I met up with a friend from Australia, who had been cycling from LA for the last few months and we were to ride together until Calgary. We started off on the M1 and for anyone planning to bike tour this popular route through the Rockies, you’ll more than likely find yourself riding along the M1. It’s hard to avoid. However fortunately for some parts of the ride, we had the option of the much quieter Highway 97. This is a great alternative to the M1 and arguably more scenic, however it isn’t as direct and may add a few days to your tour.
Day 1: Kamloops to Monte Lake
Elevation: 348m to 800m
Today was the first time I’d ridden with fully loaded panniers on and it was actually quite difficult. My bike would’ve weighed upwards of 20kgs and it’s a very different feeling getting on for the first time. We had around 50km to ride today, which was a gradual uphill for most of the way. After some food shopping and preparing my bike, we rode out of Kamloops which was nothing special. It was just a busy highway and it was very hot. This stretch of road is very dry and there isn’t much to see, but the last 10km or so, where you ride along the river/lake is quite nice. We stayed at Monte Lake Campground, which was a little run down, but had hot water and nice grass so it was sufficient.
*Worth noting that Kamloops will be the last town with any sort of big shops before Nakusp, so you’ll need to stock up on supplies, food etc. Water isn’t an issue and you will find service stations at points throughout but no big supermarkets.
Day 2: Monte Lake to Vernon
Elevation: 800m to 360m
Today was a quick day and for more than half of the ride it was downhill. The other half was flat, so a very quick day of riding. It was a really nice ride today and nothing too strenuous. However even though we arrived at around lunch time, we got so incredibly lost trying to find our warm showers accomodation, that we ended up not arriving at our final destination until 6 o’clock.
Also saw our first bear today. I stopped for a bathroom break in the bushes only to be rudely and abruptly interrupted by the biggest black bear, wandering onto the road, some 50 meters from where I was squatting. I don’t think I have ever run and then rode so fast in my life, which mind you is the worst thing you can do in front of these massive creatures. Either play dead or act big and scary are the two things your meant to do (depending if it’s a Black bear or a Brown bear, and I still don’t know which act your meant to do for which bear!), with running being the number one DON’T do! But thankfully, the one thing that big obnoxious motor homes are good for, is apparently scaring off wildlife. So very luckily for me and my bear bum (pun intended), one just happened to drive past and scare the bear off the road and out of sight! Not necessarily a good thing, but it made me feel a lot better.
Day 3: Vernon to Cherryville
Elevation: 360m to 624m
Today was a very nice ride, on quite roads with amazing country views and houses. There was a little bit of uphill, but nothing too major and just an ant hill compared to the hills that were to come! Cherryville was gorgeous, we stayed at a free camp ground that we found on Canada’s National Park website. Most camp grounds run by Parks Canada require you to pay a fee, but a few are free. They are often not as well kept and almost always not in the super touristy areas, but they are still sufficient. We were one of the only ones there and the site was right next to a fast flowing river. Great place to chill out for the afternoon and they had fire pits with grates, so also a great place to cook camp pizza. A meal that quickly became a staple and easily our favourite.
Day 4: Cherryville to Needles
Elevation: 479m to 1243m
First Mountain pass today. It was a long day of climbing and by the time we reached our campsite at Needles, I was spent.
The first climb took around 2 hours to reach the very top, consistently uphill. No breaks of climbing. It was incredibly hot and challenging but the views along the way and at the top were amazing and well worth the climb! Plus what goes up must come down, so the hour of descending made up for the fatigued legs. The camp site tonight was beautiful. We found it on Air Bnb, but it was just a patch of grass on a large property. There weren’t any showers or toilets, but again it was fine. We just borrowed a hose and washed ourselves down, we were becoming accustomed to innovative shower ideas. Tonight was our first experience with what we thought was A LOT of mosquitos, little did we know that that night was a ‘mild’ attack. Canada had the most incredible mosquito season that year (2017) and we got the full force of it in coming days.
Day 5: Needles to Nakusp
Elevation: 441m to 541m
About a 5 minute ride out from our accommodation there’s a short cable ferry to get across the river. It departs every 30 minutes from 5am to 10pm and takes about 5 minutes to cross. Once across we had a nice ride.
It was a great day, traffic wise, because the cars came in waves thanks to the ferry. For the first hour we didn’t have any cars, and then for the second hour we had one wave pass through, so we just pulled over, waited for them to pass, and continued on our traffic free ride. The rest of the ride we relatively flat, with a few steep, but short, hills. We had an epic lunch spot sort out, with an incredible view of the lake and towering mountains, only to find out that there was piles of human faces in the bushes. As we were setting up for lunch, we couldn’t ignore this foul smell. After not too much investigation we discovered it was the local shitting spot for road trippers. Disgusting.
Nakusp itself though, just a few more kilometres down the road was gorgeous, so we suspended our lunch plans for another hour or so until we got to this gorgeous town. This was probably my favourite stop on our tour. Right on a beautiful lake and shadowed by mountains. We stayed at the municipal camp ground in the centre of town.
Day 6: Rest day In Nakusp
Such a cute town to stay a few nights. We floated away the days swimming in the lake, lounging on the beach side and eating a lot of food. There was also a few errands that we needed to run, like getting a de-railer fixed and rationing/shopping for food for the next few days. There’s a great bike repair shop in town that doubles as a café and they were keen to hear about our trip so far.
Day 7 Nakusp to Revelstoke
Elevation:719 to 444m (up and down)
Today was another big day and I really hit the wall. It was my first 100km day and it killed me. I had the most severe butt rash, I was badly sunburnt and I had lost my appetite, so there were a few things making riding that little bit more uncomfortable for me. BUT the ride itself was amazing, so many mountains all the way along the 23, it was truly spectacular! This day was what everything bike touring should be. Perfect weather, unbelievable scenery, generous locals, and lots of food! We also had a bed for the night, staying with a young couple we found on warm showers, and lemme tell you, the warm shower was the bloody best thing ever!!
To be continued…..