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!
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.
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!
We woke up to rain, so geared up accordingly. The first part of the highway followed along the Silkameen River and was pleasantly flat. What a nice change! We rolled through the old gold mining town of Hedley and could still see abandoned mine shaft entrances high above the roadside in the mountains.
Eventually, Crowsnest Pass ran between two mountains ~ the Snowy Mountain and Mount Kobau. Both protected areas. As the road began to rise toward the sky, we entered the grasslands. We could feel the change in the air, it was an extremely dry and hot as we were approaching Osoyoos, Canada’s desert.
We climbed and climbed before cresting the top of the mountain and found a couple of triathletes unloading their tri-bikes from a van. They were going to practice their downhill descents for their upcoming Ironman in Penticton. Ryan and Doug raced these two athletes down the mountain, the girls on their tri-bikes ~ the boys pulling their trailers. What a sight!
After resting in the center of town by the desert flower welcome sign, we grabbed a bite to eat and began our 18 km. climb out of the valley. The road wound back and forth, back and forth, zig zagging all the way to the top reaching a final elevation of 685 m. It was a spectacular close to the top when we looked back to see where we had come from on the other side of the valley where the sun was shining, behind Mount Kobau . . . . down, down, down, then up, up, up to where we were. We made it up that daunting climb!
We turned the first corner and there was the first climb of the day . . . . . not even a warm up to start us off. It went on and on and on. Just when you thought it was close to the top, there would be an overlook to have a short rest and a corner to start-up the next section.
The second climb of the day, brought me to tears. Exhausted and worn out, my legs were like spaghetti. I pushed on my pedals with all my might to inch up the slope. Several times I had to unclip quickly to avoid falling over. Doug and Ryan would ride ahead and wait for me at the next view-point. This was the day I felt broken . . . . I unwillingly gave up my saddle bags through tears and blubbering. Ryan and Doug took one each and tied them down to the tops of their trailers. On a positive note, this seemed to even out our speeds ~ well, I was able to keep up a bit better. A few times, I even passed them on the climbs. Only a few times!
At Manning Lodge, we cleaned off our plates once again and used the ice water jugs to fill our camel-backs. It was so refreshing to have chilled water to sip on to ease the pain of the effort needed in the heat of the day.
After lunch, Crowsnest Highway continued to wind back and forth, and up and down, endlessly. . . . . . . . 71 km doesn’t seem all that far ~ except when it’s over the Rockies! The ups were brutal, the downs were exhilarating. Some of the climbs took close to two hours followed by coasting with brakes for over 30 minutes. Doug and Ryan would glide out of sight around the next corners full speed ahead. I was building my confidence aiming to use my brakes less and less.
I’ve never forgotten the lesson Ryan gave me when I was struggling with climbs. Standing up for 10 to 20 pedal strokes in a harder gear then sitting, gearing down into an easier gear for a bit. Cycling through this pattern certainly helped me to concentrate on something other than the pain ~ counting out pedal strokes, hydro poles, and guard rails and shifting gears.
We arrived in Princeton at supper time, it had rained the last bit of our day and our faces were splattered with road grime. I was so happy we decided on a “hotel night!” Boy did I need it!
We officially left the flatter, rolling roads and started climbing the mountains. It was a slow steady slog as we conquered the elevation changes. We put in about 50 km before stopping for lunch in the quaint little town of Agassiz. There were beautiful gardens lining the main road that welcomed us, along with an old train station. I was amazed, the food portions were quite large and we had consumed each last morsel. Doug and Ryan had a few beers, which I thought would help me keep up to their pace.
The next 50 km on the #7 ran along the Fraser River and a railway line which brought us to Hope, which lies between the Coastal and the Cascade Mountain Ranges. The roaring Fraser River and the smaller Coquihalla River meet here. Hope is named the Chainsaw Carving Capital. There were over 20 interesting, unique wooden sculptures of all sizes lining the park on the main road. Many movies have been filmed in the deep gorge nearby, one of them was Rambo-First Blood.
Leaving Hope, we continued on Highway 3 ~ Crowsnest Highway. Before arriving at our camp site for the night, we stopped to read about and view the infamous Hope Slide, the largest landslide recorded in Canada which happened in 1965. It is hard to imagine rock, mud, and debris traveling 2 kilometers down the mountainside burying the road and surrounding area 85 metres deep and 3 kilometres wide. “The mass of debris completely displaced the water and mud in Outram Lake below with incredible force, throwing it against the opposite side of the valley, wiping all vegetation and trees down to the bare rock, then splashed back up the original (now bare) slope before settling.” (Wikipedia)
We were so happy to end our day in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. We found a quiet camp area right beside the Skagit River. This was truly a magical place, complete with babbling brook and enormous, majestic trees.
* if you hover your cursor over the pictures you will see their captions.