Back in the States once more: from the Upper Columbia River to the foot of Sherman Pass - Over the hills and far away - CycleBlaze

July 8, 2016 to July 9, 2016

Back in the States once more: from the Upper Columbia River to the foot of Sherman Pass

Well-fed and rested, I bade farewell to my friends, left Nelson and headed south towards the US border via a long uphill on a humid drizzly July morning. (It was strange weather, my friends told me – in April, they’d had the heat of August, and in the first week of July, the rains of June.)  My 10 km uphill out of town was followed by a splendid 29 km downgrade into Salmo, a small town on Hwy 3, a road I had last seen a couple of weeks earlier, much further east near Crowsnest Pass in Alberta.

Salmo shows a visitor its fine old wooden hotel:

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And a few doors south of that, the Dragonfly Café serves an excellent lunch at a reasonable price--mine was soup, quiche, and an A-grade raspberry crumble.  I chatted with two cyclists from Edmonton on a big loop around Nelson and the ACA's Northern Tier route, which I would shortly join.  As I left the Dragonfly, a young mum from Park City (again!), visiting with her hubby and 8-year old, said about Osi, "Sweet rig!" (Twice is a pattern, a colleague used to say; it must be so.)  I laughed and thanked her, and we chatted about bikes and their hometown, which our family used to visit years ago. They asked about the Dragonfly, and I told them they’d made a first-rate choice for lunch.

The route angles SW through pastoral countryside...

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...and connects with the Columbia River near Montrose, a few miles north of the US border:

The Columbia at Montrose, looking S
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Intermittent drizzle was swirling around Montrose, so I decided to push on past the border, and camped at the Upper Columbia Campground.  It was spacious and well-kept, with a nice grassy site for my tent.  The showers were clean and had lots of hot water.  Feeling well-scrubbed, I treated myself to a hot cuppa and a paddle in the Columbia--no need for full immersion therapy.

After a leisurely supper, the sky was clear at 9 PM, so I tucked in without rigging the tarp.  You'd think I would have learn by now... I heard light rain around 3 AM, and by 5 it was heavier.  I put on my jacket, nipped outside, and jerry-rigged the tarp.  I cooked and ate breakfast under shelter, but packup was protracted, cramped, and damp.

To Kettle Falls and the foot of the climb to Sherman Pass

The 60 kms or to to Kettle Falls should have been an easy and pretty ride through rolling countryside beside the Columbia, with swathes of forest broken by pasture and crop land.  Instead, it was a slog, most of it damp, drizzly, and cold, with the sun breaking through only about three hours after I left camp.  I felt gassed, unable to generate much power--naturally, the headwind had increased as the sky cleared--and the cool-but-sweaty conditions were dispiriting.

I reached Kettle Falls just before 1 PM, after four-plus hours in the saddle, and found The Old Apple Warehouse.  How could I turn down a place with a name like that?  I inhaled a couple of exemplary burritos, and spent 90 minutes there eating, reprovisioning, talking with Marcia by payphone, and generally reconstituting myself.  I also spent 20 minutes with Mike, from Vermont, who was selling his maple syrup.  We chatted about cycling, maple syrup, cheddar cheese, the western landscapes, strange and not-so-wonderful politics, and the maverick campaign for governor of Vermont by Bill “Spaceman” Lee, the Expos’ lefty and celebrated free spirit from the late '70s and early '80s (though we acknowledged that he probably wouldn’t win against Peter Galbraith, John Kenneth’s son.)  As I was leaving, Mike bade me safe journey and said, “We are all so envious of you.” Once again I thanked a stranger for his kind words, saying that I felt blessed to have the health, opportunity and budget to make such a trip.

In Kettle Falls, I picked up Washington State Road 20, which I would follow west to the Pacific coast.  A couple of hours later, I reached the Canyon Creek National Forest Service campground on the lower slopes of Mt. Sherman.  There was no tap water, but the creek was full and clear, and I used my purification tabs.

My neighbours were generous and helpful, as always.  Sean and his partner Susan let me stow my food bag in the cab of their pickup, as there were no bear lockers in the campground.  She in turn gave me a huge apple and a couple of bananas, and we chatted about the planning and logistics of my ride.

After supper, another camper, a forty-ish fellow, stopped by with his two sons, about 8 and 10.  They were all keenly interested in my bike and gear, so I showed them some of the details.  He lived in the area, about an hour's drive to the south.  He had an interesting history.  Born in Papua New Guinea to missionary parents, he was now working as an energy auditor. He was appalled by the wastefulness of our societies, and by our unnecessary and unsustainable use of carbon-based energy.  We chatted for more than half an hour, and could have had a much longer conversation, but he had his youngsters to tuck into bed, and I needed a good sleep.  Tomorrow was Sherman Pass, the first of the high passes ahead of me in Cascadia.

Today's ride: 168 km (104 miles)
Total: 1,621 km (1,007 miles)

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