Day 7: Cedar Creek Campground to Seeley Lake (56.7 miles)
During our ride the previous day, we’d heard that large forest fires in the mountains east of Seeley Lake would likely make the second half of our coming day’s ride inaccessible. Dave and Cathy confirmed as much: a ranger in Big Fork had told them that the route was closed east of Holland Lake. (Adventure Cycling was also coordinating closely with forest and other relevant services, regularly updating a forest fire layer on an interactive map on their website—great if you have a data connection.)
Somewhat disappointed—but certainly less inconvenienced than those who’d had to evacuate their homes near Seelely Lake or the fire fighters combating the fire—David and I started off, with full loads (in case, for some reason, we wouldn’t be able to meet the support crew later in the day) planning to follow the main route as far as the Holland Lake turn-off, before continuing the rest of the way along Montana Highway 83 to Seeley Lake, where the national forest campground had just reopened.
The first 30-some miles along the official route, following forest service dirt roads on the west side of Swan River, were lovely. Rolling through forest and pasture we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and saw our first bear of the trip—a black bear that quickly took off after hearing us approach.
Eventually, after turning east and crossing back to the east side of Swan River we reached highway 83 and turned south, heading for Seeley Lake. While we now off the official route, the road was still scenic, and we managed to get some lovely views of the Mission Mountains to our east.
After a quick lunch break at a turn off for Holland Lake, we made good time along the rolling paved road all the way to the national forest campground on the west side of Lake.
The campground was great, with water, pit toilets, some bathrooms with running water, and a little beach along the lake front. Probably because of the forest fires to the East, the campground was nearly empty.
As the evening approached we got an impressive aviation show as helicopters, one after the other, flew in to scoop water out of the lake, before returning to the mountains to try to douse the fires.
After darkness fell, we could see the fires lighting up the mountainside.