The Divide itself, which is also the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia, could hardly be more low key. In this pic, my front wheel is in BC, the rear in Alberta.
From there, it was a fun ride down tracks to the Elk Lakes Park. This Park is very isolated – only accessible by car via a one way road running north, ending short of the Divide. It seems little visited, its main feature being some lovely upland corrie glaciers.
From then, it was a gradual downhill on rough roads through the Elk River Valley. As I descended (not as much fun as it sounds as the road was a moonscape of craters) the landscape changed to a more ‘civilized’ one – some ranches and later, numerous mines (which oddly enough are never called mines here, they have names like the ‘Elk River Undertaking’ or suchlike). The only traffic was occasional huge 4x4s.
The road was pretty dull and boring, not quite what I expected. I camped about 15km short of the first town, Elkford on the third night – it was a quiet little campsite by a tiny lake. I was looking forward to a good breakfast in Elkford but I arrived to find they had a power outage. All I could find open was a gas station with some sandwiches and lots of beef jerky. The magazine slot said it all about the town really – on one side gossip magazines, on the other copies of ‘Trucks and 4x4s’, ‘Fly Fishing’ ‘Guns and Hunting’ and… well, thats it!
At this stage, my bike computer was playing up so I decided to simplify navigation by going more or less direct to Fernie. This meant cycling on the main road – not so bad really, it had a good hard shoulder and it was a relief to make some speed. Traffic was light. Going through the mining town of Sparwood I was surprised to see just how much rural poverty there is around – not what I expected in Canada. Apparently there is a strike on in the local mine, a huge complex, now fallen on harder times as its Japanese steel customers don’t order so much.
Sparwood is, I have to say, maybe the least lovely town I’ve ever set eyes on – a sprawl of 1970’s malls and bad housing. They are making a brave attempt to market it for tourism.
From then on, it was road all the way to Fernie, although it took much longer than it should have due to a stiff headwind and road works – I decided it was safer to ride on the construction haul roads than fight for space among coal trucks. Safer, but very slow! I passed the only hotel in Hosmer:
On the way to Fernie, I had the first rain of the trip – a constant heavy drizzle that cooled everything down – but entering the town it cleared up.
Fernie is a great little town – it has a lovely historic center and is a surf/mountain bike base, mainly for Calgarians. Its the sort of place where people say ‘dude’ and ‘rad’ for no apparent reason and use full suspension mountain bikes to tow their kiddy trailers to school. There is even a bike exhibition in the local tourist office.
So, after four days riding, just 250 km covered! Clearly, I’ll have to do better. Three days here in Fernie hasn’t helped. But hopefully I’ll pick up the pace when I reach Montana.