Cyclists stop at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station on their trip.
'Adventure Cycling' cyclists re-rout trip through the Seeley Swan valleys because of fires in the Bitterroot.
August 17, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Story & photos
by Donna Love
On Thursday, August 10, two hundred-plus brightly dressed cyclists rode through Seeley Lake with Adventure Cycling of Missoula on an unscheduled five-day tour of the Flathead and Seeley-Swan Valley. Forest fires and smoke kept the cyclists from their scheduled seven-day trip, which was to have gone south out of Missoula through the Bitterroot Valley to Jackson and the Big Hole Valley to end in Bozeman.
Their new route took them to Camas Hot Springs and on to Whitefish, where they had a one day layover to rest. On the fourth day, the cyclists rode to Condon, where they camped at the ballpark and returned to Missoula on the fifth day.
"For the most part, the cyclists don't mind the change in routes," said Dave Hartman of Missoula, one of the trip's organizers and directors. The original route was two days longer and had several high passes to go over. The new route was shorter with no major passes. Their hardest day was the first day when they traveled ninety-three miles.
Hannah Collins, secretary of Adventure Cycling, said that when the fires got bad to the south they had to start considering a new route. "It was a last minute decision to change plans," Collins said. The bike touring company had to construct the route on a daily basis following old routes from other trips. The biggest inconvenience was the fact that around one hundred riders were scheduled to fly out of Bozeman at the end of the trip. To make their flights they were being bussed to Bozeman from Missoula on what would have been the last day of their ride.
All the rest stops along the route were planned and catered by Adventure Cycling who followed the cyclists with sag wagons and bike repair mini-shops. The bikers only had to carry water and what they needed for the day in packs on their bikes or backs. Other luggage was transported for them. About half of the cyclists stayed in motels along the route while the rest camped.
The bikers ranged in age from eleven to eighty. Some traveled with families, some with friends and others rode alone and made friends along the route. When asked how they found out about the trip, many said they had learned of the trip from Adventure Cycling's magazine, Adventure Cyclists. Others had learned of the trip on the Internet.
The bikers came from all over the United States and their bikes came in all shapes and sizes. One husband and wife couple, Paul and Jane Kimmel, rode triple with a friend, Maricar Acab, all from New Jersey. The Kimmels teach chemistry at Rutgers University and Acab teaches high school chemistry nearby, where Paul also teaches. When asked who does most of the work on a triple bike, they replied, "We all do!"
When asked whether the smoke from the fires was bothersome, Hartman said, "It was fairly clear the first three days of our trip." When they rode through Seeley Lake the wind was calm and the air was thick with smoke. At their first rest stop for the day at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station, the cyclists could barely see the trees on the western shore of the lake. They knew it would get thicker the closer they got to Missoula, but most said they still enjoyed the adventure.