bikes canada general trip reports

Megan and Kate’s excellent adventure

After waving off Jackie and the rest of the Tour Divide crew in Banff, I was on a mission. I had to get back to Canmore and get my bike packed and ready to cycle out of the house by the time Kate arrived.

Thankfully, Kate was running late, as I had done the bare minimum when it comes to prior preparation.

Less thankfully, it was starting to rain.

I helped Kate with the logistics of getting her bike packed and ready for her first overnight bikepacking adventure, and then we set off into the dubious weather outside.

Leaving Canmore, we stopped at the top of the pass for photos, and to say our last farewells to phone reception. Turning south, the soggy wilderness beckoned.

The rain was pretty relentless. Spray Lake Road holds up pretty well to rain though, and we generally didn’t have to ride in actual mud, although we were being liberally coated with a fine layer of grit.

We were looking forward to reaching Engadine Lodge, where we would start meeting up with the Tour Divide racers who had set off that morning. Sure enough, not long after reaching the lodge we ran into a man stopped at the side of the road. It was Michael Row from Vermont, not having the best time in the rain, and happy for a chat.

Between there and Boulton Creek shop we ran into a few riders, but at the little shop, we hit a huge cluster of wet and slightly dispirited riders. Quite a few were talking about stopping for the night. It was almost easy to get sucked into the idea – people were talking about how wet and cold they were, the need to dry out, the danger of bears. But Kate and I had plans to make it to Fernie tomorrow, and so we resisted the urge to stay with the pack, and kept moving.

Leaving the warm store in soaking wet gear was a good way to start feeling really chilled. Thankfully there was some good solid climbing ahead of us to get over Elk Pass.

As we got closer to the top of Elk Pass the rain even lightened a little. For a while, we even suspected it might not be raining, but careful examination of the air confirmed that it was indeed still full of water.

The descent to Elk Pass was not too tricky, and we were soon down the other side, rolling past the Elk Lakes Cabin and eyeing the warm and jolly interior wistfully. But it was only a couple of kilometres further to the campsite. And then the rain stopped!

We had the campsite all to ourselves and enjoyed sitting on the ground in warm clothes, eating a cold dinner. With the exhaustion of a long day behind us, we retired to the tent early – the night was largely dry and uneventful, and I actually slept pretty well.

The morning dawned fairly clear and rain-free, making it easy to get organised and packed and out of camp in good time. As we drew near the cabin we rolled past some of the inhabitants, out collecting water from the creek. I caught a glimpse of one of them, and had one of those ‘Hey, that person is familiar, why are they familiar?’ moments. The question was immediately resolved when I spotted my friend Tanya a few seconds later. The hut was full of families I knew! Tanya and Mark, and Suzanne and Paul from our Elizabeth Parker hut trip, as well as another family I hadn’t met. We chatted, lamented the fact we hadn’t thought to stop in at the cabin the night before, they topped up our water, and then we set off towards Fernie.

The road from Elk Lakes to Elkford is fairly straightforward. Big rollers, a beautiful wide open valley, and on this day it had sprinklings of Tour Divide riders, as well as sprinklings of rain. The weather never really got properly nice, with rain squalls constantly blowing across.

For someone who has never ridden a bike as far as 136km in a day, let alone a loaded down mountain bike, Kate remained remarkably cheerful. But by the time we hit the final 20km leg into Fernie, she was fading. A massive day behind us, we made the final crawl into Fernie and rode straight to a pub for a 9 pm dinner of burgers. It was hard to decide which was more delightful – the food, the warmth, or being able to sit on something that wasn’t a bike seat.

Thanks for the adventure Kate, you rock!

Day 1: 87km, 1267m gain
Day 2: 136km, 794m gain

bikes general moosling travel trip reports

Scotland: Spectacular scenery and falling into swamps

Where we went
Through Glen Affric, past Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, along the River Affic and into Glen Kintail, finally arriving to camp in the small village of Morvich, on the west coast.

Notable things we taught Finn
To say “Aye aye” when he’s on the trail-a-bike and ready to start pedalling. Was occasionally replaced with “Argh maties” when he was feeling piratical.

The story of the day
An amazing epic day, that started with a tremendous night filled with sleep, sleep and more sleep. Hurrah for sleep, it makes everything better. We breakfasted at the campground cafe, Finn spent more time hanging out with his campground friend, and we eventually set off. Early mornings were not going to be a feature of this trip.

To get into Glen Affric we had to follow the road for a while, but it was narrow and quiet. Then we were onto hikers double track, through mossy open rolling forest, along the shores of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin, past viewpoints, along the River Affric, gradually into the wide and open Glen Affric, gorgeous, quiet and green.

Eventually, the trail started to narrow. And become less rideable. Up until the hostel it’s not so bad, but past there things started to become a little epic (at least for us with the fully loaded trail-a-bike setup). Epic and beautiful! But epic.

The drainage bars along the trail were stones set in the trail, with a gap between them just wide enough that you couldn’t easily ride a loaded bike over it, particularly the trail-a-bike. So Alex would stop, Finn would get off, Alex would lift the bike over, everyone would get back on, and they would ride the 20 metres to the next one. Alright, it wasn’t quite that bad. Most of the time.

The bike then hike a bike went on and on. We were ok. Cadbury’s Crunchie slabs of chocolate are delicious, and I deeply lament the fact they’re not available in Canada. We had plenty of food, and camping gear. We were ok. We pushed on. Still hiking our bikes. Beautiful trail continued. We couldn’t be angry with it, it was too beautiful, and the weather was amazing.

Past the bothy, the terrain was rolling and slow. Then, as Alex got off to push the bike and a half over a stream, Finn tried to cross unaided. The problem with Scottish streams is that they’re surrounded by bog. And Finn hadn’t yet learnt how to differentiate between bog and solid ground. He went straight into the bog, half way up to his knees. Alex started yelling at him: “Go back! Go back! Go back!” Finn stumbled forward, crying hysterically, submerged in mud and looking as if he was about to fall over entirely at any second.

He made it to the other side. Minus one shoe.

After the initial calming, I quickly retrieved the shoe, which thankfully hadn’t been claimed by the bog. We dealt with the mud (for reference, by removing socks, putting on new socks, putting plastic bags over the top, then inserting plastic bagged feet into muddy shoes, because we didn’t have any spare ones for him). Then there was chocolate and everything was fine again.

Gradually, the trail started to trend downwards. I had fun riding a descent, then watching waterfalls as the menfolk picked their way down cautiously on foot. From there we could see sea level, and we slowly made our way down to it.

The drainage bars continued, the trail narrow. Then I fell into a swamp. It was getting late, I was tired, I tried to ride over a drainage bar without putting in the appropriate amount of effort into actually getting across the gap, resulting in hitting the far side wrong, and my bike and me falling down the hill. Into the boggy swampy wetness that most of Scotland seems to consist of when you’re not on a miraculously dry trail. I got myself back onto the trail and started laughing hysterically.

Then, finally, Alex dropped to his knees to give thanks as a clear and unimpeded dirt road appeared before us. It had some sheep and cattle on it.

The highland cattle have impressive horns, but were placid and uninterested us and our bikes.

Through farmland, we cruised into Morvich just as the sun started to set. We were already on the other side of the country, the sea was just there. Sort of.

We cooked dinner eventually. After the first attempt was knocked over, thankfully the second attempt was more successful as otherwise it could have been a hungry and cranky night.

Distance: 49.5km
Elevation gain: 700m
Location: Cannich to Morvich, via Glen Affric
Number of people we saw out on the trail all day: 14 (one solo biker, 12 hikers, 1 lady chopping wood at the hostel hut)

bikes general moosling travel trip reports

Scotland: Mountain biking with six eggs

At 4am I wake up as Alex crashes about in the tent. At 5am I’m still awake, give in and get up to pee, and it’s already getting light. I wonder if the tent will dry out before we have to pack it up – it seems like a dry and sunny morning. Alex and Finn are snoring.

A little later on, we’re all awake and lying in the tent. Someone comes by and yells out “Hello Australia!” It’s the farmhouse lady; she offers to cook us breakfast and bring it to the tent. It’s tempting, but we decide we should not be quite that lazy.

She gives me six fresh chicken eggs after taking our photo for their new website: “We’re on a thing called facebook”. I bundle them up, but cunningly don’t put them all in the same basket. Three in my front pouch, three in my feed bag. We’re about to ride a rough rocky descent – it should be fine?

We set off along rough roads and through logging areas. Waking up as we climb uphill, then thoroughly enjoying the descent to Loch Ness. Except for the gates. So many gates in Scotland! Not that many sheep or cattle, definitely many many wooden gates that we have to open and close behind us. But the track turns smooth and narrows to single track, and blue sky starts peeking out between the clouds.

Drumnadrochit is a Loch Ness monster tourist town. It’s a bit scary. Scrounging groceries from a convenience store, Finn gets icecream, we get toasties (woo, toasties everywhere in this place!), then we keep heading on up and out of town.

The path we’re travelling along is also one a lot of hikers travel – the Great Glen Way. And we spend a good chunk of today leapfrogging with a couple of hikers. It’s nice and friendly and all, but serves as a humbling reminder of how slowly we’re travelling.

We wander onto a proper car-road to visit Corrimony Cairn. A chambered cairn for collective burials, from the Bronze Age or so. It’s surrounded by standing stones, and the cairn has a central chamber and a crawl through entrance.

Scotland, like the rest of the UK, seems a little wild. Not the wild of mountains and bears, but an old kind of wild, of land lived in forever, with faeries and pixies and other worlds that you could fall into.

Arriving in Cannich, we decide to stop for the afternoon, staying in a highly civilised dry and grassy camprground. This pleases Finn, as it has a playground, and he finds a new friend to play with (a Portugese girl named Alice).

We’re all tired still, maybe we do have some jetlag. Everyone is suffering from lethargy legs. On the plus side, my trick of running my seat low seems to be reducing irritation in my injured left knee, and it’s feeling ok so far.

Oh, and I didn’t break any of the eggs – I got them all to camp safely and we had scrambled eggs for pre-dinner.

Distance: 35km
Elevation gain: 480m
Location: Abriachan Eco Campsite to Cannich