After Clinton there was Hope – Fraser River Canyon

Fraser River Canyon

The title of this post is not a democrat-leaning political statement. Rather, yesterday I rode from Clinton in BC down South through the Thompson and then Fraser River canyon all the way to Hope, BC. That’s 240km in 11h and 2400m vertical. By far my longest day, assisted by an initial long downhill and good tailwind for the first 5 hours.

I had started very early, hitting the road at 6:15am. The air was much cooler, hardly any traffic, and no more smoke so it was a pleasure to breathe. (It had made a lot of sense yesterday afternoon to stop in Clinton and wait out the bad traffic and smoke.)

Road dropping down to Thompson River

The first hours were easy and fast. A net 650m drop in elevation and the tailwind often made me feel like a motorcycle rider, almost effortlessly dropping down to the Thompson river at speeds up to 74km/h. 100km at noon with a 25km/h average, what a blast! Reminded me of the long tailwind-assisted dayrides in Minnesota. And made me think about whether maybe I could reach all the way down to Hope in one push!

At 150km the tailwind shifted to headwind – this was definitely not part of my ambitious plan! It may have something to do with the confluence of the Thompson and the Fraser Rivers? Anyway, as a result, I also got very different air filled with fire smoke, which made breathing harder and the whole thing more unpleasant.

View down to the Fraser River

And I had to work hard again for the many hills. At times the road drops down right next to the river, allowing to see the rafts up close. Occasionally the road would cross over the river and over/under the railroad line. Only to climb up another 100-150m around the next bend in the valley! Such hills take 15-20min and a lot of sweat, plus the many campers and trucks add some unhealthy Diesel exhaust to the respiratory mix…

To make things worse, there were about a half dozen tunnels, all with jet-like headwind! They have you push these buttons for signal lights to alert motorist of cyclists in the tunnel. Good idea, except a few truckers still didn’t slowdown. There were some of those moments when you’re riding 2 feet next to the tunnel wall, can’t hear anything over the truck engine roar and can’t afford to mess up!

Tunnel at Hells Gate

A short break came at what’s called “Jackass Mountain Pass” – no kidding, I have a photo to prove that’s the name. There is an overlook with a steep drop some 250m down to the river. I met and chatted briefly with a german couple, who took the picture.

Fraser River overlook at Jackass Mountain Pass

At 175km I was in doubt whether I could do the entire distance. Only 3h of daylight left. But stopping right here in the canyon didn’t seem like a good option either. Eventually the wind died down around 210km and the last hour or so was better – good air again :-) Then one last 90m hill – boy do they hurt after 10.5h on the bike! – and a good downhill and a last river bridge right into town.

Arriving in Hope at dusk crossing the Fraser river one last time

I ate a footlong sub at Subway as no restaurant was open at 8:45p anymore. The campground is excellent, with great showers, wireless Internet from motel across the street and right next to the huge Fraser river. My tent is under tall Douglas Fir trees and there are no mosquitoes :-) I am tired but very happy; the U.S. and Seattle have moved within close range!

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