We woke up to find Popcorn had stayed out all night. I figured that had been the case as at 3am I woke up to him calling for me to get him water. After a couple of bowls of cereal for breakfast, we got to talk to another one of Paul’s friends who had come to visit. I didn’t catch his name as C was doing most of the talking. She was asking about the water situation between Conrad and Browning and Paul’s friend said that there was a long stretch without anything other than a Hutterite colony. He had a friend who lived there so called ahead and arranged with them for us to stop and get some water.
The ride started off nicely, we made it to at a reasonable tick with only a slight bit of wind. I then wanted to stop quickly at the library to check my emails as we’d been without internet for a couple of days. After briefly popping in, I came out to find C on the phone with her friends back home as she is nearly any time we go past a place with wifi. A while later she was ready to move on and BAM. During our stop at the library the wind had turned and got stronger, we now had a 10-12mph headwind. Not terrible, but definitely noticeable.
A few miles of cycling later and the wind picked up. It was 20+mph which slowed us down significantly. This far into the trip I can roll along at 12-15mph on a flat with minimal wind and not notice any effort at all. With the headwind my speed dropped down to 6-7mph and my effort level shot up. C was dealing with the wind better than me, I suspect her smaller contact with the wind and lighter overall weight helped a good amount. She started to pull ahead and any attempt to increase my speed to catch up with her was short-lived.
After about an hour of riding in to the wind we made it to the Hutterite colony where I was happy to stop and get water. We put our things down and were instantly greeted by the men working there. We explained that we were after water and they said that of course we could get some. They showed us parts of their colony which was interesting to see. Becky had taken us to the local colony back in Great Falls on one of our rest days, and this colony was quite similar. C left happy as she got a present, an aluminium water bottle similar to the ones hikers use which was red and so matched her colour scheme.
Unfortunately the wind hadn’t decided to relent during our visit with the Hutterites. Not content with the headwind, we got the fun of climbing thrown in. There were a few climbs that seemed to go on forever and they just sapped any energy I had. At the top of one of them it was time to stop to eat and I laid in the ditch by the side of the road for a nap. I hoped that the food, nap and imminent downhill would re-energise me. It didn’t. We got on to the downhill and a descent that would normally have me easily over 30mph saw me actually having to pedal down at times.
About 40 minutes of cycling later we were still 15 miles away from Browning. I got us to pull over for a stop near a junction and within a couple of minutes saw a pick-up truck coming down the side road. I stood up and stuck my thumb out hoping it’d stop. It went past, did a U-turn and stopped across the road from us. I walked over and asked him if he was going to Browning and if so could we throw our things in the back. He said of course, and suddenly the day became much better. He pulled his truck over next to our bikes and we threw everything in. I jumped in the back and sat with the bags and we headed off.
20 minutes later and we were in Browning. We pulled over at a gas station and I was about to start pulling things out so we could ride over to our Couchsurfing host’s place when C and the 2 guys in the truck came round and after introducing themselves as Harold and Merle told me what they’d been discussing. They could either drop us off and we could go to our arranged place or they could show us round the area and then drop us off at St Mary. That’d let us spend more time in Glacier and we’d also get to see a lot more of the reservation. C was up for the extended tour so I called Rachel, our intended host, and explained that we were not going to be turning up that night.
The next few hours were wonderful. We were driven round and shown so much of the reservation than we would have seen. We saw our first black bear which the truck decided to stall next to, saw both upper and lower Two Medicine lakes, had the mountains explained to us and then got taken down to their homes in Heart Butte. Merle invited us into his house where we met his wife and were given a delicious dinner with freshly cooked bread.
After dinner it was starting to get late so we hit the road again and drove the 70-80 minutes up to St Marys, the entrance of Glacier and where we would camp. We got there around 11pm and it was still windy so Merle and Harold helped us put our tents up before heading out. We had spent 7-8 hours with them and been shown such kindness. It made me think back to all the warnings we had been given about the reservations and made me glad to have not been scared away. Yes, there is a lot of alcohol consumed and the reservations are noticeably less affluent. There is a lot more trash thrown around than I expected, especially having grown up with the idea that Native Americans are at one with and respect nature. Having said that, the people we met at least were phenomenally welcoming and Merle was genuinely disappointed that we hadn’t been in town the week before so he could have taken us to the Heart Butte powwow and been able to share even more of his culture with us.
GPS batteries died so the route’s not quite right
Windy view out the back of the truck 1
Windy view 2