Camping up at the hot springs meant I was conveniently located by the upper trail head so after getting myself fuelled up with camp-cooked coffee, bacon and eggs I was set to go. One last check of my bike and my pack and I headed off towards the trail. Now I freely admit my conditioning is not quite what I would like after a couple seasons off, and I received a strong wake up call just after crossing the bridge. I managed the steep initial climb by throwing my bike over my shoulder and hiking up on foot. I should say now that this trail is labelled for experienced riders and intermediate hikers, and they are serious. This is not a trail to be taken lightly, but also one which is well worth the effort.
The marker at the trail head suggested two and a half to three and a half hours travel time. Having left camp at noon I set a goal of finishing by three o’clock. This way I could feel like I was making good time and also allow me to grab a coffee downtown before starting the bike back up to the hot springs.
It wasn’t long before my heart was pounding and my lungs heaving. And along with the physical workout I was getting, I found myself constantly being distracted by the amazing natural beauty around me. The thick, lush foliage, the big beautiful trees reaching skyward all around me, and the ever present rumble of the creek below. Constantly stopping to take pictures, it took me a while to focus and get serious about riding this trail I had been looking forward to for so long.
As rugged and natural were the surroundings, so was the trail. I had to quickly and aggressively pick my lines on the descents as well as be sharp on the climbs. Between the roots, ruts and intimidating rocks peppering the trail there was no time for hesitation. Keeping one eye on the trail up ahead and one on that immediately in front of me I was throwing my front tire around, squeezing just in between rocks and trees, and always making sure my wheels stayed on the trail.
While some areas were more forgiving, some stretches of the trail left no margin of error and forced me to stay on what felt like half a track. With steep drop offs leading far down the mountain side, as well as some sections which looked like they had fallen victim to the weather earlier this year, there was no shortage of incentive to keep the rubber tightly on the trail. To do otherwise would result in a ride neither the bike nor I were prepared for.
After going pretty hard with a combination of biking, hiking and simply walking the bike, I took a break. Leaning the bike against a tree and slumping down next to it, I took some deep breaths and slowly scanned the scene around me. The sounds of the creek had faded some time ago. In the silence, I was surrounded by the greenery of trees and ferns in what looked like a scene out of an old Robin Hood movie. I closed my eyes, took a few more deep breaths and just listened to the stillness.
That is when it hit me. The reason why I love coming to Nakusp is the feel and the pace here – to be able to breathe, relax and just simply ‘be.’ I took another sip of water and got back on my bike.
At this point I wasn’t sure how far I had come or how on pace I was. Also, I no longer cared. I was here on this amazing, challenging trail in some of the most beautiful country anywhere. I was just going to start riding and soak it for all it was worth.
From here my riding seemed to reach another level. I was climbing better and easier, descents felt like I was floating, and it didn’t phase me when I was making a sharp corner on one of those certain death drop off zones. Sure, I still got off my bike more times than I care to admit, but that just reminded me how great and worthy of respect this trail is.
I felt so light as my bike and I flew down the trail from the lower trail head, heading towards the village. I had just had an amazing ride on one of the most beautifully dangerous trails I have ridden to date. And, I was definitely going to make my favourite coffee shop in time for a well earned coffee.
It is one thing to have a real, live happy place. It is something else again when that happy place keeps getting better in reality. Thank you, Nakusp, for a thrilling and wonderful time.