Monday, 26 June 2017

Days 24 - 30: Canmore

This entry covers the dates 26 - 30 June.

Monday 26 June

I haven't had such a deep and restful sleep in a long time. The room I was in was cool and dark and, most importantly, quiet.
A lot of the nights in the past 3 weeks have been quite noisy, so having no noise was a real treat.
I ate a quick breakfast, chucked a load of washing into the machine and then sat on the patio with Wilma, not thinking about much.
We went for a quick walk on the mountainside behind her house, taking the Montane Traverse path above the Silvertip golf course.
On the return we got caught in a bit of thunder and lightning, wind and rain. It is quite alarming how much the pine trees bend in the wind!

Tuesday 27th

Wilma proposed a hike along Tent Ridge so we set off quite early, in an attempt to beat the heat, and the crowds.
The hike takes the shape of a horse shoe, ascending the left and descending the right. There was still a bit of snow above the treeline, but apart from that it was a glorious day.
We hiked for about 6 hours and had great views and perfect weather. On the way home we popped into Quarry lake for a quick swim, the water felt amazing on my weary legs.

Wednesday 28th

Explored Canmore by bike and foot today. Legs feeling quite heavy after the walking yesterday. Popped into Graze, Good Earth and finally Grizzly Paw, for food and drinks. Body needs refuelling on a massive scale!
Had Bison burgers on the braai (BBQ) for dinner. They. Are. Tasty!

Thursday 29th

Today Wilma and I would be hiking up Cory Pass/Edith Pass above Banff. The weather was once again perfect. The walk went up from the start, and we were soon 1000m above where we started! My legs were struggling with the altitude, but my lungs were having a ball. 
Stopped in the Pass for lunch and admired the views.
The descent was amazing; scree slopes, streams, old forest, mozzies and sunshine. What a variety all in one hike.

Friday 30th

I met Jane's (from PEI, see previous posts) parents for a cup of tea and a chat today. They live in Canmore too. What a lovely couple. I then popped into the Canmore museum and hit the Grizzly Paw for a very tasty lunch!
Canada Day tomorrow...

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Day 23: Banff to Canmore

With only a short day on the cards today, I took the morning off to check out the town of Banff.
I walked down to Bow Falls then back into town. It was a scorcher today!

I left the hostel at about 1430 and headed down to Canmore to meet Wilma. While on the road I met a cyclist from Columbia, dressed in the Columbian national cycling kit.
He and I chatted all the way into Canmore, and he assured me that Froome would win the Tour de France, with Quintana, from Columbia, finishing second.

One of Wilma's friends had invited us over for a bbq and a firepit. It was a beautiful evening, with the sun only setting at 2215.
Long forks with sausages dangled over the hot coals, the conversations ranged from my trip across the country to photographing rocks in Namibia. A very interesting crowd.

We were back at the house and was in bed by 2300, my body collapsing into a coma-like sleep.

Distance: 27 km
Time: 1:12:31
Height gained/lost: 206m /-200m
Calories: 925

Bow Falls

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Day 22: Lake Louise to Banff

Today was supposed to be an easy/rest day after the Icefields Parkway, but that wasn't quite how the day turned out.
Alex and I were hoping we could extend our stay in Lake Louise for another night, as Alex wanted to see the lake itself, as well as Moraine Lake, and I just wanted to chill.
Lake Louise
There was no chance of an extension so we eventually packed up camp, cycled the 4km to Lake Louise, took some photos and then made out way to Banff via Highway 1A.

It is a beautiful road, narrower than the main highway, but it has a speed limit on it, so what traffic is on there is travelling quite slowly.
1A eh
Being the weekend, there were quite a few other cyclists on the road, mostly going in the opposite direction.
A few did ride past us, going easily twice the speed we were, which was quite depressing.

Further on up the road, we rounded a corner and met the same guys that had passed us, so we stopped for a chat and a photo.
Max Marchand has invited me to stay in Calgary should I need it. Canadians are pretty cool like that.

Alex and I saw another bear, at last!

Lunch stop - 1 pump town
The little hills on the run into Banff took the last out of my legs. Every little effort was killing me, I just wanted to stop.
There are no sites available in the 5 campsites in Banff tonight, it seems that everyone is in town, so I checked into a hostel, the same chain as I stayed in in Revelstoke.

As Alex and I were checking out the hostels, the group of cyclists we had met earlier in the day rode past us again, Max giving me a "Hey, go South Africa!" shout as he went by.
That made me, and a lot of other pedestrians smile.

Here Alex and I parted ways, he went on to Canmore and eventually Calgary.

Poutine and beers were had at the Beaver, the bar attached to the hostel. I am feeling quite relaxed now, and there is karaoke in the bar later, let's see how late I stay up tonight.
A hen party arrived at the bar and turned up the party a notch or 2, then promptly left.

I was in bed by midnight, and slept soundly until 2am, when the other dorm mates came back and continued to 'party'.

Distance: 69.5 km
Time: 3:20:36
Height gained/lost: 764m /-946m
Calories: 2434

As you do...

Friday, 23 June 2017

Day 21: Rampart Creek to Lake Louise

This morning dawned clear and fresh. 3 degrees C fresh! Blue skies and no wind, what a pleasure.

We packed, ate breakfast and were on the road in record time today, a line of 8 brightly coloured cyclists heading towards the sunshine, and coffee, at Saskatchewan River Crossing.
Today would be a slightly longer day than yesterday, with less climbing and more downhill, we're all really looking forward to that.

The first climb of the day starts immediately after the crossing and goes on for about 5km. It's not a steep climb, just a constant drag, and as we were now in the sun, the layers of clothes were coming off quickly.

Once we topped the climb, the road winds though some of the most amazing scenery. I had ridden past it all on the way up the Parkway, but going back down and seeing it all again was incredible. I had to stop on a number of occasions just to absorb it, to sit and stare and take it all in.

Lakes with mirrored surfaces, bubbling and gurgling streams, mountains with glaciers, made even brighter by the blue sky and bright sunshine. This scenery cannot be beaten.

I finally saw my first bear in the Parkway. It was a brown black bear and was casually walking along the roadside, partially obscured by trees, paying us no attention at all.

Peyto Lake
The second climb of the day was the climb up to Bow Summit. This was going to be a test. It was another long haul up the slope, and once at the top, Alex and I went up to Peyto Lake viewpoint. The others coasted on downhill to the Num Ti Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake for lunch.

As Alex had not seen the amazing blue lake before, we stopped for a little while so that he could take all the photos required, and just admire the place.
I was cold again so had a quick lunch in the sunshine in the parking lot. Lunch was 3 slices of badly crumpled bread with peanut butter on them and a large gulp of water.

Bow Lake and a hot choccie
Quickly getting the warm layers back on, Alex and I bombed downhill to the Lodge to try and catch the Saskie Crew. Today was their last day cycling, they were heading back home later today and early tomorrow.
We caught them at the Lodge and enjoyed another hot chocolate.

It was only 35km from the Lodge to the campsite, and mostly downhill, so we made some good time heading into Lake Louise. No further bears were sighted on the Parkway, leaving me with a paltry 1 bear for the records. We did however see deer, many more beautiful lakes and mountains, experience some fast downhills and enjoy a pretty amazing day on the bicycle.

I wonder if motorists have the same thrill driving the Parkway?

We had arranged to meet the Saskie Crew for drinks at the HI Hostel in Lake Louise, so Alex and I grabbed the last campsite in the campground, setup tents, showered and headed over to meet them.
A few beers and packets of chips (crisps) later, we ordered dinner and caught up on the day's events.

I hope to see some of them in Regina when I pass through in a few weeks time. I have been told there is a great place to try Poutine in town!

The Icefields Parkway has been truly amazing. I have met people I could only have imagined meeting, seen nature at its best, had some tough days on the bike, but above all, am very grateful and humbled that I have had the opportunity to cycle in this beauty.

Distance: 96.3 km
Time: 4:46:15
Height gained/lost: 1142m /-1133m
Calories: 3441

Stats: Week 3

Into Alberta this week, leaving BC behind, but not the mountains.
Up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, taking in some of the most amazing scenery ever.
Total Distance: 1521.9 km
Total Time: 78:20:25

Total Height gained/lost: 17125m /-16429m

Total Calories: 51906

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Day 20: Beauty Creek to Rampart Creek

Departure time from the hostel was scheduled for about 0830, and we were ready to go at 0845. Not bad going if you knew how complex packing a bicycle can be.

The Saskatchewan crew
Today we would go back past the Columbia Icefields, which meant a short and punchy climb was coming our way very soon. With little time to warm up, the climb was upon us. It was 11% gradient on the way down, so that could only mean 11% gradient on the way up!
It took a little while for my legs to find a rhythm, but once found they just ticked over.

We stopped at Tangle Falls and then again at the rather unsightly viewpoint at the top of the climb. The very nice attendant let us (almost all the way) in for a group photo.

Next stop was the Icefields itself, some had poutine and coffee, others just hot chocolate!

At the Icefields
The Asian tourists seemed to take a liking to me, a few of them coming over and talking to me, others arranging group photos with me as the centre piece.

Brian and I
From the Discovery Centre at the Icefields, it was another little climb to Parker Ridge before a lovely descent had us whooping in delight as we sped down it!
Around the Big Bend, past the Wailing Wall and into Rampart Creek. I was camping so turned right, the others were in the hostel and turned left.

The Wailing Wall
A little while later, just as I was about to set my tent up, Brian coasted in on his bike and said the hostel manager would let us camp up there for the night. There being the hostel.
I quickly repacked my gear and was soon setup over the road, enjoying the sunlight and mosquito-free environment with a mug of red wine.

This hostel has a wood-fired sauna, which I sat in for ages, occasionally breaking the heat with a quick dip in the icy cold creek running alongside the site.

Dinner was pasta and cheese and soup, from the Saskie crew, and dessert was a delicious, and also donated, carrot cake.

I slept soundly, my body nice and relaxed from the heat and also the relatively short day on the bike.

Distance: 55.8 km
Time: 2:51:22
Height gained/lost: 705m /-846m
Calories: 1909

Saskie Crew at the Icefields

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Day 19: Jasper to Beauty Creek

I had a slightly later start than expected this morning due to prolonged goodbyes at the Hostel.

Saw a couple of elk, my first of the trip, just outside the town, grazing on the side of the road.
Hopefully today I would see some other animals!

It was still a cold start to the day, with overcast conditions expected all day. Would it warm up?
I was chasing down the five from Saskatchewan today as they were heading to Beauty Creek too, but I doubted I would catch them. They had stayed in the Athabasca Falls hostel last night, 30km up the road from me, so had a reasonable headstart.

My bike felt a little sluggish and fat so I stopped at the Sunwapta Falls again, partly to get a hot chocolate and warm up, and also to check on my bike.
When I came out to check Shirley, the rear wheel was completely flat.


Panniers off, tube out, check the tyre, replacement in.
The cause was the wire beading in the tyre. A small section had broken off and had punctured the tube. I removed the wire and all is now well again.

I heard that there were bears up the road but I never saw anything. The Saskie Crew had seen loads!

Rain showers passed me all the way up the valley, but no rain hit the road thankfully, keeping  me dry. Just before Beauty Creek the hail and sleet started to fall on me, but as I was right at the hostel, I wasn't too bothered.

Upon reaching the hostel, the welcome I received when I walked in was FANTASTIC!

Campfire with a full house
"Kevin's here, Kevin's here!", followed by lots of handshakes and greetings from faces both old and new.

I met Alex* from London, another Alex from France/Canada and the usual faces from the Saskie Crew; Brian, Judy, Maya, Miranda, Jim to name a few...

We lit a fire, had a quick 'shower', ate dinner and went to bed. I was tired tonight, so was out just after 9...body feeling good!

Distance: 87.6 km
Time: 4:30:16
Height gained/lost: 986m /-441m
Calories: 2911

Goats and Glaciers viewpoint
* I had heard about Alex from Johno, the South African I passed a few days previously. He had camped with Alex at the campsite in Jasper. Alex had been on the receiving end of a nasty accident.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Day 18: Jasper (Rest day)

It's summer, why is the heating on? And why so hot?

I woke up at 2 this morning and went to the bathroom to wash my face with cold water. Sweat was running off me, this was crazy!

I went back to bed but tossed and turned, it was far too warm to sleep, and landed up getting up at 0730. Still tired.
Breakfast and a cup of tea sorted me out and I went for a quick walk around town.

Came back to the hostel and met Tanya, from Switzerland, who is travelling Canada and the US by hitchhiking and ride sharing! She is a keen cyclist too and was quite excited about my trip. She wants to go back to Bern and start doing the same.
She left early the following morning on a train to Vancouver.

Another German guy had cycled through Chile and we were soon sharing a beer and talking about beers in Germany, as well as cycling.

There was a wigwam being erected in town in preparation for the upcoming pow-wow over the weekend. Jasper is full of tourists and curio shops, as well as a good number of sports shops.

The rain that was forecast for the morning came through just after lunch, and did it pour! The streets were soon running with water, and many people were caught out by the sudden downpour. They came dripping and soaked into the hostel, where we laughed and put the kettle on for tea/coffee.
There was soon a table of us sitting around talking, most had been caught in the rain.

The room was slightly cooler tonight, but sleep was still a distant desire.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Day 17: Beauty Creek to Jasper

I wanted to be out of the door before the Saski crew this morning as they only had a short day. My day was 30km longer.

It was rather nippy and grey this morning with low cloud, all my winter gear was having a hard time keeping me warm on the bike.

I kept passing a Canada Parks van on the road, the occupants doing work on all of the road signs that were not quite standing up straight. On one meeting they warned me that a grizzly bear had been spotted a little way up the road.
I kept me eyes peeled but only saw a few deer.
Johno and me

I pulled in at the Sunwapta Falls for a hot chocolate and bite to eat; I still wasn't warm 90 minutes into my ride.
There was another touring bike parked outside, the rider inside having a coffee.
We got chatting and I soon realised he had an English accent with a twist, much like mine.
I asked him where he was from, he said South Africa.
I asked where in South Africa, he said Cape Town.
"Where in Cape Town?"
"Fish Hoek" he replied.
"Ha, me too."

Small world eh?

Dag's tailfeathers
He nearly choked as he jumped up and hugged me, before quickly running out to his bike and fetching some biltong his dad had posted him from Florida.
We chatted for ages before heading off to look at the Falls. His name is Johno and is quite a character.
After viewing the Falls I decided it was my turn to share with him. I was carrying 2 spare South African flags with me, so gave him one to attach to his bike.
He was over the moon and attached it to his bike there and then!

We parted ways, him going south to Lake Louise, me heading north to Jasper.

I had a tailwind blowing me downhill today, I was flying. I passed Dag, from Norway, coming the other way, moaning about the headwind. Ha!

Athabasca Falls were next on the list of places to stop today. They are quite impressive, a calm river carving its way through some pretty hard bedrock, potholes and canyons evidence of a strong river.

Rolling into Jasper that evening, the Canada Parks van drove past me, hooted and waved, then drove on. Nice of them!

The weather wasn't improving, so I checked into the local hostel in Jasper for 2 nights. Tomorrow would be a day spent exploring the town, weather permitting.

Distance: 91.4 km
Time: 3:58:06
Height gained/lost: 469m /-1000m
Calories: 2812