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.
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.
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
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.