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Published: June 16th 2017
Though Telte Yet campground in Hope was one of the best we have yet experienced, I had a hard time sleeping - in fact I don't think I slept at all. The sound of the high wind combined with the roar of the mighty Fraser just metres from the tent was not conducive to sleep. But mostly I was just keyed up about the climb up the Crowsnest in the morning. I left about 6:30 am and found my way through the interchange where highways #1, #3 and #5 coincide. The grade began almost immediately and just kept on going. After a few kilometers of unrelenting hill, with no let-up in sight, I realized I had left Hope and entered despair. Oh the happy memory of riding into that headwind in Manitoba the other day. Who was that idiot who claimed anything
was better than riding into a headwind. I sure wasn't thinking that anymore when I rode up the highway out of Hope. I started to hate corners in the road ahead because they offered the illusion that the road might level off around them, just out of sight. It never did. Kilometre after kilometre it just kept going up.
Two little figments stood one on each shoulder and talked in my ears. The one on the left wore flip-flops and had a big belly. He would say things like, “Come on, take a break – you don’t want to overstress yourself – remember your sore bum.” The one on my right was wearing spandex and looked like the kind of person who led spinning classes. He would say things like “Don’t listen to him, he’s a fat idiot – if you take a break every 10 metres, we’ll never get there.” They set up such a yammering in my head I just wanted to yell at them to shut up! But that would have been crazy.
Of course eventually (after about a million kilometres), the road did level off - at the Hope slide. In January 1965, 4 people were killed on the highway when half a mountain tumbled down on top of their cars. With great virtue I rode up the little access road to the plaque and lookout - I didn't have to put out that extra energy, but I did, so there.
After the slide, the road
pitched down and I enjoyed a little freewheeling while at the same time resenting the loss of hard won elevation that I knew would have to be made up. I discovered that I can both hate and love the very same thing at the very same moment. The highway wound its way through Sunshine valley - a place used for a Japanese internment camp during the second world war. Then the climb began again, this time not unrelenting, but interspersed with short level patches and gratuitous (Michele's apt term) downhills. I learned that a sign saying a passing lane was coming up also meant that an uphill climb was approaching. I began to hate those signs. And then a curious illusion began to take over my senses. When I looked ahead, the road appeared flat, but it was hard to pedal and numerous times I thought my brakes were stuck on until I realized - duh - I was going uphill. When I looked behind me, it was obvious how much of a grade I was climbing, but ahead the road looked flat. Why? Persistence of hope? Wishful thinking? Michele caught up with me for lunch just before the last
series of heartbreaking climbs to the summit. She had come upon Raja, our fellow cyclist from the Telte Yet campground, pushing his bike up one of the earlier grades. She took all his panniers and packs in the car to lighten his load. We would be meeting at the campground in EC Manning Park and he could get them back there. After lunch, Michele went ahead to get us a campsite.
Finally, after one last sadistically steep pitch, I reached the summit. I knew this because the creek beside the road had turned into a standing water and also there was a sign. Down I went – reaping the reward I had worked so hard for – joyful in the knowledge there would be no more climbs this day. At one point I looked to the side and stared eye to eye with a bear who was rooting about in the ditch. I don’t know if he was a grizzly but he was big and brown and I didn’t stick around to find out. I took a picture of him far enough down the road to have a sporting chance of escape if he decided to give chase.
I got to Cold Spring Campground shortly after seeing the bear (there was a sign warning of a bear in the area) and looked around the sites, at least the ones closest to the entrance. Most were unoccupied and available, but Michele was not there. I couldn’t see why she would have picked a site further into the campground, so I went back on the highway and down some more hills to the resort. I asked at the front desk and they said maybe she went to the Lightning lake campground, about 5 k off the highway. I got about half way there and convinced myself she was back at the first site and I just hadn’t looked hard enough. I turned around and rode back up the hill and looked at every site. In the end I found her at the Lightning lake site after about 20 k of extra distance I hadn’t counted on.
It was a beautiful campground – great mountain scenery, well-tended and nice facilities, but was it ever cold. There were still big piles of snow lying around from the winter. It rained all night. We weren’t all that happy. Raja, who shared the site with us, wasn’t all that happy either.
The temperature in the morning gave me great incentive to skedaddle to the warmth of lower elevations. After a nice few kilometres of coasting, there came another couple of punishing uphills, but it warmed up and I cheered up knowing that I had almost crossed the first mountain range. It was a challenge for me and I had spent a lot of time in the past months wondering if I was up to it. The views were breathtaking – the road twisting and turning above a deep gorge. I worried about how Michele would do driving this hairy section by herself (she did great). I stopped at one lookout and found the view so beautiful I was almost moved to tears. Whether it was just from the beautiful scene or the lack of sleep or the exertions I had undergone, I had a powerful emotional reaction. I felt so grateful to view this scene, to live in a world where there is such beauty – to be part of such a world and to be engaged with it in this adventure. I looked out over the gorge and the phrase from my parent’s grave marker popped into my mind: “Mine eyes have seen the glory.”
I got back in the saddle before making a fool of myself and continued on down the grades to Princeton. The last big downhill was between 7% and 9% - so steep and long that I kept pulling over to let my rims cool down. I kept thinking that I was glad I didn’t have to ride up that hill, but actually I already had.
Princeton is a beautiful little mining town at the junction of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers. We found a campground right on the Similkameen river and so did Raja. Later we drove back into town and Raja took us out for supper at the Vermillion restaurant.
The highest summit on the highway is about 1350 metres, a gain of 1300 metres from Hope. According to Google, the climbing I did to attain the summit was 1600 metres (which includes climbs required because of “gratuitous downhills”). The distance from Hope to EC Manning park is only about 65 km – but it took me 8 or 9 hours to ride it.
Next stage is Princeton to Osoyoos.
Tot: 2.262s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 9; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0479s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb