Weekend Warrior

By Beacon Staff

It’s tempting to set the weekend in motion by swatting the snooze button and succumbing to the cool side of the pillow, the siren song of a lazy Saturday lulling the work weary into a sluggish regimen, easier to linger over coffee, stay indoors, smell the furniture, relax.

But that’s not the warrior way, and if we’re to enjoy our fleeting Montana summers to the fullest, “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” in the immortal words of Hank Thoreau, then it’s necessary to rise and shine, brew up some java and brace oneself for a weekend crammed full of outdoor activities.

In Montana, a single weekend can accommodate four seasons’ worth of play – skiing in the sunshine, plucking trout from a blue-ribbon trout stream and cycling a scenic byway constitute a catalogue of activities commonly bandied about the water cooler on Monday morning.

Sure, lawns need mowing and gardens gardening, errands must be run and dishes should be done, but those pedestrian tasks can wait.

Carpe diem. Memento mori. Sic transit gloria. YOLO.

Frame your justifications however you choose, be it in Latin or Internet shorthand, so long as you drain your reserves and leave it all out there in the mountains and the rivers, the trails and the tents.

Dig deep, get after it and, in the not-so-immortal words of Rihanna, “cheers to the freakin’ weekend.”


 

SUN-SOAKED HIKE AND FULL-MOON BIKE

Touring Glacier National Park’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road on a bicycle is an unforgettable way to experience the park, its sweeping views rivaled only by the sunlit panorama as seen from high atop a peak or along an alpine trail.

Thus, the hike-and-bike, an action-packed amalgam with such diverse heterogeneity the possibilities are nearly endless.

For that reason, our favorite pairing comes with a twist.

We call it the Park Side of the Moon.

Full moon rides to Logan Pass have been a popular way to experience the park in the dark since the 1970s, the peak-studded mountain-scape cast against the moonlit mantel in ghost-like silhouettes, looming over the wending road like specters.

During the summer months on clear evenings that correspond to a full moon cycle, Going-To-the-Sun-in-the-full-moon is a unique experience. You don’t have to ride on the exact night of the full moon, but you do need to time your ride to coincide with the moon cresting the pass or you won’t be in the moonlight.

The National Park Service requires nightriders to equip their whips with front and rear lights and wear helmets. A jacket and dry clothes are necessary gear for the ride down.

And while the quad-burning ascent to Logan Pass is ambitious on its own, your weekend warrior status will climb to new heights if you attempt the feat after first hiking the Highline Trail from Logan Pass to The Loop.

Begin the day by setting up camp at Avalanche Creek, then park at The Loop, the road’s hairpin turn, and catch a shuttle about eight miles to the top of Logan Pass, which at 6,646 feet straddles the Continental Divide.

Walk the Highline Trail 7.6 miles to Granite Park Chalet and buy a Coke to sip while you scan the valley floor for grizzlies before descending 4.2 miles back to The Loop and your vehicle.

You’ll want to kill a few hours before the ride, so head down to West Glacier for food and a margarita at Freda’s.

Begin your ride either from Avalanche Creek, or truncate the ride by starting at The Loop.

In the morning, plan a relaxing day of fly-fishing in McDonald Creek or kayaking around Lake McDonald.

Full Moons for the weekend warrior: Friday, June 13; Saturday, July 12; Sunday, Aug. 10; Monday, Sept. 8.


 

SUMMER SKI

In Northwest Montana, the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road eclipses the solstice as the official seasonal index, an annual harbinger of the hibernal terminus and a salutation to summer.
The world has wakened from its winter nap, spring has unfolded and the dog days have arrived in earnest.

And so, of course, it’s time to ski.

The Sun Road is a veritable portal to the steep, radiant snow that lingers above Glacier National Park’s Logan Pass, and for several weeks in early summer those creamy bands of winter still adorn the rocky peaks like bay wreaths before vanishing into melt ponds below.

During this brief and schizophrenic wintry window, skiers in t-shirts and sunglasses skin across snowfields or boot-kick jack ladders of steps into the steep chutes below Oberlin, Clements and Reynolds Mountains, skiing Dragon Tail or traversing the gentle Hidden Lake trail, still hidden beneath deep snow, and trekking into the Bird Woman Falls basin, a cirque that hangs above the falls, carved from the northeastern flank of Mount Cannon.

Whichever route you choose, don’t let the blue skies and corn snow deceive you. Use caution and carry avalanche safety equipment like transceivers, shovels and probes. Also, be sure to pack extra layers – even in the heat of July, the weather turns quickly on the Continental Divide.

Plan to camp overnight, because one day of summer skiing is never enough.


 

CINO HEROICA

This two-day, 110-mile bike ride from Kalispell to Hot Springs follows unpaved, potholed dirt roads that are rough but ride-able, particularly on the steel-lugged vintage machines that are mandatory.

Cino Heroica (pronounced chee-No He-ro-i-ka) is a celebration of cycling’s golden era, when the vaunted heroes of European road racing were admired as much for their style and courage as their athleticism.

They rode steel-framed steeds over hellacious mountain passes, drank wine and smoked unfiltered French cigarettes to quell their suffering.

In lieu of performance gear, riders of the Cino wear wool jerseys, long skirts and loose-fitting trousers gathered at the calf. Quick-release wheels are considered passé, and carbon is an atomic element, not the stuff of bicycle components.

Fruit-flavored sports drink is a swig of brandy, and the fellowship of anguish drives riders to the crest of every prominence, while grit and pluck guide them down suicide descents.

Participants stay in Hot Springs for the night at Alameda’s Hot Springs Resort, with appropriate bicycle-oriented entertainment following a boisterous dinner. And, there are hot springs at Symes to soak in.

The return is a slightly different route that involves a fairly substantial, sustained climb up a rough road but, in true Cino spirit, “there are iron men that do it with a fixed gear and a prayer,” the ride’s website boasts.

Ride the route anytime, but the official race is Sept. 6-7. Learn more at www.cinorider.com.


 

MORE FROM OUR SUMMER GUIDE 2014

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.