Distant beginnings, and after a prolonged gestation, a plan - Over the hills and far away - CycleBlaze

Distant beginnings, and after a prolonged gestation, a plan

In the beginning...

The seeds of this journey lodged themselves in my mind decades ago. In the early 1970’s, on my first road trip across Canada, I was easing down Rogers Pass towards Revelstoke on Highway 1 in British Columbia—the Trans-Canada Highway had been formally opened just a few years earlier—when I passed three touring cyclists spinning upwards and eastwards. “Wow!” I said to myself, “That’s something I’d like to do…” Life intervened, as Life does—marriage and family, work, and the usual competing demands on one’s time—but I never quite forgot that day in the western mountains.

Eventually, a Plan takes shape

And thus it came to pass that in the winter of 2015/16, I decided to organize my own petit tour des montagnes de l’ouest, following the spirit if not the tire tracks of those unknown cyclists I’d seen all those years ago.  I’d visited the same terrain a few times in the intervening years, on four wheels and two (the latter, during a transcontinental motorcycle trip in 2013, done partly to suss out the options and hazards of different cycling routes.)  The mountains remain as magical in my memory as when I first saw them, and from a decade of cycle-touring in Canada, Europe, and Southern Africa I’ve learned that on a bike you see, feel, smell and hear the landscape in a way that’s impossible in a motorized bubble. I’m privileged to have a very capable touring bike in Osi, my Thorn Raven-mit-Rohloff, the necessary camping gear, time and health and budget, and most of all, an understanding spouse.  This year, pushing 70, I decided that the mountains would never be as easy as they are now—so why wait?

I booked “The Canadian”, VIA’s flagship train, to the West, stopping to see old friends in Saskatoon; and then Amtrak back east from the Washington coast to upstate New York, via Chicago.  I had never taken a long train journey in the States, and choosing this one was partly a matter of money—Amtrak charged me about 40% of the VIA fare—but partly too, my own modest nod of homage to this man and his song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?... 

(More notes on these train journeys follow in the appended “Notes on Trains”.)

Working with what I knew and with helpful information on the U.S. Pacific Northwest from the “Northern Tier” route of the Adventure Cycling Association, I mapped out a route that would let ride me towards the Rockies in Jasper National Park, head south via the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise-Banff-Canmore and Kananaskis Country; continue south in Alberta to Waterton Lakes NP, and thence to its cross-border section, Glacier NP in Montana. From there, I would continue west through Montana, Idaho and Washington to the Pacific Coast, this last section including a zig-zag north to visit longtime friends in Nelson, BC.

My route, beginning in Hinton, AB, just east of Jasper, and ending in Everett, WA, is shown in the links below. (The maps include altitude profiles.)

From Hinton, AB, to St Mary, MT (the gateway to Glacier NP):

From St Mary, MT, via Whitefish and Troy, MT, to Creston, BC:  http://tinyurl.com/hrzm8rk 

From Creston via Nelson, BC, and Kettle Falls, WA, to Whidbey Island and Everett, WA:  https://tinyurl.com/yd7szc94   (Some parts of the route shown on this  map are inaccurate, especially near the Washington coast.)

The entire route worked out at just over 2250 kms. I started at Hinton early in the afternoon on June 21, mid-summer’s day, and completed my journey at the Amtrak station in Everett, WA, mid-morning on July 17:  in all, 27 days on the calendar.  I rode on 26 of those, taking a rest day in Nelson.  A typical day was around 100 kms—a few days were longer or shorter, for one reason or another.

Problems on the ride?  Just to spare you the suspense:  None.  No problems with the bike, with my gear, nor with my body (no collywobbles, headaches, sunburn, aching joints, and the like.)  In these domains, Uneventful is Good.

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