I was up early with plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely coffee or two and a morning snack at the KOA office, but to my dismay, it did not open until 9. Our plan was for Brent and Julie to meet me there at 8, which meant no breakfast for a while for me.
We headed out on I-90, but only as far as US 12 where we hopped off to connect with MT 141, where we thought we'd find fuel. Exploring the little settlement of Avon, we could find no gas and by then it was getting critical. We decided to head out of our way east toward Helena on US 12 figuring there had to be something soon as the highway approached the big-for-Montana city. By Elliston we found fuel. I had to make due with something for breakfast in the little store there, but I managed to find a decent muffin and hot coffee.
Full of fuel once more we headed back to 141, which headed north to MT 200 that arched west to connect with MT 83. We followed 83 with the Continental Divide and the Lewis and Clarke National Forest shadowing us on the east. We passed Seeley Lake then Swan Lake, where a fiend of mine who grew up here had told me her parents had a cabin. Past Swan Lake we took MT 35 to US 2, just east of Kalispell, which would become Going to the Sun Highway as it entered Glacier National Park and crossed to Saint Mary over the towering mountains at Logan Pass before looping back to itself around the southern edge of the park.
Approaching Glacier National Park
We entered the park in hopes of following that route all the way around, but stopping at the visitor center at West Glacier, we found out the road was still closed from winter snows. We could only opt for a sixteen mile ride in as far as it was open, then turn around and return the way we came in.
Lake along Going to the Sun Highway
Glacier on this mountain peak along Going to the Sun Highway
Flathead River in Glacier National Park
On Going to the Sun Highway
Chasing Capt. Crash and Julie across Montana
Exiting the magnificent park, we stopped at the Huckleberry Patch for a taste of the local delicacy. Apparently, huckleberries here are valued like I recall spring Morell mushrooms were where I grew up in Michigan, with people having their secret patches that they reveal to no one, jealously guarding their find. The store and restaurant looked very much like a tourist trap out front but inside was quite nice with decent souvenirs and anything that could possibly be made with huckleberries for sale. I bought my Montana friend a small jar of huckleberry preserves, as she had told me, “Whatever you do, make sure you try huckleberry pie when you are out there.” After paying for the preserves I made sure to do as she said sitting down to lunch in the diner, with me having an elk burger washed down with coffee flavored with, what else?, huckleberries and finishing off the meal with a big slice of delicious huckleberry pie. Brent and Julie had theirs a la mode, with huckleberry ice cream atop their slices.
Huckleberry pie at the Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, MT
Leaving the Huckleberry Patch, we headed west toward Kalispell on US 2. Brent loves old time roadside motels that still have that back-in-the-day aura about them and so they stopped at a rustic motel just outside of Kalispell. Brent and Julie were heading back from there to Nampa, Idaho, in the morning so we said out goodbyes outside the office of the motel and I rolled on in search of Chris and Kimberly's place, another ADVRider, who had offered me a place to stay for the night near Kila, just west of Kalispell.
I plugged in the address on Coon Hollow Road into my phone's GPS app, my regular GPS having given up the ghost a few days into the trip. The phone sent me south of Kalispell and west of US 93. Kila was on US 2, west of Kalispell, but considering how addresses are sometimes oddly assigned I thought it was not too far-fetched that Chris's place was in that area. I followed the phone up twisting and branching gravel roads, always climbing, until I was on Coon Hollow Road. Now confident I kept following the phone's instructions until I came to a dead stop with a locked gate across my path and a wildly diminished path leading way from it on the other side. It was getting dark and I had already seen deer beside the road on my way up and, of course, I had no cell signal to call Chris. I turned around, figuring I would return to US 2 and head out to Kila and if I had a signal there, give Chris a call and tell him where I was so I could get exact direction from there.
On my way down I met a fellow rider who had passed me as I went up. He was the epitome of “biker” with braided beard, sitting on his chopped Harley rat bike, with an old helmet poised atop his headlight bucket instead of his head. He stopped and we chatted about bike and Triumphs then he informed me that I had indeed been on Coon Hollow Road, but that it crossed the mountain past the gate and from there it was only passable on a small dirt bike, if you knew your way. He said he bet I should have gone on to Kila and gotten on the other end that headed up here. Ah! I had a plan. He told me, in true generous rider fashion, that if I was unable to find my friend I could return to his place and camp out there. I thanked hi, we shook hands from bike to bike, then I rolled back down off the moutain and toward Kila.
At Kila, at the little pub my biker friend had told me about, I turned left and soon was back on the other end of gravel Coon Hollow Road, and I rolled up into Chris's driveway with little light left.
Chris and his wife, Kimberly, loved having riding guests and even had a guest book in the guestroom set aside for visitors, in which Kimberly asked me to write my name, where I was from, and something about the trip I was on. I was shown where the washer and drier was and I took advantage of the first time I had a chance to wash clothes on the entire trip. I called home from their terrace and in the dwindling light saw two deer wandering around the yard and I talked to my wife. I also had a chance to shower and didn't have to worry about a wet head. I fell asleep in under the thick warm blankets in complete contentment and slept through the night.
So far 3,627.4 miles