Here in Nelson we have the luxury of house-sitting an apartment including two cats from the Warmshower Mal and Jon over the long weekend. It has become quite hot with 39 degrees Celsius and so we sleep in the tent on the cool terrace. Besides the heat, there’s the smoke, which is heavy in the air. Suddenly, he was here, packing the surrounding mountains in thick fog. The sun shines only weakly and it is a gloomy mood, even almost doomsday mood. Everywhere in the news, on the street and in the shops people talk about this extraordinary summer with these many forest fires. In British Columbia alone, 560 active forests burn! 3000 people had to be evacuated and countless fire fighters tirelessly fight the fires. The heatwave with the new thunderstorms and the wind intensifies the crisis situation. In addition to the smoke from the surrounding forest fires and depending on the wind direction, the wind also carries smoke from American fires, especially those in California and Washington State or from areas burning in the north. We study the air quality forecast on a daily basis. On Sunday when we want to hit the road again, the air is extremely bad. It smells like campfires and while breathing, it scratches the lungs and throat.
Within a very short time it has become surprisingly cool, as the sun’s rays are weakened by the smoke. In the afternoon it gets a little better and so we decide to start, although outdoor activities are not recommended. We cycle at a comfortable pace so that we can always breathe through our nose. Our route choice, namely to biking west on the BC Trail, we had to cancel with a heavy heart. It doesn’t make sense for us to ride the though trails and to be rewarded without a view and furthermore our long research shows that the air quality is better in the north… Well, what we learned on our journey is to change plans flexibly and spontaneously. So now we cycle north to Nakusp, which was also recommended as a very beautiful route. But we have to imagine the beauty, because there is not much to see except smoke. It feels like cycling back home in the autumn, but you never reach the fog barrier. Along the Slocan Lakes we cycle on a beautiful trail Galena, where we can even watch an active fire. Since we are no longer only on singletracks and logging roads, our GPS shows again often 100 Kilometer😀 in the evening.
In Nakusp we enjoy our self-made burgers on the beautiful lake shore, they simply taste better. 😝 in front of a shop we meet the two Swiss Esther and Martin. To our surprise they come from Cham, Duggeli- and Muggerenmattstrasse, the world is sometimes small. 😀 After a relaxing night we cycle along the beautiful lake, where we can discover some nests of the Ospreys and observe an eagle. The ferry brings us to the other shore for free, where we start the ascent to the Monashee Pass. Our idea is to camp in the ascent, but we soon give up this undertaking, because we can’t find any flat place! ! Only when we reach the top we discover a great place right next to the road. Since the last ferry leaves at 9pm, it will soon be nice and quiet. It’s been a long day. Fortunately the next day to Vernon is a bit shorter and only downhill. We move quickly and reach around noon the super cheese farm “Triple Island Farm”, which has been recommended to us several times and yes, the cheese is sensational! The farm is run by a Dutch family, which emigrated 17 years ago. Still in the haze we cycle towards Vernon. Shortly before Vernon we are welcomed by our next Warmshower Leonard and Bernadette. It is once again very exciting to learn about their lifes. Bernadette is an artist and shows us her studio and her beautiful painted pictures. In the garden house we spend the night. The next morning Bernadette serves us homemade pancakes and later at the lake in the Rail Trail Coffee we meet the Swiss Jürg and Sabine. After a longer exchange we cycle along the beautiful, brand new railway trail along the lake in the direction of Kelowna. A big thanks to Leonard for this insider tip, this trail was not yet on our map. Unfortunately, the smoke is blocking our view here too!!!
In Glenmore, just before Kelowna, we are warmly welcomed by Carol and Laurant. We met Carol on the ferry in June when we did our Sunshine Coast Tour. Her daughter Maeghen takes part in extreme cycling races. Last year she successfully finished the Race Across America (RAAM). That means cycling for 20 hours in a row during 24 days!🚴🚴 Wow, incredible! Carol spoils us with delicious dinners and fresh vegetables from her garden. For breakfast we are spoiled with porridge and lots of superfoods. Mmmhh. As the air situation with the smoke has worsened again, we stay longer than planned. It will be three beautiful days with interesting conversations. Even the two can not remember that it was ever so bad with the smoke! We are very grateful to Carol and Laurant for their great hospitality! We are constantly researching the smoke situation and trying to find out where we should best cycle to escape the smoke. But as the wind direction changes again and again, it is very difficult to predict where the air is better. On Saturday the air is very bad. It smells like campfires, it even rains ash and the nearby hills and sun are no longer visible. On Sunday we have the idea to organize a dust mask. Only in the 5th shop we find what we are looking for, but only those without exhalation valve. All others are sold out! 😳 On Monday the air is a little clearer, the sun is visible in the sky and we say goodbye to Carol and Laurant. Our plan is to hitchhike to Vancouver in the hope that the air and visibility through the “Seabreeze” will be slightly better there. In the Summit Tool Shop we stock up with the better masks and picnic at the lake of Kelowna. It must be really nice here if you could see something. Usually Kelowna, the California of Canada, is crowded with tourists, but today only a few walk along the waterfront in the park. We see a bit of blue sky. Somehow we are not quite sure whether we should really travel to Vancouver by hitchhiking. We just can’t decide. We write down all possibilities and draw by lots. The winner of the draw is the Myra-Trestle-Railway. Funnily enough, there has never been much discussion about it lately.
Wow, the lot meant it well with us! These trestles, old railway bridges, and the trail are extremely beautiful! The next morning the beauty of the trail has diminished a bit and partly we have to push our bike through sandy sections. Exciting old stone ovens, with which the construction workers baked bread in 1913, can be admired along the trail. On our map it goes downhill now, but since the railway line was built with only 3 percent gradient, we hardly notice it. So we happily bend into a flowing single trail😀. It is getting drier and drier and it reminds us very much of the South of France. This is reinforced by the vineyards on the slope.
Penticton, literally translated “place to stay” pleases us very much. It has a beautiful sandy beach by the lake, which invites to swim. The swim is then cooler than expected, which is very likely to do with the many smoke. The sun’s rays are held back very strongly. As we cycle in the dark to our sleeping place, which we have previously scouted, two eyes shine against us. The black, shaggy animal turns and takes flight. Yes, just unbelievable, our first black bear.🐻😀 The air is worse the next day. We decide to enjoy the beautiful beach, where it is not too hot thanks to the smoke. In the afternoon, however, it smells strongly of smoke again and thus we flee into a coffee shop. At night the air gets worse again and in the morning we wake up with burning eyes, scratchy throat and a layer of ash on our tent.
We decide to cycle to Peachland to try our luck with hitchhiking to Vancouver. However, Highway 97c to Vancouver turns out to be very unsuitable for our project. There are no area to stop for the cars driving at 120km/h. So we surrender and roll the 400hm back to Peachland. The back and forth starts all over again! It seems we’re going round in circles here! What now? Despite the smoke back on the BC Trail and just head down and brave the smoke? No, our lungs hurt and our throat is itchy. It’s just no fun this way and without a view! There is also the question of how long the smoke and the forest fires will last? Can we even cycle our planned routes through Oregon and Utah or do we have to avoid the smoke again and again? Because the fires are supposed to be even more serious in California. We don’t know and nobody can help us! Too many unknown! Frustrated we sit in front of the shopping mall. We discuss with an employee who later gives us two sandwiches. While we chew on the sandwich and examine the situation we are in, we once again get the idea to fly to South America. When we find out that the flights from Kelowna to Lima with Air Canada are extremely cheap and above all cheaper than from Vancouver, we see this as a possible sign why the hitchhiking didn’t work out and why we are turning circles here, around Kelowna 😂. Is this the solution? After a short research we cannot let go of this idea. Only thanks to the smoke we have come up with this ingenious variant, which will enrich our journey with more cultures and another spring and summer. The next day we cycle to Kelowna, where we are spontaneously welcomed by the two warmshowers Adrian and Natalie. So we can stay close to the city center of Kelowna and can do all preparations for South America well and easily. On Saturday all preparations are made. The long-awaited rain, more than predicted, finally brings fresh temperatures and improved air quality on Sunday.
And yes of course on Monday the smoke is gone! 😳 After two full weeks we breathe in smoke-free, fresh air!😀 So we can now see Kelowna and the beautiful area without smoke! Since the flight from Penticton is 200$ cheaper than from Kelowna, we cycle back to Penticton and enjoy the beautiful weather with the sensational view and fresh air. Late in the evening we drive to the airport and get our bikes ready to fly: This time we bought packing films and are thrilled how quickly the wheels are wrapped up. We sleep in front of the small airport and check in at 4:00 AM. Bye, bye Canada and USA. 😀✈️
Conclusion North America: Apart from the smoke, we had a great time here! Canada and the USA are great countries for cycling, at least where we were. With the many mountain bike trails and logging roads it is mostly possible to cycle off the beaten track, although the many long railway lines can become boring. Free-camping is extremely easy and the many Warmshower hosts are incredibly amazing and provide a deeper insight into North American life. The people are very friendly and usually show great interest in us. Many love outdoor activities and a kayak, boat and dog can be found in every household. Also the winter here in British Columbia must be fantastic! Since the Rockies we talk almost daily about skiing and cross-country skiing. For a long time we thought about spending a winter here. Also we would have liked to cycle through Oregon, North California, Utah and Arizona. However, everything has changed and we postpone it for another time.
Max elevation: 1266 m
Min elevation: 263 m
Total climbing: 6957 m
Total descent: -7118 m