Our time in Canada is now coming to end; we’re currently having a bonus day off in Osoyoos before crossing the border tomorrow (Saturday) into the US. We are here about a week earlier than expected after electing not to follow the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) trail once we had seen some of the surface at Midway. Instead, we came over all the passes on Highway 3. I tend to always fear the uphill, as this generally requires more physical effort, but the climbs the last few days have actually been pretty easy. Long, but not at all steep. The descents have required far more effort in terms of mental concentration, especially when the weather turns just as you summit and you have to descend in a deluge of rain, clinging on for dear life and hoping you don’t lock your wheels (simples – don’t brake!), skid or slide off the road on a corner. I should really be more fearful about the descents with hindsight.
We had a very easy ride over to Castlegar last Sunday to our WarmShowers host, Richard. We were there before lunchtime after a non-eventful 45km’ish on 3A from Nelson. We had opted to take a rest day there, which was fortuitous timing as I was having eye issues; something had flown into my eye the other day when it was raining and I didn’t have my sunnies on. My eyelid chose to swell up and my eye turn pink and start oozing the day we got to Castlegar and I was waking up with my eye glued together with eye ooze (ewww). In the absence of any pharmaceuticals apart from a few paracetamol I sat around for most of Monday with a teabag on my eye doing pirate impressions. This is something my mum used to do (the teabag thing, not the pirate impressions). I’ve no idea if it works or not, but I did it nonetheless.
With rested legs we set off from Richard’s on Tuesday morning to tackle the hill up to the Bonanza Pass at 1535m (we started at around 500m). Richard had told us it was a bit steep at the start and at the end, but the rest of it was very gradual. This was a pretty fair description, and to be honest, the bit in the middle I could barely tell we were climbing, it was that gradual. The whole climb goes over about 40km which only averages out at a 2.5% gradient. It was the most elevation gain we’ve had in one go, beating Dorrigo in Australia by quite a few hundred metres. Dorrigo was a much harder climb though, with an average 7.5% grade.
It had been a bit grey during the climb, but that was perfect climbing weather – not too hot and sticky. However, the skies decided to open as we started the descent. I had already put on my rain jacket having seen the grey skies ahead but I had to stop to put on extra gloves as I was chuffing freezing. It was certainly steeper on the other side and we whooshed down in the pouring rain. I was doing everything in my power to not come off the bike. This mostly involved gripping onto the handlebars for dear life and occasionally shouting out “I don’t like this” just in case anyone was listening. We had planned to stop for lunch part way down the descent but I pulled over to Adam who had stopped, my teeth chattering with the cold, and said it would be best if we just kept going and got down the bloody hill as fast as possible. This was quite easy to do, given the gradient. As we emerged at the bottom and the road levelled out, the sun came out and by the time we arrived at the pretty Christina Lake, our camping spot for the evening, we had both dried off and warmed up.
On Wednesday morning, buoyed by my climbing prowess the previous day, I had nothing to fear in the Eholt Pass (1028m) which would only involve a mere 500m of up. Ha ha I scoffed, no problemo. And thankfully it wasn’t. The descent was another thing all together. We had a vicious headwind and the gradient was not quite steep enough so we had to pedal most of the way down to Greenwood. Damn you hill. And so I was duly punished for my lax attitude towards the mountains of these parts. Thankfully the descent steepened a bit for the last few kms into Midway where we camped at the lovely Riverfront Park.
From Midway our original plan had been to pick up the KVR and follow this all the way up towards Penticton and then back down to Osoyoos. This would involve riding a couple of hundred kilometres along the rail trail. Readers of this blog will remember some of our experiences in New Zealand on rail trails and may be surprised by our decision to take this option. But, apparently there are great trestles to see and lots of people had mentioned the KVR to us and so we had been convinced. Well, we saw some of the KVR surface at Midway and decided to give the trestles a miss this time – something for another time with a mountain bike perhaps.
This meant that we would have to stick to Highway 3 and one more pass, over Anarchist Mountain (1233m), rather than the very gradual KVR. Thankfully the climb was gentle once again. The descent was into another headwind but this time it was fairly steep so at least we didn’t have to pedal down. It was also blisteringly hot (34°C), being part of the only desert in Canada (which also means the wildlife is no longer of the bear variety, but rattlesnakes and scorpions – brilliant), so it was like riding into a fan assisted oven. Down we swooped into Osoyoos, round the hairpins faster than the cars. Or we could if they would let us.
Given the next few cycling days will involve a few more big hills (the North Cascades Highway in Washington State), we decided to have an unscheduled rest day in Osoyoos to enjoy the sun for a bit (it’s actually grey today, boo) before crossing into the US tomorrow, Saturday.