there, it was around 10:15, and we had spent about 15 hours riding our bikes. While it was a bit of a rough day, it was all part of the adventure, and I genuinely had a good time riding through the rivers, it made me feel like a badass. So while it was a long day, I can still appreciate it and be thankful for the memories I’m making.