After a few more miles of climbing, the rain changed from a soft chill hitting my cheeks to pellet-like snowflakes. I laughed thinking of the sixty mile target we had set for ourselves the night before. Sixty miles on paved road, we found, is a different thing altogether than sixty miles would be on a winding backwoods trail: 31 degrees, unceasing snow, elevation of 5300ft. So utterly different. Yet, we rode on, calling out to the bears that were always just on the other side of the curve. When the trail would arch back on itself, my father ahead of me, I would hear a barking. Thinking it was wolves, or some kind of animal I was unfamiliar with, I would whip my head up, my eyes scanning the woods close on my left side. After awhile I found that my dad had taken up yelling, "AYE! AYOBEARS!" sounding very much like the sound I heard a few miles before.
At mile ten, my father stopped, the tip of his nose red and spattered with the mud coming up from the front tire. "So. There's the ranger's station in a mile and a half. Once we get there, we can eat a snack and get warmed up little." I was ecstatic, especially since my last full thought before stopping was, well if a grizzly does come try and eat me, all I have to do is polish it off, skin it and then I could wear its fur for warmth. Thinking of it now, I realize my mind turns a bit dark when I'm cold, but as we got to the so called "ranger's station," we saw a building consisting of two doors. One for the men's room, one to the ladies'. I stopped, my dad already under the cover of the overhang, my face sinking into itself as I stumbled off my bike. I looked at him incredulous, "This?!" Pointing a wobbling finger at the door. "Does it smell?" He nodded. "Oh yes." I staggered over to the other side of the shed, pulling the door open, rushing inside and hunching over, squeezing my iced toes as hard as I could. As we sat inside this women's room, miles from any type of warmth, we chuckled, which came out as a disbelieving, uneasy sound. We sipped our soup, warmed our toes and used the satellite phone to message my mother that we wouldn't be making it sixty miles in this weather.
Instead, peeling ourselves from the shelter of the bathroom, we rode south five more miles leading us to the first campground of the Divide trail. Once there, guiding our bikes in front of a sign directing new campers to the manager's office, we looked around, saw that the office was in a top-of-the-line RV, hiding under a skin of snow. After knocking on the door multiple times, we huddled under their garage/lean-to, messaging my mother again telling her exactly where we were. Ten minutes later, we were setting up the tent with shaking hands and jerky, insect-like movements. We warmed ourselves by the Windburner stove we use to boil water in and waited. And waited.
An hour and a half of speculation whether she actually received our messages at all, excited moments spent checking the sporadic cars that would drive past along the mountain road that would release all the heat we had created from our chilly little shelter, and outlining what we were going to do if she didn't find us, the truck pulled up. My dad unzipped the tent, the both of us already submitting to the idea that it was most likely not her at all when he said, "It's her! It's her!" He unzipped the tent the rest of the way so I could see. "REALLY!?" I squealed, surprising even myself in the small space. We clambered out of the sopping tent, rushed to the truck, her smile taking over the lower half of her face. She got out and said, "I can't believe I found you guys! I totally wouldn't have if I hadn't completely Forrest Gumped my way here!" She walked around to the back of the truck, pulling items off the tail gate. I walked around to the passenger side and there, on the ground she had two cases of beer and she stood there behind them, that same smile plastered on her face, "Well, I tried finding an IPA for you because I know how you are, but I couldn't find one, so I got this kind instead, I hope it's okay." I looked at her, nodded, spluttered something like, "Yes, yes. Beer. Good. Cool," and pulled the rear door open, climbed in and shut the door. As we all got in, turned the heat up high, we laughed and talked over each other's accounts of the day.
It turned out my mom found us by accident. She asked a local how to get to the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park (which really wasn't where we were at all, by my misdirection) and he told her to just go up over the mountain. At the time, she nodded and smiled, all the while scoffing at his recommendation of just traversing over this mountainside dirt road in the middle of a snowstorm, but there she was, climbing along, next to the steepest drop I've ever seen alongside a road, up and over the mountain. When we pulled up into the motel, my mom and I were giddy at the thought of sleeping in an actual bed, being able to shower without worrying about your wet hair freezing into long blond icicles, my dad commenting towards the end of our pizza dinner that it felt incredible to be able to fall asleep without the worry of something crashing through your tent in the middle of the night.
mile five, before snow.
mile ten, during snow.
our home away from home...