At the start of Day 4 Kurt’s knees were feeling much better and we planned to ride uphill to Elkford about 60kms where we’d grab a bite to eat and push on a bit before camping north of town. A modest goal, but with an uphill trend all the way to Elk Pass we figured that would be enough riding for us in one day and we wanted to make sure Kurt’s knees stayed happy.
In the past my experience has been that the day after a rest day on tour can actually be quite hard as your body has to get off the chilled out vibe and back to some hard work. Happily we rode well and made great progress. The route to Elkford was paved initially and then back to dirt. I have to hand it to the folks at the ACA – the whole route was quiet and scenic…they made some great choices for sure. It was such a nice ride we found ourselves in Elkford at lunch time with a 9am start – excellent….=-) The last section into Elkford was a steep paved downhill where we reached 60kph+ on our Pugsleys. To my surprise they were rock solid at that speed…nice!
Over some yummy burgers in Elkford we perused the map and discussed what to do. Kurt had lightened his bike quite a lot dropping two panniers and he felt much happier climbing today. We got a bit ambitious and realized if we pushed it another 70kms we’d be over Elk Pass and would only have an easy downhill day to the end of the tour. Keep in mind that would be at least double the daily mileage we had done to this point and it was uphill the whole way over the highest pass on the CDN GDR.
It was a crazy plan, but we figured what the heck? If we didn’t make it we’d pick up where we left off and still have a shorter ride on Day 5.
As it turned out the next few hours of riding we flew uphill – literally at light speed compared to the previous days. Our speeds were consistently in the 25kph+ range on all, but the steepest parts of the route. I cannot explain the difference, but we had a great time hammering away the first 50kms or so out of Elkford.
With 20kms to Elk Pass we started to slow down and get a bit tired. We’d ridden something like 110kms to this point. But, the lure of the pass kept us riding.
I have to say the pass itself was one of the hardest bits of bike touring I’ve ever done. With 130kms of fully loaded uphill dirt touring in my legs that day I started up the pass pretty exhausted. What followed was an indeterminate time where I pushed my heavy Pugsley uphill over a trail that had been chewed up by a tracked vehicle so it was lumpy. Add to that hordes of hungry mosquitos which made stopping impossible.
My routine was:
- shuffle the bike forward pushing with one hand
- with my free hand I either swatted mosquitoes or pushed chocolate into my mouth to keep my energy levels up
- I could tell how fast I was going by how many mozzies were on me at any given time
- I probably would have fallen over at some point and rested, but the bugs were so bad that didn’t seem like an option
….this went on for what I assure you was forever!
I had pictured the top of Elk Pass in my mind as a rocky windswept nirvana where I’d have a spectacular view and no mosquitoes….I was wrong! It was treed so the views were nice, but not panoramic and since there were trees the wind was mild and the mozzies were in full effect. I got so freaked out I ended up bombing several KMs down a boggy trail only to realize it wasn’t the GDR route. Being so tired the idea of an extra 3-4 tough kms was hard to take, but what are you gonna do???
Eventually we found the right trail and bombed our way downhill into Alberta. I was running on fumes at this point, but the lure of a restaurant/store 10-15kms away was too tempting. We made it just in time to get an ice cream from the store before it closed. I tell you that was one of the best ice creams I had eaten – ever!
Rolling into a Provincial Park campground we capped an epic 145km day with a fatal mistake…we were so tired we decided not to cook and instead eat in the AM. Clearly we weren’t thinking straight. By 2am I couldn’t sleep I was so hungry, but our food was safely locked in the SUV of a campground neighbour as there had been several bears in the campground recently. I managed to drift off eventually, but didn’t get a great rest that night. I also didn’t let my body have a chance to load up my well used leg muscles with energy overnight…that would turn out to be a problem on Day 5.