Day 5 – June 12th – Osoyoos to Grand Forks – 127 kms
Two more passes under the wheels. Anarchist mountain was an almost 3 hour ride to the 1233 metre summit, but I left early enough to beat the heat and wind, plus I fortified myself with a breakfast of oatmeal, banana and tea! It wasn’t too bad a ride, especially after my rest day. The first look-out was about 10 kms up from the town and the views from there and during the rest of my climb to the top were nothing short of spectacular – you just don’t get the same perspective out of a car window! After a fast descent from the top, I just had to have a cooked breaky at Rock Creek; nice little restaurant there. I remembered passing it when we were riding our Kettle Valley Rail Trail tour. In fact, during the whole day I was catching glimpses of the trail. Funnily enough, when I rode the trail, I was always catching glimpses of the highway that I rode today! Brought back some good memories though… I’m even camping in the same town park that we camped in a few years ago in Grand Forks.
Changing vistas today; when the scenery transformed to the familiar rangelands and forests of the Kootenays, as opposed to the arid like quality of the Osoyoos area.On the way to Grand Forks, I passed through Rock Creek, Midway (which actually is half-way across the Province of BC), and Greenwood (BC’s smallest city). Of course, after Greenwood I had Phoenix Mountain to conquer and the 1105m summit at Eholt. There’s nothing left of Eholt, just a plaque explaining that the old copper mining days brought thousands of miners to this area – now only ghost towns and memories remain. Much of Highway 3 follows the old prospector’s route of the “Dewdney Trail.”
Just as I was cresting at Eholt, I saw an ugly cloud, heard a clap of thunder and then the wind picked up dramatically. I rushed to put my pannier covers on and donned my new poncho – it’s waterproof tested now! The storm soon passed, but it kept raining for a while, just long enough to spoil some of my downhill run – typical!
When I arrived at the campground in Grand Forks, there were branches strewn around that had been torn off trees, many of garbage cans were blown over and everybody was wondering what had hit them. Turns out that the wind was much worse in town than where I was on the mountain – most unusual?
Anyway, there’s three young (late teenage) guys here, who are also riding across Canada, but it has taken them 11 days to get here from Vancouver, what’s more, they’ve been trying to leave Grand Forks all day today (it’s now late afternoon) – the hold-up is that they met some local girls today! I chatted with them for a little while and wished them luck on their trip – if their hormones will let them continue! But youth always seems to prevail and they seem to be having a good time so far.
As I arrived in Grand Forks, a sign at the outskirts of town… “Grand Forks, famous for Sunshine and Borscht.” I actually did notice lots of Russian restaurants, probably due to the Doukhabors who immigrated into the region.
Got to go, time to cook.
Day 6 – June 13th – Grand Forks to (almost) Salmo – 133 kms
I got off to an early start again – but unfortunately finished late. So I grabbed a cheap motel for the night on the outskirts of Salmo; actually I stayed there on last years tour, kinda deja-vous.
Bonanza Pass was a real grind as the granny gear got a good workout again, not to mention my poor old legs! After Christina Lake the road just goes up and up to the 1533m summit, which is actually called Paulson Summit, but most maps read “Bonanza Pass.” Paulson is a dot on the map a few kilometres prior to the summit; all there is to Paulson is a bridge, and the only claim to fame of the bridge is that Adam K camped under it on his Kettle Valley Rail Tour – Yeah, I know, big deal!
After the summit, I had a fast ride down for a while, but nothing compared to the 30 km climb. The only fun part was that as I was nearing Castlegar, I actually had to slow down; I had caught up with a logging truck and he (perhaps she?) was making me brake too much – I didn’t want to overheat my rims and risk a blow-out, so I pulled off at a convenient cafe and had an ice cream – third of the day I might add!
When I arrived in Castlegar, you could fry eggs on the pavement – it was damn hot, as was I. I really wanted to get close to Salmo though to make for a good start on Kootenay Pass tomorrow. Kootenay Pass, at 1774 m, is the highest one on Highway 3, and actually British Columbia’s highest mountain paved road pass.
So I set off for a (what I thought would be a relatively short) 30 km ride in the searing heat – after replenishing some supplies, water being one of them luckily – sometimes I question my own sanity! Anyway, I’m a map freak, and I’ve looked at many a map of BC and the road between Castlegar, Highway 3, and Salmo shows no mountain pass. Well folks, after a gruelling climb for a steady and steep 17 kms, I reached “Bombi Summit” at 1214m – never heard of it before, but I know that sucker intimately now. Even Basil was swearing as we reached bend after bend only to find – more mountain! The only good part was that the downhill was long and steady too. Regardless, Bombi made for a long day, and realistically, I should not have been out on that stinking hill in that stinking hot weather for so stinking long! But I was, so now I’m having a cold one to celebrate – there’s a convenient restaurant opposite the motel, I’ve been here before you know!
Scenery? Lots of it, and all viewed from the best positions – mountainsides. Sometimes a great vista goes whizzing by, but pardon me for not stopping and crawling back up the hill for that perfect photo – I have taken a few good ones though and will share upon my return.
I must mention that, so far, 99% of the drivers on the roads have been very courteous and given me lots of room. The other 1%? Well we won’t talk about them. I did affix a small reflective “slow-moving vehicle” triangle to the rear of my left rear pannier, and perhaps that’s the reason for the space that I am afforded, who knows? But I’m thankful for it!
Day 7 – June 14th – Salmo to Creston – 90 kms
Small miles, but a big climb over Kootenay Pass to the summit at 1774 m. I was above the snow line well before the summit, and the small lake up there still had ice on the surface. Lots of snow still in the shadowy spots at the sides of the highway. The climb was steep and I started out early once again to beat the heat – by the way, I heard on the news that yesterday’s heat had surpassed many previous high temperature records, like I didn’t know! Anyhow, I was at the summit at 10:30 a.m. Even one of the construction flaggers told me that I had made good time, as he had seen me leaving Salmo. The construction was the scary part – they were rock drilling about 100 ft above the highway to relieve the possibility of rock- falls. The highway was reduced to two narrow lanes where they were working at about 2 kms before the summit. It took me quite a while to cycle this gauntlet at my climbing speed, what with trucks passing on my left, bits of falling rock/debris from the drilling operation and a VERY steep drop-off to the right, I was really glad to be through!
But truly, the views were stupendous. To see the highway snaking up the side of the mountain for miles and miles lets one imagine what an incredible feat of engineering some of our present roadways are. This was one of the prettiest passes that I have ridden; with a constant panorama of scenery that leaves one breathless – or was that the altitude? The summit also produces some fantastic vistas of its own, with a small lake and snowy peaks for a backdrop.
The descent was great – fast, and as an accompaniment, I had the raging torrent of Summit Creek following the grade of the highway next to me for many miles.
I passed a bear early in the morning, at first from a distance I thought that it was a black cow, as I had just ridden past a herd. But then he stood up and started sniffing the air as I was riding by – I had just applied sunscreen – why do I always get that feeling that I’m marinating myself! Anyway, I gave him a toot of my air horn and he scampered away. I think that I should find some unscented sunscreen!
Well, after yesterday’s exploits, I called it quits early today and found a really nice campsite in Creston. This place is spotless, with great showers and laundry facilities, it’s called the “Pair o’ Dice Campground” – get it, “Paradise!” Oh well, I thought it was funny!
Needless to say, I took full advantage of the laundry and now have clean smelling clothes, bereft of eau de perspiration – Ah, life’s simple pleasures!
Riding into the Creston valley was quite a pleasant change from the mountains and I’m glad to have the high summits behind me. Crows Nest Pass should be the next one, and I hear that it is not too daunting. After today, I can see how the moniker “Beautiful BC” arrived on the scene – I saw it today, first hand!
Third day now without spotting any other touring cyclists, maybe tomorrow?
Day 8 – June 15th – Creston to Cranbrook – 113 kms
It was a tough ride today; there was no major hills or mountains to conquer but I had a strong headwind all day. Apart from the wind, the ride was pleasant enough, with a variety of wildlife spotted – deer, gophers popping up everywhere, and unfortunately a rather flat beaver – Basil wasn’t too happy when he saw that in the middle of the road! I also rode through a couple of thundershowers as I was nearing Cranbrook, nothing serious though, in fact, it felt quite refreshing after the hot temperatures of late.
It’s Sam Steele days here in Cranbrook, and my next job is to find out who the hell is “Sam Steele?” Anyway, there were ball games, square dancing, logging sports, pancake breakfasts and a parade through downtown. Too bad I missed out on the pancake breakfast though – Hmmm, maybe tomorrow?
The local campground was, of course, rather full, and a little full of merrymakers at that, so I thought that I’d try my luck at the Hostel. Hostelling International (HI) rents rooms at the local college – College of the Rockies. I’m a member of HI, so I snagged a room for a little over $20.00, it was actually less, but I paid an extra $1.50 for bedding and towels. I had to make my own bed, but so what, what a great deal – a small private room with a common kitchen area etc. In fact there’s no one else in my area, so I’ve got the run of the unit. (Spoke too soon, a young fellow from Switzerland just arrived). The weatherman’s calling for thunderstorms tonight, so perhaps just as well to be inside.
I stopped in the “Metropolis” of Yahk for a second breakfast – Yahk in reality, is just a small outpost, a throwback to the great days of rail transport. There’s still a small community there and the trains still pass through on their way back and forth to the USA. Lots of the places that I have ridden through the past few days, are very close to the US border and Yahk is no exception.
Just a few kilometres out of Cranbrook, I got my first (on this trip) view of the Rockies, which present a scenic backdrop for the town itself. I was surprised to find that Cranbrook is quite a large community, I had always imagined it as a small town, perhaps it’s even a city?
The towns are at an awkward spacing now, as I feel that I should have travelled further, but it’s a long haul to the next bit of civilization, and besides, I lost an hour today due to passing through a time zone.
Fernie should be the stop for tomorrow, and I’m still hoping for some tailwinds – keep whatever crossed!