The second part of Canadian GDMBR has two options. There is an easy shortcut called "Fernie alternative" which is obviously voted for by Martin. And then there is the real deal called "Grizzly Highway". The name isn't just for fun -- the road passes through the area of supposedly highest bear concentration around. (Un)fortunately we do not get to meet one.
July 6 (Sparwood to Pollock Creek recreation site)
We start the day by easy pavement ride along a highway. As a matter of (slight) excitement that we are being endlessly passed by a train. Just a single train but this monstrosity, which goes just parallel to the road, goes quite slow and by my estimate measures at least 1km in length. While being passed by train is at least interesting a bit, being passed by cars is not. So we are happy to leave the main highway and continue (on still paved) road to mine at Corbin.
The coal mine at Corbin is certainly a remarkable sight as the miners here decided to strip the whole mountain and make it bare. We make a lunch stop at the end of the pavement from where road continues just under this unseemly sight which is, by the way, called "Coal Mountain". We gradually ascend to Flathead pass where the real fun begins.
The guidebook we have describes the road down from the pass as "an opportunity to get wet while the road sometimes becomes a riverbed". This is certainly true as we end up pushing our bikes through rocky passages with a maximum cooling of our feet. Fortunately, the bad passages are interspersed with rideable ones and in the end it isn't totally bad. The only problem is the delay the unrideable sections added -- our goal is to reach Butts cabin (so that Martin would be really happy). Eventually the road improves to a decent state and I almost think we could make it when we come across the biggest "stream" so far.
Just next to the Pollock Creek recreation site there is a sizeable river and a bridge across it. At least, according to our guidebook. In reality we find only "Bridge out" sign and so the only way is to push our bikes through the river. The water doesn't look that deep and I almost think we would make it easily when two things happen. First, my left sandal unstraps and starts to float down the river. Fortunately Martin is able to catch up with it. However, next is a section of the river which is deeper than I expected. With one sandal I find myself pushing the bike through increasingly deep water. When the current gets stronger and above my pannier level I start the real panic of pushing like a crazy until I cross the two or three critical meters. Bike safely on the other side and having my sandal back we return for Martin's bike and push it through the river as well.
With the state of my panniers (they were quite submerged in the water) it is clear that we need to camp here -- while I own Ortliebs which are supposedly 100% waterproof it is also true that the pannier waterproofness somehow went away during my South American ride after a few crashes and other rough handling. Fortunately, checking the content of the panniers I can report only very mild water leakage with all the important stuff being still dry.
July 7 (Pollock Creek recreation site to Wigwam mainline)
During the night neighbours appear on the next site. Canadian campers are quite friendly and with Martin's long talk we are quite late to start riding. But we now own a small bottle of insect repellent -- an important piece of equipment we were missing till now and the mosquitos certainly took advantage of that. Armed with 30% Deet we hope to change the tide.
Similarly to previous days, today we ride very gentle slopes. The ride first starts with and endless downhill-ish part to the Butts cabin where we wanted to stay yesterday's night. The cabin looks nice but (as we learn later) it was occupied during the night by some bachelor party. And, to tell the truth, they were total irresponsible assholes -- they thrown away fully cooked sausages just outside of the cabin in the fire pit. Talk about some bear aware practices!
From the cabin the climb of the day starts. The road takes us gradually to Cabin pass which is definitely the highlight of the day -- most of the day we see just a forest around us but at the top of the pass there are some decent views of ridge and the picture is painted further by needle-less trees.
With the pass done a long and fast descent follows. We enjoy this part very much and when we finally reach our destination -- Ram-Wigwam recreation site there is still plenty of time before the sunset. Knowing that tomorrow will only be harder, I convince Martin to push further and so we make another about 10 km on the Wigwam mainline road until we hit a nice stream and camp just a bit after it. (For the last half an hour I started to worry a bit about water as the Wigwam river was down in the valley and not really accessible).
July 8 (Wigwam mainline to Eureka)
The day starts with finishing the remaining 10 km or so of Wigwam Mainline. Not long after we start we have an interesting sight -- four cubs of something playing on the road. I say "something" because we could not agree about the species. I first thought is is dogs (but what would dogs do here), Martin says they are brown and might been mountain lions (but where would be the mother), they certainly aren't bears and in general, it is hard to figure out what they were because they we right against the Sun. We quickly start ringing our bells and the cub party disperses, leaving us wondering about what we just have seen.
Finishing Wigwam Mainline indicates the main part of today's plan -- Galton pass climb. But before that, there is a short but rather infamous singletrack section. At the beginning it looks quite nice and fun but then the real part begins -- about half a kilometer of incredibly steep forest track. Our guidebook says that cyclists carrying trailer will probably need to go twice -- once with a bike and once with the trailer. Having done the section I wounder how on the Earth you would push the trailer that steep uphill -- it took us two together an incredible amount of hard will to push a single (ableit heavily loaded) bike up. And then we had to do a repeat.
Totally tired from the pushing section we get a snack before starting the (now normal-grade-steep) climb to Galton pass. On the way we are overtaken by two Swiss guys who seem to carry ... well, they don't seem to carry anything on their bikes. They seem to be in a disbelief that we managed to get our bikes through the singletrack section.
By the time we finish Galton pass it is blazingly hot. And the views are quite disappointing. Not much more than a few ordinary forested hills. At least it is downhill from here although that means just more heat once we descend down to plains where we rejoin the main paved road to Roosville, our US port of entry.
At Roosville we meet the Swiss guys again. One of them had some technical problems with tube and so they had a bit long lunch break. We enter USA together, each of us leaving all 10 fingerprints and 6 US dollars at the immigration.
From Rooseville it is only about 20 km to Eureka -- the first town on the US site. There we find a nice place to stay at a local park just next to an information center. And a good bunch of cyclists as well -- by the night we are counting 9 people.
Download simplified GPX of a route here
Stats by activity:
| Pedal rotations
|July 6, 2018||65.9||0.73|
|July 7, 2018||79.3||0.75|
|July 8, 2018||62.4||0.90|
The next table is only for cycling activity.