The Coal Loop Day 1 - the Great Trunk Road

At the end of May 2022, one very fit man, one fit pensioner and one semi-fit pensioner set off to ride the Coal Loop from Hinton to Hinton via the Cardinal Divide, a total of 248 kms over 3 days.

the road to Smallboy Camp

The load out for Hinton was bathed in Edmonton sunlight. The unload in Hinton was a dismal affair but the sun broke through on rollout.  

load out

rain soaked bike prep in Hinton

the only bear I saw was a big one

Departing Hinton at noon in broken sunshine, we quickly climbed out of town on Township Road 505A. Riding on a packed OTSO was a new experience.  Handling was noticeably slower but beginning a descent allows gravity to bring joy.  Uphill of course is a tedious endeavour.  The early rolling gravel was a good warmup for the scheduled 100 km day.  Unfortunately, Gary suffered a day ending calamity after a complete pedal fail at 25 kms.  He got a ride back to Hinton with a backhoe operator to buy new pedals. Mark and I continued, knowing that Gary would drive his vehicle to the campsite and ride back up the route to meet us. 
all vehicles displayed excellent road etiquette

Gary loads his bike bound for Hinton

Mark and I made our way further into logging country along some up and down roads.  All vehicles we met slowed down for us to reduce their dust trails, something I did not expect in rural Alberta. We crossed the Macleod River which flows into the Athabasca River at Whitecourt.  It was evident that the snow had not begun to melt; the rivers and creeks were very low.  
optimistic signage like this was ubiquitous en route

Mcleod River

Gary met us about 8 kms from the Pembina Flats campsite and rode with us on new flat pedals.  It was good to get off the bike and eat hearty freeze dried bag food.  I broke out 4 marshmallows for dessert which made a fine end to the day.  Gary shared some firewater -- cinnamon flavoured whisky that was surprisingly tasty. 
Mark wished for more marshmallows.  4 was all I could safely transport without creating MASHmallows.

We slept well and prepared ourselves for Day 2 - the assault on the Cardinal Divide. 

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