Night and day, on the Divide

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The expanses of road up north are a memory.  The rest of the summer will have a distinctly different flavor than the previous months, dominated in the next few weeks by the Great Divide Route and the web of forest service access roads of southern Canada and the lower 48.  Cross the Bow River, turn off Main St. Banff toward the historic Banff Springs Hotel, continue past the statue of a long-ago baron and roll onto dirt.  Your summer is ahead of you and it looks like this.  Leaving Banff behind; leave RV’s and national park concessionaires and ants crawling north and south along paved routes; I’m a spider on a web and for as much as I leave behind, there’s more to gain than to lose.  Leaving Banff at sunset, I pierce darkness and camp along Goat Creek.  By day, I awake to a sniffing, sniffling creature.  A black bear is inches away trying to decide if a snoring green cocoon is worth further investigation.  As I’ve prepared for this, I turn to meet his eyes with my own and speak sternly, reach for my camera and then my bear spray.  Nothing but a scared black bear and my calm fifty-five beats per minute.  Six miles from Banff, this is what day brings.  This is a 7AM wake-up call on the Divide.

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Spray Lakes is exactly how I left it eleven months ago and I am at home.  I meet riders on their first and second day, and smile at the enthusiasm and the coming weeks in their lives.  I depart, knowingly wishing them luck that they don’t need and fun that is already in the cards.  This is likely to be the best part of the year for these riders– it is for me.  Evening is again falling as I encounter a self-contained ACA trip with a dozen riders.  We talk bikes, share experiences and e-mail, and a giant pot of cheesy rice.  The are camped for the night but a full belly and a setting sun beckon me over Elk Pass to the Tobermory Cabin on the other side, and I wish to spend the night.

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If you insert Anchorage, AK to Missoula, MT into Google Maps, it routes you through Jasper and south along the Icefields Parkway.  It then follows main highways west of Banff and south to Montana, but I knew a better way.  The Divide route travels directly south from Banff on the Goat Creek Trail, along the Smith-Dorrien Road (Spray Lakes Trail), and over Elk Pass into Elkford, B.C.  From there it’s a straight shot to Fernie, the US border, Whitefish and Missoula.  The Divide is more than just a fun bike ride, it’s real transport!  Welcome home.

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Sweet Tuesday and the valsalva maneuver

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Rolling at times, otherwise broadly sweeping upward and tumbling back down; the Great Divide is quite rideable, until Galton Pass. First a section of grassy “singletrack” signalled by a Rivendellian rock cairn and an animal skull is only sometimes rideable; then, a steep, muddy ascent is a challenge to hike with even a moderate touring load. Finally, the first real climb of the route up to Galton Pass is uneasily tempered on the backside by a 3300 ft descent over 8 miles. In short, it got dirty and fun today.

Elk Pass, Cabin Pass, Galton Pass…

I rolled into one of BC’s user-maintained campsites along the Bighorn River last night, and was welcomed by fly-fishermen offering beers– godly, in a place a day away from beers in any direction.

Doc, is a biologist working for various parties as needed, and often travels to consult or collect samples. He knows how to identify and preserve once-living things, and has a passion for the unfiction in the world. He has a keen ear, and can turn a few words into wisdom.

Mack is a cartoonist by trade, despite formal training in economics. He is a serial generalist, always has a way of making things sound alright, and admires Doc greatly. “We really should do something nice for Doc.”

A sweet Tuesday.

The descent from Galton Pass required some active pressure management– the valsalva maneuver, or “forced exhalation against a closed passageway”.

Montana greets me with unfamiliar dry heat, and big skies.

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Sweet Tuesday and the valsalva maneuver

20110824-080805.jpg

Rolling at times, otherwise broadly sweeping upward and tumbling back down; the Great Divide is quite rideable, until Galton Pass. First a section of grassy “singletrack” signalled by a Rivendellian rock cairn and an animal skull is only sometimes rideable; then, a steep, muddy ascent is a challenge to hike with even a moderate touring load. Finally, the first real climb of the route up to Galton Pass is uneasily tempered on the backside by a 3300 ft descent over 8 miles. In short, it got dirty and fun today.

Elk Pass, Cabin Pass, Galton Pass…

I rolled into one of BC’s user-maintained campsites along the Bighorn River last night, and was welcomed by fly-fishermen offering beers– godly, in a place a day away from beers in any direction.

Doc, is a biologist working for various parties as needed, and often travels to consult or collect samples. He knows how to identify and preserve once-living things, and has a passion for the unfiction in the world. He has a keen ear, and can turn a few words into wisdom.

Mack is a cartoonist by trade, despite formal training in economics. He is a serial generalist, always has a way of making things sound alright, and admires Doc greatly. “We really should do something nice for Doc.”

A sweet Tuesday.

The descent from Galton Pass required some active pressure management– the valsalva maneuver, or “forced exhalation against a closed passageway”.

Montana greets me with unfamiliar dry heat, and big skies.

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Day 1 1/2: Backcountry birthday cake

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Keeping it simple today. I passed the Tobermory Forest Service cabin yesterday, a popular hang for Divide riders; woke up beside Blue Lake; and treated myself to a litre of whole milk and a stack of Alberta honey, peanut, sunflower seed, and raisin sandwiches– backcountry birthday cake.

For real, PB and raisin is more substantial (protein, fibre, and natural sugars), lighter, and more packable than jelly.

Yesterday included paved roads, busy provincial park dirt tracks, deserted forest service roads, and some powerline doubletrack trails.

And some more Europeans with full trekking kit: when you already have four panniers, what do you put in the other two hanging from your Extrawheel trailer? Rocks, I presume. At least I would; or firewood and brazing rod for backwoods frame repairs.

Tonight, shooting for a BC Forest Service cabin listed on the map; upscale accommodations for the big day. Tobermory Cabin reminded me of the cover of the Delaney and Bonnie album entitled “Home”, on Stax.

The hills are alive around here; wildlife and wildflowers, and timber and mines. Finally, I met a man on medical leave from a local mine. The company bought him a hybrid bicycle, which he begrudgingly rides daily for the sake of the “ticker”. He was skeptical of my travels, and of my fancy “adventure-quashing” maps, but he took down some information about the ACA and generator hubs. Still a spark of adventure in this northwoods resident.

My bike celebrates 26 years by rolling around in the dirt. Oh, at the heart of my food bundle yesterday was a persimmon. No small task to pack persimmons and plums amongst books and cookware.

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