Saturday 17 October 2020

Kootenay Lakes day 5: ending rough

Accidentally writing this a week late...
Anyways, felt pretty alright waking up in Slocan after a long day. Legs were definitely feeling the hills and miles starting to add up but it was only about 120 km back to the car with no huge climbs. And it wasn't even raining when I got up.
Got breakfasted, packed up and on the road by about 8:45 and decided to forgoe the highway and check out one last rail trail that startes jn Slocan and went about 50 km south to the junction with Highway 3A.
It turned out to be a nice little trail! No KVR mistakes with letting ATVs on it, the entire thing was non-motorized only. There were a few roughish sections but nothing too bad and I was able to ride at only slightly below highway speed. A small price to pay for no traffic and no hills.
I idyllically wound my way through woods and along rivers for several hours, interrupting my ride only briefly to check out a nearby coop grocery store for snacks. I supplemented my cheese bun with a variety of baked goods and jerky, and had a lunch fit for a king by the river. Still making up for the hard day the day before.
Eventually the rail trail ended though and I was back on the highway for the final 40 ish kilometers to Nelson. A little bit more traffic and hills but the temperature was hovering around 15°C and no rain or wind so it was about as good as it gets.
Made it into the big city by 1 pm and had a few beers to celebrate before letting Tom the car host know that I was going to be enroute to Balfour.
Heading out of town, I quickly ran into a headwind off Kootenay Lake but I was determined to make it to my car asap so I could clock in some driving hours towards Thanksgiving in Calgary and I kept my pace hard.
Unfortunately I had forgotten how hilly it was between Nelson and Balfour and soon started to wear out. It was a rough 30 km and just as I got within 2 km of my car, I flatted my rear tire again at the bottom of a hill.
Not wanting to fix a flat for 2 km of riding I decided to just ride the flat the last stretch.
Bad idea, as the tire eventually popped off, forcing me to walk the final approach to my turnoff. 
Then, as I went down the road to Toms, my inner tube came off and went into my gears, forcing me to cut it out.
At this point I couldn't even walk my bike the last 300m so I tossed it in the bushes and jogged down the hill to my car, fired it up, drove up the hill, tossed the bike and baggage in the back and then drove back to say thank you and goodbye ro Tom.
Unfortunately (kind of), Tom informed me as I rolled back in that the ferry had just left Balfour. The next ferry? 6:10 pm.
He offered to let me sleep in his lakeside gazebo and I graciously accepted. 
I grabbed a six pack of beer from the local store and settled in to some five star digs. 
A rough end to an overall rough bike tour but I had a week of visiting family and friends in Alberta so I had lots of time to fix the bike and recover. 
I fell asleep in the open air (but waterproof) gazebo to the sound of rain falling and watching the ferry go back and forth across Kootenay Lake.

A feast fit for a king.

Okay, one more rail trail...

Not bad after a week in the tent.

Thursday 8 October 2020

Kootenay Lakes day 4: less than ideal

Woke up at the hotsprings feeling a little tired but not too bad all things considered.
Tried not to think about the ride back to the highway or the 125 km day waiting for me as I stretched and made oatmeal.
Eventually the time came and I saddled up. 
Sure enough, the ride back down to the highway was just as bad as I anticipated. It took me about an hour, leaning on the brakes the entire way. I had the smart idea to dry my towel and shorts on the back of my bike, which turned out to be less than smart when I got within 2 km of the highway and realized my shorts had fallen off somewhere along the way. Well shit. Knowing that they were not worth braving another 1 - 2 hours on the logging road I carried on.
Hitting the asphalt again was a pleasure but was soon dampened by the inmediate hill around the corner. A long climb and then longish descent into Nakusp started the days hills off.
Rolling into Nakusp was a treat though. The first real town in three days, complete with cell service and cafes. I caught up on notifications while sipping coffee and did some planning before heading to the grocery store for lunch stuff and fresh veggies. Looking at google maps as I left town at 11:30, it was still 81 km and 900 m of climbing to Slocan, but I was determined to push on. I mean, 81 km isn't THAT bad.
There was an absolute gruesome kicker to get out of the downtown, hitting at least 15% gradient, and then I settled into a gradual climb up to the divide between Arrow and Slocan Lakes. It got very overcast and a slight headwind developed as I climbed, making it almost feel like autumn. However, it was also extremely humid and the effort level was enough to keep me dripping sweat.
Legs felt good though so I made it to Summit Lake in good time and took a short lunch break and assessed leg condition. Still seemed good so I carried on.
Quickly realized that the name "Summit Lake" was a bit off as I actually had another few kms of uphill before I began a slow descent to New Denver. 
Increasing wind and water on the road alerted me to a nearby rain system but I was cruising at a solid 30-something km/hr on the downhill and spirits were rising. 
I then made an unexpected discovery of the rare "item that can actually flat out my touring tires". Or well, my rear tire found it. I still have no clue what it was but I am picturing a cross between Wolverine's claws and one of the swords from Kill Bill, since it went through my usually bombproof tires like they were a wet tissue. 
Had to change the tube on the side of a narrow road, and also tape up the hole inside the tire itself to keep dirt out. As I started up again, anxious about how this may affect my ability to reach Slocan before dark, it began to sputter rain and the wind increased.
Another one of those character building days.
I was having eta anxiety as I reached New Denver and the tire and tube seemed to be holding so I had a quick snack, mentally prepared myself for the days biggest hill and headed out again.
I came upon the hill about 5 km later, still feeling okay-ish in the legs and just paced myself really well. I was luckily still in the zone and had no issues, reaching the peak in about 45 mins.
As I started down the other side it got progressively sloppy but I knew it was almost all downhill to Slocan so I was feeling pretty swell.
The descent went well, until an unexpected uphill a scant 2 km from town with increased headwind almost killed my legs for good. It should honestly be illegal to put an uphill segment at the very bottom of a long downhill.
However, within an hour I had my campsite set up, was eating my way through an entire bag of chips and was getting ready to shower and drink some cold beer. 
Long day done. Google maps tells me it was about 125 km with roughly 1150 m climbing. Pretty solid. 
Tomorrow its less than 100 km back to the car with only about 500 m of hills. Should be a fairly pleasanr ride with a lunchtime beer stop in Nelson before getting back to my car. Theres even a rail trail for most of the way that I may check out.
Alls well that ends well.

Morning fog enroute to Nakusp limited visibility to 100 m or so.

Sloppy conditions for bike touring but occasionally a good view when the clouds lift.

Kootenay Lakes day three: hills hills hills

A nice peaceful, bear-free night at Trout Lake Rec Site, disturbed only by some brief rain at 5 am.
However, upon waking I discovered a great tragedy. One of the window panels on my rian fly had somehow torn loose and was hanging by one corner. I've had this tent for over 7 years now and was understandably heartbroken.
I mused over repair options but as the fly was still dripping wet from the rainfall I couldn't do much for the moment except apologise to it and pack it up wet and broken.
Saddling up for a big morning of climbing on gravel to Trout Lake (the town), I rolled out and immediately hit construction at the first hill.
Bob the sign man though immediately offered me grapes and apples from his own yard and filled the 15 minute wait with conversation. Great guy.
Sneaking past all the heavy equipment on the very narrow road, I started grinding my way up what would be a bakers dozen of 8-15% gradients. It was a roller coaster reminiscent of Lake Superior but I was steadily going up and soon went into the low hanging clouds. Mist began condensing on everything, including my sunglasses, so I had to ship them for a while.
About an hour and a half (and like 19 km) later, I finally began descending and dropped out of the cloud into some lovely sun. A vista opened up and I was shocked to see fresh snow brushing the mountains across the lake, not far above me. Wild, considering it was +10 at the rec site when I left at 8 am.
Finally rolling into Trout Lake a little past 10 I got some snacks and carried on. A headwind soon cropped up and I began to feel the multiple 15% gradients I had smashed my legs against in the morning. I settled in for a tough day and slowed the pace.
I was expecting a solid downhill to the ferry turnoff at Galena Bay, but I had to fight my way up two more big climbs to find it. Descensing for 5 km in the sun with no traffic and not having to turn my pedals once was quite nice though.
At the ferry cutoff I was hurting for lunch and coffee but a severe lack of rest stops forced me to take my break just sitting in the weeds along the road. I managed to find one half of one bar of service, which wasn't enough to do more than check the date of Thanksgiving Dinner with my sister.
After revitalizing, I headed south. Into another big hill.
As I crept up it I remembered the words of the mythical east to west Cross Canada bike touring I once met in Sault Ste Marie concerning his plans to bike around Lake Superior, "It's along a lake so it should be pretty flat, right?".
After a long roll along the top of the ridge I finally got a blistering fast downhill to St Leon and turned off to the logging road that would lead me to the hotsprings for the night.
I had recieved mixed advice about this road. Some people seemed skeptical about me doing it on a touring bike. Some people assured me it was not that bad and easily handled by an RV.
It was only 11 km so I decided to risk it for a night at the hotsprings and camping.
I made it to the hotsprings. But man, did it ever suck.
The road was bar none, the roughest road I have ever been on. Even the KVR was more rideable in the worst spots. Lots of rocks, but the worst was the washboard that stretched all the way from ditch to ditch the entire 11 km up. It seemed perfectly designed to shake a bike apart and my tent bag fell off the back no less than 4 times. Not to mention the 300m climbing with multiple instances where the gradient dipped above 16%.
It took me about an hour and wow was I ever miserable going up it.
So here is your verdict, straight from the experienced cyclist: do not attempt on a touring bike unless you have full suspension or maybe a fat bike. Better yet, find someone to give you a ride up.
Anyways, I eventually made it up with the bike in one piece, had a snack, got a site and settled in to mend the tent. I eventually decided sewing the panel back on and then applying a liberal layer of seam sealer would be the best bet. Seems to be holding as of 5 hours later.
Then I ate a swift dinner and finally rolled down to the hotsprings.
Relaxation! I lay back and stretched out tired legs and back while watching the clouds go by.
Maybe it was worth the grind up.
Tough day with only 90 km but over 1300 meters of climbing.
Trying to get back to my car by Friday afternoon so I am going to try cranking out a longer day to Slocan tomorrow. About 125 km and I have been assured that there will be a fair number of hills.
Oh well, at least I will get back to cell service at Nakusp tomorrow morning and get to go grocery shopping. 

Looking down on the clouds.

Fresh snow on the hills. 

Still deciding whether or not this was worth the trip up and down the road.

Kootenay Lakes day 2: easy rolling

Everything was nice and quiet in the campground at Kaslo and I woke up bright(ish) and early at about 7 am as it started to get light out.
I made my customary oatmeal and coffee and began packing up. Weirdly enough, no condensation on the rain fly, despite it feeling very humid. Maybe it never got cold enough? It was certainly warm enough that I was able to start in short sleeves at 8 am.
I knew that there were some hills to get over jn the first part of the day and sure enough, I was grinding up as soon as I got back onto the highway, seeing multiple 12% gradients in the first 10 km. A slight tailwind helped out now and then though.
My old nemesis, the logging truck driver, was out and about and the narrow highway, often missing a shoulder, kept me on my toes.
A little into the morning I had to make an emergency u-turn as I went by a sign that said "Free Apples. U Pick". Sure enough, there were apples. I didn't even debate the extra weight and tossed three into my front pannier.
The first half of the morning passed by as a series of rolling steep hills until I got to Lardeaux, at the head of Kootenay Lake. From there on I was following a gentle river valley up into the hills. Finally, the mythical flat and straight road. After 10 or so kilometers along nice valley views the road surface transitioned to gravel, but what nice gravel! Super smooth, well packed and hardly any traffic aside from periodic gravel trucks.
For the last half of the day, the road took me through gorgeous cedar forests along a crystal clear river. Eagles would often alight as I passed and fly on next to me for a ways. No big hills and excellent road condition had me eating up the kilometers.
As I passed through some construction where they were grading the surface, the sign guy at one end held out a can as I approached.
Could it be a beer? Is this day that good?
As I got closer the logo on the can became obvious: A&W.
I wasn't too into the soda so I waved him off and thanked him and then carried on.
Now, I had crushed 80 km and reached my preferred stopping point at the south end of Trout Lake. However, it was only 1:30 pm and I had to debate going on further.
On the other hand, the next 30 km to Trout Lake (the community) were going to be narrow, with logging trucks and steep gravel hills. I was also unsure of what the camping options were like.
Then, as I contemplated pros and cons, a headwind started blowing off the lake.
Mind made up, I turned into the small rec site and parked my bike at the vacant site not only right next to the bear hang, but also with a stack of already split wood.
Since I was there so early I had a snack then practices hanging my food, took a hike to some nearby waterfalls, did some planning for the next week, stared solemnly out across the lake, had a small fire, ate dinner and finally called it a night at 7:30. By which time it was already dark.
Not too worried about furry visitors as I have my food hanging, had a campfire, and have some friendly neighbours a few sites over in a camper.
Todays weather: overcast, with maybe 6 individual raindrops hitting me. All tailwinds. About +13°C.
Tomorrow its a slightly longer day to try and reach a rec site at a hotspring (!) about 100 km away. If I survive the first 30 km to Trout Lake though it should be an easy ride and I will even get back onto the pavement at some point.
As usual, fingers crossed.

Yay, no more scurvy.

Alone in the woods.

Lots of waterfalls in the Kootenays.

Monday 5 October 2020

Kootenay Lakes day 1: easy start

Hot on the heels of my KVR trip, I had my sights set on another bike tour. I had never been up the west end of Kootenay Lake or been down through Nakusp on the other side. Since I was already in southern BC and had at least one more week of warm weather predicted I figured why not go check it out.
My car-park host from warmshowers for the KVR had a friend in Balfour, which was the perfect starting point. Although I had some last minute trepidation about the trip when realizing how little camping options there would be day two and how many uphill meters there would be, I told myself "well the worst you can feel is to wonder how it may have been" and set off for Balfour.
I took a short stop in Nelson for a new book amd a beer, then drove the car out to Tom's place on the lakeside. I once again had my panniers ready to go, so a short chat later I loaded up and biked off around 2 pm.
I had already called ahead to the Kaslo municipal campground and received confirmation that they would be open so that was my destination for the night. 
The ride was only 33 km but had almost 600m of elevation gain along a narrow, winding road by the lake. As is typical of narrow roads in BC I had a few close calls with bloodthirsty logging trucks but the rest of the ride was pretty nice. The pavement was nice and smooth and it seemed like there would be lots of places to get water over the next few days, as creeks were common along the way.
Eventually rolled into Kaslo around 4 pm and was pleasantly surprised with how quiet and cozy the town was. 
Secured my campsite for the night, took a shower and since I am going to be out in the wilderness for the next two days, checked out the local brewery and splurged on a super greasy pulled pork and fries for dinner. 
The other campground guests seem nice and quiet so I am anticipating a very cozy sleep tonight and then an early morning tomorrow. 
There's a rec site at 85 km that would make a good target, especially because the next camping (aside from hiding in the woods) would be almost another 90 km past that. There are apparently a lot of bears up the valley too... 
Oh well, problems for tomorrow.
Easy bottle fills. Crystal clear and pours itself into your bottles!

Whitehorse vibes from the local sternwheeleer.

Saturday 3 October 2020

KVR day 4: KVR Komplete

The morning I woke up in Osooyoos things seemed to be pretty swell. 
It was warm. Definitely a lot nicer than the freezing mornings of the highlands. 
It was also dry, which meant that my tent didn't have any condensation on it.
I used the dried fruit I got at a gas station in Rock Creek to really jazz up my oatmeal and took a leisurely breakfast, since I only had about 70 km to get back to my car in Penticton.
Heading out around 9 am, it was just warm enough that I could get away with short sleeves.
I was however pretty hungry, even post-oatmeal so I made a side trip into a fruit stand for an apple and plum to snack on.
Shortly after I was able to ditch the highway and got back onto the KVR heading north. It was actually a very nicely maintained gravel trail in this area so despite a slight headwind, I was really scooting.
The trail wound along a flood control can for about 20 easy kilometers, with good views of passing farmlands and vineyards. There was even a paved section, although it was actually lumpier than the gravel path 
Eventually though, all good things come to an end and I popped back out onto a mandatory 15 km stretch of highway.
Unfortunately the slight headwind gathered its strength as I came alongside Vaseux Lake. Around this time the effect of multiple 100 km long days in the heat also began to hit my legs and I could feel the wall coming on hard. I grit my teeth and slowly ground along the very slow 15 km to Okanagan Falls.
Reaching town I ws hurting for some energy so I stopped into a coffee shop for some caffeine and a nice thick date square. Properly rejuvenated I set out to tackle the last 20 km of the KVR.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised to see the trail in good condition, although it did get quite narrow and the skirt of poison ivy flanking the trail made passing a little more dangerous.
The coffee and date square managed to keep me pumped until Penticton and I made it back to the car by 1 pm. I promptly changed into different shoes and a clean(ish) shirt, unloaded the bike and set off in search of a brewery for a reward beer.
KVR done!

Wowwww its even paved?

Well, sometimes its paved.

Wednesday 30 September 2020

KVR day 3: Rock Creek Reunion

After a better sleep than I expected, given the nearby highway and my site neighbour starting up his truck to go to work at 4 am (don't worry he warned me the night before he's an okay guy), I awoke to another frosty morning in the hills. 
Thermometer registered 0°C on the nose but my searchea for frost yielded nothing. It definitely felt colder than at Chute Lake for some reason. 
I hastily made my breakfast, hoping that the warm coffe and oats would toast me up inside. While pouring hot water into my thermos I found some ice on the edge of the picnic table, success.
By 8:15 I was all packed up and although the sun was beginning to creep down the hills it still felt pretty chilly so I layered up with sweater and gloves again. 
Soon I was hot on the trail of the KVR, finding my access point a little ways down a gravel road. As I have come to expect, the first few km were pretty ravaged by vehicle traffic but I hit on a few sections where ATVs were unable to sneak onto the trail and things improved.
As the sun finally peeked into my face I was back in lands ruled by the ATV and had to drop my speed a bit to dodge rocks and ruts. The temperature quickly rose and just as I was looking to layer down and pee I found a wild (feral?) apple tree! Very neat and while the apples were fairly small, it was good to have fresh fruit.
By late morning I began getting into farmlands at the bottom of the valley and the trail often required me to pass through and relatch livestock gates. However, this afforded me some riding through gorgeous open fields and along a quiet, crystal clear river. 
A quick lunch break and water top up saw me the last few kilometers of the rail trail into Rock Creek and the Crowsnest Highway, where I passed through once before on the Cross Canada tour in 2018. Not as nostalgic as I expected but then again, I was going the opposite direction back then.
Since it was only 12:30 I made the judgement call to go another 50 km to Osooyoos for the day, knowing that there would be a significant and long climb out of Rock Creek.
Steeling myself with some butter tarts from the gas station I shifted into the little ring and began up the hill. 
The temperature crept into the mid 20s.
There was no breeze.
No shade.
Just 800m of climbing into the blazing sun.
I had to stop at a few points to layer down, apply sunscreen and refill water bottles but eventually I made it over the summit and began the long downhill to Osooyoos. 
Unfortunately my hopes of screaming down Anarchist Mountain at mach 10 were soon dashed when I hit road construction that would only end in the last kilometer of the descent. Adding to my sweaty body the flying sand and dust from passing vehicles and I looked pretty unsavoury as I rolled into town.
I made a quick pitstop to the gelato shop, where I got a snack and asked to see my entry in the bicycle tourists logbook from 2018. Sure enough, there it was. Ahhhh there's the nostalgia.
A few moments of panic soon followed when I got to the Provincial Park and found it to be full. Calling around town seemed to indicate that all the other campgrounds in town had closed for the season. I was steeling myself to ride another hour and pray that the next Provincial Park had space when I reached someone at a campground/RV resort on the other side of town. They had sites!
I sprinted over as quickly as possible just in case and secured a somewhat costly site but it had power and water so I wasn't too upset. 
I checked my data for the last few days and realized I may be behind on calories so I made a big pot of mashed potatoes for dinner and then relaxed with a walk around the beach area at sunset. 
Remarking at the blood red moon rising (with what eerily looked to be a skull in the crater formations) and gazing across the lake at the US border, I began making plans for another bike tour next week. 
Finally, I brushed my teeth and slipped into bed.
Still warm at 8:15 pm and nicely secure and quiet. Should be a good sleep tonight.
Tomorrow is an easy 65 km back to Penticton to pick up my car.

Try getting through this gap ATVs.

Free trailside snacks.

Kootenay Lakes day 5: ending rough

Accidentally writing this a week late... Anyways, felt pretty alright waking up in Slocan after a long day. Legs were definitely feeling the...