Pacific Crest Trail, Canada - Polarsteps
This was the day we tackled our first mountain pass! We were aleady at a higher elevation and thin sheets of ice fell off the tent when I opened it in the morning. The first other bike traveller we've met so far, René, rolled in the previous night fresh off the brutal climb out of Hope, and we shared our campsite with him. He's on his first bike trip, headed for Nova Scotia; he's finishing up his PhD and bought all of his gear a week ago and hit the road two days before we met him.
Our neighbours at the RV park, Shari and Wayne, are absolute gems and were for us what 'trail angels' are to long-distance hikers. On my way across the park to chase a sunbeam to read in, Shari intercepted me to put a hot cup of coffee in my hands, and then made a breakfast spread of pancakes and eggs for the three of us to send us up the mountain with full bellies. (Thanks to Shari, also, for the first two photos from the RV park: a drone shot one of the other neighbours took of our tent site, and me reading in the morning).
We said goodbye to René-- he was aiming to get all the way to Princeton that day, and compared to his lightweight set-up and actual plans, we're more of a slow travelling circus that lumbers up the road and stops wherever it finds itself at the end of the day. And then said goodbye to Shari and Wayne and headed off into a bright, sunny day.
The weather was perfect and the traffic was really quiet; it was the Sunday of a holiday weekend and we had very few trucks go by, any holiday traffic was headed the other way, and there were long stretches where we were the only ones on the road. We got to descend for a while before starting onto some steep switchbacks, but a good part of the climb after that was more gradual. We spent the day on it and took lots of breaks on the pull-outs.
At one point people coming towards us started leaning out of their cars to shout that there was a bear up ahead. We couldn't get much more detail than that, so waited for a while and then continued on slowly around the S-curves in the road while the warnings kept coming. It ended up being a blackbear on the opposite side of the road with a group of cars pulled over to watch it; it was sitting on the slope beside the road looking at the cars and looking really dazed and unwell, slowly turning its head to give us a glazy look when we called to it to let it know we were there. We passed by without incident and hoped someone had called conservation about it; we weren't in cell range then, or for a long time after. We got one more bear warning from a driver a couple more hours up the road, but never came across it (we went around every corner making whooping noises and/or loudly singing popular songs but altering the lyrics to be about the bear).
This was Allison Pass, 1342m, the first of six highway summits on the Crowsnest Highway through BC. The sign that would normally tell us we were at the top wasn't there-- there's a lot of weather damage at the sides of the roads-- so hitting the summit was more of an "Is this it? We seem to be going down" moment. Coming down, we were simultaneously getting hit with cold mountain air on one side and hot valley air on the other.
We tried to camp in a closed campground but got found and very politely evicted by a 20-year-old Australian park ranger who did at least let us finish cooking our boxed macaroni dinner first. The long daylight hours are on our side right now; we often take a long morning wherever we are, don't make it onto the road until 11am, and then we're able to ride until 6 or 7pm and still have time to eat, mess around with trying to find somewhere to sleep, etc. This time we moved down the road and camped off a trail behind a cabin resort; it was quiet and still a bit snowy and tucked away next to a river.
As Sara was saying, we hit the summit of our first mountain pass today! I actually found it to be nicer than the elevation climb we had coming out of Hope. We kept our eyes peeled for the sign that marked Allison's Pass but had no luck; my thought was that maybe a snow plow took it out at some point this winter. I've seen snow plows hit things in cities and could easily see it hapening in the middle of winter on a super snowy mountain pass. I really wish it had been there for the sake of having a photo with it but its okay.
This was the day where we came across a bear on the side of the highway; people were really great about letting us know, from thier cars, that there was a bear up the road. I have never seen or encountered a grizzly, and frankly do not wish to unless there is some sort of barrier between us. I'm really familiar with black bears as I went to a summer camp as a kid (and worked at the same one as a teen) and not only learned about wildlife safety but also have had quite a few encounters with black bears. The wildest one being when I was 18, running back down from a hike that had taken 4-5 hours to climb, and almost brushed agaisnt a black bear that was on the side of the trail. We scared the living hell out of one another. Sara on the other hand had not had any encounters (except seeing a grizzly from a greyhound bus); I could feel this difference after we got the first car telling us about the bear that was ahead. I was good to just make noise and keep going (walk bikes past the bear), Sara suggested we wait it out a bit and make noise from where we were. Not a bad idea. Once we decided to pass the bear it was the classic scene of people pulled over in cars, taking photos out windows. Atleast no one was trying to get a picture with the bear this go around; I've seen that too many times. When I worked at the summer camp we had an old bus and a club wagon van we would tote all the kids around in. When we would pass people causing " bear jams" on the road we would slow down almost to a stop,roll down the windows and and chant " Bear's gonna eat your children! Bear's gonna eat your children!" before driving off. We were warned of a second bear a few hours later down the road; a small bear. So we not only sang the bear songs but I started to heckle the bear for being such a small wittle baby bear. You know, asking it why its such a wittle baby with a bottle, why it was out on there on its own for the first time without it's mommy or why did it let goldielocks just eat it's porridge.
The air currents were super neat this day; we would catch some warm ones and immediately they would shift to frigid cold. All while cycling downhill at a decent speed. I had never experince that before. We stopped at a closed campground and thought we could stay there for the night, but a very young, austrailian in a bc parks truck came by to talk with us it was forbidden. After we talked I think he got onto his cb radio and talked with his boss about asking to let us stay or atleast if he could offer us a ride to the next site ( he did offer this to us after having talked with his boss). The thing is that the bikes are such a hassle to load and unload it was much easier to just keep cycling the 5km to the next area. He did "busy tasks",like raking snowfrom campsites, while we made our supper and packed up.
Rolling into Manning Resort was interesting, it felt like Southern California (SoCal) lite. Once we hit SoCal on out last trip the vibe really shifted from people engaging with us and asking questions to a very standoffish vibe and side-eyeing. It wasn't quite like that at the manning resort but only one person talked with us (a mom of two who saw us eariler that day)and people who passed by us generally just adverted thier eyes. This resort had chalets and a lodge, campgrounds were a bit away down a back road. We did have to restock supplies at the "grocery store"; I got pop tarts, crackers, mac & cheese and a couple of choclate bars. We then made our way to the back road and found a quiet spot beside the river. It was a nice spot; away from things enough but also still around people. I have really been feeling at these times just how remote Silver Skagit Road had been; it was exciting and spooky. Being on this trip also has me wanting to do longer distance hikes or go off into the bush alone for about a week (after taking a survival course). I have been beginning to feel what the folks in the treeplanting industry refer to as being "bushed"; when you're living outside of a house for a while and not around people as much ( like living in a town or even in a communal house). It is not as intense as I felt it when tree planting but I can recognize it in myself.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲
Pacific Crest Trail