Stage 8

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Related Photos The Prince George, BC to Jasper, AB Stage (via the Yellowhead Highway) Back


June 28, 2004

We awoke this morning with it raining outside. Thank goodness, we were staying in a motel! The rain stopped at mid morning as we worked through the morning on our journal. The operator of the motel had checked out our website and was supportive of our efforts. He gave us a donation and encouraged us to go to the local paper, The Citizen, and talk to a reporter. We stopped by the newspaper office and were directed to the city editor. It was election day in Canada so most of the newspaper staffing was covering the election activities. The city editor was able to arrange to have someone take our picture standing with our bike and trailer in front of the building. A reporter also came outside to interview us for about 10 minutes. He wore a hat which made him look like a reporter right out of the Daily Planet from the 1950s Superman TV series. He was very soft-spoken and with the street noise, rather difficult to hear. We gave him the details of when and where we started, our planned route to Florida, and talked about how Habitat for Humanity works. He didn’t know when or even if the story would be printed. We asked him to mail a copy of the story to Barb’s sister.

Although the reporter expressed concern for our safety while biking in the downtown area, we got lots of positive responses and curious questions while riding our tandem around town. We headed to the post office, the grocery store and to Wendy’s to eat before heading out of town at 2 PM. We planned to go only 40 miles to the first available services for the night. This made for a lighter travel day but we would need to cover 90 miles the next day to get to the next service area.

Hopping onto the Yellowhead Highway for the first time, we left town going east and then crossed a long bridge over the Fraser River. Given the available walkway and heavy traffic, we opted to walk the bike across the bridge to savor the view. As we climbed out of the valley, we saw a sign saying “Hitchhiking is illegal and Do not pick up hitchhikers,” before passing a correctional facility. The highway was in good condition with a nice shoulder. The concaved rumble strips were close to the white, highway edge line, giving us more shoulder room. Having reached the height of our climb, we stopped at a convenience to get some Gatorade. From that point forward, our climbing was minimal as we were making good time.

After 15 miles, dark rain clouds were becoming prominent ahead of us so we stopped to put on our tights and jackets and to change to our yellow sunglass lenses. At 19 miles into the ride, the rain began, complete with lightening and thunder. The rain started out light and then dropped in heavier amounts for the last half of our ride. This was the heaviest rain we had seen, so we have been fortunate to miss the heavy stuff. We have found that there is nothing quite like a couple of wet cyclists to get the motorists to pass with a wide berth. During the rainy ride, we passed two stopped motorcyclists who were scurrying to get some more covering on themselves. We kept biking to keep as warm as possible and didn’t stop until we reached the Purden Lake Resort at 41 miles (22 miles without stopping was a first on this tour!). We were thoroughly soaked. The owner had a luxury cabin with two bedrooms and a loft which he would let us have for the price of the smaller one bedroom cabin provided we only slept in one bed. We gladly took the cabin and eagerly huddled around the gas fireplace to warm up. We showered, changed into dry clothes and set the wet things about the fireplace to dry. Dinner was macaroni and cheese prepared in an actual kitchen using a full sized kettle and eating off of real dishes. We were in paradise even if this meant doing dishes. We hit the sack early as we were hoping for a dry day ahead.

Miles cycled – 41.4

June 29, 2004

As we were packing the bike and trailer, a man from Missouri staying in the nearby RV park came over to chat. He had seen us arrive the night before, soaking wet, and thought it was best to wait until morning to ask about our adventure. He returned to his RV and then came back with a check for Habitat.

We were off and pedaling at 7:45 AM as we looked to tackle a lot of miles (the next services are 90 miles away in McBride). For the first 20 miles, the morning was quite foggy. No more rain, but the fog was thick enough in places to make us feel wet. After 17 miles we saw our first critters of the day. A bear sow and her cub were on the opposite side of the road. Our arrival startled them very much as they fled into the nearby woods very fast, too fast to get a good photo. Three miles later, we took a rest break. A west bond motorist stopped and cautioned us about the bears in the area. He said to be on the lookout for bears as their numbers were higher than usual this year.

In the next 20 miles, the hills were becoming longer and the sun finally burned away the fog. With the fog gone, we realized we had reached yet another plateau. We have now biked 2,000 miles on this wonderful journey! Another thousand miles, another photo opportunity. Going up a slight hill, we saw a second critter. About 300 feet away, it was crossing the road from left to right and then it trotted a few steps down our shoulder before dashing into the woods. It appeared to be a coyote, but was very tall so it might have been a wolf. This critter was also too fast and too distant for our camera.

About mid day, we flushed a small black bear out from the right shoulder. He was startled by our presence and ran up the hill a bit before stopping to stand. Bears do not have very good eyesight, but do have a good sense of smell. They will stand on their hind legs to get a better whiff to help them determine what is happening around them. While he was trying to determine what we were, we were quickly scanning for any mama bear, but none was evident.

Reaching a small rock quarry along the side of the road at 1:30 PM, we stopped for a lunch. The large rocks set up to block the entrance of the quarry made nice seating (and table) while we munched on peanuts, apples, carrots, chips and cookies. This site also put us a little more distant from the trees in case a bear was in the area.

We used the satellite phone to contact the one hotel in McBride which had a phone number listed in our guidebook. It appeared as though we might not get to McBride until 8 PM and we didn’t want to arrive that late without having lodging established. The hotel clerk asked where we were. We told her we were passed Slim Creek. She advised us that we still had a couple more hills to climb. We later found that one of those hills was at Goat River. Goat River was a very pretty setting so we stopped for more photos as the following hill looked pretty substantial. That hill turned out to be 2 miles long with a passing lane. The Yellowhead Highway is a major truck route in Canada as we had never seen so many semi trucks. Every hill, no matter how large or small, seemed to have a passing lane. This road was certainly designed for trucks!

With about 15 miles to go, we began to question whether we would make it by 8 PM as the hills and heat were draining us. Seventy-five miles of pedaling in this up and down terrain was quite an accomplishment. Then, we hit the river valley and just flew. While going 20 mph, we passed a bear on the right. We were going too fast for him to figure out what was happening. As we approached McBride, we could see the return to an agricultural setting like what we had seen north of Prince George. Checking into the hotel, we looked forward to biking along the fields the next day.

Miles cycled – 91.0

June 30, 2004

We stayed in the hotel room until 12 noon downloading photos to our website. Being 100 miles away from Jasper, our camping options down the road were at 40, 45 and 49 miles. We set our sights for 45 miles so that the balance, which included a long climb after Mt. Robson, would be only 55 miles. The indications were that the terrain was fairly flat, so we thought half a day for this 45 mile segment was sufficient. We forgot to consider the heat and wind factors. It was a very long afternoon.

The view was quite scenic as there were mountains on both sides of the highway and neatly inserted at the foot of the mountains were miles of fields, growing mostly hay for the horses and cattle. One place along the way offered trail rides on horseback. They appeared to have plenty of barns for the horses. As we stopped to rest after one bridge, it was a treat to see a pickup from the 1950s, hauling hay down the road. On the sides of some mountains, there was evidence of previous clear cut harvesting of the timber. Small trees were planted in these areas in a managed forest environment.

Reaching Tere-Jaune Cache Junction, we stopped at the convenience store to enjoy some refreshments and rest. After this stop, we found ourselves biking right along the Fraser River once again. We stopped a couple of times along the river for photos as it was impressive. We then passed by two, upright gate posts which are used to close the highway in the winter time as needed.

Being just miles away from Mt. Robson, we found ourselves climbing up and up. One rest stop during this climb provided a good view of Mount Terry Fox, named in memory of the Canadian cancer victim who raised 25 million dollars for cancer research in his attempt to run across Canada in 1980. This was after his leg was amputated because of cancer. Sadly, the cancer had spread to his lungs and he was not able to complete his trek.

Less than a mile later, we reached our target campsite. We picked a private campground along the Fraser River as we thought it would have better shower facilities than the government campground four miles beyond. We were surprised to learn that the washrooms and the campsites were separated by a 5 minute walk (with a steep hill involved). On the plus side, we had a gorgeous view of Mount Robson. From the campsite, this snow covered mountain looked impressive but not much taller than the surrounding mountains. But when you consider where the tree line was on Mount Robson and realize that this tree line, which is only a third of the way up Mount Robson, was at the same altitude as the tree lines on the nearby mountains (where it is nearly at the top), you begin to get a truer sense of its size.

This campground was smaller scale than the ones we’ve seen on the Alaskan and Hart Highways and could only accommodate smaller RVs. Our neighbors were all Europeans in rented RVs. One man from Holland was quite curious about our bike gear and our trip and kept asking questions while we just wanted to set up the tent, get showered and go to bed.

Miles cycled – 45.4

July 1, 2004

Before leaving camp, we chatted with a couple from Victoria Island. They told us that Jasper is not as commercial as Banff, nor will it become that way. Because of its location in a national park, only the people who own a business in Jasper, work in Jasper or were born in Jasper can own property there. This may keep the town small and quaint, but this also means that the costs of hotel accommodations are sky high. Today was Canada Day and Jasper was having special events so the town was expected to be crowded.

Leaving the campsite, we stopped a number of times along the highway to take photos of Mount Robson as the view was incredible. Whether you are traveling east on Yellowhead Highway by bike, motorbike, RV or car, there is nothing quite like venturing towards Mount Robson as the highway appears to go right into the mountain. Mount Robson is the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at nearly 13,000 feet. A few miles down the road was a restaurant and visitor center at the base of Mount Robson. We managed to beat the tour bus crowd that arrived just minutes later as we stopped at the restaurant for breakfast. It was an exceptional breakfast scene, being able to look out the window towards Mount Robson. The visitor center was very nicely done and the mood there was quite festive for Canada Day.

Leaving Mount Robson behind (this was hard to do; you could stare at this setting all day), we found a bit more climbing to do. The ascent was precarious in some places as the shoulder was partially covered with concrete barriers. There also drains placed in the shoulder every 300 ft or so. These 3 ft square drains were recessed a couple of inches so they could do some damage to a bicycle wheel. Because the drain was so wide, it came within inches of the concave rumble strip. To miss the drain, we had to bike over the rumble strip briefly.

We were passed by single bikers on two occasions. Neither had much gear with them as they did not appear to be touring. They were however, serious bikers out for a challenging ride.

As we completed the climbing, we reach Moose Lake. What a gorgeous view! We stopped a number of places along the lake to take in the scenery. At one stop, we saw a west bound train go through. Towards the east end of the lake, we took additional photos and yet another west bound train came through. Several of the open-top cars were carrying bulk loads of what appeared to be the yellow, canola seed.

We knew we had a pass over the Continental Divide at about 45 miles into our ride. At 3,760 feet, Yellowhead Pass would be our highest pass so far this trip. After climbing around Mount Robson earlier in the day, we didn’t seem to be climbing much, which was puzzling to us. The road followed the Fraser River valley and although we were going upriver, we rarely used our lowest gears. At 11 miles before the pass, we began to think we would be in for a big climb. At five miles before the pass, we wondered when we would start climbing. At three miles before the pass, we were looking ahead to see if a passing lane was being adding. At one mile before the pass, we still were using our middle chain ring. What is going on? Yellowhead Pass was named for an Iroquois trapper and guide who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 1800s. The French voyagers called him Yellowhead because he had light colored hair. He must have been a pretty good guide because he found the easiest way out of the valley!

The Continental Divide also marks the boundary between British Columbia and Alberta. We were now in our fourth state/territory/province of our journey! The Mountain Time zone begins here as well so we lose an hour. Our trip south will eventually take us back over the Continental Divide and back into British Columbia. Barb talked to a couple from Edmonton who was picnicking in the rest area at the divide. They gave her a chocolate, walnut and caramel treat they bought at the gourmet chocolate shop in Jasper.

We were told by locals that as we later go south from Jasper, we will be going up, up, up. From that, we concluded that the final dozen miles east to Jasper will be down, down, down. We were correct with that logic. We made good time barreling down the highway, despite a wind that was gusty at times. A rainy front was coming in from behind us, contributing to a wobbly descent. Along the way, there were numerous warning signs for rock slides. This stretch of highway, in fact, had a lot of signs; “Don’t Drink and Drive, Don’t Litter, Watch out for Wildlife, etc.” as it seemed that Alberta was trying to cover all of the regulatory bases at their entrance way.

We had reserved a room in Jasper from a list of hotels we got at the Mount Robson information center. Everything was very expensive so we picked the cheapest one with phone lines in the room. After unloading our gear and trailer in the room, we headed to the town center to check out the bicycle shops. Randall found a replacement helmet mirror and we got a couple more packages of dehydrated food. There was a laundry facility at the hotel for this necessary chore.

Miles cycled – 60.5

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