Somewhere near Grave Creek – Somewhere near Swan Lake; 230km distance, 2,500m climbing
Another day, another grey start, another pass for breakfast. Up and out of the campsite by 5am following Deans tyre tracks. By the time I’m back en route and eating I spot Rick packing his kit in a copse of woods to the side, first time I realise that I should maybe not take the first spot, there are others nearby. Always greener grass in the woods.
The first few hours of the day pass in a mass of trees. Not much else, gravel and trees, it’s a little suffocating some riders tell me. I just found it focusing, all you have to do is pedal and pedal. After a while the clouds burn off and the terrain flattens out. In Divide terms this means rolling – not flat. I pedal on hard and by 8am have found Dave Stowe and we roll along together. His buddie isn’t feeling so well and Dave is having some hub issues. Having ridden the 2014 storm Dave is positive about how conditions are, telling stories of the snow bound HAB they have over Red Meadow Lake where we’re heading for.
We pull off to a church to use the facilities, dry off kit and eat a bit. Note to self, this would be a good porch to sleep under next time. Dave spins off and I take my time to relax so I can ride my own pace. The wind isn’t too bad yet and it should be ok for the afternoon. Rolling gravel and sun lead to the bottom of the climb up to Red Meadow Lake. This is bear country and I’m reminded of it watching two fell runners out carrying bear spray instead of water. A sharp reminder.
A long climb later and I get to the top. For the first time I’ve really not been feeling great. I stop at a park bench and take out some food, more than normal and eat it all downing it with a bottle of coke and some Vit I. My knees are at me a bit and I’m not sure why, I try to dismiss it, chat with Hugh and get an odd comment or two from Rick about carrying 750ml of Coke all the way up. All the better tastewise at altitude…
On the way down the descent my brain starts to come back together. I think about it and I realise I’ve not drank or ate much today. As we roll into Whitefish I go straight to the store and stockpile on all the fried burritos they have – a load of fluid – lots of bars. I decide the next 20 flat kilometers are going to be me gorging myself normal again. I roll past a few other riders coming and going from shops and diners. I just keep rolling, happy that I’ve got enough stock. By the time I hit the next town I’m realising I’m thirsty so go to another store, but 2L of Gatorde, down half it, fill my bottles. It’s hot and not getting any cooler as I put two ice cold cans of Coke in my rear pockets, that’ll do.
The next section is a series of back roads, straight lines, 90 degree turns, straight lines, no cover, I cook and drink and cook. At some point Tom Rowntree rolls up and we ride together for a bit, hopping between leading, pee breaks splitting us up. As I roll into Ferndale Tom has found somewhere to eat some real food – we head down to the 1990s biker bar and have an interesting evening with some locals who give us some “sage” advice. I laugh my way out surprised at the friendliness of the local people. We stock up on ammo (granola bars) at the mercantile before we start the last climb of the day as other riders roll up. Practically smashing the climb (beer may have helped) we pass out all those who’d not found the biker bar and head into the middle of nowhere before bedding down for the night at the side of the trail with some other riders. I finally fall asleep to the sound of a late arrival faffing with his bivi for over 40 minutes. Don’t worry, I’ll wake you up early in thanks for being such an ass.