Dean Corkill

Cycling the Great Divide

Dean Corkill, Jacqueline Neale, and their twin daughter from Rossland are cycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

A Rossland family is cycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Dean Corkill, Jacqueline Neale and their twin daughters, Loren and Morgan Corkill started out from Banff, Alta. on Aug. 1 and reached Cuba, New Mexico by Wednesday, Oct. 13, having travelled more than 2073 miles.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest off-pavement route in the world, covering 2,774 miles, or over 4,464 kilometers, from Alberta to New Mexico following the spine of the Rocky Mountains. It has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain.

The family decided to undertake the epic ride after Morgan found a guidebook called Cycling the Great Divide by Michael McCoy in the REI Store in Spokane, Wash.

“We’ve done some cycle touring in the past, but not this extensive,” said Dean. “This book caught Morgan’s eye and I guess planted the seed.”

The family’s previous trips include an approximately 400-kilometer trip around Vancouver Island following the Trans Canada Trail, and a 575-kilometer trip from Midway to Hope, also following the Trans Canada Trail. But this is by far the longest cycling trip they’ve undertaken.

Each of them is towing a beast of burden (BOB), a lightweight trailer, that carries their camping supplies. They camp for about three or four days at a time when they’re in between cities, and sometimes camp in town. Sometimes though they look forward to staying in a hotel.

The route has take them through all possible weather conditions: rain, snow, wind, and extreme heat.

“Just in the last week we crossed Indiana Pass, which is the high point of this route, and it’s about 11,910 feet…. When we just got on the backside of that, it was raining that night and we had to camp just alongside the trail, and then the rain turned into snow,” said Dean. “So we went to bed all wet and woke up wet and had a day of cycling wet and cold.”

On the other hand, the family began a three-day journey across the desert after leaving Cuba on Thursday, Oct. 14 with temperatures over 30ºC.

“We have to pack all our water for the next two [or] three days,” said Dean.

Different parts of the route have presented different challenges. So far the challenge in New Mexico has been the thorns. The family has had at least 14 flat tires so far, six in one 24-hour period.

Loren and Morgan are 12 years old and the youngest bikers the family have seen on the route.

The twins attend Rossland Summit School and look forward to returning to school and telling their classmates about their trip across the Great Divide.

Asked what her favourite part of the trip was so far, Loren said, “The downhill.”

The family has received lots of support along the route from other cyclists and kind strangers.

“We stopped in, for example, a restaurant for a taco lunch, and the owner came down to talk to use and learned what we were doing, and he you know gave us some free cake, avocados, his cell phone number in case we had any troubles,” said Dean. “That’s just one example of maybe a dozen examples where people have been really supportive.”

The route ends in Antelope Wells, NM and the family hopes to arrive there on Monday, Oct. 26.