Down in the valleys

Ride lightly in the saddle of life

Anonymous Wyoming cowboy

Nice stay in elkford last pm .  6 of us managed 3 large pizzas and two salads after finishing off three pitchers of beer.  Love this riding, eat anything and lose weight.  

Had breakfast back at pizza place as the only restaurant in town and had a few medical questions we needed answered so did not depart until 9:30.  

Today nearly all pavement starting with a 2.5 mile (4 km) 8% grade and looking forward to seeing the coal facilities in farther valley and river canyon but a pickup truck stops us and asked if we are riding the divide.  He informed us the canyon had washed out 3 years ago in the big rain storms then.  (Made national news). The road has not been repaired since.  The van was ahead of us, as I had informed them that route was far more scenic than the main highway.  Joe(the fellow in the pickup) gave us directions to some mountain bike trails back down the mountain but were somewhat complicated and we felt better just returning and informing the two other groups who had not left elkford as yet.  So we returned at high speed back to elkford, informed those groups, then took off down the highway, which had a shoulder and not much traffic.  Never did see  James and Jeanne pass us, and we wondered if we had been mislead, for some unknown reason.  

Then someone remembered when they had bought the updated maps for the great divide they came with addendum.  Very first one was the road down fording river is washed out and one must ride the highway.  Now we read the addendum as well as check the updated maps.  

Continued a great ride and entered a section off the main road and road pavement along farms, houses and pastures.  Delightful.  Then Dave and I began a pace line and just cruised alternating lead and I had a great time 17.6-17.9 mph and pretty much a steady 86 rpm.  Then another biker obviously touring and I had to stop and talk.  Story of my life going great and I get distracted.

He was from Toronto about our age and riding from Victoria to the Canadian divide and up to banff then the ice field highway and back.  Said there were a couple from anchorage about 2 days ahead of us.  

Met up with James and Nancy at Tim Hortons in sparwood after 25 delightful miles.  Jeanne had made some calls so I ended up calling att to see if we could predate our Canada phone, data and text which was easily done. 

James did some local research to see if he could get sprinter to the next wilderness area.  If not we would have to take the alternate route down the busy highway to the border.  Answer was yes and we made a plan.  Shortened my ride of 5 years ago to camp before flathead pass then meet tomorrow near wigwam campground, but that seemed too far for us so will be somewhere before that.  

Then off again back to the highway 10 km of busy highway all pretty much together (4 of us, Jeanne in van) then a turn for 22 km to Corbin a mining dot of a village without services.  Temp was 33 Celsius (91 F). But I felt good and just began spinning finishing about 20 minutes before the others.  First in class of anyone over 65 years old.  Went for a bit far a dip in water coming out of coal mine and the others arrived and we proceeded on to this incredibly delightful “bush” camp. Grassy with lots of colorful flowers and babbling brook. Incredible forest rising on the valley wall opposite and trees behind us blocking view of coal mining removing the mountain.  

Beer plus finished off the gin and tonic,  hamburgers for dinner and now delightful sleep. Thus ends day 4.

Into the flathead valley.  

Left our wondrous bush camp and climbed flathead pass, dropping into the flathead valley.  As the map states it is rocky and stream tends to run down the road.  As opposed to 4 years ago it is now washed out and impassable by vehicle unless strict 4 wheel with a lot of work.  We walked a fair bit.  Took us nearly 4 hours for first 15 miles.  Beautiful valley and road improved.  Sun was beginning to perform its job and temperatures rose into the low 90s (30s C).  Jeannes front tire began the same delamination process the rear tire did a few days ago, but caught it before the aneurysm began with a snickers bar wrapper and inner tube..  Lasted to camp another 20 miles before blowing out.  

A great camp on and beside the road.  Left Jeanne to go with James to Fernie for new tires and off we road up cabin pass. A superb ride through the forest and into a canyon, turning to go up wigwam valley.  Beautiful rolling closed logging road, but temperatures very hot, all of us going through much water. 

Reached the connector between the closed logging road of wigwam valley and the closed logging road from galvin pass.  About a kilometer of true single track, then the climb of a couple hundred meters.  Dave and I got our bikes then returned for nancy and Constance bikes.  Took three of us to each bike.  A fellow traveler heavily loaded did three trips for his stuff.  Another lightweight rider did it in one.  Whew.

Galvin pass was tiring and I had noticed a developing wobble in fork with head tube.  Remember back at spray lake I mentioned I had trouble with connectors and would have it looked at when reached a bike shop.  Well I believe that rough single track and climb banged it around a bit much.  So I must stop asap and get it fixed.  

Galvin pass we half roads half walked changing up the muscle groups from the steady 10% slope.  Adjusted and checked all brakes as map says descent is extreme and it was some being 15%.  I had locked my front shock hoping to easy the pressures and using only rear brake to keep as much weight as possible off the front end.  Ok but then my rear brake gave out.  Nothing there and had to use front.  But rear returned in about 30 seconds.  Weird, but scary.  Happened three times on 9 mile descent.  

Arrived at van, at bottom where James and Jeanne parked and James rode about half way up to meet us.  All of us were beat having ridden 46 miles of gravel and two passes.  But nancy, Jeanne and myself rode to customs easily clearing it, and ten mile into town on a delightful back road.  Motel and all extremely exhausted.  One restaurant nearby and the briscit was highly recommended but several separate local sources.  It was horrible and James and Constance congratulated themselves on ordering hamburgers.  

So now all have left and I await a pickup from my sisters who agreed to come get me, taking me to a bike shop in whitefish or Kalispell.  But being Sunday all shops closed, we found out.  Weird in a tourist town, but then I do not think in terms of weekends. 

Day one, throwing the leg over the saddle

Paradise is not where you go but how you feel for one moment of your life.


Wow, threw the leg over the saddle to begin today, and wondered what will the day bring, what will happen on the trip.  A new trip, a different trip.  But I get to ride my bicycle, which for the most times,  always brings me wonder.  Whatever the day is.  

Immediately I noticed the bike is light, being a supported ride the sleeping bag, tent, stove, food etc are in the van.  The bike is light.  I carry rain gear, arm and leg warmers, and extra gloves in stuff sack on front handle bar.  The frame bag has a bike water bottle, spare tube and big camera, and bike lock.  Nice. Almost like riding a day ride, but the stuff sack in front fell out, as I had not fully attached it, in Banff, in the middle of crossing a busy intersection.  Not enough stuff in it to make it tight.  I do not remember our bags being a problem 4 years ago. Today the problem was too many choices of stuff.  I am understanding the saying we had 4 years ago of “the luxury of not having luxuries”. Deciding what costume to wear for the day.  Easy when you have only one, or what to change into at night, what to eat.  Where are the extra chairs as this one in camp is not fitting me right tonight.  Oh the problems. 
But the van  is carrying food water, extra clothes.  Tonight for dinner we had beer on arrival, wine with appetizers of crackers and hummus, spaghetti for dinner with wine, and makers mark bourbon now as I sit next to van listening to the generators of the Winnebagos in campground.  The van cannot go where we camped last time next to the lake with the views we had then, but the woods here are nice. 

I have discovered or rediscovered I am very comfortable in a sleeping bag.  Often more comfortable there and on the ground than a fancy place.  I guess I am in the minority but still feels good.  As Steve McQueen once said “I would rather wake up in the middle of meow here than on any city on earth.”  Quite true. Guess I am weird and am quite ok with it.  Taking a bath in the lake after arrival was quite ok.  I feel good.

I did seem to forget that it was up hill from banff south.  Some climbs, with a total of 640 meters (2000 feet) of climbing.  But in three days I will be in shape.

The Canadian Rockies are absolutely incredibly beautiful rising steeply with their sedimentary layers, twist and twirls, of rock layers.  Stunningly.  But nice to be out of banff and the trailer court they call camping.  (not even close to resembling what I call camping). 

And of course problems, the generator hub stopped working today.  Has worked great for the three weeks since I installed it, but part way through the day it stopped working.  But in checking it the bolt which holds the fork on seems to just be spinning the star nut.  This is serious and requires a trip to a bike shop.  Seems to work for now but ??  Always will be something.  Deal with it.  

Whew day 2. Boulton creek campground.  Maybe 5 miles shy of last time although that was a tent only camp. Am getting into this supported ride stuff.  Nice riding with minimal gear, although I may reconfigure tomorrow.  Move front bag into visacha rear saddle bag. Drop the camelback (I have forgotten to pick it up twice now, recovered by group)

Jeannes tire blew out today. Totally delaminated. I believe it is the stans fluid which is rotting the rubber.  Twice this has happened to me now  new tires in Kalispell..

So day three was great. Up over elk pass our first official great divide tour continental divide crossing from st. Lawrence seaway to Pacific Ocean side and from Alberta to British Columbia.  A grizzly bear along the way got hearts pumping  for a bit as we walked around.   He was more interested in eating grass than us.  Closest we got was maybe 20 yards when first seen but we backed off.  Met some researchers on way down collecting hair samples from the 187 bears in the area.  In Elkwood tonight in motel ate out for pizza and doing laundry.  A fifty mile (80 km)  day very pleasant.  

And Internet marginal so best just post. 

In between Trips

2582 miles (4155 km)  8 days awesome trip saw 6 – 8 bears (do we count the one in Anchorage), deer, moose, fox, voles, insects (most are on the windshield now). sheep (not the domestic kind), scenery which was astounding.

And transfering to bike mode although must drive back to Banff tomorrow.  Cleaning bikes from riding on the back of van on gravel roads.


Nearing the end of road trip 

“Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.”–Anatoli Boukreev
20 July 2016 

 46 years ago today I was working in Idaho beneath the Teton mountains spraying trees with this kerosene substance to attempt to decrease the pine beetle infestation in Idaho. Walking through the woods 10-15 miles a day, listening to the radio as Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.  

Today Jeanne and I drove another 324 miles along the Yellowhead highway in Canada. Just driving a good highway along rolling hills. Forests and fields. More traffic.  And we continue to comment on the lack of garbage, frequent rest areas, and more frequent garbage cans.  (I wonder if there is a correlation with frequent garbage cans and lack of litter on the road).  (There is also up to $2000 fine for littering)  

A stop at the ancient forest of western Cedar. Apparently in 2005 a graduate student was studying western Cedar and discovered that they had buttress roots which are seen in tropical trees but are found in trees residing in wet soils. This area of trees was obviously more than just old growth forest but ancient, some trees nearly 2000 years old. It was also scheduled to be clear cut. He got the word out to the public and in 2006 the logging company withdrew their claim and it became protected.  The buttresses on these trees help to support the tree in the wet soils as well as provide more area for nutrient absorption.  I am sure it is more complicated than that, but that is what I remember from the information sign.  

But these amazing cedar trees, with great interpretive signs. And boardwalks have been made which are like walking through a tree house. They make walking easier but also protect the cedar roots from compaction. Raining on us (imagine that in a rain forest) but the number of species was amazing. On one cedar without even trying one could count 4 species of lichen.  

Then on to Rearguard falls on the Frasier river. 800 kilometers from the ocean and this is the highest the chinook salmon can go. The falls although not high are spectacular.  

Currently residing in the Mt. Robson Provincial Park Meadows campground. Unfortunately the clouds are about and the most spectacular mountain view from a highway in the world is not to be seen. Perhaps in the morning.  It is the same camp Joe and I stayed at 4 years ago.
thus the road trip continues. Soon will make it to Columbia Falls where my sister resides and we will pick up Constance and Dave where they are leaving their pickup for later pickup. Then we drive back north to Banff where we meet James and Nancy at the airport on the night of 23 and start riding on the 25. Yahoo. 

A map of our route 2 days ago back to Alaska.. Ketchikan, Alaska is noted in very bottom center.Interesting is the Internet availability.  Again as usual I am amazed at the lack there of.  Today was only twice: at the beginning and I am assuming at Prince George a city along the way.  I say assuming because Canada being a foreign country we have our phones turned off.  But I have acquired a small device which connects to any cell network and makes a hot spot for you.  We did it last night at Burns Lake and worked great.  But if no cell network there is no hotspot.  Which was almost all day except as noted and not here at Mt.  Robaon park.   I suspect not tomorrow driving down the ice field highway.  
For those interested the address for these tracks is

J. R. & Jeanne’s SPOT tracking
Made it to Jasper and turned on Internet.  Whoopee.  About 340 miles  a day .(540 km). Not a fast pace but also moving along 

Road trip

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous. leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.

Edward Abbey
Road trip – the great American adventure.  8 days 2800+ miles (4500 km) 6-7 hours a day on the road.  New sights, what’s over the horizon.  What makes that gully, what makes that tree grow there, why is there an outpost there, what is the history of this area, what did it take to build this road, where are these cars going???  So many questions so many observations.  So much to do. 

Traveling the highway south from Anchorage one sees a ittsy bitty teeny tiny portion of the world.  And you realize how big the world is.  And this is what we miss when we fly over taking but hours to go our distance.  Imagine what one sees from a bicycle or walking.  
And four continental divide crossings.  One at Mentasta summit going from copper river drainage into the gulf of Alaska, then over the pass to Yukon draining into the Bering sea, and near Haines junction back to gulf of Alaska drainage, and back to Yukon. Today crossed over to the Mackenzie river drainage flowing into the Beaufort sea and Arctic Ocean.  Whoop whoop. And the upcoming trip crosses the great river of the west Columbia, green, Colorado, rio grande.  I find it exciting.

Sitting here tonight just us beside the road and blue lake.  Busy road this Cassiar highway, in the past 3 hours since our arrival maybe 25 cars.  But we sat at a picnic table, watched the loons on the lake, sun appearing and disappearing behind the clouds, occasional light rain grilled some brats and had a delicious meal of brats and Cole slaw.  Does life get any better.  

But I realize not everyone might enjoy this.  Jeanne and I hosted an exchange student from Sweden many years ago and we would laugh as he would be asleep in the car before a hundred meters had gone by.  Me, there is way to much to do. If one is driving keep an eye on driving but also the vehicle systems, electrics, rpm, fuel, speed, stay on the road, Is everything attached to the car still there etc.  One can take those things for granted but in the end are rather important.  If a passenger navigation, reading on the history of area, where are we and how far is it to ?

And we have been listening to podcasts stored on the phone.  Mostly medical lectures, but TED talks and such too.  Always interesting to learn new stuff.  

But and that is a big but, not everyone, I think, finds the thrill in all those tasks.  A friend once brought their mother to Alaska and drove to Denali park from anchorage.  A distance of 200 miles.  Her mother could not figure out what the expanse of country was between Anchorage and Denali park.  But in their defense perhaps I do not see the intricacies of New York City blocks. Everyone to their own.  I like this here. 250 kilometers (150 miles) to the next petrol station, with nothing but awesome forest between.  

But as noted perhaps it is not for everyone.  Maybe sitting in a car for long hours creates an antsyness .  Some folks just cannot sit still or cannot occupy their mind with the myriad questions I seem to fill my mind with.  

We did go for a delightful walk today along side miles canyon on the Yukon river.  Makes it me think of the history of the Klondike gold rush and the endeavors of mankind to get rich.  

Oh yeah I forgot the part in last entry about problems with sprinter van and engine diagnostics light saying the van would erupt in approximately 500 miles.  Well read the manual numerous times and concluded it was tire pressure gauges which had just been installed with the new tires were not calibrated.  So wth several readings of manual determined how to calibrate and working awesome since.  Just need to figure out how the computer works.  Sorry but it is 2016 and computers are part of our lives.  Even on a road trip. 

Ok made it to to Alaska after driving 1425 miles (2293 km).  Hyder is a town of 50 permanent population and only access is through Stewart, British Columbia, Canada.  But it is Alaska. Mileage in miles etc although have to have a passport to leave town.  Drove to salmon glacier where parked for the night.  Long day 399 miles.  But the drive changed country from boreal forests of spruce to pines, firs, hemlock, and cedars.

salmon glacier fifth largest hlacier in north america

Day one 

Being Negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult.     unknown
Finally departed although not until nearly 2 pm.  Not exactly hurrying.  James brought the sprinter van over and gave us final instructions for its use.  Lot of systems: plumbing, propane, electric, inverter, solar, heat, etc.  and the usual driving stuff registration, insurance, etc. and of course stowing stuff away.  For Jeanne and I not bad as just the two of us, but when we reach Bannff will be six of us stowing gear.  Similar to a sailboat efficient and compact.   The neighbors Joan and Doug popped over to check out the van and say goodbye.  Their comment was “so this is what retirement is like”!  But during that time Jeanne discovers red salmon are on sale at Fred Meyers for $6.99 a pound fresh whole fish.  And this year we have none.  But they were not delivered yet and would not be for a few days.  Joan is graciously going to go get us some, take to the processor for filleting, cutting, vacuum sealing and freezing, then delivering it to our freezer.  Now that is an awesome neighbor. Normally that is how I like to fish.  Much more efficient, cheaper and it allows time for fun things.
Finally James, Jeanne and I went to Freddie’s for last minute items (and to makes sure the fish is not in yet) dropped off James at his house, check the tire pressures and off we go.  Stopped at the ski jumps to check progress and amazing how it is coming along.  Saw a black bear crossing the road where we were working yesterday.  Then coffee and hit the road.  Road trip.A great drive 350 miles just shy of Tok.  Staying at a state campground with little Tok river flowing behind.  Coming into Glennallen thick clouds  scattered heavy rain and lightening. Fuel, burgers and back on the road.  Mt Drum was clear at lower levels but above the 7000 feet clouds covered the summit which appeared to glow red beneath.  Many clouds in the area were red  I figured due to low sun but after we drove about 20 miles rounded a corner and noticed it was a forest fire, probably started from the numerous lightening we had seen when approaching Glennallen.  Saw a few fire trucks observing the rising smoke from the road, but would require a helitack crew or smoke jumpers as it was maybe 10 miles off the road.  Road trips are always fascinating.  A continuous bombardment of changing scenery.

And a fox running down the road stopped to look at us with squirrel in his mouth. Not offering it up to us for dinner I suppose.But a potential problem with an engine diagnostic light which came on.  Operating manual is very vague about what it could be saying everything from low tires (they are fine) to engine won’t start (does very well) to exhaust problems (cannot detect anything different). Guess it will require a trip to a mechanic in Tok although manual is very specific about taking it only to a certified Mercedes Benz sprinter mechanic.  Hmm yeah right.  We shall see.

And bummed because all the prep I did weighing stuff to the gram I seem to have forgotten a micro USB cable which charges the gps, cameras, connect cameras to iPad and compute’ and updates the SPOT.  So no pictures now.  Sometime I would like to do a trip where I do not forget some little thing which is important.  Ugh 

Almost at the beginning

The only thing I know

Is that I know nothing



Well as noted last week I have occupied the time available.  Now the evening before depart for a two month trip I decide I best pack some stuff.  Luckily I have done this trip before, and being a bit of a nerd I had a list of everything we had and used.  Thus I have gone through it and made a new list with weights.

I am at 29.2 kg (64 pounds) including the bike. In 2012 I had 28.7b kg (63 pounds).   Wow fairly similar.  Some stuff was heavier some lighter and some I dropped. But since then I have added a few items which I did not weigh. 

But it seems luxurious.  Driving the van down to Banff and we will have support to carry stuff during the day.  Wow.  Hence one thinks different.  Maybe an extra pair of clothes, (now three pair: biking, off bike clothes, and a pair of clothes for van.)  More stuff to keep track of.  And a bowl and plate, not just a bowl.   Decadent.

But coming together mind racing.  Get the house sitter squared away with instructions, clean house ( I confess mostly by Jeanne), get ready for next trips after this one.  Bills paid.  The myriad things to do. 

But it is at the point of the more you forget the less you have to do or carry. 

 Why do I get so nervous. Guess that is just me: get used to it.  


Yet another upcoming ride

The person who says it cannot be done

Should not interrupt the person doing it.

Chinese proverb


Well preparing for another ride.  Again heading south, this time back to the Great Divide, which I did in 2011 and 2012.  As a recap here is the synopsis of those rides.  Both rides were self supported, meaning we carried our own stuff rather than someone carrying it for you.

2011 – Wanted to do the whole ride but timing was not right.  So I rode solo from Banff to my sisters house in Columbia Falls, Montana  8 days 250 miles (400km) of wilderness and back country.  Great ride with a few adventures.

2012 – My friend Joe, wife Jeanne, and  I started the entire ride again in Banff, where I had started the previous year, although on day two Jeanne took a fall and fractured her ankle which required surgery and Joe and I skipped the Canadian wilderness part which I had done the year before.  After making sure Jeanne was good, Joe and I took off.  The trip lasted a total of 71 days including 10 rest days (4 in Columbia Falls with Jeanne and my sister) and 2700 miles (4000 kilometers) It was amazing and I love self supported rides as one can stop when one wants to, and go when one wants.  But it means carrying all your gear and on the divide the food is the best you can cook supplied by gas station grocery stores along the way.  Awesome.  But I learned as I have over and over, although it never seems to sink in, one rides (or does anything) one day at a time.  Thinking of the entire trip is too daunting ,so just go day by day.  After we initiated that attitude it was a great trip.

Those trips were such a meaning to my life I ended up writing a book about it before I discovered this blog thing.  It was in an electronic book self published via Smashwords (Memories of the Great Divide) and on Apple iTunes.  Whoopee, if I remember right 2 people read it.  But has served Joe and I well to remind us of what who how when and where. Memories are such skittish things.

But currently in the throws of getting ready for another ride.  I was taught many years ago one should be ready to go anywhere on 5 minutes notice, and I have tried.  And I could, but I have found as one gets older it takes longer and perhaps there is more to do, although I do not believe that is it, although the former seems true.  As our friend Jim Howard told me when I was pondering the earlier Great Divide rides (“Do it now, as every year it just gets harder”)  It seems it is not a good time, the house needs work, the garden needs tending, ski jumps need work, next week my fingernails might need clipping, or whatever excuse comes up.  And the usual one of “oh, I could never do that” (without even trying).  And too easily the opportunity passes.

So the opportunity arose and our friend Nancy Brady and husband James wanted to do the Great Divide and hence the invite is there.  It may not happen again.   When the timing is there, one has to grasp at what one can.  Life can pass by.  I suppose it is like having a child, the timing is never right, but you just have to begin and it seems to take care of itself.  I would rather have memories than things, although the accumulation of stuff in our house might testify otherwise.

The bike getting ready

And so the lists are being created of things to take, and things to leave behind, but have access to if needed.  I had been working at the ski jumps (my latest passion) but have had to stop in order to get this stuff done.  I can still go watch the kids jump and who knows maybe take a jump or two, before departure next week.

As with a packing a pack, time seems similar. You will fill up the space available. The trick is figuring out what is important.  Every item needs to be tested and checked. Bike riding, I have discovered, is a lot more fun if the bike is not getting thrown around by weight, scattered about. Several trips have involved checking things down to the tens of grams.  Last trip on the divide we carried 21 pounds (9.5 kg) which was bags stove, fuel, sleeping bag, tent, extra clothes  plus the bike,food and water. I felt we were comfortable and lacked in nothing.  Someone called it the luxury of not having anything.

This time we have support, hence a vehicle to carry the stuff. Sweet!  Still, must be ready to depart on own if the need arises. Contingencies

I must remember this is a different trip. Different people, different stuff, different weather, different time of year (three weeks earlier).  I will try and let new stories be created and not relive the old ones.