Lying in my tent in the early hours, listening to this huge bear, just the other side of a sheet of nylon, ripping the drybag to shreds to get to all our food which I had stupidly left only a few inches from my head was absolutely terrifying. People have died for such stupid mistakes. It made Paul’s day when he showed me a photo of the grizzly … in reality, a cutsie little squirrel! Bang goes our breakfast.
Two months of cycling and we’re still seeing different scenery nearly every day. Sometimes it’s a gradual change, but often going over a pass into a different valley and geological system everything changes dramatically … and it just gets better and better, partly because you’d think they’d run out of new scenery by now! The east typically had massive, wide open plains but since heading north from Pueblo, snow-topped mountains with wooded valleys have dominated.
As we’ve said before, words can’t do it justice … it’s the sight, sound, silence, sense of space, solitude, smell … you really do ‘have to be there’ … and it’s best by bike by far! Nothing else comes close. Try it, and tell me I’m wrong. Today it was sixty miles, all downhill, following the Lochsa River in a pristine green wooded valley. Beautiful. Shame that we had to pedal all day due to that darn headwind.
Stopping at a thermal spring to go for a ‘refreshing’ dip in the increasing heat of the sun, we were alarmed to see a man in his early twenties coming down the trail with an assault rifle and a sidearm. Was camping next to a thermal spring really that dangerous? Was the guy a crazy … or did he feel the need to protect himself from crazies or did he just like shooting stuff? The latter could explain why Paul and I have noticed a distinct lack of wildlife. They just shoot everything.
I picked up a hunting regulations pamphlet from a gas station (I needed some light bedtime reading), and it turns out you can kill most things with mostly anything mostly anytime. But why would you want to shaft a green bullfrog with a crossbow bolt, except in April mind you, or blow it apart with a .22 rifle? Just because you can? I can’t see how killing like that could ever be considered hunting or sport … or right.
By early afternoon it was hot. Stiflingly hot. Even the road was radiating heat. The consensus was that it was akin to cycling into a hairdryer on full blast. A dip in the snow-melt waters of the river helped for a short while but it still didn’t prevent Paul and Mike from getting cracking headaches … Paul was probably suffering from heat stroke by then and had to lie down in the verge while I soaked his bandana in the river and put it over his head. I’m surprised no-one stopped … he looked like a corpse.
Rising from the dead with the promise of food (why didn’t Kate tell me that always works with Paul?), we eventually reached Lowell at 6pm, a small campsite complex on the Lochsa, where Jerry and Jonathan were already putting away cheesy pasta and cherry pie. Over more food, we all discussed tomorrow’s ridiculously steep 2000ft climb at 20 miles in … we could camp here, get up at 4, leave by 5, get to Kooskia for breakfast at 7 and then hit the hill before it got too hot again. Sorted. Then a fed and now revitalised Paul came up with a real non-starter of an idea … ‘How about going to Kooskia now?’ Oh, how we laughed … and then got on our bikes and did just that.
But not without me falling foul of the law for the third time … yesterday I got picked on by a grumpy forest ranger just because I made him take his foot off the throttle and use his steering wheel to avoid me. I was not ‘wobbling’ anywhere near as much as he said! This time the local police pulled alongside and had a pop at me for not having a rear light. Was it my fault he couldn’t see it under the socks and padded knickers drying on the back of my bike? And it wasn’t even dark.
But by then, it was mercifully cool. Unable to find any stealth camping opportunities, we booked into the only motel in Kooskia which, as is often the case, promised more than it delivered. But with 80 miles under our belts now, at least we didn’t have to get up at 4am, so we could enjoy the rubbish beds for 3 extra hours!
Today’s Miles: 86
Miles since First Landing: 3591