Bikepacking, Canada

Get off the highway

Did you know the prairies were flat?

Did you know they were filled with lots of history? Towns that were founded due to mining or railway, now living mostly from agriculture.

Did you know lots of nice people live there? I didn’t ask for anyone to pose for me, but I really enjoyed talking with locals.

Did you know most secondary road is not paved and almost no one drives on them? When they do cross or pass me, they stop, move to the opposite and wave. Mostly bog pickups and farm tractors, everyone has been very nice, even apologetic if they thought they drove too close or too fast.

I detoured towards Gravelbourg just because I liked the name. They have a museum, grocery store, a field without toilets you can camp on, but most importantly they have a great coffee shop 😁. The cheap motels are basic and not cheap enough, but the coffee is great and the people are super friendly.

The problem with the prairies is that there are not many places to sit and relax for lunch between towns. There are also no rest areas or water water sources. So fill up your water bottles and be ready to have lunch sitting on the side of the road.

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Bikepacking

Mon grand sentier part 4

What am I doing? What’s with trying to go fast and get somewhere quickly? Time to take a step back and smell the roses.

Canada is a big country, how can I expect the trails to be the same throughout? In the tradition of over planning and overdoing everything, I may have planned too much time on the saddle to keep it fun.

I did my homework, looked at elevation, terrain, distances between campsites and hotels. I looked at the overall elevation gain, but not at every peak!

It’s great to log 100+ km rides, but when the terrain is more difficult, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploration and fun trail discovery. The last 2 days were hard, I lost track of the exploration and discovery part of my journey.

Heading to Fernie, I had to get on the highway because of trail closure and then missed the next fun off road section. I ended up pushing it to get to Fernie fast, missing out on lots of amazing off roading and beautiful scenery.

Before I ended up on the highway, I had ridden rail grade gravel, followed by fun and flowy trails. I can only imagine how much fun the trails I missed would have been. Chatted with local people, encountered deers and scared a bunch of cows, before I had to coexist with all the pick ups heading to Alberta after enjoying Canada day long weekend.

So I decided to stay an extra night in Fernie and explore some of the trails I missed and their famous mountain bike trail network.

Smiles for miles!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Routine

My life is pretty simple right now, I get up, pack the bike, climb a hill for hours, descend a hill for hours, get a coffee or hot chocolate and go to bed 🙂

There are a few variations to my days. 1 day out of 2 I camp and take more time to settle in, rehydrate food and drink my hot chocolate, then slip into my sleeping bag. When I hotel, I find a good coffee shop and relax, check-in to my room, have an amazing shower and do laundry. I then find a simple place for dinner, then use the WIFI to confirm the next ride, post pictures and write this blog. I also really like having bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of instant oatmeal 🙂

There are a few reasons why I hotel, safety, comfort, power and laundry. I do not feel safe camping everywhere, I’m a chicken and am afraid of weird dudes. My inflatable mattress is amazing, but my back deserves a real mattress after spending 100km on the bike. My solar panel is very efficient, but not as much as BC hydro. I am testing Icebreaker’s claim to merino’s properties and can wear the same top 2 to 3 times, but not my shorts. BIBS NEED TO BE CLEANED DAILY!

The other daily thing is the amazing views I get when I reach the top. I wish I could show you how magnificent it is. These views, these mountains and trees make me feel like I am so small and insignificant. I can’t transfer that feeling in a picture, you really have to get there and see for yourself.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Mon grand sentier part 3

Kettle Valley Rail Trail ✅ It had it’s ups and downs, but overall an amazing trail.

After the beaten up and unused trail leading up to Summerland, came the very popular, comfort bike ridden, Myra canyon. Probably 200km of almost uninterrupted varied trails followed. Remote enough to test my nerves, but never for too long. Cell service is available on most of the section following Myra canyon and the trail crosses many villages with food and lodging.

It’s funny how gravity works. Rail grade makes it look like I am riding on a flat road and feels like I am a 🐌 who is never going to make it anywhere. The descents aren’t technical, but fast enough to be fun. The views from the highest point overlooking the Grand Forks valley was breathtaking, I didn’t think I had climbed that much 🙂

I did end up putting my bear spray away and cranked up the volume of my phone listening to my bad music or an Ebook. No bear sightings, no snake, lots of deers and marmots.

Views are amazing, It’s pretty cool to start one day up in the mountain riding the trestle bridges ending up going through green fields. Everywhere along the trail there are burnt out forests, but also lots of new growth and wildflowers.

I rode through thick forests, farmlands, old mining towns, wood mills. I am amazed by all the different industries that used to thrive along the railway. I am told that the economy is struggling here, the floods and wildfires of the last few years hurt the tourism industry. It is seriously an area worth exploring, so much more to see or to ride!

I found good hydration spots along the way! Surprised I could find good coffee places in Greenwood and Grand Forks.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Mon grand sentier part 2

There is no reason to be scared, or are there? The trail is official, the government advertises it as complete, what am I afraid of? Not afraid, but just on the edge and trying to take good reasonable decisions. I carry way too much food and water, have clothes for all conditions and I packed a safety blanket and first aid kit.

I have already done a few bonus climbs (oups!) taking wrong turns, but nothing too bad. I had to check and recheck Garmin, Google, Trailforks, “the great trait” app a few times and always found my way. The trail is well marked, but the grades and level of difficulty are not that well advertised. I will shorten some planned days to make up for some varying trail conditions and take the time to enjoy them more.

I almost road off the trail into the river today (oups!). I was enjoying the reward of that 70km rail grade climb and going pretty fast downhill when the trail disappeared into the river. Trails have suffered this winter, there are a lot of land slides, rock slides and some flooded area.

I got to log in 2 days in a row of more then 130km on mostly trails with lots of climbing. It’s fun to vary the terrain and difficulty. The shorter more technical days were a different kind of fun and I would go back to redo these trails anytime.

Now that I am sitting in my hotel room and reflecting on the last few days, I realize how lucky I am to get to ride to all these remote places and enjoy all that amazing scenery.

Thank god for hotels and hot tubs! Don’t get me wrong, I like camping, but I love hoteling! After riding 130km of Gravel 2 days in a row, I think I deserve a bit of luxury 🙂

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Bikepacking, Canada

Mon grand sentier part 1

It’s hard to really know what you are getting into until it’s too late and you find yourself pushing your bike up a greasy hill. It’s fun, soooo much fun! Awesome manicured trails, great climbs fun descends, amazing scenery, but some remote sections between Cultus Lake, Chilliwack lake and Silver lake were so difficult I thought of turning back, worried I wasn’t going to make it.

I told you, boring adventure, no search and rescue this time!

I now use a Garmin Inreach to stay connected and let loved ones know where I am at all times. Since I had no cell signal for 2 days in a remote area where I didn’t cross any humans, I was happy to be able to text my new plans to my partner since I had to shorten my route.

I started with 2 friends, but am now continuing solo. Angela having to get back to her family and Sigita decided to hit the pavement.

Honesty looking forward to the rail trail. I love climbing, but not a fan of hike a 🚲! My gearing is 40X 11/40, tried and tested ratio on Squamish and Swiss hills. The 18% grade for 12km defeated me ☹️

Back on the trail tomorrow and hopeful it is a bit easier and I can log more km.

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Bikepacking

Mise en garde

This adventure will not be exciting! Besides a few bonus climbs and discovery detours I will not get lost. 🐻 will stay away, flat tires and mechanicals will not happen. It will be a touristy visit of my country. All about 🚲 and ☕️

Very strong winds in Victoria, a tail wind to the ferry, but not mile 0 way. I had to go for my first of not too many touristy photos to come.

Not enough gravel for the first day, but still a beautiful ride to get to the ferry. It seems like the real start is tomorrow. Our van waiting on the mainland, where I have one last night with my partner spending it in a Walmart parking lot 🙂 It’s quite a contrast to the Fairmont Empress luxury we had the previous night!

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