Day 6 – Mule Deer Campground to Hedley

It’s odd to sleep beside a big river (the Similkameen, stress on “Milk“) for one night, then cycle for 60-odd miles over steep passes and down huge valleys, only to end sleeping beside the same river again. The difference is that every mountain stream has fed into it as it descended from Manning Park for mile after mile, and it has become VAST! I’ve been beside it for most of the day, sometimes thousands of feet above, sometimes level, and feel grateful for the passage it has carved through the mountains for countless millennia, making my route tough, but not impossible. 

  • Today’s Distance (miles): 60
  • Time in saddle: 3h 40
  • Max/min temp (°c): 38°/5°
  • Climb/descend (feet) : 2,383 / 3,969
  • Max altitude (ft): 4,230
  • Calories used: 2,566
  • Cafe time: 3h 58

    After a very chilly night in the mountains at Mule Deer (if you are campers, you will know the kind of night – you reach for anything and everything in the tent when you wake up freezing in the night, to cover youself with to increase you temperature. Fleece, towel, local map), I was on the road by 8am in brilliant sunshine, but it was only 5°. After only a few hundred yards I ground to a halt at the stunning sight of a single wild deer drinking peacefully at a small pond. It didn’t see me as I reached for my phone, but suddenly scented me I think (no showers at Mule Deer!) so you’ll have to look hard in the very centre of the photo to spot its white ear. It hid behind a tree for ages, before bouncing off silently into the woods.

    I knew I had another big pass to climb today, but felt in good shape and the endlessly changing scenery was breathtaking. Just as I built up speed, another vista would suddenly open up and I’d slam on the air brakes for a pic. As the day went on it turns into another roastingly hot one.

    Knowing that tomorrow would be my first proper rest day, I felt like pushing myself a little harder today but the ascent to Sunday Summit (another one over 4,000 ft) was still much longer than I’ve been used to at home. I cycle a lot in the Chilterns, where the hills are gnarly but rarely that long. The only hill like that so far was on Vancouver Island. Here the roads are very wide, the scenery precipitous, and the inclines gradual but never-ending. I think that’s why songs get SO stuck in my head here. I’m pretty bad like that at the best of times, but on a 10-mile climb a song takes on a life all of its own.

    I finally stopped for one of those non-denominational meals, could be a late breakfast, could be lunch, at a place called Thomasina’s in a really nice town called Princeton. It felt like the set of a movie, with a touch of Hill Valley from Back to the Future. I managed to sneak a very late breakfast order in (eggs, sausage, lots of toast), and they made a superb cafetière coffee, the first really good cup I’ve had so far  apart from at Gill & Stewart’s. It’s missing in the pic because I kept ordering more! (Teaching assistant Awesome mucking about in the sun)

    A big biker’s shout-out now to Jim (on the left) and his buddy, who passed me on the Crowsnest Highway on the way in to Princeton and then came and said Hi at Thomasina’s. Jim told that he was born in Port Alberni (my 1st night’s stop) on Vancouver Island, and used to run the Chinese Restaurant in Ucluelet which has now become a Sushi Bar. I nearly ate there last Saturday before the demon lure of pizza overcame me. They’re heading on a similar route to me but I somehow doubt that we’ll overlap much! (Unless they go back and forth 7 or 8 times) Have a great summer Jim, and thanks for the encouragement.

    After shopping to replace the Raven-thefts, the next stretch was very fast, all slightly downhill, with a near empty road, so I settled on the drops and enjoyed the ride. The views are so wide that your eye is sometimes confused as to how fast you’re actually going. It’s similar to the inclines up in the mountains. The road ahead may look for all the world like a gentle descent, but when you get there you start to slow down and have to pedal. There’s a game you can play if you ever drive through any of the long French/Swiss/Italian road tunnels like the Gotthard Pass. It’s simple: after a few minutes of driving, you have to decide if you’re going uphill, downhill, or neither. It’s almost impossible to be sure. The clues we normally use are all missing and the tunnel unchanging; suddenly our eyes deceive us. I’ve been wondering about why the views that are so vivid with the naked eye keep looking quite flat once I’ve taken the picture. The obvious thing is that our eyes are 3D, but I think that something else happens too. When we look at a beautiful view we also have an emotional reaction to being there, and that seems to colour or enhance the experience. We know that we’re actually there, within reach of the view, and it adds to the excitement, like looking off a tall building. We could go there, we could jump. We don’t do either, but we could.

    I flew straight past my campsite whilst thinking about this and lots of other cycle-brain-type thoughts, ending up 4 miles down the road at the Gold Mining town of Hedley., where I met Bill who runs the gift store but also keeps goats and alpacas. We chatted for a while about his plan to sell up and concentrate on the farm, and he pointed me in the direction of the town store, which was like something out of the old west.

    Here’s a potted history:

    ( What you have to do is follow a line from the top of the sign into the mountain, and you should start to see some indistinct buildings perched at a crazy altitude on a hideous slope. This was the mine)

    Several people have asked about my schedule – it’s basically 6 days on, 1 day off, trying to average between 60 and 100 miles every day. Tomorrow’s my first day off and I’m looking forward to spending it doing very little except reading and eating and so on at this lovely site.

    Not a single sign caught my eye today, so I’m delving into the archives from earlier in the week for Signs That are Funny:

    That’s one thing we really do well in Europe: gutters. Except we’re not going to be in Europe. Hmm. British Gutters?

    Getting Rid of One Thing Every Day: today I got rid of my food bag, owing to the number of holes pecked in it by that pesky Raven last night. Also all the bits of food he didn’t carry off.

    I don’t have a picture for What Is It, Seb? today I’m afraid, just a description. I saw several large (two inches across?) yellow butterflies, a real butter-yellow, with strongly marked black edging on the wings, particularly at the back. Any ideas?

    Today’s Song Stuck In Head: one of the earlier ones again, but I won’t name it in case it gets stuck again!

    9 thoughts on “Day 6 – Mule Deer Campground to Hedley

    1. Have a wonderful day off, Ben! Gosh you deserve it after those mega climbs! Your post today brought back some wonderful memories – I visited a great uncle about 25 years ago who lived in Kelowna, just north of where you are, at the end of a big USA / Canada road trip. We then drove from there to Vancouver and were gobsmacked by the scenery on the way. And Molson lager – by far the best lager I have ever tasted and wish you could still buy it here! Have an extra one for me and enjoy!! 🚴🎶xx

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      1. Many thanks Jane, I’m having a restful morning face timing family, exploring a bit down by the river and drinking coffee! Funnily enough, I’m heading for Kelowna on Tuesday night. My Vancouver friends have friends who live on a huge golf course, so that should be interesting. I’m glad you can picture the sweep of scenery – so hard to convey with words or pictures, isn’t it? I’m off to Okanagan Lake tomorrow to camp again, then on to my hosts. Keep in touch! Great to hear from you. Bx

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Ben! Fascinating to read your blog. Just curious if you are planning to pass Banff in Alberta? I lived there for 7 months way back. Incredibly beautiful country all round there. Enjoy your day off. Cheers old buddy!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mick! I’ve been trying to find your comment from before which I didn’t reply to. I thought of you yesterday as I sailed past Stirling Ranch! I wanted to get a pic but it was too late (I do occasionally build up a bit of speed) great to hear from you and I’m glad to know you’re following the blog. Yes, should pass through Banff next weekend before a day off with gill and stewart in Canmore. How’s things with you? Do email if you prefer! Bx


        1. Appalling to see I do not even have your email address! Please provide… Great though that you are going to Banff! A piece of my heart is still there. Such a magnificent part of the world. The whole of the Rockys is amazing as I am sure you are well aware. I love the idea of cycling through them – although I can imagine the climbs there must be 10 times as long as in Scotland! I’m quite into biking myself – just go out often in the countryside around Amsterdam to clear my head. It is very very flat here so you have to try very hard to get super fit of course…. The wind can be challenging. I cycled from London to Italy in my 20s and the part I loved the most was the pass through the Alps and also the Massive Central but then back then I was fit of course….. I’m sure you are very fit these days! Wow how invigorating for body and mind this trip of your must be! Your soul can really replenish itself with all that peace and yet that challenge and constant new sights and sounds and smells…. Big hug! Mick xxx

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