Fraser Valley, Canada - Polarsteps
This is a story about route-finding on a bicycle.
On our first bike trip down the American coast, we were lucky enough to have a detailed guide called 'Cycling the Pacific Coast' that gave us a play-by-play of the best routes to cycle on, directly from people who had done it and explored all options. We didn't have smartphones and carried paper maps to supplement the guidebook.
Seven years later, we have more frequent internet access and some limited access to cell data. We've generally been using Google Maps as a starting point when route planning, and then cross-referencing it with city cycling maps and/or the Trans Canada Trail website (we're flirting with the TCT on this trip; it's not a viable continuous path across the country, and it's definitely not always bike-friendly, and because each leg of it is municipally maintained there can be limited information available about what to expect on it-- but when it's useful to us, we'll always get on it).
Leaving Chilliwack, replacing Google's directions with the TCT's meant we got to enjoy our last stretch of flat land on amazing country backroads that followed the Fraser, and then an elevated trail across a lot of farmland. We left in a wind storm, but got some sunshine in the morning (we haven't had much).
It was getting later in the day and pouring rain when we arrived in Hope. We'd understood from a government website that bicycles wouldn't be allowed on an 8km stretch of Highway 3 just after Hope, and the only way around that stretch is to take a wide loop around on Silver Skagit Road and rejoin the 3 later on. Google's cycling directions were in keeping with this, and the TCT marked the loop as part of the Great Trail. We were into it-- when we're not wanted on the highway, the feeling is mutual, and a backroad following a creek sounded ideal.
Silver Skagit is a continuous climb; at the end of the day, we were slowly grinding up into the mountains and looking for a place to tent for the night. It was hard to get a read on what was going on; the first bit of the road was residential, and then we were on a rough gravel/dirt road passing encampments of trailers that had a distinctly libertarian vibe, some of them flying truck convoy paraphernalia. We passed beautifully wild spots, views of the mountains and the river, and giant piles of dumped garbage and furniture.
Up past the trailer encampments, wet and climbing and still looking for a tent spot, we hit a road closure-- there was a locked metal gate and a sign about road grading work going on.
There was a campground off to the right, but we weighed our options and figured a) the gate was locked and it was the end of the construction day, and b) how long could the construction zone go on for? Now would be the time to push through it so that we could continue on our loop, i.e. what we knew to be our only possible route.
We pushed our bikes under the gate and pushed them up the steep hill that followed. We passed some sites where the road work had clearly been happening, and kept hoping to hit another barricade indicating the end of the closed section of road. We got some calm moments when we hit a flat stretch along an alpine lake; the rain let up, everything quieted, and the riding got easier. Past the lake, the climbing started again, the rain came back, we were next to another roaring river, and we were getting close to dark.
This is when and where we had our first bear encounter: fortunately a black bear, fortunately scared of us. He ran out of the bushes a little in front of us, we stopped and yelled and clapped, and he crossed the road and took off into the woods on the other side.
We stopped at a recreation area up a trail; we hadn't passed another barricade but we also hadn't passed a construction site in a while and were hoping we were through it. We set up our tent in the rain, stuffed bread wrapped around hunks of cheese into our mouths, hung our food in a tree up the path, and went to sleep.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲