Schwalbe Marathon Plus bike tires

I put a Marathon Plus on my bike rear tire just prior to starting a 17-day Vancouver to Calgary adventure on the Trans Canada Great Trail.

And felt very confident.

However … it punctured day 17 on a paved highway. Only 30km from Calgary.

Rather than using a breaker strip of Kevlar under the tread, the Marathon Plus has a thick layer of springy SmartGuard rubber. Because of this, any embedded objects tend to get forced outwards rather than being pushed in, and it takes something special – a police stinger, maybe? – to cause a puncture. …

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Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 15

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July 22, 2020 – Fernie to Elkford

I was early to Timmies in Fernie.

At this point I had not yet convinced myself to try the more challenging highway 43 north from Sparwood.

The route into Elk Pass is a remote and challenging journey, and travellers should be self sufficient and be prepared to turn back if necessary due to the topography, lack of roads and possibility of washed out bridges.

I was defaulting to busy highway 3 west from Sparwood.

The day started on an excellent and challenging mostly single track routes called the Elk Valley Coal Discovery Trail.

Moving east, wildflowers were still in bloom.

Eventually I reached quiet dirt backroads that would take me to Sparwood.

I bumped into a couple cycling who had crossed from the Elkford highway into Alberta twice previously. They quickly convinced me I could do it too.

In fact, I cycled with them on and off for the next 2 days.

If you ever stopped in Sparwood it was to see the Terex 33-19 “Titan” truck, once the highest capacity in the world.  Of course there are larger capacity trucks today.

The bridges of Sparwood are really impressive.

Sparwood to Elkford on the Trans Canada Great Trail was perhaps my favourite half day of the whole trip.

Lovely ranch land with almost no traffic. Very few people.

A good breeze kept the mosquitoes off for once.

Though I did get lost en route, I managed to find the sulphur springs. Not hot enough for me to swim, however.

I rolled into Elkford late, getting a spot at the Elkford Municipal campground for $10.

Free hot showers. The end of civilization heading north.

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Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 14

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July 21, 2020 – Lake Koocanusa to Fernie 

GREAT cycling day.

I love the Lake Koocanusa area.

A massive lake formed by the damming of the Kootenay River by the Libby Dam in 1972. …

The name is made from the first three letters of the Kootenay (alternately, Kootenai) River, Canada, and USA.

I stopped for brunch at the Kikomun Creek Provincial Park campground finding it had free hot showers!

More lakes. More lovely trails.

Weeds as high as an elephant’s eye.

Again I stayed mostly on the Trans Canada Great Trail.

But where it crossed an empty paved highway, I couldn’t resist the speedier route.

Stopping at an ice cream stand I saw this sign on the neighbour’s yard.

The final hours to Fernie were on dusty farm roads.

On the Great Trail you can often decide between easier roads or more challenging single track:

Huge estate homes look over to the famed ski hill.

I peddled all over Fernie as I’d never stopped there before.

Ended up camping discreetly in a city park.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 13

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

July 20, 2020 – Cranbrook to crown land near Lake Koocanusa

Having a soft bed, I slept in for once.  I took this chance to get a number of errands done in Cranbrook.

The most important of those was a bike fix.  My front brake pads had worn off.  It was metal on metal.

An excellent repairman at Gerick Sports suggested I replace the sprocket and chain, both well worn.  CAD $134 well spent.  I’m more confident in the bike than myself.

Finally, after noon, I got away.

Turns out the cycling trails out of Cranbrook are some of the best of the Great Trail Canada wide. But first I had to find my way out of the city.

The next two days would be highlights of my trip. Rid of highway, I was mostly on rail trail, easy single track, quiet gravel farm roads. All with superb scenery. You can feel the mountains getting higher as you approach the Rockies.

The number of trail options is bewildering. From wheelchair accessible to challenging technical routes.

I had to turn back on one.  It got too steep.

Eventually I reached empty farm roads.

Very tranquil.

Much of that was bordered by private property. But I camped in crown land recreation area.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 12

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

July 19, 2020 – Creston to Cranbrook 

As I’d skipped the Trans Canada Great Trail Grey Creek Pass, today was 115km of highway.   My dullest day yet.

I was motivated, however, by the chance to visit with friends in Cranbrook I hadn’t seen in at least 5 years.

Late the night before — after dismissing another depressing RV park — I found a convenient city storage yard for camping.

Unsurprisingly, it was very close to Timmies.

I didn’t linger long in Creston because mosquitoes. But this art gallery setting is impressive.

The highway was not bad. Quite a wide shoulder.

I stopped twice for my new favourite lunch – bagel toasted on my camping stove.

The second lunch I’d set up on a gas station picnic table. Until a guy came running out to warn me about open flames near gas pumps!

Logging has not been slowed by COVID-19.

There were a few scenic vistas.

But it was nice to finally reach Cranbrook about 5pm.

I enjoyed a great meal, catching up with my hosts.

Soft bed. Hot shower. I slept well.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 11

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

July 18, 2020 – Nelson to Creston

We were up early for coffee and then out the door on one of the most beautiful summer days in the Kootenays, so far.

Friends who hosted me in Nelson had planned a big kayak day on the beautiful Kootenay lake.

I noticed the famed ORANGE Nelson bridge is actually orange and pink.

My friends put in at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.

I’d driven past a hundred times over the years but never stopped before. This campground I’d rank with the best in the world for motor access / family fun.

For example, they have something called the Holt Cyclist Shelter. You can set up your tent outside, but under a big roof.

I carried on down the very familiar highway to catch the longest FREE ferry in B.C.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 rules make everyone stay with their vehicle.


The woman loading as I arrived ignored me … so I cycled aboard when she wasn’t watching. I was the only cyclist.

My dad built a summer home in Crawford Bay and we kept it about 30 years. None of my nuclear family had been back since it had been sold.

Here it is, opposite the wishing well on Kokanee Springs Golf Course.

 

We’d heard the buyer had done zero maintenance and it certainly looked that way to me.

My Mom’s golfball garden had not been touched since she left.


I have only great memories of my years at Crawford Bay. To celebrate I had lunch at the clubhouse.

Blue and Bacon burger with poutine.

I would like to return one day for golf.

I’d been leery about the 91km Gray Creek Pass, the official route of the GREAT Trail:

… Gray Creek to Kimberley is an extremely arduous journey in the wilderness for 80 km on a forestry road, plus an extra 10 km through Kimberley Nature Park with minimal amenities, no supplies and limited-to-no cell service …

Cyclists should carry spare brakes, chain links, tubes, tires and a comprehensive set of bike tools. If you are up to the challenge, you certainly will be glad you tried it! …

I spoke with two cyclists who had come over from the opposite direction. They predicted I’d have to push my bike uphill for about 17km if I tried it my direction. 😐

… So, it was a long day in the sun alongside Kootenay lake. I took the longer, easier paved highway to Cranbrook, instead.

Very few stops as mosquitoes were as bad as I’ve ever seen in this lifetime anywhere. Seems the late, wet spring this year hatched far more than usual. Out for blood.

Towns have fewer mosquitoes so I thought to camp somewhere in Creston. Towns have fewer bugs.

Unfortunately Creston is a town without many good campgrounds. They only want RVs.  I asked a police officer and he had no specific advice.

… a town of 5,351 people in the Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia, Canada. The town is located approximately 10 km (6 mi) north of the border crossing into the United States …

The Creston Valley’s economy is largely resource-based with agriculture and forestry. Many are employed in the service sector, and tourism is increasingly prominent …

Lush farmland.

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Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 10

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

July 17, 2020 Bulldog tunnel to Nelson

I woke early feeling great. That made 4 nights in series sleeping even better than usual.

First up was the 1km Bulldog tunnel. As I’d decided not to bring a headlamp I had to walk it holding my camera flashlight.

There are a number of these tunnels on the Castlegar – Christina Lake section.

This rugged and most remote section of the KVR/C&W rail trail is scattered with historical artifacts from the boom days.

Rolling down hill I met the only other cyclists I saw for 2 days – a family of four, just packing up after breakfast.  They were cycling to Vancouver.

As I got close to Castlegar I was reminded of their huge forestry industry.

The powerful rivers of the Kootenays generate a lot of hydro power, as well.

Sitting in Tim Horton’s Castlegar I looked closely, for the first time, at the next section of the Great Trail to Nelson.

Scary. 63km if you manage to find the route. No camping allowed.

‘… Touring cyclists may find this route incredibly challenging as the route is more suitable for mountain bikes. Therefore we have marked this portion of the TCT as “Hiking Only”. …’

So … I decided to take the highway instead, risking getting pushed off the road by logging trucks and motor homes.

Nelson is close to my heart. Relatively free of the chain stores, franchises and strip-mall developments, it retains a rustic feel.

I understand opioids have caused a lot of grief here in recent years.  In the old days, they were all mellow hippie pot growers.

I stayed with friends. Good fun.

Nelson is a lovely place.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info

Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 9

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July 16, 2020 Grand Forks to Bulldog tunnel

I checked out of my air conditioned motel in Grand Forks at 11am.

Left town about Noon.

Do I look clean, rested and refreshed?

A good trail continues alongside the Kettle river though this section was the Columbia & Western Railway.

You cross the Kettle on this bridge and finally head north and away.

It’s uphill on a sandy trail that crosses high above Christina lake.

The rest of the day was pure Trans Canada Great Trail. Rugged and remote. I saw very few other people. For hours.

There are a number of tunnels.

I was considering switching to highway 3 for a change getting to Castlegar.

Nope. It was too big a detour from trail to way up there.

Everyone is happy to get to the summit, Farron station. It’s downhill from here.

I stopped at 7pm at one of my better campsites, so far. A historic rail stop signed Tunnel adjacent to the nearly 1-km long Bulldog tunnel.

Once again, mosquitoes were a thing. So I built a big smudge. 😊

Lovely evening.

I am starting to notice days getting shorter. This photo from my tent was taken at 9:40pm.

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Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 8

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July 15, 2020 to Grand Forks

My thinking this day was to get to Grand Forks as quickly as possible.  Grab a cheap motel to catch up on photos, videos.  And recharge the batteries literally and figuratively.

Take an easy day.   And a late start the following day.

 The heat was getting to me.

The scenery changed again, now mixed farming.

One downside here is an endless series of ‘cow gates’ … though you never see any cows any where near.

My brother and I recently added a kickstand to the bike — a big help when getting on and off frequently.

Some sections of the Great Trail allow motor vehicles, this one included. A drag for cyclists.

Some don’t leave.

Wanting to check into the motel early I skipped the last 25km of trail into Grand Forks, taking the highway instead. It was all downhill. And I zoomed in.

CAD $108 plus taxes

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Cycling Vancouver → Rockies day 7

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July 14, 2020

Yesterday was all uphill. Today all down hill (and south) towards Grand Forks 🙂

A pretty, mellow day — though I found the heat tiring.

I stopped for brunch (toasted bagel and coffee) at a perfect campsite – Arlington Lakes.

With my dedicated phone/camera lost, I notice I’d taken fewer photos. It had been better to have had two phones.

I stopped for late lunch at the cute town of Beverdell.

This year I’m alternating the Great Trail with paved roads more often. Pavement results in speeds double or triple … but the risk of being blown off the road by a logging truck.

Happily I rolled on to a brand new paved road at one point.

One very real highlight of B.C. is WATER: lakes, rivers and waterfalls.

No bears, so far. Plenty of deer.

I thought I saw my first badger — but it may have just been a skunk or marmot.

I rolled into a big beautiful campground signed FULL … and was offered a crappy spot for $30, same price as your huge motor home.

Instead I rolled through the camp and found 3 other cyclists. They graciously offered me the chance to join. And we enjoyed plenty of beer and wine over the campfire.

Day 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | info