Day 2: Spray Lakes to Mt. Sarrail Campground

Miles: 40

Elevation: 2233 ft climbed

Wildlife: a billion ground squirrels, 1 moose

Today was a very different day from yesterday. For one, I rode twice the miles of yesterday, but had almost exactly the same elevation change. Second, I was coming from sleeping at camp rather than in a comfy hostel bed. Third, where yesterday’s ride was almost entirely on single track and remote gravel or dirt trails, I spent nearly all of today on a big wide road with many cars. (It was gravel, but the surface was nice enough that I barely noticed.)

I slept surprisingly well, for camping, and woke suddenly and precisely when the sun came over the mountain top opposite my camp. It turned my light-colored tent into a very effective wake-up light. Packing up took foreverrrrr….frustratingly so. Hopefully that’s something I’ll improve on with time.

I did have a pretty sweet breakfast view, though….

Setting out, I was NOT feeling great….annoyed that I was getting out so late, and not a super fan of the dusty gravel road I had to travel on. It took me quite a while to get over my grumpiness, but listening to podcasts helped. (I also realized, looking back, that the morning was literally just one big climb WITH a headwind….so I forgive my grumpy ass.)

The route had fantastic views (duh) and I was just getting into the groove when a car slowed down to tell me there was a grizzly on the road about 2 miles ahead. So, I spent the next several miles on super guard, ringing my bell like a maniac.

OMG Alberta, we get it, you’re beautiful 🙄

The Dutch couple (I DID go and talk to them, by the way) left about 30 mins before me, but I luckily ran into them just as they were leaving the Mt Engadine Lodge. I had seen this on the map, but hadn’t thought to stop–I wasn’t sure if they had services available to non-guests. The couple recommended I go in for a coffee (and told me they HAD seen the grizzly that had been reported). It was well worth it to take a break and enjoy the view:

If I weren’t so insistent on masochistic forms of travel that require pain and discomfort, I would love to stay here!

Fortunately, after another short climb (made easier by the coffee and rest), I reached today’s highest point: Mt Shark. The rest of the day was pretty much a glide down into Peter Lougheed Provincial park. Along the way I ran into two guys who were doing the Divide NOBO–they looked dirty and tired and like they had stripped down all their extra weight. The guy’s advice to me was, “Keep it light! Send home what you don’t need and don’t carry excessive food or water–sources for both are plentiful along the route!” He also recommended asking to use people’s hoses to clean mud off my bike when it gets nasty, to avoid resulting mechanical issues. He then SPED OFF UP THE MOUNTAIN, giving me some hope that I’ll get stronger and hopefully faster.

Oh, and I heard ANOTHER report of a bear–this one a grizzly mama with two cubs. So, back into anxiety-ville, I spent several more miles compulsively ringing my bell. But, I didn’t see them! Phew!

Toward the end of the riding day I came into Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and got to spend a fun couple miles on a paved bike path that reminded me of riding in Rock Creek or on the CCT in DC. Except bears. I arrived at Boulton Creek Trading Post, which was awesome and really well-stocked with snacks, camping supplies, and even bike repair gear. They also had really really good ice cream. When I went in to restock I was kinda dazed from riding and hunger (I have GOT TO LEARN TO TAKE REAL BREAKS AND EAT!!!), so I got a really weird collection of food. We’ll see how that goes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m camping tonight in the Mt. Sarrail campground, where I’m the only camper. It’s nice and (surprisingly) has really gorgeous views:

Damnit this isn’t a good picture—a quick little rainstorm was rolling in as I arrived. It ended up being sunny and nice all evening though. There have been a lot of little quick rains so far, but nothing for more than a few minutes.

The host came and chatted with me about the Divide and the area, and was very nice and positive. Later, when I was trying to work on my bike which had STOPPED SHIFTING GEARS, he offered some advice and I got it going again. Seems okay for now.

Tomorrow I have my first crossing of the Great Divide–over Elk Pass. It’s going to be a big climbing day, but also a big mileage, as I hope to make it all the way in to Elkford tomorrow. Must get up earlier!!!

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