The trouble of sleeping in the wilderness is being sure of a decent spot to stop. There are loads of extremely scenic pullouts on the trail that have a magnificent view, but i'd be a little worried of getting hit by a logging truck or a worker's vehicle, or a freak storm triggering a landslide.
So i decided to stop an hour or two early at an "official" pit stop - the ghost station of Farron, right at the summit. It has a long drop and a covered picnic table and a fire pit, which i obviously can't use. It also has a wide clearing where the sidings, station house and workers' cottages used to be, so i don't feel as paranoid and claustrophobic as i do right in the forest.
Wildflowers have overtaken the clearing and there are tons of bees and flies. There is no water source. This was a positive for me, because at the last spot where the trail went close to the creek i heard a creepy growling or grunting from the undergrowth and did not stick around to see what it was. Last time i heard that noise was Hidden Lake. I suspect it might be a bear, but perhaps it's a warthog or something. Do they even have wild pigs here? I dunno.
I was worried about finding a water source coming up, and tried to conserve water, then quaffed a liter and refilled out the wazoo the first time i saw a tiny piddling rivulet dribbling out of some moss, but i needn't have worried because about 30km up the hill there was a wide creek. Now i have 4 liters for the next 24 hours, i'll be fine.
The trail was neat. It didn't have quite the wow factor of other ones because all the views are just of more trees and more mountains, but i suppose that's what people like about it. It really does feel like that typical Canadian wilderness image that people get in their heads when they think about Canada. All the trees are Christmas trees. Even without any snow, it just looks cold and full of bugs and bears. It's all very Banffy. Not my thing at all, but it will probably make for some nice photos.
Well it would if the sun was out. Forecast for the next town over is for a spot of rain. Knowing my luck, that means it'll piss down here at 1200m, but we'll see. It already spat on my tent.
Tomorrow i have 50km all downhill to Castlegar. Unless it's raining, i will be up bright and early. I really don't like this wilderness camping thing very much. I spend the whole time, literally the whole time worried a bear will attack me. I can't relax because i am so paranoid of bears. I know the odds are vanishingly small i will ever see one, much less have a close encounter, much less have an aggressive encounter, but i am still constantly on edge.
It doesn't help that everyone you meet is like bla bla this is grizzly country bla bla hang your food bla bla bear spray bla bla watch out i just saw one up the road. It's seemingly drilled into you here from every angle that bears will kill you. Even though they hardly ever kill anyone.
I played harmonica for a bit, but that irritated my bad back/neck/upper arm thing which is still by far the most painful injury i've gotten cycling. I don't know what to do about it.
Grumble. I'm just in a grumpy mood. I think it's the weather. Overcast weather sucks. The good part is it's cooler. The bad part is you still get sunburnt anyway. The worse part is everything looks foreboding when the sky is grim. I don't mind it so much in the city because cities are safe and full of warm happy refuges, but wilderness is dangerous and cold and miserable.
Okay update from 5 minutes later and there is some blue sky showing! Even though the sun is setting in 30 minutes i feel a million times better. It all looks far less threatening with some bright light on it.
I really need to move some place where it never rains, ever. Like never even pretends to rain. Also where i can see for miles and there isn't undergrowth everywhere full of lurking mystery creatures.
I spoke too soon. Or my original instincts were correct. It utterly pissed down last night. My fly is soaked, and because i'm in the mountains even though the sun has risen, it's still behind a mountain so it's cold and wet and none of my shit is going to dry. On the positive side, the sky is blue and there are white fluffy clouds and i am drinking cold coffee. Full power porridge to come, when i finish this mug.
Apparently there are three Kootenays. There is Boundary Country (aka Kootenay Boundary), which is Anarchist Mountain over to Christina Lake. Then there is West Kootenay (aka Central Kootenay) where i am now. And there is an East Kootenay too.
West Kootenay is the worst Kootenay yet. It is exactly what i thought the Kootenays was going to be when i rode into it, and it is completely different from Boundary Country. It's relentless. Trees. Mountains. More trees. More mountains. There is no gravel on the south face. There are no orchards on the valley floor. There is nothing except for trees and mountains. Even in the valley, there's just more trees. It is awful, like something out of a horror movie.
Castlegar has about 17 sawmills around it, but that's clearly not enough because the trees keep advancing. They're like zombies. They're everywhere and they're closing in. There is no freedom, there is no room to breathe. The clearings only exist because of logging, and most of those are apparently overgrown almost immediately.
I saw a bear.
Let's go back to the beginning. I woke up this morning, ate, sat there fucking exasperated at the utter failure of the weak-ass sun to dry my fly, then gave up and packed everything up wet and got on my bike.
It was a bit over 50km to Castlegar and i flew down that hill. The grade on the rail trail is only like 2% or something, but with the rain packing the sand down a bit firmer, i could really zoom. But i still stopped at every gap in the trees to take a photo.
There were very, very few gaps in the trees.
I saw a couple of forestry workers on the way down, chainsawing up trees that had fallen across the trail. I went through the 1km long tunnel, which was less spooky than i expected, mainly because going east you turn after about 100m and then it's straight to the end, so you can see the light almost immediately. Going the other way it'd probably be a bit more daunting, not seeing a light in the distance for a while.
And i saw a bear! He was just after the tunnel, around a logging road intersection where there was a little patch of sunlight to bask in. He was about 50m away snuffling around, he looked at me, i looked at him, i think we were both as surprised as each other, then i started singing to him, and he bounded away off the trail.
The views were magnificent. Just stunning. To me they're not as majestic as the clean, stark arid vistas, but it's still awesome to see mountains and clouds and lakes from very high up. I'll never get tired of looking at nature from the edge of a cliff, it makes sleeping in the woods all worthwhile.
Unfortunately up close it sucks. Coming into Castlegar was the most oppressive part of the ride yet. I think two rivers meet there, but they don't meet in a lazy sun-drenched valley like Kamloops, they meet in these razor-thin canyons that are completely covered on all sides by trees, right down to the water's edge. There is no space to turn around without hitting another fucking tree. There is almost no sun at all because the cliffs are so high. I can't understand why anyone would want to live in such an utterly inhospitable and depressing place.
They had a taco stand. I got tacos. Then i decided to go straight on to Nelson. Couldn't be any worse, could it?
I dunno. There is marginally more sun in Nelson. The town is full of backpackers and vandwellers. Since it was Friday night i thought it might be cool to go and check out a couple of bars and... they sucked. It reminds me a bit of going out on the Haight Ashbury in San Fran, where it seems like from the outside that it's going to be really bohemian and cool, but then you go inside and it's eyewateringly expensive and the food and drinks are pretty much the same as any other random bar or restaurant in any other town in America. Like, all image, no substance. If Kelowna is the Vancouver of the Okanagan, Nelson is the Vancouver of the Kootenays. Take me back to Grand Forks. Or Rock Creek. At least there's some soul. Damn.
That said, they do have a campsite that is right downtown, so i was able to pitch my tent and walk to the bars, and walk to grocery store, and that was nice. Lots of free wifi too, hence the early picture post. They even have a real nightclub that plays techno music, although it hasn't been open since the pandemic. I can get the appeal for backpackers, especially foreigners on a working holiday visa. Hang out in a scenic mountain town, work bar, smoke pot, still enjoy the party lifestyle you had back home.
But i gotta keep going. There are still too many trees here, and not enough sun. It's so suffocating. Tomorrow is mom's birthday. I think mom would like it here. But if she would like it here, she'd probably also enjoy my ride out of here, because i suspect i am going to be seeing the same landscapes until i exit BC. I did get a recommendation of a coffee shop on the other side of the ferry, so i might sit there and get a kaffee und kuchen like we used to. Or just ride my bike. We used to do that together too, when i was much younger.