The route crisscrosses the Continental Divide from north to south starting in Banff, Alberta, Canada and finishing at the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
I don’t have time or talent to do the whole thing. But I’m hoping to ride the start down into Montana. Then divert over to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (via the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes) where I stopped off on last summer’s bikepacking adventure.
Canada’s Great Trail (formerly called the Trans Canada Trail) was better than I expected. B.C. includes many of the best sections.
I hiked less than anticipated
I had too much weight on the back. Next time I’ll use saddlebags mounted in front and (possibly) mid-frame
bikes need a lot of maintenance. And I’m the worst at bicycle maintenance. En route I fixed one flat. Had 4 broken spokes. Visited 4 bike shops. Had both tires upgraded.
Dave had his guys replace the chain and some other hardware. That helped immensely.
I started in Nanaimo wanting to get to Lake Cowichan as quickly as possible.
Lake Cowichan is the western terminus of the Great Trail.
Lake Cowichan to Victoria on the Cowichan Valley Trail
2. Islands to Port Townsend WA
After visiting friends in Victoria, I took the most direct route to visit friends in Port Townsend via the American San Juan Islands.
3. Port Townsend WA to Rattlesnake Lake WA
To avoid some highway miles, Doug & Diana delivered me to the Bainbridge ferry. I cycled the Burke-Gilman rail to trail and others connected to get to the fantastic Iron Horse Trail out of Rattlesnake Lake.
4. Rattlesnake Lake WA to Tekoa WA on the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail
5. Eastern Washington
Just past Ellensburg I was forced off the semi-official GART on to secondary highways and alternative trails that took me through Spokane.
I found this section of GART to be too soft and sandy for my tires. Also it was too disconnected.
I finally stopped at Plummer, Idaho. Dave Adlard picked me up. We dropped the bike at a shop for repair as I’d broken 3 spokes the previous evening. And then took an indulgent 8 days off in Couer d’Alene.
6. North to Castlegar
Dave and Jeni rode with me away from the Adlard log cabin in Athol. We headed towards Sandpoint on back roads and I later rejoined the route shown in the map below. Dave had suggested I cross the border close to pretty Metaline Falls.
6. Castlegar to Hope
For decades I’d wanted to ride the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) Trail and the Columbia & Western Rail Trail. It’s totally wonderful. And obviously one of the great cycling routes of the world.
Hope to Vancouver and on to Parksville on the Island was problematic. There is no excellent route yet available. Cyclists I met took a number of different roads.
Psychologically finished at Hope, I managed a series of rides, buses, trains and ferries to cover the 240km in about 36 hours without sleeping.
In the middle of the night — HOPE B.C. — I was awoken by rain.
Jumped out of the tent to put the fly which I’ve rarely used over the past month. The weather has been terrific.
It rained hard. The first hard rain of the month.
I packed up quickly in the morning when it let up briefly. But was soaked by the time I got to Tim Hortons and, later, McDonalds.
By about 9:30am the skies looked threatening … but I set out anyway with the vague dream of reaching Vancouver Island same day.
It looked unlikely as — shockingly — all these left coast Vancouver suburb cities have yet to organize a connected non-motorized trail through the big sleazy.
Least bad option was starting west on Laugheed Highway 7.
This was a big letdown after the Kettle Valley rail trail. 😕
Some of the bridges are quite dangerous for cyclists, as well.
Happily, the Golden Ears bridge (opened 2009) is a dream. It has bike-pedestrian protected lanes on each side.
On arrival in Langley I asked a bus driver the best public transit with bike to downtown Vancouver. That led to an intercity bus with bike rack. Cycling 6.5 km. The Sky Train. Ferry to Londsdale Quay. And two more local buses to Horseshoe Bay.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
And I made it to Horseshoe Bay in time for the 10:40pm last ferry. The last of the day.
Should I cross. Or wildcamp on the mainland?
I decided to take the ferry. It was 12:20am on arrival in Nanaimo.
Deciding not to wild camp, I decided to stay up all night in Tim Hortons and ride the final 30km or so at dawn.