Cycling Across Canada

Surrender [Not Quite].

Revelstoke seemed fit for a longer visit. Another slice of easy-going residents and spectacular views. But, I was feeling drawn to the border. I needed the lift of a significant milestone, and I was slowly closing in on Alberta. My mind was wandering further beneath and beyond than ever; I wondered if my self-questioning would subside with a sense of physical progress.


I took the long and winding route through Revelstoke, stopping for a mid-afternoon snack before moving on. I’d already planned to stop at Canyon Hot Springs Resort for the night, about twenty-five kilometers further along. Time was on my side.

I harboured no aspirations of checking into Canyon Hot Springs. Like every park I’d passed, the resort was closed until mid-May, an important fact I’d remembered to double-check on my beloved phone that morning.

I was more interested in the resort’s location far from the intermittent highway noise. I’d grown tired of the consistent din of passing cars and the periodic roar of massive trucks, along with every fight against the uneasy vortex of air rushing under their trailers as they passed.

I sought peace. I sought the quiet.

Canyon Hot Springs appeared to be an ideal spot to camp. On top of the remote camping grounds, my ride through the next mountain pass in Glacier Park would now be a shorter distance. With the humbling memories of Manning Park only a few days from fresh, I was learning to base my choices on a growing awareness and understanding of the trials I’d already experienced. I deked off the Trans-Canada at the proper exit and pedaled along the lengthy entrance road. Rolling into that sweet, sweet quiet.

I arrived around 4:30pm. A few pick-up trucks parked near the resort’s facilities. The main lodge appeared to be under renovation. Construction noise emanated from inside. I wasn’t discouraged. Anything besides a revving engine will do wonders.

I parked Sonja and walked toward the stairs leading up to the main lodge doors. Along the welcome path, I spotted a perfect square of flat ground under a towering evergreen a few steps onto the frozen ground. I offered a slight nod to mark our connection; a minor tribute to my lumberjack host the night before.

I knocked. A few seconds of silence passed. Suddenly, the doors flung open and a woman appeared, surprised by a stranger’s presence. I could feel her anxiety simmering from my unexpected arrival. She looked at me with hurried eyes.

I asked for permission to pitch my tent for the night. Immediately, she refused, moving to close the door.

I’m sorry, I can’t let you. We are preparing the resort for the upcoming season.

We’re busy. You can’t stay here.

I didn’t feel deterred. We’re all prone to our instincts, from time to time. In moments of uncertainty, learned intuition can override other thoughts. This woman’s instincts in sight of an unforeseen stranger inspired fear in the form of hesitance, which arose for any number of reasons. She was pulled immediately to refuse and move on.

I could understand her closed response. Life runs simpler on restrictions and No’s. A closed stance empowers a hold of familiarity over our own boundaries. A sense of comfort. Order. Control.

At the same time, however, I knew only what I knew. And, I knew I was neither a threat nor an inconvenience. To my entitled mind, the issue here was her instinctual reticence. I didn’t relent.

With a smile, I kindly persisted for another moment, insisting that I would not use any of the resort’s facilities.

All I need is a flat spot to rest and sleep. Please, I’ll be up and gone early.

Following an up-and-down look and an audible sigh, she asked for me to wait while she retreated into the lodge. Sure thing. She shut the door. I waited outside. No rush. I had time.

Minutes passed. I nodded confidently toward my chosen campsite, once more.

Finally, the busy supervisor returned. She bypassed any buttered-up pleasantries and asserted that I pitch my tent away from the lodge. I agreed instantly, pointing to the perfect spot that I’d already found. She smiled, finally. I could feel her anxiety lifting, replaced by an emerging sense of ease.

With a slower cadence, the supervisor assured I could stay for free. An unspoken bond seemed to forge our unexpected connection, as my host added that she’d order the workers to leave the washroom doors unlocked for me when they left the premises for the night. I expressed my sincere gratitude for the unexpected gift.

My host emphasized only a single demand: I must be gone before 8am, when the workers would begin to arrive in the morning. I thanked her profusely and promised to leave by the early morning’s light.

When I deked off the Trans-Canada, I sought only the quiet. Peace. All I wanted. Sleep is a precious commodity along these roads.

Alas, in this mountainous nowhere, I wouldn’t be gifted so.

Sometime during the night, I was rustled awake by a violent trembling and thunderous noise. A train. The rumbles and calls of the midnight freight shook my world for the longest moment. I could only cover my ears to muffle the train’s ferocity.

After the quaking ceased and the noise dissipated, I spent the next few minutes in recovery. Eventually, I calmed my nerves and fell back into a fragile slumber.

Not for long.

Deeper into the night, I was shaken from my sleep, again. Another train, rumbling and calling, coming and going. The tracks seemed inches away from the tent. I closed my eyes, silently begging for a return to sleep that would never come. Tossing and turning became my only options.

After the third train loudly rambled in and through, I cursed aloud and admitted defeat. A peaceful sleep wasn’t meant to be.

I peeked wearily outside the flap of my tent. The first hints of daylight seemed to be glowing ever-so-faintly on the other side of the mountains. My phone had died sometime during the night. Must be five. Maybe five-thirty.

Still feeling the aftershocks of the last train, I hastily packed up my life and chowed down a peanut-butterfied bagel. Before the sun could signal the start of a new day, I’d returned to the road, leaving no trace. Turned out my promise to be an early morning ghost had been an easy promise to give.

I awakened as I pedaled, gradually ascending Rogers Pass and sweating away the frustrations of an interrupted sleep. A welcome physical grind.

All was rising. Without a hint of expectation.

A remarkable view of the sun slowly rounding above the mountains prevailed during my first hours of early morning riding. Nature tossed in a calm breeze and clear skies. Small bands of chirping birds entrenched the scene’s resonance. The reverberations of something else tremored within.

I nearly surrendered. Nearly did. With the sun rising to a perfect angle, when the rays of light reflected off the edges of mountainscape in their greatest numbers, forming a shimmery haze from the peaks, I almost gave in. A perfect blend of sunrise, mountains, stillness, physical momentum, and emotional acceptance. A most welcome moment of rare clarity; an unfamiliar kind of right. I was so close.

Perhaps, the trains served as an offering of a moment unforeseen. Not until I attached such meaning to it, at least. No matter the case, I was amidst an all-timer. Another memory immediately formed roots, strong and certain.

With every pedal-stroke, I reveled in the energy coursing through my being. Lumps collected in my throat. I approached an air of tranquility. For the briefest moment, I felt an air of moving with the scene. All, at once.

Flowing, yet still.

Only the familiar snap of lifelong instincts drew my mind away. Suddenly – inevitably – my wandering thoughts drifted back into the space. My stomach rumbled. My fingers began to throb faintly from the early morning cold. I exhaled, still smiling. Soon, I returned to simply rolling into the next rise, with a busy mind periodically distracted by every climb.

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