Montana - Whitefish to Ben Nelson Campground

Rolled out of Whitefish past the tracks onto some mellow hardpack.

Picked up some M80’s at Harry’s in Columbia Falls to throw at unruly kids

but then repented and

washed my sins away in the surrounding farmland

before easing on down along the Flathead Range into Big Fork.

A pleasant gravel grinder for most of the day toward Holland Lake hemmed in by forest on either side with occasional views of the Swan and Mission ranges.

Twilight grassy single track was served up before easing into Holland Lake Lodge.  Salt caked and dust skanked, I walked into the Lodge for an expensive treat of halibut, arugula salad and a few beers while bar mate Jose filled me in on the doings of the world.

Holland Lake is a beautiful, slightly off-route, place to call home for the night made even better by fellow Divider’s Tim, Ted and Rocky offering to share their campsite for the night.  Tim’s bucket list of the Divide was being fulfilled while Ted and Rocky oscillated between riding and sagging gear to the next campground.  Really nice group of guys from Minnesota and Rocky dished up some good Central America tips.

After a splash of coffee and a boiled egg courtesy of team Minnesota it was off to a stretch of glorious morning grassy single track.

A quick stop to chat with north bounder Felix from the Suisse about all things Divide and the need to bring your generator and all things Americano to the campsite…

I inched upward toward famed Richmond Peak under the blazing sun with multiple stops to admire the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the east and the Mission Range to the west.

A hard left at the top brought a dose of pannier slapping single track around Richmond Peak that dished up one of best sections of the Divide thus far. People either love or hate this section.  With no snow or any downed trees, it was pure bliss.

 The Bob Marshall wilderness, or the Bob, is named after pioneer leader of the American wilderness preservation movement Bob Marshall.  In the 40’s the government recognized his efforts and set aside about a million acres around the South Fork of the Flathead River.  Not quite as remote as the Flathead Range in Canada, but equally as spectacular.

Down the backside into pure stoke.

A few donuts of joy before 14’ing the decent into Seeley Lake. Oh Seeley Lake... the rent-a-cop detour for 3 miles around the Fourth of July Paradae in the blazing sun and the “Riviera” Fourth of July extravaganza were a bit much so I inched up to Cottonwood Lakes Road campsite where

I bumped into Luke who was spending the night before hitting up a local farmer’s market to sell his t-shirts and cards.  Good dude and a nice opposite to the Seeley Lake crew.  Luke kindly sent me off with one of his elk cards before I called it a night and got to the business at hand.

Morning gravel grinder with lush green carpet filing in the clear cut on either side 

before leaving the Lolo National Forest and descending into wide open Montana grasslands where Mama Nature crafted some well needed moody skies.

Why yes, Ovando Stray Bullet, I will have the Duke.  Two cups of coffee later, a second breakfast ,and some morning recon and it was back on the gravel.

Enjoyed some freshening up with roadside Lavender 

before pulling into the break down lane to air down and do what fatties do best to washboard.

Smoothed out, it was across the flat stuff and was back towards the set up for another morning pass.

I staked out a primo site at Big Nelson Campground on Cooper's lake

and gorged on early season huckleberries before shutting it down around a campfire reading some of Jill Homer's Divide escapades.