Canada – Searching for a silver lining
I have to admit that recent weeks have been a bit of a struggle at times. The combination of some monotonous highway riding, heavy traffic and pretty dismal weather has seen us hit a bit of a low point. It is amazing the effect that poor weather has on your mood – it’s felt like we’ve been buried under a blanket of sullen grey cloud for almost three weeks, with just enough rain to ensure that nothing ever completely dries out.
With sunshine at a premium, even a faint glow in the sky merits a rapturous response, and the ever-hopeful ‘laying out of the laundry’, usually closely followed by the comic ‘grab the laundry before it gets any wetter’ as the rainclouds come in again. But it looks like we may (fingers crossed) have finally emerged into the sunshine, and, despite the challenges, Canada has offered some great experiences, both on-bike and off.
On the wildlife front, we can add sightings of mule and white-tailed deer, a porcupine, hoary marmots, multiple species of ground squirrels, chipmunks, a garter snake and a coyote that chased us along the road.
Our bear count is up to thirteen, including an incident when I glanced to the side while barrelling along and found myself eyeball to eyeball with a large black bear that was poised just slightly above the edge of the road. I imagine that the bear’s immediate reaction was similar to my ‘arrgghh!!’ but I was past before either of us had time to respond. He was making a cautious retreat when we circled back, but still eyeing me thoughtfully.
One thing we have noticed since crossing the border from Alaska is a drastic increase in rules and regulations. Significant volumes of paper could be saved by various organisation if they printed lists of permitted activities, rather than detailing everything that you are not allowed to do. And warning signs are everywhere – perhaps justifying an additional sign to warn of the potentially serious ‘warning sign fatigue syndrome’ particularly associated with Canada’s National Parks…..
Travelling amongst the July peak holiday crowds has meant that the usual barrage of curious questions has escalated to whole new levels. In response we’ve developed a standard answer which includes the terms ‘Australian’, ‘Alaska to Argentina,’ ’20 months’ and ‘100 km/day’. Any further questions require payment of a food tax – for example: a donut is worth two questions, with a bonus question for icing and lemon filling. Cinnamon rolls are also acceptable, and pie is always good. Of course, Canadians being such friendly people, the second question is often ‘what can we do to help?’, and we have frequently been the recipients of much unexpected hospitality and kindness from complete strangers.
Turning east from the port of Prince Rupert the forest soon transitioned to farmland, and we had a little moment of excitement when we saw cattle for the first time this trip (which says a lot about the Yellowhead Highway generally). A few patches of farmland later we were into plantation forest, and plagued with huge numbers of logging trucks as they headed to the timber mills at Vanderhoof. After a soggy evening spent crouching under some pine trees (in an effort to prevent heavy rain ‘washing’ our plates before we’d finished eating), we were grateful to roll up at John’s cyclist’s cabin just past Telkwa the next day. John keeps a little cabin on his property open &
available for passing cyclists to use, and it was a joy to clean up and dry out some gear and snuggle up under a roof for a change.
We met a few other cyclists travelling the Yellowhead Highway and it’s always nice to compare plans and share ideas. Ben and Tess, a Swiss couple travelling on a funky-looking recumbent tandem with a fibreglass capsule sort of trailer (which I nicknamed ‘The Pod’), told us about a bush camp at Lasalle Lake. Despite more rain, this was a beautiful peaceful overnight stop.
After the lake, we found ourselves in the tiny village of Dunster.
Bonnie & Curtis have been feeding and sheltering weary cyclists at their Dunster farm for over seven years, and we were delighted to add our names to their visitor book. Their home is one of those places where you feel better just approaching down the driveway. Their warm hospitality and the relaxing surroundings make this an absolute haven – magnificent gardens, Curtis’s collection of restored sheep wagons, and hundreds of hummingbirds feeding in preparation for their southern migration.
We were also given the heads up on a quiet route through the forest, a brief respite from the highway.
Approaching the Rocky Mountains, we stopped off at another rain-soaked campsite at Mt. Robson. This is the highest peak in the Rockies and it certainly looks impressive in the photos in the Visitor Centre. Unfortunately we couldn’t judge for ourselves as it never emerged from under the weighty mass of cloud. We did take the opportunity to ride the 7km track out to Kinney Lake where we set up camp before heading out on an 18km hike to Emperor Falls and back. This was a magical walk, almost other-worldly with the cloud wreathing the peaks and hanging low in the valley.
And then it was on to Jasper, and the renowned Icefields Parkway – a 230km stretch of highway that slices through a stunning landscape of mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It’s understandably wildly popular, and the crowds here were almost more overwhelming than the scenery. It was immediately obvious that the best way to explore this area is on foot – really the only way to escape the mass of humanity. And the RVs ….. OMG the size of some of these behemoths has to be seen to be believed. While we constantly think that we are loaded up with way too much junk, it is hilarious to line up next to a monster RV and look at the contrast. .. although I would have appreciated some extra horsepower to drag myself up the 14km climb to Mt Edith Cavell – a ride that might have been better done before adding a 5 day supply of food to the load ….
Despite the clouds and crowds we enjoyed the ups and downs as we rode south to Lake Louise. Here we met up with Serge from Quebec province, riding across Canada on his first cycle tour. We teamed up for a few days, now heading west as we make our way towards Vancouver.
We expect to spend a few days in the big city, before crossing into the lower 48 for the next stage of the trip – crisscrossing the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges south. Next post – Canada video …..
Ed & Gaye