2 - 11 September 2014
After some rest and a great time in Smithers I felt more invigorated and motivated to carry on. Also I would have better chances for meeting people and be in better shape, the weather forecast was good and it was a fairly short leg of only 1,100k (700 miles) to Squamish where I would stay with Sophie that I met in May in California biking south while I was on my way north to Seattle...
As with the last section I have written some relevant topics instead of day-by-day – the pictures shown are in line with the trip timeline.
From Smithers I headed east on highway 16 400k (250 miles) to Prince George. There were a couple of decent hills especially the first day but mostly it was gradual (rolling) uphill - the wind changed a lot and sometimes I even got a bit of a tailwind (wow!). The highway was very busy particularly with big trucks of all kinds and it got a bit dangerous on the 2-lane stretches with no shoulders or where the shoulders were of too poor quality to ride. The mountains were quickly replaced by hills with views of farmland, forests, lakes and rivers only interrupted briefly by small towns and villages - not amazing but cosy riding helped by the great weather.
After stocking up in Prince George I headed south on highway 97 430k (270 miles) to the highway 99 junction - even more busy but often with a shoulder though it was full of scrap and stones implicating 3 flat tires and a broken spoke in only two days! The road comprised long stretches of flattish, rolling hills and big hills and again the wind changed a lot though mostly a headwind from the south - some days fierce and other days just a pleasant breeze cooling me down in the warm weather. The landscape stayed much the same as on highway 16 though the fields seemed bigger and the forests and lakes less frequent.
Turning onto highway 99 275k (110 miles) to Squamish I was back in the mountains - a lot of big rolling hills and steep ascends/descends but also much more spectacular nature; big glacier lakes and rivers as well as snow-capped mountains and valleys seen from below and above... beautiful and well worth the effort particularly because I was fortunate with the weather.
In general the weather was great - most of the days were sunny and blue sky and the few times it was overcast it never lasted a full day. Only rain one evening until morning so that was a big (and long awaited) change compared to the misery on the previous leg coming from Alaska. As mentioned the wind changed a lot - both in strength and direction; probably evenly distributed between advantage and disadvantage which was also a big step up for me always being cursed with headwinds... Day temperatures the first half were typically around 25-30C (76-84F) after which a weather change halved them - still sunny but much cooler except in the low valleys. Mornings and evenings were cool and most nights the temperature was around freezing though I was never cold in my sleeping bag.
After the last leg from Alaska I had low expectations about seeing wildlife and maybe that's why I happened to see some - or maybe it was just that time of year where the bears come close to populated areas looking for food; allegedly more so this year because there are few berries. I was fortunate to see 5 black bears and a fox and a number of eagles but otherwise not much of interest... Practically no bugs or mosquitoes partly because of the region's warm and dry Summer and partly because of the cold nights.
Sleeping and people
I was very happy to be back in more populated areas and several times I was invited to stay with people. Other times I pitched my tent on vacant land or in free campgrounds/recreational areas also creating an opportunity for social interaction. Not many people showing interest or greeting me (only oncoming traffic on the steep uphills) - maybe long distance biking is too common here? The drivers were unchanged - most going around at a decent distance and a few (on purpose?) coming close despite lots of room. One time I was almost hit by the steps on a RV not folded up - who knows if it was a broken camper or forgetful people?
I had considered checking my bottom bracket in Smithers but as it was sealed I didn't want to break it in case the problem was something else e.g. me. Hindsight I should have changed it as it got more and more noisy and difficult to pedal day by day. Did I then change it along the way when I had the part and tools? - no. Getting closer and closer to finishing this year's trip I decided to finish and change it before I go to Australia simultaneously fixing a lot of other things. My front rack broke (because of all the pounding from the bad roads) and my rear rack is very close to breaking (mostly because of my heavy luggage). Knowing it was coming I previously looked into new ones so I just need to choose and order them from a reliable company.
Of more "everyday problems" I had 3 flat tires and a broken spoke (in 2 days) which makes this part of BC the worst place I have biked yet. In all fairness one of the flats came from pulling the bike through some thorn bushes to camp next to an abandoned house but the other two where regular - for comparison I had 2 flat tires in 13,200k (8,500 miles) last year. As always there was a lot of metal scrap, broken glass, etc. on the shoulders but both flat tires came from "pinching" i.e. when a stone squeezes the tire from the side - no wonder as it was often like riding a gravel road (I assume the reason I get problems when it's paved and not on gravel is my speed). The broken spoke again happened on a steep hill - it must be the extra pressure going uphill and as last time it happened in the morning after only a few kilometers. Maybe it has to do with the spoke/rim temperature after a night around freezing because everything else is unchanged (weight and allocation of it)? Fortunately there was a gas station at the top of the hill where I could fix it, but it was quite annoying starting out all motivated and then having to spend more than an hour fixing the bike (and being nervous another spoke will break soon after like last time)...
Food and health
I stocked up for a few days in Smithers and for a week in Prince George as people told me there would be few opportunities later; not true but it was a few days more or less and then I avoided the hassle of shopping more times. I never got to make the diet changes I mentioned in the last section - once I was in the supermarket it was much easier going with "the known" than figuring out new stuff - no wonder most people have difficulties changing their diets.
The food still went high up between two trees every night - and on this stretch it proved very important. A couple of times people told me a bear had been sneaking around at night. It just confirms that bears go where people live/come regularly while the chances of meeting a bear wild camping is very remote.
I was hoping the rest would have done my body well but already the first afternoon I felt tension in my left buttock and my left foot began getting numb (arising from my bad left knee) - so much I thought I might be difficult to get to Squamish. I decided to push a little less and it helped - it came back a couple of times the following days but never to a point where the pain was unbearable.... and my left foot is also back to normal...