Tunnel, Canada - Polarsteps
The few days we spent on the trail were such a good adventure. Because it's all a converted train route, the grade is never higher than what a train can handle, so we spent a long distance doing an extremely gentle climb up to Farron Summit at 1292m. Often we could look down over the ridge and see the highway we would have otherwise been on doing steep switchbacks up Mount Paulson, and felt like we'd won. We passed through all the old rail stations and read information boards about the little towns that used to exist around them. We met a good number of other cyclists along the way, too-- some doing day rides, some on longer-distance trips.
We hit the point where the logging companies had taken over the trail and converted it to logging roads; there thankfully weren't any trucks out, and the surface was easier riding for us, but the trade-off for that is the massive bare cutblocks that were all forest seven years ago.
The hardest part of this stretch was that it a) runs right through bear country, and particularly b) a grizzly-dense wildlife corridor that reaches down into the States, and c) for climate-related reasons-- the unseasonably cold, wet spring and the impact of last year's fires on plant growth in this area-- the bears have emerged from hibernation without their usual level of access to food this year, and they're wandering close to people to try to find it.
Bear safety in this area has meant constant awareness, which means-- for three days straight-- constant vocalization as we cycled along the trail, already on varying rough terrain and uphill for much of it. We exhausted every camp song and every 90s song we knew, made up songs for the bears, sometimes just dinged our bike bells repeatedly when our voices were tired, yelled stories at each other, and read all of the rail station didactic panels out loud at top volume. When we ran out of things we'd often come back to the refrain of 'Hey Jude', but sung (hoarsely and off-key) as, "Naaaa, na na na-na-na-naaaa, NA NA NA NAAAA, HEEE-EEEY BEARS". It was mentally exhausting. Camping meant making sure cooking clothes were separate from our sleeping clothes, and that not so much as a tube of chapstick made it into our tent. There were fortunately sites along the way with outhouses, and both of our nights on the trail we latched all of our smelly things into them to avoid having to do a proper bear hang.
We really tried to avoid meeting bears, but we met two anyway. The first showed up as a dark spot in my rear-view mirror, and when I stopped and looked behind me, there was a grizzly in the middle of the trail a little ways away where we'd just been, just watching us go. It didn't advance; we talked to it and slowly walked our bikes away, keeping an eye on it, and it eventually wandered down to the creek and then we were around the corner and away from it. The second came the next morning: I was up early and drinking coffee when a black bear walked right by the tent where Kini was still sleeping (I easily fended it off; it hadn't clocked me, or the existence of the tent, and I was able to startle it away down the mountainside).
There were some old trestle bridges and a short, dark tunnel. We camped just before Bulldog Tunnel, an ultra-spooky kilometre-long old, dark train tunnel; when we went up to the mouth of it there was cold air emanating from it and we decided to stay at the old Tunnel Station site and save it for the morning.
Cycled through a grizzly corridor and saw a grizzly. Dang.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲