July 14: Belly River, Alberta, to Rising Sun, Montana - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

July 14: Belly River, Alberta, to Rising Sun, Montana

Bon Quatorze Juillet à tous et à toutes! Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

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AUX ARMES, citoyens! We are in bear country. The first signs were warnings in the camp site last night and then metal bins in which to store our food and anything else that

Lockers for food, to deter Brother Bruin
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could attract Brother Bruin. The next sign confirmed the first: just ahead of us on the road loped a bear in that attractive rolling style. It appeared from the trees on our left, looked around as though it had learned the code for crossing the road - which I suppose it very well may have, although not through formal instruction - and then walked into the vegetation on the other side of the road and out of sight.

The leaflet we read last night said that "bears alongside the road are highly dangerous. Stay in your car." There was nothing about cyclists.

We completed the pass this morning, reaching the border stations

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and climbing just a little more in several humps before rushing at a speed greater than even the hungriest bear could manage down into the valley at Babb.

Chief Mountain, a sacred site
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Learned folk have talked of Babb as "horrible, horrible." We saw nothing wrong. The Fire Horse restaurant provided a good breakfast and we enjoyed the banter between locals on neighbouring tables. We had extra coffee, then rode on, disheartened to find that the wind - forecast to die - had started to howl in our brief absence.

We struggled on to St Mary's, at the entrance to Glacier national park. We'd hoped for a quiet and tasteful village with a restaurant staffed by French maids. Charming old-timers were to puff on long-stemmed pipes, turning over the way things had changed in these parts since whatever had changed everything for the worse.

Instead, it realised it was the last chance to revel in grease, bad taste and tawdriness before the purifying bath of the national park. It wasn't Babb we needed to be warned about; it was St Mary's.

Crossing the bridge into Glacier park is as close to moving to heaven from hell while still not pushing up daisies. We paid the entry fee and it was immediately repaid. Not in cash but the beauty, the colour, the grandeur of the countryside.

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Nothing had prepared us for it. Sheer rock dressed in greens and browns loomed over the road and behind wind-swaying field of green. The darkness of St Mary Lake frothed and rippled.

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Nobody hurried on the road. There was traffic aplenty and the lanes were narrow, but everyone was here for one purpose: to enjoy nature slowly. Nobody rushed us along or brushed our shoulders as he passed.

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Tonight we are staying on the hiker-biker island at the entrance to Rising Sun campground. The site, the visitor centre and the neighbouring wooden hotel are all there is. The site is

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closed to all but walkers and cyclists, every position taken. But the volunteer warden, a jolly woman of a certain age who does the job because she clearly enjoys talking to everyone, said she never turned away anyone travelling by his own efforts.

She also told us that a bear had walked through the grounds that very day.

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 8

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