Cranbrook to Blairmore ~ 167 km, 9 hours 20 minutes
It was a beautiful ride into Wild Rose Country, Alberta. Long sweeping roads overlooked small lakes intermingled in green valleys. We were just over half way back to Calgary. It was a tiring ride into Crowsnest Pass and we were hoping to have a “hotel night”. Not only were all the hotels booked stating “no vacancy”, but the town was overrun by motor-homes, tents, trailers and visitors. The streets were filled with people, moving in masses. It was “Thunder in the Valley” weekend . . . . . . . what were we in for?
It was an evening of spectacular fireworks that lasted almost an hour, set off in the valley surrounded by sky reaching mountains. It was delayed for a short bit due to a fierce thunder/lightning storm with a heavy downpour that lasted 15 minutes.
We found a spot away from the crowds to set up camp in the long grass to hide our biking gear. The only trouble was it was right beside a railway track. We had gone in to town just minutes before it began to rain to grab a bite to eat. Tons of people ran into the restaurant to seek shelter from the torrential downpour. The streets quickly filled up with streams of water. We waited until the storm was over, dreading what we would find back at camp. Would all our gear be soaking wet and there would be no place to stay tonight? When we returned to our tent it was floating in about 3″ of water, the tent, ensolite pads and sleeping bags. Without realizing, we had set up our tent in a very low spot. We couldn’t believe our luck, all our gear inside the tent was perfectly dry, we just picked up our tent and moved it to higher ground.
Thunder in the Valley ~ Crowsnest Pass 2011
Still moving toward the finish! A roadside stop included a short catnap and much needed java. We camped just outside of Cranbrook after crossing the McFee Bridge over the St. Mary’s River. It was a site high atop the river’s bank, overlooking some feeding, moaning cattle and a wide expanse of grassland, with the mountains all around. Thankfully, we were tucked inside before the mosquitoes came out to feed!
Still here ~ day 7. Feeling much better today!
Roadside break and much needed java!
Yeah, we’ve arrived for the day. St. Mary’s River in behind.
We ducked down this side road and found the best camp site overlooking the river. When dusk came, the mosquitos were in full force!
We rode two hours along the narrow, hilly Nelson Nelway Highway beside the Kootenay River to Balfour to catch the ferry ride across Kootenay Lake. The homes and cottages here were beautiful as they hung along the waters edge. The weather was so changeable today. Cooler temperatures, were followed by rain on and off, then hot patches of air, swirling winds behind, then head on. There was a storm brewing ahead on the horizon as the thunder rumbled around the mountains . . . . . and it was hovered right over Creston, where we were planning to camp for the night.
I had a difficult day today, with the changing weather and overall exhaustion, every part of my body was sore and I was worn out. “When we get to Creston, we are going to the bus station, I’m putting you on a bus!” Doug sternly told me. Thankfully there wasn’t a great deal of elevation change on the second half of our ride today. We followed the Kootenai River, as it meandered down the wide valley/flood plain. It was so scenic and reminded me of the Holland Marsh back home, with the various crops growing on the flat-lands.
When we arrived in town, the rain was just beginning, the storm was ready to unleash it’s anger. We ducked inside a bar for supper hoping the storm would be over when we were finished eating. Thankfully, it was! We found a campground close to town just down the road from the Kokanee Brewery. The Kootenay mountains on the label are seen far off in the distance ~ pretty neat! The “Glacier Fresh” slogan for the beer comes from using glacier mountain stream water in its brewing.
Once camp was set up, Ryan and Doug went to shower up. I didn’t have the energy to shower. I got out of my damp riding gear, curled up in my sleeping bag, drew the drawstring closed around my head, turned toward the tent wall and wept. I was worn out and there was no bus leaving town.
Kootenay Ferry Schedule
Hotel in Nelson
Ferry from Balfour to Kootney Bay.
Scenic view of Kootenay Lake, we crossed way in the distance at the top of the lake and rode down the east side to the southern tip of it.
A much needed relief, Kootenay River Valley, flat lands.
Storm was brewing ahead, over Creston..
Amazingly, we stayed fairly dry.
Brewed right here in the Kootenays with glacier stream water.
Today was a very, very long day! Climbing in and out of valleys, down to river beds and lakes, then up the other side of mountains. Along the way we passed several cattle and horse ranches. Interestingly, the animals all sauntered slowly toward the fences to check us out as we passed by. This was Boundary Country, close to the boundary of Canada and the United States and in the middle of British Columbia, right between the Rockies and the Pacific Ocean.
As we passed Christina Lake and began our long climb up the side of Mount Gladstone, daylight was slipping away. We were searching to find a spot to camp, but there were cliffs on either side of the highway. Straight up or dropping straight down. There was nowhere to camp.
A truck had come from behind and had blown his horn. We thought that was unusual to scare us like that, but as we looked ahead, there was a bear peering over a cliff edge close to the highway. We realized the trucker was trying to scare the bear away for us.
There was no way we were going to stop near there. As we trudged on, we turned on our bike lights and were faced with the grim possibility that we would have to ride in the dark for almost an hour before arriving at a safe site. We stopped at Paulson Bridge to talk about our options. Another truck driver stopped to tell us, it was not safe to camp in that area, he has passed through that area quite often and said that there was a mother bear and two young cubs living close by. He told us the highway ahead to was extremely windy and dangerous, especially in the dark.
Generously, he offered to put our bikes in his trailer and he drove us to . . . . . Nelson. We were so lucky to have this guardian angel check in on us! It was close to midnight by the time we had settled into a hotel in town. What a long day!
Boundary Country is “a district in southern British Columbia lying along the boundary between Canada and the United States. It lies to the east of the southern Okanogan Valley and to the west of the West Kootenay.” Wikipedia
Steep grades ahead . . . . get ready!
This one was for Marie! Soon to be a bride.
Such a great view of the Kettle River.
Short break! So many horse and cattle ranches along this part of the route. They all came toward the fence as we passed through.
The goal today was Castlegar.
Beautiful pergola at Christina Lake, a nice break before heading up the next mountain to finish off our ride today.
Nasty gear tatoo from my bike falling over.
So lucky to have a truck driver stop us and ask us how far we were going tonight.
Loading up our gear ~ so lucky!
Ryan’s camel back burn/tan. YIKES!
I love “hotel nights!” So very nice!