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Cycling Clearwater to the Rockies

After Clearwater Michael and I were expecting several days of gruelling mountain passes, constant gradients and lots of traffic, during of gradual incline to the Rockies. It was actually nothing like we expected. Cycling Clearwater to the Rockies was still a challenge, but for reasons we hadn’t expected – mainly the rain!

We spent the first 2 days waiting for the hills and mountains. According to the map altitude we had ascended, but we didn’t see how this was possible when it felt like we were on a constant, gradual decent. We decided to make the most of it and cycle some long days.

The stretch from Clearwater to Blue River, and then Blue River to Valmount were LONG stretches of wilderness. It really began to feel like we were in the Canadian wilderness, and entering the Rockie mountain terrain. There were only a handful of towns on the way to Valemount, and due to the marshy surroundings (think moose country), there weren’t many places to fill up the water bottles. About 65km outside of Clearwater we approached Avola, and stopped at the gas station to fill up our water bottles and buy some snacks. The guy was a jerk and lied to us about the tap not working, then didn’t let us in the shop to buy anything, this completely took us back as everyone else was so friendly and it was a matter of safety – we later learnt he was a “world famous jerk” that hates everyone, especially cyclists. If you are heading through Avola, the “World Famous burger shop” just around the corner is supposed to have friendly staff that also let you fill up your water bottles.

Long stretch of highway cycling Clearwater to the Rockies

We cycled our longest cycle day of 107km from Clearwater all the way to Blue River. The roads were good, with only one small 750m summit. We were planning on camping at the top of the summit; however unfortunately (or fortunately), I had my Dad’s worried voice in the back of my head. “There were some cyclists attacked by a Bear near you, just last week.” “Just watch out for those bears.” “I don’t like the thought of all those bears in the area.” When cycling for long periods of time, you have a lot of thinking time, and in my delirious state I started to “see” bears everywhere, and didn’t feel comfortable camping in the wilderness, miles from anywhere. So, we cycled on.

We finally made it to Blue River several hours later. I pulled over at a gas station and tucked into the kilo jar of peanut butter I’d been carrying since the superstore at Kamloops. We started to investigate a place to pitch our tent, and considered perhaps camping behind the gas station. Suddenly, I realised I was face to face with a black bear – this time it wasn’t my imagination. The bear was only about 5m from me, just off the road. Instead of taking a photo, screaming or moving away, I stopped my bike and frantically started waving my hands around to get Michael’s attention, which of course, scared the bear off. I’ve never been that close to a wild bear before, but this one just looked like a giant teddy bear.

Blue River

A bit worried about bears and still in need to find a campspot, we decided to head further into town (which was only about 4 streets big). We stopped at the community park, to cook some dinner and discuss some options. We got chatting to a Spanish couple that had been living in Nicaragua and they told us we could camp in their garden, and could lock our food in their house. Great! As we set up camp, their daughter was telling us about the bear problem they have in town, and showed us the big bear trap that was opposite the house. As she was telling us about the bears, another problem arose – mosquitos, fucking loads of them! We quickly unpacked, set up our tent, jumped in the tent and stayed put like prisoners. All this while the Spanish family walked around not at all phrased, leaving their doors and windows wide open and staring at us like were we a bit weird.

We had a good night sleep, despite the mozzies… and no bear attack! The Spanish family even let us use the kitchen, and made us coffee – which I definitely needed.

Bear trap in Blue River

I woke up that morning feeling dehydrated. My wrists, hands, thighs and knee were all throbbing, and the lack of rest days and long distances made me feel a bit drained. On top of this I now had hundreds of mozzie bites to deal with.

Getting back on the bikes that morning was hard, but we knew it had to be done. We had arranged to stay with a warmshowers host in Valemount, and had 97km to cycle to get there. So, back on the long stretch of highway 5 wilderness (which was actually an amazingly beautiful stretch of road, with snow capped mountains, wild flowers and streams). Rest stops were now 90km apart and even pullovers were rare. Eventually we made it to Valemount, and found our warmshowers hosts, Tom and Peggy. We had a wonderful stay, chatting mostly about cycle touring. It was nice to actually have a conversation with some people that didn’t think we were mad. They also knew exactly how we felt, and what we were going through.

Moose Country

After leaving Valmount we had a couple of options, to camp at Mt Robson provincial park (the start of the Rockies), which meant a short day cycling only 40km, or cycling 100km to Lucerne campground, or 125km to Jasper. We decided to give ourselves a rest and camp at Mt Robson. We did plan on doing some short hikes in the park, however as soon as we arrived it started to rain, and didn’t stop. So we had a rather chilled afternoon of blog writing, reading and stretching.

Tomorrow, Jasper!

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Cycling Clearwater to the Rockies


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