Thursday, August 11, 2016

Finishing It Up

Day 64 - August 9th
28.2 miles
Total: 2596.5 miles

We woke this morning to the wettest tent we have had on the trip. Overnight rain, and some serious amounts of condensation had our tent wetter than an otters nose. The large thermal mass of Spray Lake, filled with snow melt helped keep the area nice and cold in the morning.

We packed up, and I wore my warm gloves for the second time on this trip. We said farewell to the two southbounders we campfired with last night, and made the final push toward our destination.

Three miles in we passed a worker doing road construction. He warned us of a black bear on the side of the road two miles up. We said thank you and moved on, but I laughed a little in the back of my head. There is no way a bear would hang out on the road for all that time it would take us to ride there.

Two (point one) miles later, BOOM, a black bear. Lauren commented on how accurate the description was, distance wise. Most car travelers have no concept of how far distances are. (Recall the woman in Idaho saying four or five miles, when it was really nine or ten miles?) I commented on how puny the black bear looked up close, after seeing a grizzly bear from a far. As such, I hopped off my bike and charged at the bear in hopes of dueling him. He opted to hide in the bushes, so we rolled past.

After six miles of gravel road riding, we hit a single track section of the trail. This was to be our longest stretch of single track, and the trail which we would finish on. As such, I pulled out my camera and started filming.  I was commenting on how rugged the trail was, but that we had 2600 miles under our belt, and we could handle anything (ignoring the fact that I crashed yesterday).

While the camera was rolling, Apricots struggled to get her foot unclipped before coming to a stop on a steep bumpy loose rock slope. Sure enough, I caught her glorious fall on film. Unfortunately, this time she actually hurt herself fairly significantly. She has a wicked good bruise on her knee and leg, and it is all puffy. I am selling viewings of the video footage at two bucks per viewing.

After walking off the pain, she remounted her trusty stead, and we continued the path to Banff. The route meandered through a thick forest, with trees towering both sides of the trail. Often views would open to the amazing mountains that we are blessed to be in. In the final six miles the trail followed the crystal clear Spray River. I wanted to bury my face in the water and drink it straight but Banff beckoned.

When we hit trails end, we let out whoops and hollars of joy. At the trail head were three new cyclists. They knew exactly what we were cheering and immediately congratulated us, and offered to take a photo of our finish.

A short bit later we were enjoying amazing pastry delights with coffee at Wild Flours. A short bit later we had arrived at a campground to chill at for the night. We do not know if the campground will be open tomorrow, as there has been wolves roaming the campground lately. They have had to put down two wolves already, so tomorrow's sleeping accomodations are up in the air.

After shower, we hit up the closest restaurant for a celebratory meal. Then we returned to camp. Now, we will enjoy a bottle of wine and reflect on our trip.

Live life at a slower place.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Day 63 - Extra Pictures 2

The last few pictures from day 63.
Most of these pictures were from Spray Lakes Reservoir and Campground.

Day 63 - Extra Pictures 1

A few more pictures from day 63. Most were taken in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada

Amazing Alberta

Day 63 - August 8th
46.5 miles
Total: 2568.3 miles
Moving Avg: 7.8 mph
Overall Avg: 5.3 mph

We opted to sleep in, or rather sleep off those extra shots called for late in the evening. Instead of waking at six am, we fell out of slumber around six thirty. We pulled ourselves together, and looked happily at the blue patches amid the clouds. With high hopes, maybe the sun would burn off the rest of the clouds.

We ate breakfast with our gracious hosts. We had one cinnamon roll left from Stephanie, so that accompanied our warm coffee. Thanks Stephanie. We bid farewell to everyone, and hit the last pass of our trip, which was only three miles away, and 1000 feet of climbing.

The mountains were rugged, and beautiful. The trail was rugged and ugly. It passed around and under power lines all the way up, and was deeply eroded and muddy. Fortunately the views to our sides were majestic, and when we summitted we had a great view of Lake Kanaskis. Unfortunately the rutted out road, and muddy texture caused me to fall for probably the last time on the trail. It was the most painful fall I have had, but it was still very mild, just a muddy scraped knee.

Around our fourth mile of the morning we saw our first bear. Woot! Woot! On top of this excitement was the fact that it was a grizzly bear. We spotted it from half a mile away, and slowly got to about 150 yards away, before settling on waiting it out. He lumbered slowly across the huckleberry patches, foraging for food. When he finally looked our way, I flexed my muscles (freshly honed from 2500 miles of cycling), and he made a wise decision to head for the cover of the trees.

Apricots and I walked our bikes past his general location, alert with our bear spray safety off, and our trigger finger ready. We passed with no incident, and the bear lived to see another day.

Two miles later we hit a paved road. Due to a typo in my narrative (my fault) we turned the wrong direction, and only realized the mistake after dropping a couple hundred feet and cycling almost two miles. We fixed the mistake and turned back to head in the direction of hot coffee. Four miles later, we were at the Boulton Creek Trading post, having ice cream and hotdogs for second breakfast.

The rest of the day was to beautiful to even attempt describing. Majestic mountain after majestic mountain made their presence known with each new turn. Rocky peaks requiring technical skills to climb brushed the trail on both sides for the remainder of the day. See the attached pictures for a small hint of the terrain that we were blessed with.

At days end, the rain clouds were forming, and we decided to check on availability at Mt. Engadino Lodge. It was all booked up, but at $500 a night, it was outside of our budget. We pushed on to Spray Lakes Campground, which was within our budget. It was an even nicer campsite than the lodge, and the water was warm enough for a splash bath.

We spent the evening talking with two cyclists beginning their southbound journey. They were very excited to run into us, and glean information from our adventures.

Tomorrow we will finish our journey.

Live life at a slower place.

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The kindness of strangers

Day 62 - August 7th
44.7 miles
Total: 2521.8 miles
Moving Avg: 7.5 mph
Overall Avg: 5.2 mph

Allison woke early to watch Olympics rugby and make us pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup. Unfortunately we were unable to hang around for the rugby, but the maple syrup helped fuel our climb. Thanks for being a great host Allison.

Our climb was a long gradual ascent over forty miles. It had the occasional over climb and drops that match the undulating hillsides, but overall the climb was a very easy day. At first the mountain side was sculpted by the coal mines in the area, with very geometrically precise angles, unnatural but still beautiful as the coal dust lifted into the air catching the sunlight.

Soon the mining hills gave way to the more irregular and rugged terrain of natural mountain sides. We were able to make 35 miles in the morning before the rain clouds fully formed. After lunch we put on our rain coats and pushed ten miles to the rugged Tobermory cabin which was free and first come first serve. When we were a mile out we saw two trucks drive past. I told Apricots that they were going to steal our cabin.

When we arrived at the cabin, the two trucks were parked outside, and two guys were having drinks with two ladies. Sure enough, our cabin was swiped just before we got there. I rolled up and started talking to the four individuals, and quickly learned that they were heading to a cabin further down the road. Sweet happiness the cabin was ours. Then the strangers said that since we were done with our day, and almost done with our journey we should enjoy a beer. They gave Apricots and me beer, and then topped it off with a giant cinnamon roll for each of us.

What awesome happiness! I felt bad because they said that I scowled as they drove past. I don't think I did, but I may have been in the uphill in the rain moody mindset, fearing our cabin wouldn't be available.

After the four kind individuals continued on their way, we scoped out the cabin. It was rustic, somewhat derelict, and rather uninviting. Additionally our daily mileage was a little low, so we decided to push three miles further to Elk Lakes. It would set us up for a better attack at tomorrow, and a more scenic site.

When we arrived at Elk Lakes, we bumped into the four individuals again. They had rented the much bigger, nicer cabin for a weekend getaway / bachelor party for one of the guys. They insisted that we stay with them in the cabin, and we didn't hesitate too much. Besides I was feeling fairly social, and thought that it might be nice to hang out with the four of them.

After a little socializing, Steven went inside and prepared a great dinner of rice, veggies, and chicken for us all (called Glory Bowl). Apricots and I agree that we want to start making some at home.

We talked until the afternoon started to cool, and then we set to build a campfire before the bachelor's brothers and their wives arrived. (Not your standard fare bachelor party). As the wood was damp from the rain that day, it took some effort to get the outside fire going. We eventually used the indoor wood stove to get a good burning wood starter for our outside fire.

When the campfire was moved to the inside stove, the plastic dustpan was overlooked. Not too long after the fire was rolling, the dustpan had melted all over the stove. The cabin was filled delicious toxic smoke, and we all had to enjoy the afternoon by the outside campfire. What a fantastic mess to work at cleaning up.

As the evening wore on, the carcinogenic cabin cleared out, and we rolled in for card games and drinks. It was a fun evening highlighted with shots of whiskey called for by the Bachelor on a nearly quarter hourly basis. All the while, heavy rain dumped outside the cabin, where our tent would have been.

(Thank you for your hospitality Jason, Steven, Stephanie, and Tiffany)

Live life at a slower place.

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Monday, August 8, 2016

Day 61 Addendum

After the short post, I started to feel like I skimped out.

After passing through the bucolic landscape we hit a stretch of highway. Due to a slide and washout, a portion of the route was deemed impassable. As such, we took the highway as an alternate to the washout. The highway was much more quiet than yesterday's highway ride.

After we hit the last leg of the highway the rain started sprinkling on us. It wasn't too heavy, but we definitely needed our rain jackets. We rolled down the road, music in, jackets on, and motivation on our heels.

Once we rolled into Elkford we grabbed a quick meal and went to our Warm Showers host. She was at work, but she left her house open so we could get in. After setting the tent up we took a shower and a nap. Near the end of our nap our host came home from work, so we went into the house and introduced ourselves.

As the evening wore on, we ordered pizza and chowed down while watching the Olympics. As the sun finally set (at its late northern hour) we called it a night and crawled into our tent.

(Thank you for hosting us Allison, good luck on your future adventures)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Short post for a short day

Day 61 - August 6th
26.9 miles
Total: 2477.1 miles
Moving Avg: 8.4 mph
Overall Avg: 4.4 mph

This morning we rolled over to Tim Hortons, a breakfast chain, to eat up before making the very short ride to Elkford, our last civilized stop before we wrap this trip up. While we plowed through many donuts and coffee, we saw two ten point buck deer wandering around the parking lot, eating the vegetation between the lot and the highway. I was able to walk up to them within about fifteen feet and record some video of their dining.

After our breakfast we rolled the lazy 26 miles up to Elkford, through pretty pastoral settings and beautiful bucolic landscape.

Oh yeah, before leaving Sparwood, we saw the (at build time) world's largest truck. We believe that our bike trip would have been less bumpy if we had swapped out our tires for the tires the truck was using.

And that's that.

Oh, and no bears.

Live life at a slower place.

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Day 60 pics

The pictures did not attach to the blog, so I am sending them out now.

Sixty Days

Day 60 - August 5th
40.9 miles
Total: 2450.2 miles
Moving Avg: 8.5 mph
Overall Avg: 5.5 mph

Sixty days. That's two months. We have been out for two months. (I suppose 61 days us a better two month approximation, but who's counting?) After two months I can say the landscape is finally getting stunning. Nah, it has always had its beauty, it is just that this landscape is more dramatic and consistently breathtaking now that we have entered "Beautiful British Columbia".

The first half our day was along a river valley on logging roads. When the first truck passed, the amount of dust kicked up inspired us to turn our bandanas into face masks. After we did that the logging trucks disappeared. It is a lot like the magic of putting on a raincoat during a light spitting rain - it causes the rain to go away. (We may need to employ this trick in the final days of our trip).

I kept hoping to see a bear, and I even told Apricots not to scare a bear away without letting me get a picture. And while this ride was through prime bear country, not a bear was found. Oh well, it will happen eventually, even if only on a nature show.

The second half of the day was along the highway between Fernie and Sparwood. The highway was busy and loud, but the shoulder was wide and the view was fantastic. The mountains to our left were stunning in their sheer rocky magnitude. The more consistent colder temperatures up here have lowered the tree line. As such, there is less organic growth decomposing into soil on the mountains. This makes for a much rockier surface, which is beautiful and dynamic. You can almost see the plate Tectonics in action on some of these rocky mountains.

We camped just outside of Sparwood and will have a short day into Elkford tomorrow.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

CANADA!! Bike Yeah!!

Day 59 - August 4th
40.6 miles
Total: 2409.3 miles
Moving Avg: 9.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.4 mph

This morning we woke to a clear sky, and a very dew covered tent. We set our tent fly out to dry as we packed up. The sign at the camp said sprinklers turn on at 7:30, so we aimed to have camp broken by then. We did, but no sprinklers ever turned on. No matter, the early rise gave us time to hit up a diner before hitting the road.

Fueled up, and ready to enter Canada, we made the eleven mile ride to the Canadian border. The "entering canada" side had a single man in a bounty hat who asked us a handful of simple questions. The "entering usa" side had about twenty thousand laser guided cameras, heat sensors, and terrorism antideterrants mounted for each of the four lanes entering the state of Montana.

We were told that when we arrived in Canada we would see more bears, and I can definitively say that after one afternoon in Canada, this is simply not the case. No bears for us today, just lots of beautiful scenery. Our route took us along a farmed valley before briefly cutting over a very clear Elk River to Lake Koocanusa. Koocanusa is a word Mashup of Kootenai  (The National Forest we were passing through), Canada, and USA.

In the afternoon we made a lunch stop at the Dairy Bar, where we had a Canadian Classic dish of poutine for lunch. Naturally, I downed it with an ice cream treat (my second of the day). For being a very "wild" area, there sure is a lot of opportunities to be semi-civilized. Then again, I don't know how civilized one can be if they have ice cream two to three times in a day.

When we finally arrived in Elko, we decided to get a hotel for the night. We figured that it might be nice to get a shower, and spoil ourselves for making it to Canada. We still have a couple hundred miles to go, but this will likely be our last hotel for this vacation.

As the afternoon wore on, I heard a cyclist roll past the window. It was Audrey, from back in the days of Colorado.  Audrey was the kind soul who stole us off the highway in Colorado and brought us to the fourth of July celebration outside of Steamboat Springs. She is now tackling her southbound battle of the Great Divide Route. We had an enjoyable evening of catching up and sharing trail stories before calling it a night.

Tomorrow is our first full day of Canada riding, but it will still be mostly civilized.

Live life at a slower place.

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Liquid Sunshine

Day 58 - August 3
48.7 miles
Total: 2368.7 miles
Moving Avg: 7.6 mph
Overall Avg: 4.9 mph

We slept twelve hours last night. It was needed after a series of semi restless nights, and a hard climb, our bodies were exhausted. We probably would have slept longer, but the morning sun started to shine directly on our tent.

By the time we crawled out of the tent, the sun had taken shelter behind the clouds. It appeared that the clouds were here to stay. A thick light gray blanket stretched across the sky, and the only accent the blanket had were dark patches indicating the potential for rain. Today, the battle was not the heat, but rather the cold.

Fortunately, our day began with a long very gradual climb. We had roughly1500 feet to gain over twenty miles, and after the first five miles of flat terrain, it worked out to a nice steady 100 feet per mile climb. It was such a perfect grade, we were able to cycle in the rain and stay warm. Well, we were moderately warm until we stopped for elevensies, or second breakfast.

The first five miles meandered along a bumpy road with the peaks of Glacier Park pushing into the clouds. It is a shame that the riders we passed today will not get to see them in the same fashion as those who passed yesterday.

Our route then turned westward to climb over the Whitefish Divide. The road shot through forested hillsides that had been solidly managed to prevent wildfires from taking the homes in the area. As we climbed higher, the road became rougher, and we soon passed through a barren burned area. The exposure brought a little wind which chilled us, but it also opened some expansive views of the hillside and valley we were climbing up.

By midday we hit the highpoint for the climb. The light rain had died off, and we had a damp ride down hill. It was a little chilly, but as we lost elevation, the temperature increased, and the weather started to warm. We even had the occasional patch of sun, as we passed through steam clouds from water evaporation off the asphalt.

By the time we reached Eureka we had seen roughly twenty deer and seven cyclists. Tonight we camp in the park behind city hall. Tomorrow we enter Canada.

Live life at a slower place.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Glacier Park from Afar

Day 57 - August 2nd
46.6 miles
Total: 2320 miles
Moving Avg: 7.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.7  mph

Trains.
Whitefish has trains.
We were warned of the trains in Whitefish.

They weren't too bad with earplugs, but they definitely affected our sleep. When I woke in the morning, Apricots had her warm jacket wrapped around her head. Either she doesn't know how to dress, or she was trying to further muffle the locomotives warming their engines as the rail cars collided to make a secure connection.

We crawled out of tent around six thirty. Our host had prepared coffee and breakfast for us. Last night we had social hour with Rita, and two other cyclists. This morning we were able to meet Chuck, the other half of the hosting duo. After coffee and breakfast, we hit the road for our final leg of this ride. We will hit other cities along the way, but we do not have anymore rest days scheduled.

The route wandered along the edge of whitefish lake for several miles before peeling away and beginning the long slow ascent for the day. The surface was good gravel for most the route, but it did have some series of elevation drops which lengthened the climb. After lunch at Upper Whitefish Lake, we made the last of our climb. It was fairly steep, but appears to be the last serious climb of our ride.

After making the summit, we were rewarded with views. Our thirty miles of green tunnel opened up with occasional bursts of views to Glacier Park peaks. The stark gray mountains stood serrated against the sky, inviting and intimidating. Our road continued to descend down to the North Fork Flathead River.

Our goal for camp was a forest service cabin, which we arrived at by three pm. The map showed a boat launch ramp down by the river, so we decided to go check it out. Not only was the river crystal clear, the view was stunning, and there was dispersed camping available. We were able to find an amazing site on the river. This one will go down as one of my top ten camping sites ever, and probably top three for this trip.

While we went down to the river for a post ride swim, we saw a bird of prey fly close overhead. Shortly afterward, I saw it dive down into the water to grab a fish. It appeared unsuccessful in its attempt, but we did watch it shake off the water from its feathers before flying off.

After taking a relaxing swim in the surprisingly not icy cold water, I set out to get the bear hang ready for our food. After fifteen minutes of struggling, I had the rope set and ready. I tested the strength of branch I had roped. It bent a little and then fell off the tree. The whole branch was rotten, as the tree was dead. I was able to relocate the bear hang elsewhere, and this time a little more efficiently.

Apricots prepared dinner while I set up the tent. Not long after dinner, the evening was still warm, so we took a second dip in the river before calling it a night and diving into our tent away from the mosquitos.

Live life at a slower place.

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