Heads or Tails

This blog covers the section of the route between Kindersley and Saskatoon, a distance of just over 200km which is about 200km (120miles) or two days ride. In true British fashion I will mainly be talking about weather… This is because Saskatchewan is notoriously dull! The whole province so far has been relatively flat agricultural land, but it does have some interesting weather. Sorry for the lack of photo’s

Kindersley to Rosetown (24th May 2017)

Leaving Kindersley the weather reports were looking like I was going to get a few showers through the day, it had been a while since I had been rained on and given how dusty it can be I was hoping the showers would give some release from this. After about 30 mins I realised I had a lovely tail wind that was making going really easy and happened to glance behind, apparently the weather predictions had been correct that it would rain…. but wrong on how much, there was a full blown storm spinning around the plains behind me, it was hard to tell if it would hit me more not as it seemed to move away them come back before moving away.

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Keep a weather eye on the horizon

About 30mins after spotting the storm the edge of it came in and, just in time, I  was back in my waterproofs as hail the size of garden peas started falling for about 30mins (seems one of those days!) 10 mins after leaving the hail a driver flagged me down to warn me there was a hail storm about 10mins ahead… kind of them but it was the storm that had already passed over!

The rain started not long after and gradually got worse till about midday when I decided to stop at a restaurant in one of the local towns to hide from the worst of it…. the restaurant was closed and the weather was decreasing rapidly as the full force of the storm was coming in, I decided to hide under the eves of a building, just as I was getting into the shelter a local came by and opened the local hockey rink for me so I could shelter inside, very kind of him!

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Hail…

I hid away for over an hour and had to change out of my damp gear and into some of the warm stuff I haven’t used since Jasper as the temperature plummeted. I tired to open the door a couple of times to check the weather conditions, I have no problem riding in the rain but I wasn’t going out in a full blown storm… well I couldn’t open the door more than an inch as the wind was so strong!

Once the storm had passed I was out and on the road again, light drizzle came in and out but I made good time with the tail wind and was in town Rosetown about two hours later, I was drenched and slightly cold and there were more storms coming and predicted for the next day so I got a room in a motel and rested up and dried out, the owner was amazed that I had cycled through the storm.

Rosetown to Saskatoon (26th May 2017)

Today was quite different to the last cycling day… sunny and with a 15-20mph headwind… it was going to be a hard day with 120km to cover. I struggled through the day eating all my snacks and easily eatable supplies to try and keep my energy up but 6hrs of cycling into the wind was brutal and by the time I got to Saskatoon I was done in (yet again!) and struggled to even walk to a restaurant to stuff my face with a huge 3 course meal… when I returned to the hotel (I am in town for a few days awaiting a package so splashed out on a bed and shower!) where I got some of the complimentary fruit and munched on that too!

 

 

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Into the Badlands

It’s been a few days since I have written one of these so sorry if it gets a bit wordy!

I left Calgary on Monday 15th May and took another detour from the originals route based on advice from locals and other travellers and decided to head to Drumheller and the Badlands… this place is also dinosaurs country but we shall come to that!

This the first time I had used my Garmin Edge Tourer GPS for anything other than recording the ride as I have a terrible habit of getting lost in cities… mountains or wide open plains, fine! But cities are a maze to me! So the GPS (from now on refered to as the scatnav) did well, keeping me off main roads most the way out of the city then through suburbia and the industrial areas and out onto the wide, flat, agricultural landscape of Alberta… this is were things got interesting, the scatnav took me down some lovely backroads, again keeping me away from traffic but unfortunately these roads then turned into gravel tracks… this is fine, Eve is built as a steel framed cyclocross or gravel bike but with all the equipment on her she isn’t quite so handy as normal (but still good!)

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Gravel Grinding

The first hour or so was fun with the tail of the bike kicking out on occasion so I was having think of what lines to take on these roads but as the day wore on I was finding it harder to keep the level of concentration and there were a few times that I nearly came of when the back kicked out too much or I over compensated. After nearly 7 hours on these roads I had had enough, the landscape is just field after field of cows, the roads varying levels of gravel or grit and I was tired, hot, dehydrated (there was nowhere to fill up my filter bottle and I had drained all of my three bottles that I carry…. and worse… I was hungry… on long days I have to keep eating and today was 140km… that’s approximately 3000 Calories burned so I should be eating over double what the recommended daily intake of food…. I had probably eaten 1000 calories all day.

Eventually I came back onto asphalt just outside of a lovely named village of Rosebud but the scatnav wanted to take me back onto the gravel… I ignored it and headed straight north of lovely smooth roads into the Badlands, I stopped briefly at Horseshoe Canyon before heading down a spectacular road and eventually into Drumheller where I was beginning to feel ill through lack of food so quickly showered and headed to the nearest food place and ate everything I could think of!

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Horseshoe Canyon

Drumheller 16th and 17th May 2017

Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because of the high concentration of fossils located in the area. In the 1880’s, J.B. Tyrrell came to present-day Drumheller looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River. That dinosaur became known as the Albertasaurus and so began the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all over the world and is provides a steady stream of tourists to the area.

 

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Drumheller water tower

I spent a couple of days in Drumheller having a look round cleaning Eve. I spent the first day eating and having a look around the town itself, its quite nice and has a clear dinosaur theme going through it! Day two I told the scatnav to take me the quickest route to the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum which resulted in a rather hot and sweaty 50km bike ride for what should have been 15km!!! But the museum was interesting and lets be honest, who doesn’t like dinosaurs!

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T-Rex!

Drumheller to Hanna (aka “Power of the Voodoo; Hoodoos?”) 18th May 2017

I decided to take the less obvious route down the valley today to see the Hoodoo’s; unusual rock pillers often with a “cap” of rock on top that form totem pole like shapes, these only really form in Badlands and deserts so I thought it was worth the trip.

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Hoodoos

Because of this detour I ended up on gravel roads again… and then the gravel ran out and it was onto dirt tracks…. then through fields with hundreds of cows with there calves, if only I had listened to the reprogramed scatnav! It turns out that cows in Canada are scared of bikes and being in a field with literally hundreds of cows stampeding is scary as hell! After a couple of fields (probably 15 miles of track) it was back to gravel roads where a vehicles that came from the farm stopped and the driver asked if I was lost, then laughed as I told him what had happened.

 

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There goes the gravel!

Eventually I got back onto tarmac and after another 2 hours on lovely smooth roads with boring farm landscape I got to Hanna, I was tired so decided to have a couple of nights here, the gravel had drained my legs completely.

Hanna to Oyan 20st May 2017

To be honest there is not much to report from today, the landscape is a never ending sea of farm crop fields and there was nothing on route apart from one bad truckers diner from the start of the day to the end it was slight rolling hills flanked by the golden stubble of last years crops until I got to Oyan  where I set up the tent and cooked myself an excessively spicy salami hash (fried salami with sweet potato, onion and a tin of chopped tomato’s)

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Camp dinner

I wasn’t the only one having dinner, the mosquitos were out in force and were having a feast on me! The prairies (which I was now in) may not be that interesting to ride through but boy, the sunsets are something!

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Prairie Sunsets are quite something!

Oyan to Kindersly 21st May 2017

This was much the same as yesterday with the exception of crossing out of Alberta and into Saskatchewan, I had now passed through two states in full but I knew this one was going to be tough, and it seemed that started as soon as I was on over the state lines, the wind seemed to switch straight away and it became a head wind blowing over miles of open planes at about 20mph, it felt like an uphill battle. the few times that the headwind dropped it became a sidewind and pushed me all over the place on the road, and the amount heavy goods on this section was increasing the buffering I was getting to the point that I had a close call of getting pushed by the aerodynamics into the side of a lorry travelling at 100kph, brown trouser time! on a more positive note though I saw a beaver in a pond off to the side of the road. Unfortunately the wind didn’t help get rid of the mosquitos and I have been eaten to death!

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Saskatchewan…..

I am having a couple of rest days at Kinderley, there isn’t much here but I need to pick some stuff up and possibly get a new chain for the bike, mine is nearly worn out after the last 1800km.

 

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Hangover on Wheels

10/05/2017

I have been on in Canada for a month now, how exciting! Today I went up to Banff Cave and Basin, this is the birthplace of the national parks in Canada. The caves and basin are two thermal mineral pools (one in a cave and one outdoors) that are fed by a number of springs that run of Sulphur mountain.

I am not very good underground… in fact I am down right terrible! But I can’t let my fears stop me from seeing interesting things so I headed on into a really rather wonderful little grotto. Due to a unique type of snail you can no longer access the water but I sat by the side and soaked in the relaxing atmosphere (occasionally broken by school groups or tour groups) for about 30mins or an hour. The slight humidity, hint of sulphur, sound of running water and general ambiance of the place was relaxing. Its really no wonder that the First Nations thought that this was a spiritual place.

Banff Cave

Originally the cave was only accessible through a skylight but the Europeans blasted an access to it to make it easier for the tourists and small resort was built so people could “take the waters”.

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The hostel had organised a trip to the local climbing wall, so I thought I would join in and meet some more new people. The climbing was good, although my lack of practice was quite evident (to me), its amazing how just a month or so of not climbing makes you significantly weaker! After this it was a dip in the pool then back to pick my bike up from having a service, no issues but as I was in town for a few days I thought its was worth the while, and bike shops are an invaluable source of information for what is coming up next!

That eve a few of us went down to the bar for a pint… this turned into a few pints and I crawled back to my bunk at about 2am…. enough said about that!

Banff to Canmore (12/05/2017)

At 8am I was up and packing the last of my things back into the panniers, rather less organised than it had come out but I was feeling sick as a dog and had no idea how I would even with the short day to Canmore, this is only 22km and relatively flat. The views, those that I could pay attention to, were slightly different as the road follows the wide glacial valley with the mountains seeming to get further and further away.

Exiting Banff National Park

I am sad to say I left the national park on this journey and in the next day or so I will be leaving the mountains all together.

I got to Canmore at about lunch time and found a hotel, I was still feeling rough and ended up sleeping most of the afternoon. I can never work out if what I call a hangover is purely the alcohol or a lack of sleep and the fact I can’t really eat the next day.

Canmore to Calgary (13/05/2017)

Today I will be leaving the mountains behind me, and a sad day that is. I headed for route 1A and with my typical grace in towns, got misplaced… After a few wrong terns I got on the right route and headed up into some of the foot hills and climbed for about 30 mins, I was now out of the national park and it was obvious, after the first hour I was seeing signs of mineral extraction and other associated industry that isn’t allowed in the park.

20km from my starting point and I was out of the mountains all together and the next 50km after that were a gradual down hill. I stopped at an old Church called the McDougall Memorial United Church. This place was built in 1875 (old for this part of the world it seems) and was built as a mission to the Stoney-Nakoda and Blackfoot First Nations of this area (its located in a Blackfoot reserve). It was also a pioneering settlement, featuring southern Alberta’s first permanent homestead, first herd of breeding cattle, and first Protestant church, as well as one of the province’s first trained teachers.

McDougall Memorial United Church
After this I briefly passes through Cochran which seemed like it was still a cowboy town! Then climbed a rather large hill that required more effort than I really wanted to give, Granny gear even came into play again! At this point the road was getting rather busy as well so I was glad a few km later to take a turning towards Tuscany, no not that one! this was a suburban maze that confused me like you would not believe, I only wanted to get to the river then it was a straight (or as straight as rivers are!) run through the city to the hostel. pretty much the whole of the river in Calgary has been turned into a park so it was a rather nice journey into town, I was joined by a local commuter for a while which was nice, he had seen the panniers and was interested to know what I was up to.

After winding my way through riverside walk for about 15km I got to the hostel then it was the normal gig of shower unpack a few bits, wipe the bike down and go find some food.

 

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High Point

So the last few days I have been held up at the Icefield Centre as there has been an avalanche between me and my next stop, Lake Louise, but as places to get stack go its not bad. The views of the Athabasca Glacier are stunning, and even though I couldn’t walk on the glacier (its too dodgy with the gear I have) I had a walk up the various trails to it which normally resulted in a shoe full of ice-cold water and jeans that wouldn’t dry for hours!

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Athabasca Glacier

Eventually the avalanche was cleared late on Saturday (6th May 2017) and I could get on with my trip.

Icefield Centre to Lake Louise (7th May 2017)

This was going to be another tough day, they all seem to be! I was starting at a height of just under 2000m and would be 1400m before rising again to 2000m, after that it would mainly be down hill to Lake Louise at 1541m, so a lot of accent hills in general.

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The route

Its hard to describe the day, I was following Route 93 to Saskatchewan River Crossing. This road had been described to me as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, I had assumed this was the typical North American habit of describing everything as “amazing” or “the best”, it turns out that this was not the case, this road is truly awe inspiring, around every bend in the road is another spectacular mountain, lake or river that, for me at least, takes the breath away. Most the mountains were either jagged monstrosities that left me looking for possible routes up then realising they were way out of my capacity to climb; or huge faces possibly 2000m high, then realising that as I was already 2000m up in the pass this would make these possibly 4000m high, again way outside my skill!

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Big boys!

The cycling was tough, I am not sure if I am just tired or I was slightly effected by the height, apparently symptoms such as breathlessness can start from 1500m. To be honest it doesn’t really matter, I knew it was nothing serious even if it was altitude so I just kept plugging away. Even struggling up the hills I in awe of the mountains.

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oooooo pretty!

At about 12:30 I got to Saskatchewan River Crossing, perfect timing to get some lunch. I was under the impression this was going to be a small village but it turns out that it is a rather large service station with motel, grocery store and café. The food was overpriced and not particularly good but it filled a hole.

From the crossing I followed the 93 south and started to climb gain, part way through the clime there was almost a plateau, well really it was just a series of mini hills part way up the mountain. On one of the hills I came across my first black bear, and rather closer than I would like! The general advice is to keep at least 8 bus lengths from bears, I was maybe 8m… at a push… but he wasn’t really interested in me, he watched to make sure I wasn’t a threat, and I watched to make sure he/she wasn’t (hand close to the bear spray on my belt!) I yet again didn’t get a picture but I am sure you can understand that I was in quite a dodgy place to stop and take a pic!

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Curtesy of google… kinda how it looked…. not so flowery though!

After the bear encounter it was more climbing to reach the highest point of my trip at just under 2000m, my legs were dead and my lungs just couldn’t get enough oxygen for the exertion but onwards was the only way, and probably the quickest way to drop height.

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High point!

To be honest the next section was a blur of stunning lakes and glorious mountains but one thing I do recall is seeing a number of marmots that squeaked at me as I passed on the way into Lake Louise.

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I have no idea where I took this, possibly Bow Lake with Mount Jimmy Simpson?

Lake Louise to Banff (08/05/2017)

Today is a short day, 60km from Lake Louise to one of the places I am most looking forward to on the trip, Banff.

I wasn’t sure what route I was planning to take for this section as a quick glance at the road only showed the main road which is a duel carriageway and can get a touch busy at times. A closer look reviled the “old road” (everything is quite new here so its not that old!) Route 1A. This is a quieter road but involves more climbing than the main route, not that much o an issue after the last few days as I have decreased in altitude and the climbs are not as hard. The problem is the views weren’t great in comparison to the last few days but then they were magnificent.

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Not quite as grand as yesterday but still good!

The route took me through high Alpine meadows that had yet to come into bloom and a dark pieces of Canadian history that I wasn’t aware of, the Internment Camps.

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Internment Camp sign

Then it was down into Banff and to settle into the hostel for a few days rest.

To be continued…

 

 

Avalanche Stops Play

The last couple of days really have been stunning so let me tell you about them…

Jasper to Beauty Creek (04/05/2017)

Lets start with some numbers…:

Distance: 89.3km

Accent: 1206m

Highest point: 1610m above see level

But that’s only of interest if you are a numbers geek… Where I think you are reading this for the story so here we go…

I had been advised by one of the guys in a local bike shop to take Route 93A (the old road) rather than the 93 as it was for nicer. What he failed to mention was that it’s a lot higher and steeper that the 93, but the views were amazing and the road is quiet. As you follow the road you get stunning views of high lakes, often frozen still, and even higher mountains giving some purely breath-taking views, I can probably count on one had the amount of times in my life that a view has made me exclaim out loud, I have now probably added another 1/2 dozen to the list! The first is where the 93A crosses Whirlpool River and the view of a mountain (name unknown to me). I had to slam on the breaks and stop to ogle at the view for a while.

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Whirlpool River

From here I descended slightly to where I was to re-join the 93 heading south, at the junction of the road is Athabasca Falls, another rather pretty place. At the falls I ended up chatting to a few brits who had previously cycled the Grand Divide and where interested in what I was doing, it seems everyone wants to talk to the crazy person cycling in the snow in shorts!

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Athabasca Falls

As the miles ticked slowly by I was surrounded by even bigger mountains and the colour of the river slowly became more and more glacial blue and I was getting tired so took every opportunity to stop and look at the sights, in fact I have taken too many pictures to show you them all!

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Ooooo pretty!

Even the view of the tarmac wasn’t too bad with the towering peaks in the distance, you have to remember at this point I was already about 1200-1400m above see level so these things must be 3-4000m.

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Tarmac….

I stayed at one of the Hostels International Wilderness Hostels, there is no electricity and no running water, there wasn’t even supposed to be a caretaker at this time of year but Jennie had turned up a few day earlier than need to have a spring clean. Later on a younger group turned up and a fun night was had by all.

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The hostel

Beauty Creek to Columbia Icefield (05/05/2017)

Today has been the first proper day that I have any real problems with mother nature, it all started of fine as I left the hostel and headed up the tough climb that I knew was coming to what is possibly the highest point of my trip at 1938m and the Icefields observatory, the climb was tough, but not as bad as that to Duffy Lake, and I ended up walking the last 1/2 mile or so. I payed the extortionate fee to access the glass floored viewing platform and I am glade that I did, the views all around were stunning.

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Selfie and views of the Icefield

Whilst there the staff (people again talking to the nutter in shorts!) informed me that there had been an avalanche between there and Lake Louise, my next stop, and it had been a big one. They showed me a group of Facebook posts with pictures showing the road had been blocked by 20ft deep snow and that this covered approximately 100m of the road… there was no way I was getting through there today, possibly not tomorrow. I had no real option but to continue on to the Icefield Discovery Centre, it was the only place to stay before the avalanche, but it wasn’t going to be cheap.

So I continued on into the icefields (still in shorts….) and was rewarded with one of the most spectacular views I think I have ever seen. I had some lunch and checked in to the hotel after checking the state of the road (no updates). After settling in I went for a wander up towards the glacier but the trail is too much, (wet and snowy) for the gear I have, so I went to walk up the road and the weather drew in, so I returned to the hotel and am sat in the café updating you and looking over the amazing vista.

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Athabasca Glacier

If I am still stranded tomorrow hopefully I should get up to the glacier.

 

 

 

Jaunt in Jasper

So I have now made it to the mountain town of Jasper and here is how I got here:

Valemount to Jasper (30/04/2017)

Leaving Valemount I re-joined Route 5 heading generally north, I felt sluggish as I hadn’t been sleeping particularly well for a couple of days. You would think with all the exercise I would be sleeping like a baby but hey ho.

The conditions didn’t really change much, some proper white topped mountains peaking above tree line. This was pretty much the same for the first 20km (12miles) where I joined Route 16 heading East, at this point the road also started to ascend as I approached Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies… I stopped at Rearguard Falls (still on the Fraser River, boy that’s a long river!) The falls are renowned for being the farthest point that salmon migrate up the Fraser River to spawn, about 1,260 km (783 mi) from the ocean. I had a couple of stops before this but I thought a quick walk to the falls may help. On the way back the skies opened and this time it was hail instead of rain, waterproofs were on again and a couple of mins later it had stopped but I was already moving an in no position to strip off, I really dislike riding in waterproof trousers.

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Rearguard Falls

A few kilometres after leaving the waterfalls the road straightens out and I got a view of what I think was Mount Robson and boy is she beautiful! Sheer faces with ledges coated in snow… man, I want to climb her one day!

The day wore on and the trees started to thin out and suddenly I discovered I was no longer next to the river but a giant great big lake, Moose Lake to be precise. The lake is stunning and with the mountains in the background I couldn’t help but stop (and not just because the legs being tired) the lake is 11.7 km long and 1.9 km wide at its widest point.

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Eve at Moose Lake

Leaving the lake I began to notice that the mountains starting to look jagged and fun and I couldn’t take my eyes off Mount Fitzwilliam, a mass of ridges and the nodulous extension to the north-east, I will really have to come pack with my mountaineering gear at some point! Not long after I was into the national park and heading into Jasper. Just on the way in to town I think I saw some elk, maybe :s

Once in town I headed to the hotel, showered, then headed out for a wander around town and check out what there was to see. The town is more touristy than those I have been in since Whistler but that was expected and its actually quite nicely done with buildings in a semi traditional style, also I am out of season so its quite quiet. I have a couple of days here to explore so quite looking forward to that, although unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to get into the hills as my gear isn’t up to 2500m mountains in potential winter conditions.

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Jasper

O and I forgot to mention I have now crossed a time zone, so only seven hours behind UK time!

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Crossing lines

Jasper (01/05/2017)

Most of today I have been wandering around town looking at the sights and eating… lots, but here is what I know about Jasper (thanks google):

“Jasper is an alpine town in Canada’s Alberta province, is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. Amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the park has glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. The Jasper SkyTram climbs to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park.

Elevation: 1,062 m

Area: 925.5 km²

Population: 4,590 (2016)”
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Jasper from the air… well mountain…
Jasper and Whistlers Peak (02/05/2017)
To day I had a trip up Whistlers Mountain (not the ski resort, this is a different one!) by the Sky Tram, which is effectively a gondola, but nice all the same! I decided to walk the 7km to the Sky Tram and I am glad I did the scenery is great round here!
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River walk
From the station at the top I was a bit naughty and continued to the summit in trainers and jeans, the snow is still thick up there with me sometimes going knee deep in it but the views were worth it. I met a nice couple of Canadians up there who I chatted to for a while  and took some photo’s for, they also offered to drive me back to town when we got back down which I took them up on. All in all a very pleasant day!
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 Views!

Everything the body needs

After two hard days cycling I needed a day off so stayed in Blue River for another night so here is what Wiki has to say about it:

“Blue River is a small community in British Columbia, situated on British Columbia Highway 5 about halfway between Kamloops and Jasper, Alberta, located at the confluence of the Blue and North Thompson Rivers. It currently has 260 residents. The local economy is supported by logging, tourism and transportation industries”

That about sums up the town, its small with very little to do, so I chilled and recovered.

Blue River to Valemount

The day started with glorious sunshine which is a nice change to the normal drizzly start. The road was much the same, lined by trees but now the view of the white topped mountains where visible to keep me entertained. The route generally gained height today so I was prepared to switch into a low gear and just spin for the 55miles (90km) to Valemount but as it turned out although I was gaining height the inclines were so small that even with my heavy bike I was predominantly in the top 4 gears, this is possibly the longest I have spent in those!

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Its nice to be able to see!

As I was criss-crossing the North Thompson River and slowly gaining height it had the obvious effect of reducing temperature (as a rule of thumb its 1oC for every 100m) and snow started to appear in the shady areas along the river and treeline. Although still in shorts my hands were getting cold enough to stop and put on some gloves and eat some more snacks.

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Getting chilly again!

As the morning wore on I started to notice the clouds gathering… at about 11:30 the mountains ahead were coated in rain and it was time to put on the wet weather gear. For about 30mins the heavens opened but I knew it was only a passing shower and the maniacal grin was back, I have no idea why!

At about 13:30 I got to Valemount, this was about 1.5hrs earlier than I had anticipated so I had a shower and then a leasurly walk round town, as ever the museum was closed so I went to find somewhere to have some food… and guess what…. most places were closed! So what do you do in a town when the cultural and food places are closed? Well, personally I head to the bar and the best one in town is also a brewery! After a couple of mins I was in convo with some of the locals and getting some info on what was coming up over the next few days.

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hmmmmm beer….

Dinner was had at the Caribou Grill which did possibly the best steak I have ever had! Well worth the visit and the staff are amazing! Canada-210.jpg

Valemount is a pretty little town!

Snow stops play on Saturday so its more wandering and chilling, no beer today though. Right, the hot tub is calling….

 

Dear diary

Dear diary,

The last few days have been a mix of good and tough. This entry covers just two days covering the section of the route from Kamloops to Blue River, I hope you enjoy it…

Kamloops to Clear Water (25/04/2017)

Today I left Kamloops and headed up to Clearwater, this started with the chaos of trying to find my way out of the city, I have cities they are giant mazes full of cars! I headed over the historic Red Bridge, a nearby tourist sign states:

“Kamloops is a city of bridges. During the early 1880s the growing community of Kamloops needed a bridge to connect with its most important partner, the Kamloops Indian Band. Tenders for Kamloops’ first bridge were called in 1887. The wooden truss structure measured 300 metres and included a swing span to accommodate paddle wheelers. The official name for the bridge was the Government Bridge but it was always colloquially known as the Red Bridge. The Red Bridge was repaired and replaced in 1910 and again in 1937. Nearly a century later, the Red Bridge still stands and continues to serve as a vital link between Kamloops and the KIB. It has withstood floods and fire and is a much-loved landmark in the city and an important monument to the history and heritage of Kamloops.”

Its an impressive structure!

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Red Bridge

Following the red bridge I worked my way through a mass of industrial area and outlying residential area and trailer parks before crossing into North Kamloops and having to stop to readjust my rear rack which had started coming into contact with the back wheel somehow! Once this was sorted I weaved my way through residential streets to the riverside path so to avoid the road for as long as possible. This is where I bumped into a couple of locals out cycling who turned out to be cycle tourists and have done the route themselves! for about 45mins we cycled together sharing stories and them sharing information for the next few days on places to stay and places to drink beer (they know the important things in life!) once I left them I worked my way up the road on the west shore of the North Thompson river for miles, the road gradually undulating but nothing to bad.

After passing ranches and small holdings I had a choice to make… wait 45 mins for the ferry to cross over the river and back to the main road or follow the dirt service road for about 10 miles… I chose to wait, the ferry looked interesting, I have never been on a “rope” ferry before! While waiting I chatted with the family to let them know I was alive… just as a snake slithered away from me.

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The ferry

Once over the ferry it was onto Route 5 which I followed for the next 80km of rolling ups and down following large sweeping bends in the river. I stopped for a (what seems to be customary) service station lunch and then worked through the miles of hill flanked valley watching the river wind its way through great sweeping turns. This area seems to have a lot of wild life too; today I have seen dear, eagles, what I think may be prairie dogs and some stoat like creature I need to look up to see what it was. No sign of beavers, bears or moose though.

After miles and miles of this terrain I was getting tired, this seems to happen at about the 6.5hr mark! I eventually got to Clearwater having covered about 85miles (135km), got some food and sat next to Dutch Lake listening to the birds and frogs as the sun set and the stars came out. Not a bad way to finish the day!

hard times

Sunsets

Clear Water to Blue River (26/o4/2017)

To day has been a tough day, and I knew there would be a number of these! I started of tired after the ride from Kamloops and a bad night sleep and the route was predominantly up hill with my end point being 250m higher than the start, doesn’t sound much but when you take into account that this means in a 6hr day there is relatively little down that’s tough. Most of the morning there wasn’t much to note, I travelled down Route 5 with trees flanking both sides of the road, and no view of the hills (due to clag (hill fog)) and the trees. Between this and the continuous drizzle I wasn’t really enjoying the ride but I got my head down and just plugged on with eating the miles. I even plugged into my music, I rarely do that!

As the day wore on the weather improved and the road came closer to the river so I was able to get some views, this helped but I was also getting more tired. At about 1 I came across some more cycle tourists who were going the same route, we passed a few mins chatting before I headed off leaving them to there lunch.

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Sorry, best pic I could do today!

The weather kept improving but the ups were getting harder and “Granny” came into play as I had to just spin up quite a few. Eventually I managed to get to Blue River, gave Eve a quick wash down and get possibly the worst food I have had so far, but the hotel I am in is nice and I am going to take full advantage of the hot tub!

Well diary, that’s me signing off for now. Talk to you soon.

Into the dessert

Lillooet to Cache Creek (21/04/2017)

As ever the road day started with a long up hill, this time going on for about 12km, but it was rideable in a lowish gear.  As you leave the town (past the vineyard that isn’t in my guide book!) you enter First Nation territory again. on the decent from the hill as ever I took the opportunity to rest the legs and I noticed that the ground had changed from predominantly granite to a sandy shale type of soil (sure one of my friends who studied geology will correct me on this!) and the there amount of large pines thinned out and more sage bush’s and scrub brush appeared, in one of the fields I am sure I even saw tumble weeds, I was into the semi arid dessert region.

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Fraser River on the exit of Lillooet

The next hour passed riding on flat ground between scattered houses in glorious sunshine. I had a break at a “gas” station and had a snack and cold drink, no rush today as its a shorter day. I am struggling to remember anything of mush interest over the next section of the route as it was another long shallow hill up to Pavilion and the very interesting valley with Marble Canyon, and looks great fun for a day or so of scrambling of climbing!

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Marble Canyon area

I also had the pleasure of watching Golden Eagles playing in just above the trees at this point so had a break to watch for a while before the last stretch to Cache Creek.

On entering Cache Creek I was somewhat surprised that the whole town was effectively one large service station, I checked in at the sage motel checked on the sunburn from the day (I hadn’t bought suntan lotion yet so was a tad pink and even blistered on one elbow!) and  headed out to find some food, it was about 5pm by this time and everything seems too close early!

I rested up another day here, I am tired. Physically I could go on but my eyes just don’t want to open and the next day of riding is a long one.

A bit about Cache Creek

The name is derived, apparently, from a cache or buried and hidden supply and trade goods depot used by the fur traders of either the Hudson’s Bay Company or its rival the North West Company.

Cache Creek to Kamloops

Its a warm start again, so I have hath slathered on the suntan lotion, I cant afford to get any more burnt! Got to say today has been a boring day on the whole, most of it has been on the main road flanked by fields and very similar looking sandy hills. There was an interesting attraction along the way which is a mock up of an old town at Deadman Junction Ranch, unfortunately it was closed otherwise I would have spent a few mins being nosey, but I am early in the season! O and if you are wondering about the name, the local river is called Deadman River. The rivers name dates back to 1817, when Pierre Charette of the North West Company was killed by his travelling companion in a quarrel over the campsite.

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Deadman Junction Ranch

I again stopped at a gas station for a soft drink and chocolate bar mid morning before turning off the main road up Deadman Vidette Road. It was nice to be away from the main route and the views were great. I cycled passed Skeetchestn Indian Band surrounding ranches on a mix of asphalt and dirt roads which was great fun… although a bolt came of the bike from somewhere and I couldn’t find where till the end on the day it turned out to only be a connector from rear rack to the bike thankfully!

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Deadman Vidette Road

I was supposed to take a small road called Johnson Road that connects onto a small system of roads that would bring me into North Kamloops but it turned out to be a loose gravel forestry track that I didn’t fancy pushing the bike up so it was another 10km back to the main road and an up till struggle along Route 1 but the view over Kamploops Lake made it worth while!

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Kamloops Lake

Not long after the view of the lake the heavens opened for about 10mins but I had seen the clouds coming so had chucked a jacket on quickly, thankfully I have learned were certain things are in the panniers now! As the rain poured down I felt that maniacal smile coming over my face as it sometimes does in these conditions, what on Earth could be better than getting a drenching while cycling up another incline??? I am not sure if it was just the rain and the hill but drivers were encouraging me on again.

The route in to Kamloops brought me through first an industrial area (nice…) then through suburbia on the hills above the city (nice!) before working my way through the centre to my accommodation on Victoria Street. A dinner in the rather nice Noble Pig brewery and kitchen was had (burger and poutine) the food was good and, god, the portion sizes were generous!

 

 

 

Whistler and weather

As I said in my previous blog I have been in Whistler so here is a bit of info on the place before I tell you what I have been up to…

Whistler Village is located at the base of the Two Peaks, Whistler and Blackcomb. The village is actually relatively new having been proposed as part of the 1968 Winter Olympic bids. Although the bid was lost the development went ahead and opened in 1966. To start with the two mountains were operated separately, this led to a lot of competition and improvements and upgrades unknown anywhere else. The competition between the two mountains led to the area being named as the top ski resort for many year. Eventually the two companies merged in 2003.

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Icy water on Alta Lake, Whistler

Whistler Blackcomb was the centrepiece of a renewed bid on the part of nearby Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which they won in July 2003. Whistler Blackcomb hosted the Alpine Skiing events.

As you would imagine the town is heavily focused on the outdoors industry with skiing during the winter and mountain biking in the summer being catered for by a host of shops, hotels and restaurants in the chilled and pleasant town, I actually prefer the resort to the European resorts I have been to, but I was here only at the very tail end of the season

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Whistler

Whistler (17/04/2017)

Today I got back out in the snow and got some skiing in. This is only about the third time I have actually skied and last time (in Jan) I ended the first day with a cracked rib and concussion so I was slightly worried when on the lifts up to the slopes but I only planned to keep to the easy “green” runs. Its was a cloudy day and as I got to the top of the lifts it was rather misty. I spent about 4hrs getting more confident and improving whilst the cloud got thicker and thicker till eventually I could barely see where I was going so decided it was time to head down and get some food.

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I spent the evening with Alex and Jack again and one of there house mates cooked an amazing vegi Tai curry (thanks again!)

Whistler (18/04/2017)

The much promised thunder storm hasn’t appeared but today was a full rest day of pottering round town, eating pizza, sitting in the sauna and Jacuzzi. nothing really to report but I am looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow and heading to Lillooet approximately 130km north-east.

Whistler to Lillooet (18/04/2017)

I had an early start today as it was planned to be a long hard one, the day started with waffles and maple syrup (hmmmmm….. 🙂 ) then it was onto the bike, I may have got slightly misplaced getting out of Whistler as I was aiming to go to the Lost Lake, but the paths were still too icy on the bike. The first section of the ride to Pemberton was relatively easy with a few ups and downs but nothing to right home about. I had a bit of a stop at Nairn Waterfalls to rest and have a nosey.

 Nairn Waterfalls
Next it was on to Pemberton where I stopped for a spot of lunch knowing that the next section had some pretty tough up hills and was quite rural (next town was approximately 100km and would be my destination for the day.) Just after this I entered into First Nation territory, this meant that the amount of dwelling plummeted and distances between them slowly increased until I passed the last property and headed along the long flat road with the mountains in the distance, since I started I knew that any time I hit flat lands I would have to make the most of it and push the speed a touch, so I upped the pace slightly to approximately 14mph and enjoyed the views of Lillooet and Birken Head Rivers.  Then the fun began…

Fun on the road.

The next 3 hours, yes I did say 3, was all up hill. I started ok, dropping to my lowest gear (I have named this gear Granny (don’t ask!)) and just tried to spin my way up, unfortunately by the end of the first switchback I was already in need of a break so I had one… by the end of the second I was panting like you wouldn’t believe and stopped just past the first of the broken down lorries of the day. A couple more switchbacks and my legs started cramping, this hill was a b£$%h and I was probably only half way up! It was time for me start walking, I might not be bike fit but my legs are used to walking up hills for hours at a time, so plod up pushing my 32kg worth of bike and equipment.

At times I tried to cycle for sections but the gradient was too much for me, even with the support and cheering from drivers going in the opposite direction! To be honest I can’t tell you much about the accent as I was just digging in and plodding up. So after 3 hours I had done 1000m of accent, some of which was 18% hill I was done and I knew I was only about half way and had another hill left!

The next 20km I used the down hill to try and recover, I was in the snowline now and taking on a lot of water and some of my snack. as I was descending I am sure I heard bear calls in the woods, but surely its still too cold up here? But the singing started to warn them that I was around (or scare them off!) After the 20km I came to Duffy Lake, an 8km high mountain lake that was completely and utterly frozen over , I had a quick stop at the far end to take on a Clif Bar, one of my snacks for the day, and to take a picture. I was down to my last bottle of isotonic too and it was helping my legs to get over the cramps but I was still weak, the hill had really taken it out of me!

 

Ice cold! Duffy Lake

The next 30km was mainly down hill so I used the momentum of the downs to get me up the short up hills. I gradually dropped out of the snowline and saw my first bits of wild life, first of were a few Mule deer that surprised me when they scrambled up a steep back that I hadn’t been paying attention to (lesson learned!) Next I had a call from a car coming the opposite way warning of a bear cub up ahead, unfortunately my gopro was dead otherwise I would have turned it on! It was at the edge on of the other side of the carriageway and from what I could tell was a very young grisly cub, mum was nowhere in site and I was singing again to let them know I was no threat but the poor thing looked scared of me (or my out of tune singing!)  This is the first time I have seen a wild bear and it was a cutie! Thankfully I didn’t meet mum!

After this I was into Gott Creak area and my god this place was stunning, huge monoliths of rock on all sides that dwarf anything I have seen before! For miles these huge mountains flanked me making me feel small as a hurtled through at 30mph, doesn’t sound much but on a 32kg bike that’s quite a lot! One final climb followed that I did my best to cycle up and I nearly managed it… but walk some more it was! The last section consisted of downward switchbacks of 13%, and I was most glad I had gone for disk breaks.

I was at Lillooet, the outskirts was dominated by a logging area and damn and the town itself is definitely a working town rather than a tourist destination, I swear I heard duelling banjo’s as I entered! Everything in town was closed by 20:30, having got into town at 19:30 and needing to check in this meant that my only food choice was whatever I could get at the petrol station. But by this point I didn’t care, I grabbed anything edible, headed to the hotel and about 20mins later was asleep.

I will stay here for a day as my legs are shot.