780km Pendleton to Lakeside
“Wow. I’ve got a lot of freckles on my arms.
Wait. Is that dirt?” – Andrew (after 4 days without a shower)
“I’m not whining. I’m just telling you how grumpy I am….
Okay. I’m whining.” – Friedel (after being told by Andrew to stop whining)
We’re pushing through the states at high speed these days. More states than showers it seems as we’ve moved from one remote area to another, spending our nights in primitive forest campgrounds and wild camping where we can between the string of small farming communities and abandoned mining towns that lead to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
A month or so later and we might well have just jumped in a stream but the hot days and relentless sunshine are behind us now. Instead, the weatherman announces a cold front blowing down from Canada and it’s an icy wind that stops us from getting out of the tent in the morning and makes sure our jackets stay on all day long.
Even brushing our teeth hurts, the water is so cold, and it just seems easier to be dirty than try to wash our hair under a tap. We hold out hope for an RV park but every one we pass looks so dire – think $15-25 for the privilege of camping among rusty cars with no facilities – that we resolve to get out a few baby wipes to take off the surface grease and push on.
We spend our money instead on burgers and hot coffees in diners to keep our morale up. At night we make blazing campfires to keep warm. We cross our fingers that our shower luck will break one day soon.
It does just outside St. Regis, the first town of any size that we come to in Montana, after pedaling on dirt roads and old rail trails up and over the Lookout Pass from Idaho.
The are no showers on offer in the town itself, nor in the beautifully named but very rustic Cascade Creek campground some 16 miles up the road where we get stranded in a freezing rainstorm (that’s where Friedel threw a grumpy fit and Andrew told her, rightly, to shape up). But the next day, just beyond the campground, we discover Quinn’s Hot Springs and it’s as wonderful as it sounds.
To our amazement, the staff aren’t phased at all by two dirty cyclists coming into their posh establishment and for us, the $7 entry fee is a bargain for a shower and a soak in the mineral baths. We literally watch the dirt roll off and then, scrubbed up and refreshed, we hit the road again, through Paradise and Plains and over Route 28 until we reach a ridge with a view over Flathead Lake.
Far in the distance we can see the sun lighting up snowcapped mountains. We take a moment to soak in the view and then we plummet downhill to Big Arm State Park and camp by the water.
Ahead lie some big climbs and undoubtedly some colder weather. Many smaller roads aren’t clear of snow. The famous Going-to-the-sun road through Glacier National Park is still closed, forcing us to go around the long way. And there are some long stretches without campgrounds, so it looks like a few more shower-free days are coming our way.