A Glacier-Packed British Columbia Motorcycle Ride from California

[This British Columbia, Canada, Motorcycle Ride was originally published in the January 2011 issue of Rider magazine]

Story and photography by Beverly Kennell

Wind River Highway in British Columbia
Wind River Highway is a relaxing, peaceful mountain road. Mount St. Helens is in the background.

We started our adventure on a bright and clear June day. The glaciers and majestic mountains of Canada beckoned my husband, Jim, and me to pack up our 100th Anniversary Harley Electra Glide Ultra Classic. We headed north on Interstate 15 to our first destination, Sacramento, the capital of California. On Monday morning we went east on Interstate 80. As the interstate took us deep into the mountains, toward Donner Summit, we were soon dodging craggy potholes and broken pavement. Even today this perilous part of I-80 inspires visions of the tragic tale of the Donner party in the winter of 1846.

We stayed on I-80 to Winnemucca, Nevada, where we turned north on U.S. 95 to Bonners Ferry, Idaho. This quaint American town would be our last stop in the U.S.A. before crossing the Canadian border. In the morning, we branched off on State Route 1 to the crossing at Porthill, Idaho.

Kootenay Lake ferry crossing
View of Kootenay Lake from the Osprey. It was our first ferry crossing in Canada.

With the border inspection behind us, we rode out on Route 21 to Route 3A. We settled into the pleasing symmetry of curving roads and awesome British Columbian landscape. With little warning Route 3A abruptly ends at a large lake named Kootenay. This is where we boarded our first ferry, the Osprey, for a chilly water crossing in order to continue our journey. Ferries in Canada are part of the national highway system, as many Canadian roads end at huge bodies of water. The fluid murmur of water was a nice change from the sound of tires on the road. On the other side of the lake, we got on Route 31A to New Denver where we turned right onto Route 6 to Nakusp and took Route 23 north to Galena Bay. Like a hungry snake in search of dinner, all these roads severely twisted and turned constantly. Jim muscled the Electra Glide mile after mile. At Galena Bay on Upper Arrow Lake we boarded a second ferry, the Galena. On the other side, we continued north on Route 23 and spent a comfortable night in Revelstoke.

Hillside Lodge in Golden, British Columbia
This cozy, rustic cabin at Hillside Lodge, Golden, British Columbia, was our home away from home for three days.

The next morning we rolled east on Trans-Canada Highway 1 to Golden. We found our lodging, the rustic Hillside Lodge and Cabins, lying in forested hills between Glacier and Banff National Parks. After unloading, we hustled out to visit Bow and Louise Lakes. My digital camera worked overtime.

Early the next day we rode south on Route 95 to Invemere, where we traded our Electra Glide for an Artic Cat ATV and hit it hard on a dusty, muddy trail up to 9,000 feet. The challenges of this wilderness destination were expected, but a gourmet appetizer of roasted brie, other imported cheeses, crackers and red seedless grapes for lunch was an ultimate surprise…and then came the cheeseburgers with all the trimmings. Roughing it? I don’t think so! After the tour, Jim and I decided to have dinner in Invemere at a friendly restaurant called The Eatery. We were enjoying our steaks when we suddenly heard rolling thunder exploding and saw lightening crackling. Then the Eatery’s electricity went out and we were eating by candlelight. The storm went through this town three times as the mountains kept it hostage. Finally, it slowed to a drizzle and we made our escape back to Golden.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park
Carved by ancient glaciers, Lake Louise is an example of a pristine mountain lake at Banff National Park.

On the trip back we came upon a doe and her spotted fawn, and down the road an osprey defiantly circled above us in defense of her nest. Then off to the side of the wet road we saw a huge beaver dam with its beaver pond. The experience was incredible. The next day, a short ride west through Golden took us to the Grizzly Bear Refuge, where a visit with Boo topped off the day. Boo is a grizzly bear, rescued as a cub, and brought to live at the 22-acre refuge.

Leaving Golden and heading east on the TCDA 1 we rode to Kamloops, turned south and followed Route 5 to Hope, our stay for the night. The next day we rolled back into the U.S.A. crossing the border at Aldergrove, Canada, and Lynden, Washington. Then it was south to Seattle, our next rest stop. We spent two days in this great city and hated to leave, but it was time to head out again.

Mount Rainier from Sunrise Visitor Center
At 6,400 feet above sea level, Sunrise Visitor Center provides one of the best views of Mount Rainier and her halo cloud.

Over the next three days, we explored the three largest volcanic mountains in the area: Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. After visiting Sunset Visitor Center on Mount Rainier, we rode south to Packwood, Washington, and spent that night, backward in time, at the historic Hotel Packwood built in 1912. The next day we headed south once again to Mount St. Helens, where we had a steep quarter-mile walk up to Windy Ridge viewpoint to take the required souvenir pictures. When we left St. Helens we followed Curly Creek Road to Wind River Highway into Carson, Washington, and turned east to Hood River, Oregon. The next morning, Jim set a leisurely pace as we rode the 105 miles of the beautiful Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Each of these three mountains has its own unique qualities and inspirations. Mount Rainier’s snow white halo cloud, the still smoking St. Helens and calm stability of Mount Hood gave us multifaceted roads and horizons to remember.

Donner Summit
Jim and our friend, Larry, at Donner Summit. Larry broke off in Idaho and went his own way to Pennsylvania.

Our route home was the rolling prairie land to Lakeview, Oregon, where we spent the night. The next day we enjoyed a relaxing day cruising to Bridgeport, California. In the morning, to cap off our experiences, we went to see the weird calcium-carbonate spires, called tufa, along the shoreline of Mono Lake.

Amazing things happened on this 4,621-mile trip with its expressive skies, one-of-a-kind roads, shimmering white glaciers and majestic wildlife. Can it be topped? You bet it can.




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