A Week Under the Big Sky!

by Brendan Halpin

Montana is our home, and we love to show it off! A few years ago we hosted our first point-to-point camping trip on our original Tour De Montana route. After the dust settled, and the staff had a some time to recover,  we knew that we wanted to do it again and do it even better. Fast forward a couple of years, and we now have two cycling tours through Montana; Tour De Montana and Glacier to Yellowstone. These trips spark a sense of adventure that reconnects us with the outdoors escaping the hustle and bustle of our normal lives. I’m not sure where the allure with Montana comes from, but it is international. I quickly learned to answer simply Montana, when someone asks me where I’m from while traveling. My answer is simple and definitely gets the wheels turning for anyone that loves the outdoors. Simply hearing Montana; most people have images of the Wild West, Buffalo’s, Grizzlies, snow covered peaks and of course Big Skies.  Our point to point camping trips are the perfect way to experience a small portion of this high, wide and handsome state we call home.

Our 2017 Glacier to Yellowstone Tour

Most recently we had an amazing week on our Glacier to Yellowstone trip. After a week of recovery I feel like I can accurately reflect and tell the story of this epic journey. Our route takes us from the Northwest corner of Montana in Glacier National Park to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park in West Yellowstone. The route covers over 350 miles in 7 days with over 20,000′ of elevation gain. The route is challenging, sometimes windy, sometimes hot, but most certainly gratifying and that is what we love about it. Supporting an epic journey for people is what makes us tick as Cycling House guides. To top it off we have Big Sky Beer as a sponsor and Chefs Hannah and Steven cooked amazing campfire gourmet meals along the way. The venue has been set, now onto the story.

Cycling Glacier National Park

Our trip started out at the entrance to Glacier National Park at the West Glacier KOA. Our first day included; a spin into Glacier National Park, jumping into the frigid crystal clear waters of the Middle Fork of the Flathead river and cocktails with local spirits made by our version of Tom Cruise from Cocktail, Jeff “Air” McNair the rookie TCH staffer. As we recovered from a great ride and enjoyed a few drinks someone asked, “Do we get treatment like this all week?” The answer is of course; yes, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. The night progressed and Chef’s Hannah and Steven went to work creating a locally inspired meal of braised carrots, brussel sprouts, grilled chicken and couscous. On camping trips like this things can go wrong, but we usually take it in full stride and the stories become memories and bring us even closer together. As the meal was starting to come together one of the campers said, “Brendan, I think the grill is on fire, and by the grill I mean the wood stand that is holding the grill up is on fire.” The staff quickly rallied, extinguished the fire and still delivered an amazing meal. On the back end it was a little stressful but very few knew about the hiccup, and those that did had a few good laughs.  The teamwork that is witnessed to produce a trip like this is what really makes The Cycling House experience truly special!  We make huge efforts to endorse each trip with our own personal touches and Cycling House magic.  Some people come for the riding on these trips, but leave talking about the food & the riding.  On and off the bike the support is unparalleled and our staff loves to make folks happy!

Riding along the front range of the Rocky Mountains

Moving on along the Rocky Mountain front the trip progressed after getting to ride the famed; Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Our journey brought us along some of our favorite roads and routes in Montana. With the recent rise in popularity of riding gravel we decided to add a couple of gravel sections as options on the route. We had a few takers on our first segment and those people that rode it, quickly realized why we offered the option.  The gravel segments really take you off the beaten path and get you even closer to the mountains.  After our first section the wheels were turning for a few to add in some more options. On our shortest day we offer a short out and back option to Pony, Montana. In the 1860’s gold was discovered in Pony by Tecumseh Smith, nicknamed ‘Pony’ because of his small stature. The town quickly boomed to over 5,000 inhabitants and what remains is a ghost town with less than 100 residents. As we sat at a few picnic tables at the Pony Bar wishing that the bar was open one camper asked, “Are there any gravel options from here.” I knew that there were plenty of gravel roads in the area and I responded, “Of course.” I jumped on my phone, looked at a few options and quickly had several riders eager for what I called, “The adventure route.” We set out into the country and found some amazing dirt roads with spectacular views of the Tobacco Root mountains. After a short climb we regrouped and I checked my phone as my battery started to drain and the real adventure began. We pointed it in the desired direction and only made one wrong turn along the way, that’s why I called it the adventure route. Eventually we found ourselves back on our original route and we regrouped. For a few this was some of their first gravel riding experience and they loved it. Our bikes were muddy, our legs dusty but the spirits were high. Opening up different styles of riding and diverging from the plan with an impromptu route is always an adventure. I know we will be adding more gravel options to the route in 2018 (and some entire trips built around riding gravel) so check out the details online.

Finishing at Yellowstone National Park

We arrived in West Yellowstone with tired legs and the group had the opportunity to travel into Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful. We shared an amazing sunset and final meal with our Cycling House family, while overlooking Hebgen lake.  The final camp toasts were made as the sun dipped behind the Madison Range mountains. The trip was a huge success and campers departed with many fond memories of Montana and new friendships. The staff was tired and we knew that we pulled off something great that we could be proud of. While traveling in Ireland recently staffers Drew, Sam and myself walked into a hostel looking for a room and the person checking us in said, “You boys look a little dusty.” He went on to explain that it looks like we had a big night followed by a big day of adventure, and he was correct. I think after a week supporting a trip like this our staff feels quite dusty but finishes up grinning from ear to ear. The point to point camping trips are by far our most labor intensive and difficult trips to run. Despite all of this they might be the most satisfying for our staff. We work hard, we go to bed late, we get up early and we do it all over again. It feels a bit like a traveling caravan making our way across the country, but it inspires a level of teamwork that results in a very fun gratifying experience for our staff and clients.  As we close out our point to point camping trips for the season, we are already planning for 2018.  Be sure to check out our website for our new trips and our old favorites; Tour De Montana & Glacier to Yellowstone in 2018.