This trip has been planned for months. But only in our heads. Suddenly, with just over a month to go, the need to make firm reservations reached a critical level of urgency. In a frenzy of keystrokes, battling it out on two computers and independent cell phones, we chipped away at the myriad transportation pieces required to make this journey possible. Stymied time and again over clashing train and ferry schedules, long stretches of road with no services and sold-out lodgings, our itinerary morphed continuously. Punctuated by wails of despair, sighs of relief and begrudging compromises we persisted. Three ferry rides, one train trip and essential lodging bookings later, we had it. The Yellowhead Tour is now viable and official.
The location is British Columbia, chosen to piggyback on a July family vacation on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. The general plan: cycle the Yellowhead Highway from Prince George to Prince Rupert, then ferry over to Haida Gwaii to ride the highway to its terminus on the northern tip of Graham Island. A total of 620 miles on the bikes over 17 days.
But it’s a lot more complicated than that. We start at the tip of Vancouver Island, with an 18 hour ferry ride through the inland passage on the coast of British Columbia. That takes us within 15 miles of Alaska. It’s a highly scenic route through the calm waters of the coastal islands on a ferry that approaches the comfort of a modest cruise ship. A quick overnight in Prince Rupert, then we board Canada’s Via Rail for a full day’s journey to Prince George. It promises an eyeful of wilderness viewing. That rail segment is equipped with box car racks for our bicycles with roll-on, roll-off convenience – a cyclist’s delight. The next morning, we will turn around and repeat that same route via bicycle on the Yellowhead Highway. This time it will take us 12 days.
Our trip originally ended there. But while scanning Google Maps, I happened to notice that oddly enough, the Yellowhead Highway continued west into the water. Huh? The dotted line took me to Haida Gwaii, a group of islands well off the coast formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Its current name literally means “island of the people” and it has a vibrant First Nation culture. It seemed an intriguing addition. We will cycle the final stretch of the Yellowhead Highway to the northern coast, then return to Prince Rupert once again.
Traveling in peak tourist season is something we normally avoid. But given this northerly route, it is the only reasonable timeframe. So rather than winging it from day to day, we are nailing down each and every night’s accommodation. Having already learned that services can be scarce, we will surrender our flexibility in favor of peace of mind.
This is actually one of our shorter trips in terms of cycling. But to make it happen, we will cover 575 miles by ferry, 450 miles on the train and 4,200 miles in the car.
It’s a good thing it all worked out. Our jerseys are already on order. At least we planned ahead for those.