“It’s not about the places I visit, but the people I meet.” I’ve said this many times and it becomes very clear when you are hosted by an extraordinary person or persons. My host in Kamloops was Kathy, another well travelled touring cyclist who inspired me with her stories and love of cycling. This lady gives a lot back, running the local cycling group (called Cycle Chix) as well as opening up her home to travellers like me, all the while planning her next cycling tour. While staying with Kathy, her friend Brenda phoned to say she was having difficulty with a new track pump and getting it to work, so I suggested she popped round and I’d take a look. It was an easy fix, yet I could never have imagined what this act of helping another cyclist would yield.
From Kamloops I was headed north up to Clearwater, a days ride away. There was no opportunity for accommodation on this leg and it was going to be a cold and wet ride, as the rain had set in. But once more “the kindness of strangers” played it’s part and as I arrived in Clearwater, soaked through to the skin, cold wet and very miserable, I made my way to the Wells Gray Inn and booked into my room, donated to me by the lady I had helped, Brenda. To speak about this doesn’t do justice to how I felt at this point, I was simply overwhelmed with emotion. A gentle reminder that this really is a beautiful world filled with beautiful people.
There were no photographs taken yesterday due to the rain and I awoke amazed the next morning to clear blue skies and the sun attempting to warm things up a little. It seemed a good day for a bike ride and I was once again in high spirits as I set off for Valemount, a two day ride away. I followed the Southern Yellowhead Highway (route 5) as it ran northwards along the North Thompson River, the largest tributary of the Fraser River, which is world famous for it’s salmon run. Occasionally I left the highway and was able to ride the fantastic trails along the rivers edge.
It was one of my most enjoyable days on the bike so far here in Canada, the traffic was light and as the mountains appeared on my horizon I was once again transported into my own personal nirvana. Out came the camera and it seemed every bend in the road produced yet another photo opportunity – the scenery was breathtaking and I hadn’t even yet got close to the real jewel in these parts, the magnificent Icefields Parkway, called by many cyclists the best road in the world.
My overnight stop would be in the small town of Blue River, where I hid myself away behind the only fuel station (due to it’s nice clean washrooms!) amongst the small pine trees. Security has not been an issue for me thus far, I have met only genuine warmth and kindness from the locals and been careful enough not to come to the attention of the authorities. When it’s dry like this, wild camping is great fun.
The good weather stayed with me as I rode the next leg into Valemount, from which I could see the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains in the distance. It was still cool though and I reflected on my choice of arriving in Canada when I did. Had I stuck to my original plan and arrived early or middle of April much of this route would have been impossible, as even now in the middle of May winter had not finished it’s icy grip.
Once again I had contacted a host through Warmshowers and on my arrival in Valemount I made my way to my overnight stop with Thomas and Peggy in their unfinished house. I arrived only minutes before they returned from their own ride out and we were soon tucking into a lovely pasta dinner, after which I bedded down in the nice warm woodworking shop. A good end to another day on my travels and thanks so much for looking after me Peggy and Thomas.
From Valemount I turned east onto the Yellowhead Highway and followed the Fraser River, which is the longest river within British Columbia. It was evident I was getting further into the high rocky mountains as by now they towered above me on every side as I made my way to Jasper and the start of the Icefields Parkway.
My first sight of the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson, appeared as I cruised round a bend and I almost fell off the bike as I gazed mesmerised up at it. It is a truly beautiful mountain.
You cannot read the story of Terry Fox without being moved and inspired. My own hero Jane Tomlinson was the catalyst for me deciding to make the most of any time I am granted, but if ever I needed another role model then Terry would most certainly fit the bill. Rather than attempt to tell the story, I’ll let you read from his memorial which I photographed at Mount Terry Fox:
A little further along the road I entered Mount Robson Park and passed alongside Moose Lake, which I had designs on using as my overnight camp along the shore. The lake was frozen over and it was far too cold to contemplate camping here, so I continued on cycling closer towards Jasper, eventually camping in one of the closed (and therefore free) campsites alongside Yellowhead Lake.
The next morning and I’d left myself just a short ride to Jasper, as I wanted to arrive at the ticket booth early enough to convince them I only needed a one day ticket (priced at $9.80 per day) for the National Park, as I would be turning off instead of travelling right through. There were two ticket offices but the inside one was closed, so I simply stayed in the closed lane and rode on through, expecting someone to shout at me to stop. No one did and so I just kept on riding, excited that I had saved myself the entrance fee and having to lie about the time I would be spending in the Park.
Jasper was much smaller than I’d remembered and after picking up a few supplies I passed on through, eager to get started on my ride down the Icefields Parkway. I’ll tell you all about it and share the pictures in my next blog. More soon…