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two wheels, Cycling the Selkirk Loop Two countries,

one ride:

Story and photos by Aaron Theisen

I

consider myself a strong cyclist, but, despite my best efforts, the trio of Canadian cyclists who have volunteered to show me the highlights of road biking in the Canadian Selkirks are casually lapping me. The tiny alpine community of Rossland is one of the highest-elevation towns in Canada, and, although it’s better known for world-class mountain biking, its road-cycling aficionados have plenty to celebrate: low-traffic roads, a nice mix of mellow valley and strenuous mountain roads, and phenomenal scenery in the heart of the Canadian Selkirks. My Canadian hosts were too polite to point it out, but the same terrain that breeds fearless freeriders also shapes steel-calved climbers. My hosts were also fortunate enough to live and ride on the International Selkirk Loop, which should be on any skinnytired cyclist’s life-list. The continent’s only international scenic byway, the International Selkirk Loop winds 280 miles through Washington, Idaho and southern British Columbia, showcasing valley-bottom riding past glacier-carved lakes and the lofty peaks of the Selkirks, with a hefty dose of history on the side. From Sandpoint and beyond the international border, the wellsigned route traces the upturned-boot shape of the east shore of 100

SANDPOINT MAGAZINE

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Kootenay Lake. Cyclists then cross the lake on the world’s longest free ferry before proceeding to the artsy community of Nelson. From there, a quiet highway winds south through the Salmo River valley and across the border to Metaline Falls. Cyclists parallel the north-flowing Pend Oreille River back into Idaho. Six Super Side Trips add another 450 miles of pavement. Despite the abundance of strong cyclists who live and ride along the Selkirk Loop, it’s mostly mellow valley-bottom cycling on the main route. Besides, there’s plenty to keep riders’ minds off saddle-sore legs: Wildlife-watchers can scout for bighorn sheep, mountain goats and birds, and history buffs can tour the many interpretive sites showcasing the region’s pioneer history. All will admire the sky-scraping Selkirks mirrored in the myriad lakes and rivers on the loop. San Diego-based cyclist Creed McPherson has been long-distance touring for 15 years and guiding trips for the Missoula-based Adventure Cycling Association for the last three. McPherson cycled the Selkirk Loop last year – he just didn’t know it when he first clipped into his pedals. “I had some friends who lived on Sacheen Lake with whom I was staying, so I took my bike up into Canada and ran into some

SUMMER 2016

5/11/16 9:04 AM

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2016  

In this Issue: Dog Town, Idaho How people and their dogs have created Sandpoint’s copious canine culture Plus ‘Peaking’ Our Interest - Peak...