The Yellowhead: Part I

Raphael and I set out from Jasper on the 16th of July. I haven’t had stable access to the internet since, and thus haven’t been able to post anything in a while, but I have been writing and taking photos. I’ll post the Yellowhead crossing in three parts.

Part I: Jasper to Prince George.

We descended from the Rockies and into the Fraser River Canyon. Cold mists replaced the dry, sunny climate we’d grown accustomed to.

The wildfire smoke stayed with us. We learned later that the highway 11 fire we’d passed through was one of over 140 actively burning in the Canadian Northwest.

We set out on our longest serviceless stretch yet on the 17th. Two days of riding, one and a half without any towns, water, or food. We rode 40 miles from our camp in Téte Juan Cache (64 miles West of Jasper) to McBride, where we picked up lots of food and water.

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We rode another 40 miles. It was time to look for a spot to camp; what little sunlight we had that day was disappearing.

A black bear, standing on an embankment just above the road, tracked us with its head as we rode by.

We found a spot just off the road and cooked dinner. Ramen, peanut butter, and some chicken from a deli.

Trucks and the occasional car went by on the nearby Yellowhead, but most of the time it was quiet.

We carefully strung all the food and garbage up between two trees and went to bed.

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We woke up and checked to make sure our food was still there. It was, thankfully. This was the first time we’d tried stringing our food up back-country style (campgrounds around here all have bear-proof food lockers).

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Rain started to fall in the early morning and persisted throughout the day.

We had noticed these massive cedar trees at our camp in the morning. We were wondering why and how they were so large. We discovered later in the day that we were in B.C.’s inland wet belt; a temperate rain forest 500 miles from the ocean.

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We passed through the Sugarbowl Grizzly Sanctuary.

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We didn’t see any in the park. I assume they had the good wits to stick out the rain in their dens.

Later on, though, past the grizzly refuge, a grizzly cub ran into the road a few dozen feet ahead of us. We stopped immediately, and quietly got our bear spray out. We assumed the sow (momma bear) grizzly must be nearby. Making lots of noise, we slowly rode on; one hand on the handlebar, the other on the trigger. The treeline was close to the road and concealed by bushes. My heart was pounding. There were no cars or trucks nearby. No one. Just us, the cub, and – presumably – the mother grizzly watching us from somewhere hidden, torn between fear of us and fear for her cub. As soon as we cleared the immediate area, we accelerated rapidly and removed the safety on our bear spray. We made it out safely.

We found an abandoned B.C. Railcar along the highway and stepped in for some shelter and a snack.

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A lodge at Purden Lake 56 miles into the second day was a pleasant surprise. We were still 40 miles from Prince George – the nearest town –  so this was an oasis.

We walked in drenched, cold, and with a formidable appetite (We burn upwards of 6,000 calories a day, biking). The store owner saw how wrecked we were and invited us to dry out by the fireside. We were so relieved to have found the place. We ordered hot cocoas and a bountiful dinner.

We stepped back out into the rain and set ourselves to the last 40 miles of the day. We had to make it, no matter how tired we were, because there was nowhere closer to resupply.

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We made it. 96 miles. Sodden and covered in dirt from logging trucks spraying us with muddy water all day, we checked into a motel in Prince George. This was the first bed we’d had since Belfield, North Dakota, over a thousand miles behind us.

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