After years of ogling at maps and photos of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route — daydreaming of narrow dirt roads winding through broad mountain valleys and over high rocky passes, imagining the sound of knobby rubber floating over lightly-traveled gravel, yearning for the cadence of a more simple life upon a saddle — I finally hit trail on August 4 outside of Canmore, Alberta.
Just above Canmore on my way to connecting with the Divide.
With snowmelt from a late, wet winter overfilling many rivers and creeks in the Rockies I was forced to reroute from the traditional singletrack start in Banff and instead picked up route after cresting the pass to Spray Lakes out of Canmore. From there it was 50 miles of well-maintained dirt road through the beautiful Spray valley up and over the first Divide crossing at Elk Pass into British Columbia.
A day along the Elk River and a short stretch of pavement through the town of Sparwood brought me to the slopes of Flathead Pass, a gateway to the type of remote backcountry riding I’d been dreaming of. With nearly 100 miles of uninhabited dirt road spanning the Flathead and Wigwam River valleys to the border of Montana, this three-day stretch will go down as a highlight.
Blue skies and smooth dirt along Spray Lakes.
The ridge of the Great Divide frames the route through British Columbia
Try as I might, I still haven't seen a big cat in the wild. A late day swim followed by a warm campfire made for comfortable camping at Blue Lake, threats of vicious wildlife aside.
Creek bed or dirt road? Either way, descending Flathead Pass provided a welcome diversion with slightly more technical riding and a few creek crossings.
I'd been chasing three sets of tracks since crossing into BC and finally caught these guys along the Flathead River. Dave, Jim, and Bruce (from left to right) are riding buddies back home in western Massachusetts.
It was nearly 20 years ago when Jim caught wind of Adventure Cycling's plans to develop a long distance mountain bike route along the crest of the Rockies. Bruce and Dave joined him for the beginning of his Divide thru-ride, Bruce along until Whitefish, MT and Dave through Butte, MT.
The map showed singletrack. We found a 1-mile muddy bushwhack straight uphill.
Exhausted after pushing uphill -- twice. Working in pairs to hike our bikes up the muddy slope was a plus.
Dave topping out Galton Pass, a brutal 7-mile climb on the heels of our hike-a-bike.
Headed for home. Back on pavement to the border after a brake-burning descent off of Galton Pass. Pleasure riding with you guys!