Jasper, AB to Denver, CO

 

Fall 2012

 

Denis Kertz, ©2012

 

Day 0 – 9/2/2012, Edmonton, Alberta

My friend Dave picked me up and drove me to Chicago’s O'Hare Airport for my 8:45 am flight on WestJet to Edmonton, Alberta with a stopover in Vancouver.  Air Canada actually had a direct flight to Edmonton but it cost $100 more and they charged $40 for checked luggage (both charged $50 for the bike) so WestJet was the economical choice.

 

I always forget something for a trip and I remembered that I hadn't brought along a pair of shorts, although I had a pair of gym shorts.  That wasn't a big deal because it's easy to buy a pair of shorts and the weather was at least initially supposed to be cool enough that I probably wouldn't be wearing shorts in the evening anyway. Then it hit me – I forgot to bring my NiZn battery charger.  This was a serious issue because this type of charger isn't available just anywhere.  After my initial panic I realized this wasn't quite the catastrophe I thought it was.  In the worst case I could have someone mail my charger to my sister in Hamilton, MT, and I would eventually get it.  I had lots of AA batteries already charged and I could always buy more AA batteries.  For the rest of the day I mulled over different possible solutions.

 

My flight arrived 20 minutes early in Vancouver which was nice.  There was a 2 hour layover to get through customs and catch the next flight and the added 20 minutes only helped the cause.  There were a lot of people checking through customs and probably 90% were Asian.  That's probably not surprising since Vancouver would seem to be a natural Canada destination for Asians traveling to Canada.

 

In any event customs went reasonably quickly given the large crowd.  What didn't go so well was getting checked into my next flight.  I ended up at a WestJet terminal with no one around and no one answering the courtesy phone.  Eventually I learned I was at a US flight only terminal and was told to take a hike to another terminal at the other end.  However, this turned out to be only for International flights and there was no WestJet.  Finally I learned that I had to walk even further and then around a bend where there were terminals for Canada only flights.  It was a good thing that there was a lot of time or I would have been panicking trying to catch my next flight.

 

The flight to Edmonton was uneventful and a few minutes early.  All my baggage arrived and it was easy to get to the Avis terminal where I had a reservation for a one-way rental to Jasper for $78.  It was a bit confusing trying to match my Google maps for my Courtyard at Cree River Resort with the map I got from Avis.  It was also further than I thought, over 30 miles although it was easy driving.

 

However, my Google Map was no good.  It directed me to a place where there was nothing.  Fortunately there was a 7-11 store where the lady knew how to get to the resort and her directions got me on my way.  It was a bit unnerving when a sign directed me down a somewhat rough road but eventually I spotted the Courtyard which was attached to a casino.

 

By the time I got checked in it was 6pm and I still had to put my bike together and repack everything.  I had a bite to eat at a bar in the casino which was very good but expensive at $13 for a chicken sandwich.

 

By the time I got the bike all put together and my panniers somewhat repacked it was after 10pm, which was 11pm Chicago time, and I was really starting to drag after a long day.  So I hurriedly wrote my notes and hit the sack knowing I still had some more packing to do in the morning.

 

Day 3 9/3/2012 – Jasper 2.53 17:05 9.42 19.11

I woke up at 5:30 which was really 6:30 my time.  I did some more research on getting my battery charger.  I finally gave up on getting it quickly and just decided it was best to go for the sure thing – mail my charger to my sister.

 

Just past 6:30 I went down for the breakfast buffet and was the only one there.  I didn't need a big breakfast but I like the Courtyard buffet and figured this would last me most of the day.  Back in my room I finalized my packing and loaded my bike in the car.  It turned out my Hyundai Elanta rear seats both folded down so I was able to slide my bike in sideways after removing the front tire.  I finally headed out a little before 9:30.

 

I backtracked to the Yellowknife Highway, Hwy 16, and headed for Jasper, some 360K away, or 220 miles.  The scenery was okay but not too exciting.  It was mostly rolling with some hay fields for about the first third of the way and then just forests the rest of the way.  I didn't arrive in Jasper until about 1pm.  Before reaching Jasper I entered Jasper National Park and paid $20 for a couple of days in the park.

 

I drove through town to get the lay of the town, and it was just a long line of typical tourist stops on the west side of the road.  I wanted to find 404 Connaught because that was where I needed to drop off my car but none of the shops seemed to have addresses.  I finally stopped at an outdoors store and bought a stuff sack for my down vest and a bottle of bear spray.  I had bought bear spray before I left for the trip but then found it wasn't allowed on the plane so I had to leave it behind.  This one was cheaper - $34 vs. $45 – and it also included a holster.  I also had to fill out a form since Canada treated this like buying a weapon.  Of course, I hoped to never use it and figured there was little chance I would but it didn't seem an unreasonable expense for something that could prove life saving.

 

I discovered the store was at 408 Connaught and I needed to find 404.  That wasn't that easy without stores having visible addresses.  I did find 404 a couple doors down at a hotel but the guy there said it wasn't the place.  He told me it was 5 doors down and I finally found the place.  Then I filled the car with gas and did my first food shopping for the trip.  By the time I got all my food packed up I only had about an hour left to get my car checked in.

 

Then I walked down the street with my bike to a Subway for lunch.  Normally I would have had a foot long sub, eating half and saving half for later but the morning had started with the feeling that I was coming down with a sore throat.  It was only a mild one so far but Subway offered a special 6-inch sub plus soup so I went for that, hoping the chicken soup would help my throat.

 

Finally, around 4pm I headed south out of town.  It was a long 2 miles and then a turn off to the Whistlers Campground where I got a walk in tent site for $22.50, not a particularly great value but about what I expected.  Since this was bear country, there was a nearby food locker, a building about twice the size of an outhouse with rows of small lockers inside without any locks.

 

The big question for the week was the weather.  It sounded mostly okay but some chance for rain and time would tell.  Of course, the bigger question was whether I was going to really get sick or just have a mild sore throat.  Starting tomorrow there would hardly be any services until Lake Louise, which was probably a 3-day ride.  That caused me to buy a fair amount of food to make sure I could last between the couple places with food along the way.

 

The campground was a grazing ground for elk.  While I was typing my notes an elk cow walked by within 20 feet grazing as she moved.  Later a bull elk wandered through a couple camp sites away and later a few more elk cows wandered through, one with a radio collar.  I wondered if she felt her privacy was being violated.


 

 

Day 1 9/4/2012 – Beauty Creek Hostel 55.9 6:19:40 8.83 30.82 3000 1632

I wasn't in a hurry to get up in the morning because I wanted to catch breakfast down the road and wasn't sure how early breakfast would be available now that the off season had started.  So I didn't leave camp until about 8am with almost nobody else up yet.  Less than a mile down the road I stopped at Jasper House for breakfast which had opened at 7am.  I was fortunate that they had WiFi so I was able to check my email and learned my colleague at work had a problem with something he was covering for me while I was gone.  So I was able to give what I hoped was a helpful response.  Breakfast itself wasn't that great – 3 medium size pancakes.

 

With tending to work I didn't get on the road until almost 9:30.  I learned yesterday that a number of campgrounds were now closed for the season so the next campground was the Icefields which was over 60 miles away.  However, I would be following the Athabasca River upstream all day so there was a fair amount of gradual climbing for the day.

 

Shortly I turned off 93 onto 93A which was a quiet road without a shoulder and didn't need one with the light traffic.  The views were okay but things improved considerably when I reached the end of 93A and rejoined 93.  There I stopped to see the Athabasca Falls which were nice.  I also met an English bicycle touring couple.  They had ridden up from Banff and said this was the first decent weather day for them.  They were going to turn around when they reached Jasper and ride back to see the sights they had missed, hoping for better weather on their return leg.

 

Continuing on 93 the views were much better with views of the mountains on both sides of the road.  At one point the mountains on the east side of the road looked like someone had just sliced the sides of the mountains off.  Further on I stopped at the Sunwapta Falls, similar to the Athabasca Falls but not quite as big.  There was a restaurant at the turnoff and I debated getting a meal but I still had a long way to go so I settled for a maple walnut muffin.

 

I continued on but now I was following the Sunwapta River since the Athabasca River had split off to the west.  It was clear that making the Icefield Campground was going to be really pushing it, particularly since the last part required some steep climbing.  My right knee was feeling a little stressed so it was a fairly easy decision to stop at the Beauty Creek wilderness hostel, about 10 miles shorter than the campground.

 

The hostel was just off the road and had no electricity or running water but did have drinking water in containers.  The hostel also used the public restroom facilities at a turnout along the road.  It was right next to the Sunwapta River so I just jumped into the river quickly to clean up.

 

There was a young couple already at the hostel when I arrived just after 5pm and a Japanese guy showed up later and then later a couple of young ladies appeared who had a reservation followed later by several guys.  So what I hoped might be a quiet place turned out to be fairly crowded.

 

In any event, the good news is that my sore throat proved to be minor.  It only bothered me a little sleeping last night and was no problem bicycling during the day.

 

Day 2 9/5/2012 – Rampart Creek CG 36.52 5:02:36 7.23 27.08 1938 2468

I was the first person up which made sense since I was the first person in bed last night.  I didn't know how to turn on the propone lights in the kitchen so I ate in the dark with just enough light to see.  About the time I was ready to leave most folks were getting up.

 

I left just after 8am.  It was a relatively easy initial 5 miles on my climb to Sunwapta Pass but then I started a steep 3 mile climb where I was climbing at 3mph.  When I stopped for a breather I saw a loaded cyclist racing down the hill in the other direction.  When he pulled in behind a camper he did what every touring cyclist dreams of - he pulled out and passed the camper.

 

My right knee didn't particularly like the climb.  I think it must have been tendinitis or something similar.  This is the first time I recalled have any knee/leg problem on a tour and I didn't know what would have caused it.

 

After the steep climb I rode into what looked like a level area but I was still climbing at 5mph.  This was the Columbia Icefield area and I could see the ice fields.  After about 14 miles I stopped at the huge Icefield Centre.  The icefields were the site of a massive glacier area covering 233 square miles with most of it invisible from the road.  The Athabasca Glacier, a tongue of the Icefield, was visible from the road and a big tourist draw was taking a bus trip on to the glacier and stepping out on the glacier.

 

I was hoping I might get breakfast at the centre but the dining room was closed so I had to settle for a sandwich and muffin in the coffee shop.  Then I checked with the park information to be sure I knew which campgrounds were open ahead.

 

When I resumed riding at 11:30 it was an easy couple miles the rest of the way to the pass but a light drizzle started near the pass.  It was an overcast day and the temperature never got out of the 40s.  Initially the drizzle was just a nuisance but then I stopped to put on my rain pants.  A short time later I stopped to replace my water resistant jacket with my rain jacket.  I would have opted for my cold weather gloves and waterproof Seal Skinz socks but I wasn't sure where they were packed.

 

With the rain I never turned the bike loose on the descent from the pass.  Just when I thought I had to stop and find my gloves and socks the rain stopped and it got a little warmer.  After 35 miles I came to the Rampart Creek CG.  I could have gone further but the next CG was way too far away.  There was also a hostel option but I decided on camping.  It would have been nice to be inside but, based on last night's hostel, I wouldn't have been able to check in for at least a couple of hours.  I also liked having everything with me in my tent and not worrying about disturbing anyone when getting up in the morning.

 

I paid $17.60 for a tent site where there looked to be only one other camper, although that changed later.  I settled in, ate, and took a short nap.  Later the sky cleared a bit and the Sun put in a brief appearance.

 

A highlight of the day was seeing a small herd of 8-10 mule deer but I didn’t stop because it was drizzling.  I also saw a group of supported cyclists and a touring couple with small panniers, all headed in the opposite direction.

 

Day 3 9/6/2012 – Lake Louise 61.32 7:21:06 8.33 37.05 3193 2962

It was a pretty chilly night, down around freezing, but I don't think it rained overnight.  However, my single-walled tent was wet inside from condensation.  I got up around 7am and packed up my wet tent.  There was a food place just down the road about 8 miles so I didn't bother with breakfast.

 

When I got up the sky was clear but some low lying clouds moved in and it became foggy so there was almost nothing to see.  I arrived at the Crossing Resort right around 9am and made a beeline for the restaurant.  I plugged in my laptop but there was no WiFi but I figured I would get my battery charged, only to learn later that the outlet didn't work.

 

So I struck out on my PC but lucked out on breakfast.  They had a basic breakfast buffet for $15 that I took advantage of.  The best part was they had French toast on wheat bread.  I probably got the equivalent of two $15 breakfasts and I figured I would need it with the upcoming climb to Bow Pass.  The attached gift shop also had a small grocery store and there I found some Advil and I quickly popped an Advil, hoping that would help my aching right knee.  When I left there were 2 large buses just pulling in and I would have hated to be behind that crowd.

 

Immediately I crossed the North Saskatchewan River and the road climbed steeply for about 3 miles.  My right knee felt good and I climbed well so I assumed the Advil did the trick.  After this initial steep climb the climbing was moderate until the final steep climb to the pass.  Scenery was great with the mountains in view.

 

When I was getting close to the final climb I stopped for my second, cereal breakfast at 12:30.  I was looking for a good place to stop and finally realized one of the road signs was perfect.  I was able to lean my bicycle against the sign and there was a 2-step platform for changing the signage that made a nice little bench.

 

I started the final assault on Bow Pass at 1pm.  Neither the earlier climb nor this climb was quite as steep as yesterday's climb to the Ice Fields.  This final climb was 4 miles and again my knee handled it well.  It was great to be back in regular, if slow, climbing mode.

 

I made the pass at 2:30 and descended to a beautiful view of Bow Lake below.  I was tempted to stop at the lake lodge for food but a check of my map showed I was only 21 miles from Lake Louise and most of it was downhill.  My knee concern hadn’t allowed me to consider making Lake Louise but I realized it would be better to make it today and avoid tomorrow, the start of the weekend.

 

There were some more nice views of mountains and lakes along the way.  The lakes were really spectacular with their turquoise water that contrasted with the surroundings.

 

I pulled into Lake Louise right at 5pm.  I considered making a quick trip to the lake but a road warning for large campers suggested it might not be so quick so I opted for the nearby campground.  My tent site cost $27.40 and the ranger who checked me in asked if I wanted to share my site.  For some folks the site cost is pretty steep and splitting it two ways was a big savings.  So they kept track of any cyclist willing to share with someone else who wanted to save some dollars.

 

Interestingly, the campground was surrounded by an electrified fence to keep the bears out.  They still required locking up food and there was a food locker nearby that was convenient for me to use.  I kept almost all of my food in one of my front panniers so I simply moved the rest of my food items into that pannier and put the entire pannier in the food locker.

 

Showers were included with the tent site so I cleaned up and rinsed out my recent cycling clothing.  Then I walked back to the town centre on a trail along the Bow River and had a good but fairly expensive hamburger.

 

Day 4 9/7/2012 – Lake Louise 36.77 4:44:45 7.74 41.41 2576 2614

Originally I was going to pack the bike and ride up to Lake Louise but I got thinking that probably wasn't smart since I could leave everything in camp and ride up unloaded.  So I headed toward town undecided whether to eat first or ride up and get something to eat but the decision was made for me.  Before I got to town my fingers and toes were freezing so I rode to the bakery which was the only thing I knew that was open this early.  I had coffee and a breakfast sandwich.  There I learned from a guy that it had reached -2C overnight which I was unaware of in my comfortable new sleeping bag.

Just after 8 I decided it was time to hit the road.  It was a little warmer and the first part of the 2.5 mile climb was steep so that helped warm me up.  It was a good thing I left everything in camp since I don't know if I could have made it up on a loaded bike.  After the initial steep mile it wasn't so bad.

It was a good time to arrive at the lake with the morning light was just right for lake viewing.  The lake, a glacial lake of emerald color from the rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake, is also the site of the Chateau Lake Louise, a grand hotel on the east shore of the lake.  The hotel is a popular place for weddings throughout the year and I saw a couple of newly weds that were evidence of that. There was a large 18-wheeler truck in the parking lot that was transporting a group of cyclists riding for cancer but I didn’t know if the truck carried the cyclists up to the lake or whether they rode up on their light racing bikes. 

As I wandered around I decided to spend the day in Lake Louise rather than rush out.  With other things to do I rode back down to town and extended my tent site for another night.  Then I rode to the Javalanche Cafe which advertised WiFi.  However, what I learned was the first 15 minutes were free and then you had to pay.

Since I hadn't gotten on the Internet since Tuesday morning I signed up for an hour of service since this appeared to be the only WiFi source in town.  I also stopped at the park information place where I inquired about riding to Moraine Lake.  I was advised against it with the warning that the road was winding and narrow and dangerous.  I was advised to wait until after 6 pm if I really wanted to ride and was also advised there was a shuttle service.

After taking care of these things I decided it was time to replenish my cash supply but found the ATM machine in the grocery store rejected my request.  Later after thinking about it I remembered having trouble getting money from my savings account when I was in New Zealand.  Thinking that might be the problem I rode back to the cafe where I still had 13 minutes of time on my WiFi time and managed to move some money from my savings into my checking account.  Unfortunately, that didn't work.

So I called Chase on a pay phone since I couldn't get service on my cell phone.  There I learned the problem almost certainly was that my cash card only worked with a couple of financial networks and the local ATM machines didn't work with them.  Very strange that a major bank's cash card doesn't work in a major Canadian tourist spot.  I know the local ATM machines worked with Cirrus which is one of the major networks but my cash card doesn't think so.  So I was stuck with little cash and having to manage until I could find an ATM machine that works with it.

With that disappointment, I rode back up to Lake Louise in mid-afternoon where it was much more crowded and the lighting was harsh for photos.  I walk back along the 1.5 mile lake trail which did give a good view looking back at the chateau and a good photo.  By the time I was done with the hike it was just after 5pm and I decided it was time to try the road to Moraine Lake.

I found the road was just fine.  It only had a little shoulder but there wasn't very much traffic in my direction.  So it was an enjoyable ride although it was almost 7 miles and took about an hour.  Mostly it was some climbing with about a mile descent to the lake at the end.  Most of the ride was through forests and the scenery didn't get interesting until the last couple of miles.

I found Moraine Lake was more scenic than Lake Louise in some ways if less famous.  It was smaller and more intimate with high peaks surrounding much of the lake.  Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to enjoy the view so I only spent about 15 minutes before I felt I had to head back to beat darkness.

The ride back was fantastic.  I thought the climb out of the descent to the lake was going to be a bear but it was just modest climbing.  After that it was mostly downhill and I cruised mostly in the 20s but had a couple of stretches in the 30s and hit a max of 41 mph.  This return was really an enjoyable ride so the combination of the scenery and the ride was well worth it.

I made it back to town just after 7 with over an hour of daylight left.  I stopped at a service station and picked up a sub and a couple of cinnamon rolls for $10, a fairly reasonable price for this resort area.  Then I rode back to camp and settled in for the night.

Day 5 9/8/2012 – Radium Hot Springs 87.86 9:32:07 9.2 39.54 3630 5584

I slept much better last night, probably because I slept so poorly the night before.  I packed up and rode into town just a little later than yesterday.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the bakery they were out of ham or bacon sandwiches so I had to settle for a plain egg and cheese sandwich.  This place is popular and you would think they would have a better idea of their customer base.  They could have sold many more ham/bacon sandwiches if they were prepared.

After eating I did some grocery shopping at the food store next door.  While I was packing my food away, a lady from the bakery came out to ask some standard questions about my bike and trip.  Apparently having to watch me pack my food made questions inevitable.  Interestingly, when I said I started in Jasper she said “Oh, you left yesterday”, having no clue 150 miles in a day would be unreasonable.

By the time I left around 8:30 the temperature was fine.  It seemed that this morning was a little warmer than yesterday.  I rode straight out of town and picked up the Bow Valley Parkway which paralleled the TransCan but was on the east side of the Bow River and had much less traffic.

It was mostly gradual downhill for the 20 miles to Castle Junction with some nice views of the mountains on either side of the valley.  Along the way three riders passed me and a fourth one tried to catch me.  However, he didn't quite make it and then there were some downhills where my weight disadvantage became an advantage and he disappeared from view.

Just before Castle Junction there were some mountains, Castle Mountain, on the east that looked like the side of a castle.  Then as I reached the junction several more cyclists passed me and rode into a parking lot and I figured out what was going on.  They were part of a supported group called Bicycle Adventures.  I wondered where they were headed next.

I picked up 93 west and soon was passed by some of the same cyclists again so I presumed they were on the way to Radium Hot Springs as I was.  This promised to be a long day.  Radium was over 80 miles and farther than I wanted to go but a potential intermediate campground was closed for the season.  My only other option was a park lodge which I considered a fall back.

I immediately had about a three mile climb to a pass.  This was followed by a descent through some nice mountains that were somewhat marred by the aftermath of a forest fire.  After descending for a ways the route turned 90 degrees left and headed south following the Vermillion River.  At Vermillion Crossing I considered the park lodge option but it was just after 2pm and way too soon to stop.

The entire day was mostly gradual downhill but I also had a modest headwind which offset this somewhat.  After about 12 miles the route turned 90 degrees right and headed west.  At Kootenay Crossing it veered south again following the Kootenay River.  Here I passed a campground that at 70 miles would have been a reasonable stopping point if it hadn’t been closed for the season.

I continued south with the Kootenay Range on my right and the Vermillion Range on my left.  The Kootenay Range was of particular interest because I had to eventually cross it to get to Radium Hot Springs.  During all this time I had a few snacks and totally forgot about my second breakfast.  Given the long day and the modest first breakfast it would seem a second breakfast would have been on my mind but it totally escaped me.

Late in the afternoon I saw two loaded cyclists heading north and I wondered where they were going to stay for the night.  I also stopped at a rest area just before the climb to the pass and saw a couple enjoying an afternoon snooze next to a picnic table.

Finally after 72 miles I started the climb to Sinclair Pass.  This turned out to be longer than I expected, about 7 miles.  I started at about 5:10 and reached the pass at 6:30.  It was a hard climb, mostly at 3.5 mph.  From the summit it was a fun 8 mile descent to Radium.

In town I chose a private campground because the park campground was off route 1.5 miles and up a steep hill and I didn't need any more climbing for the day, but it cost me.  The private campground cost almost $40 for a camp site.  I saw vacancy signs on all the motels in town so I wondered what they would have cost but I figured they weren’t cheap since this was a tourist town.  At least the campground included showers and had WiFi.

One problem with the campground is that it didn't have any food lockers for protection from bears.  The office offered to let me store my pannier with food overnight but they didn't open until 9am and that was much too late for me.  Eventually I decided to just put my food pannier in the men's restroom overnight.

Day 6 9/9/2012 – Skookumchuck 62.78 6:23:36 9.81 30.82 2166 2366

I got up at my usual time and retrieved my food pannier from the restroom.  I left about 7:30 and had a big climb to get back up to street level.  My first goal was to get cash.  I tried a service station ATM machine but it said debit cards weren't working and my debit card didn't work to get cash presumably because of this.  The next service station ATM supported the necessary financial network but failed to deliver any cash.

So I decided it was time to eat breakfast.  I was hoping I might find a breakfast buffet but struck out on that.  So I tried a restaurant that claimed it was voted the best breakfast in town.  Since there didn't appear to be many breakfast places I wasn't sure that was a big deal.  I had a regular breakfast and it was good with large portions but it cost $21.

As I was leaving a Canadian from Quebec asked me about my bicycle.  He was confused because it looked like it had one gear and he didn't understand that.  At first I pretended that was all I needed and he looked at me incredulously.  Then I explained it was a Rohloff internal geared hub with 14 gears.  He obviously spoke French and had to struggle a little to converse in English.  His female companion, presumably his wife, noted that he had ridden solo from Vancouver to Quebec.

When I left breakfast there were a couple rain drops on my bicycle seat so I inquired inside about the weather forecast and was told it was 40% rain today and 50% rain tomorrow.  It was very overcast so that seemed reasonable.

My goal for the day was a more reasonable 60 miles to Skookumchuck where there were a couple of motels where I could hole up if the weather was bad enough.  There was an initial climb out of town that gave a good view of the valley and the mountains to the west.

It was an easy 11 miles to Invermere, a town of 2800 where I hoped to solve my cash problem.  I crossed the Columbia River into town and stopped at the first service station but its ATM machine was the same type that failed in Lake Louise.  However, I'm always looking at sun glasses, figuring you can never have too many.  I found one that had a brownish tint and it looked a lot better on an overcast day like today than my somewhat darker sun glasses so I got it for $21.  It turned out to be a good choice for the day's viewing.

Next I stopped at a grocery store but it had the same Lake Louise ATM machine.  But a little further I found a Bank of Montreal (BOM).  Its ATM machine supported the Plus network so I expected it to work but it didn't.  For good measure I also tried withdrawing from my checking account but that failed too.  Depressed, I decided to give it one more try at the CIBC bank across the street before calling Chase and asking why they disliked Canada.  So I went to the CIBC bank, inserted my card which disappeared, entered all the appropriate data, and waited with bated breath.  It seemed to be working but then my card was ejected.  Just as I started to leave out popped the cash.  I was so excited I forgot to take my receipt but found it later when I went back.

Naturally I decided this warranted a celebration.  With no saloon open nearby, I headed to the bakery shop with its inviting Open neon light only to discover it was closed on Sundays.  But I wasn't too disappointed since the day was now by definition a success.

The route out of Invermere was West Side Road on the, as you can guess, west side of the Windemere Lake, parallel to the busy 93/95 on the east side.  This was a low traffic road with chip seal that made it a little rough.  For the last few miles the road had a lot of patches but they were mostly easy to avoid on a bicycle with little traffic on the road.

After 30 miles the road rejoined 93/95 where there was a foodmart.  Brimming with cash I stopped for my second breakfast, buying milk and a pastry.  When I resumed riding I was passed by three cyclists.  I wondered where they were headed and soon found out.  I rode 93/95 only for a couple miles and then turned off on to Columbia Lake Road where I soon found the three cyclists coming back.  So I was pretty sure they were doing a loop ride from Invermere.

This lake road didn't last too long before I rejoined 93/95 for the rest of the day.  Before long I reached the end of Columbia Lake and passed by Canal Flats where I stopped at another foodmart for a drink and a snack.  It was cool to both have cash and accessibility to some foodmarts for a change.

Despite the early morning overcast the weather had actually turned out pretty good with some sunshine.  But as I headed out for the remaining 17 miles to Skookumchuck, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that the weather was no longer looking good behind me, where it appeared to be raining.  I realized then that I was in a race against time.  Fortunately, after an initial climb the road flattened out and descended a little.  In addition I also had a healthy tailwind so I was really flying at times.

I didn’t think I could out run the rain but it didn't seem to be catching up with me and things were looking okay ahead of me although not so great to the west.  Just when I finally thought I could really win this race I noticed it was raining behind me, to the west, and ahead of me.  Shortly it started raining on me and I stopped to put on my rain gear.  At that point the race was over and I didn't push the pace.

As I entered town there was a motel/RV complex and I immediately stopped to get a motel.  The proprietor said the weather was supposed to get much worse later tonight.  I got a kitchenette for $80, $10 off the regular price and moved in although I wasn't allowed to take my bike inside.

After cleaning up I walked across the street to a little general store that had some food and got a sandwich and a few other things for dinner.  The interesting thing was the weather had cleared up and the sun was shining when I walked back to the motel.

After eating I used the WiFi which was awfully slow and caught up on email and weather predictions.  Tomorrow remained uncertain.  If the weather looked bad enough I was prepared to take a layover day.

With a little more time on my hand than normal, I investigated the problem I was having with my head lamp, a Zebra Light.  This is a very nice headlamp using one AA battery with a headband.  It can be used for reading or as a flashlight in camp.  With its LED light it provides a uniform light source.  So I was disappointed to find I was having trouble with it.  The light would come on initially and then a short time later turn off.  Sometimes I could turn it back on momentarily but only for a very short time.  I suspected a faulty light switch and I didn't figure that was something I could fix.

So I was thinking about ordering another light and having it delivered to my sister for pickup when I visited her in Montana.  But then as I was playing around with it some more I noticed the light was flickering before it went out.  I recalled that happened when the battery was low, something I didn't consider because this was a recently charged battery.  However, batteries are an important part of my traveling gear so I had picked up a Radio Shack miniature voltmeter just before I left so I could test my batteries and testing revealed the battery voltage was low.  I was using a NiZn rechargeable battery and I had noticed that some of my older batteries didn't appear to hold their charge and this battery was one of them.

So I saved $64 by avoiding ordering a new light.  I also solved another problem with this light.  It has a push button switch and it wasn’t that hard to inadvertently turn on the light and use up the battery charge.  However, when looking at the light on the Internet I learned that this could be prevented by just unscrewing the battery cap slightly.  In fact, it is possible I had a low battery because the light got switched on at some point although I still suspect a weak battery.

Day 7 9/10/2012 – Skookumchuck

I woke up at my normal time but in a real bed for a change.  The big question was to ride on or take a layover day.  I had hoped to make it to Fernie before taking a rest day just because there would be more things to do in a real town.  The problem with this place was it didn't have a restaurant (actually it did until it closed this summer), just a small store with some groceries.  The motel's WiFi was also erratic.  I debated riding down the road 11 miles to Wasa which had a restaurant but there was no guarantee its motel would be available (I noticed that the other motel in Skookumchuck showed no vacancy).

In the end I decided to stay put.  The weather report was calling for a couple of thunderstorms and showers around in the evening.  I also was at the point I needed a rest day within a few days anyway and I always like to use bad weather days for a rest day.

My legs did feel very tired this morning so maybe this was the right time for a rest day.  The problem is if you wait too long for a rest day it may take several days to really recover.  Later I laid in bed reading my book and I fell asleep.  I kept waking and thinking I should get up but I kept falling asleep again.  I didn't get up until the housekeeper knocked and then I saw it was 12:30.  So I slept most of the morning so I must have been more tired than I thought.

The housekeeper not only woke me up but brought me a surprise.  A couple of guys left this morning and had a little extra food.  They suggested she give it to the cyclist.  Probably they saw my bicycle locked outside and figured a cyclist could always use some extra food.  So I got a turkey sandwich, some bread, and some ham.  I promptly made a ham sandwich for lunch.

As it turned out the weather was okay with sun in the afternoon.  The weather forecast still mentioned showers around in the evening but I obviously could have ridden all day without weather problems.  But I certainly got some needed rest.

Day 8 9/11/2012 – Fernie 84.76 9:23:07 9.02 29.57 2626 2054

I slept pretty well considering I slept a lot yesterday.  I packed up and left at 7:30.  The weather website said it was 41F which seemed somewhat warm.  It didn't take long to figure out that it was quite a bit colder than that.  My bike computer said 26F which might have been a little overboard but I could believe 28F.  The upshot was I left with no socks and my regular cycling gloves so my toes and fingers got very cold.

Wasa was only 11 miles down the road and I expected to get breakfast there.  It was cold most of the way until the sun finally appeared over the mountains.  Then it started warming up fairly quickly.  There was a pretty fair amount of traffic on the road and a lot of it was big trucks.  There was a wide shoulder so the traffic wasn't dangerous but it sure was noisy.

I stopped at a small store in Wasa and a woman outside said there was a restaurant at the other end of the lake but she wasn't sure if it was open.  I took a chance and rode on where I found 3 restaurants but nothing open.  One claimed to be a diner but it looked like a fast food joint.

So I rode on another 12 miles to Fort Steele.  Fort Steele is a heritage town that was initially a gold rush boom town.  I rode through the parking area looking for a restaurant.  Not finding anything I concluded I would have to go into town which was a little off the route.  Since it was 10:30 I wasn't sure breakfast would be served anymore so I stopped at the foodmart at the junction where my route had me picking up the Wardner-Fort Steele road.  I got milk for my cereal breakfast and a banana.

The side road provided relief from the noisy traffic and it passed through some nice ranch land next to the mountains.  It was 25 miles to Jaffray with the road rejoining 3/93 about 8 miles from Jaffray.  At this point I was riding and would be riding a route to Waterton Lakes that I had previously followed on my 2005 tour from Seattle to Chicago across southern Canada.

At 2:30 I stopped in Jaffray for a break and had a ham/egg sandwich, a bear claw, and a Gatorade.  At this point there wasn't a good option if continuing on other than riding some 30 miles to Fernie, which was a little further than I wanted to go for the day.  Ideally, I would have ridden due east to Fernie but there were a couple of mountains in the way.  So I had to ride south to a break in the mountains and then make a U turn and ride north to Fernie.  My route had me picking up a route to Baynes Lake to avoid 3/93 but I chose to stay on 3/93 because it was about 4 miles shorter.  Then just outside Jaffray a sign said 47 to Fernie and I almost had a heart attack until I remembered that was kilometers and close to the 30 miles I expected.

There was a little climbing to Elko but otherwise the route was not that hard.  At Elko there was an opportunity for camping but it looked like camping in a field along the road which didn't look appealing.  So I continued on knowing I had a little less than 20 miles to Fernie and it was 4pm.  The route from Elko to Fernie is very scenic as I remembered.  It wiggled its way around the mountains and followed the Elk River upstream.  The bad thing was the shoulder left something to be desired.  It was fairly rough chipseal, there were rumble strips just outside the white line, and around the curves there were concrete protection blocks.  With the presence of the concrete blocks it was a bit of a challenge to keep the bike to the right of the rumbles without challenging the concrete blocks while traffic whizzed by.

Finally, the shoulder improved to smooth asphalt with about 10 miles to go.  Along the way there were several good views of the Three Sisters and the Elk River with some folks fishing from boats in the river.  The Elk River is reputedly one of the best fly-fishing spots in North America.

I rode into Fernie at 6pm, a little better time than I expected.  There was a campground just outside town but I was hoping to get in town.  I saw a sign on the way in advertising private rooms for $40 at the International Lodge just past the Chrysler place but when I got to the Chrysler place there was no sign of an International Lodge.  There was, however, the Raging Elk Hostel where I got a dorm room for $28.

After I got settled in I walked down the street a ways where I had a wood-fired pepperoni pizza which was good and just about the right amount of food for a hungry cyclist after a fairly hard day.

Surprisingly, my knee which hadn’t bothered me for several days bothered me some after the rest day.

Day 9 9/12/2012 – Pincher Creek 78.4 8:21:28 9.37 38.29 3323 2914

I got up shortly after 7 and tried to get my baggage together as quietly as possible in order to not disturb the only other occupant of my dorm room.  I carried my stuff out to the lobby and when the office opened at 8 I grabbed the key for the bike shed and got my bike out and loaded up.  Then I went downstairs into the kitchen where the hostel supplied pancake mix and coffee.  I made 5 good sized pancakes for a good breakfast.  I figured this was at least equivalent to a $10 breakfast, making my stay somewhat cheaper.

While I was eating breakfast I met Connie from Halifax who was working on her PhD.  She said she was studying local currency at Nelson and Fernie.  When I heard that I assumed she was working on economics but she was actually working on anthropology.  So it was an interesting discussion in addition to a good breakfast.

After Connie left my roommate showed up.  He had ridden his motorcycle from Panama and had stayed over a day because yesterday was too chilly for him to want to ride his motorcycle.  In all I knew of only 3 guys and 2 women who were staying at the hostel.  This is a very large hostel and presumably is much busier during the skiing season.

When I left the temperature was reasonable and I stopped at a grocery store on the way out of town.  As I was packing away the food it occurred to me I could have waited until I got over the pass to buy food but now I was going to have to carry it all up to Crow's Nest Pass.

It was 9:30 by the time I actually left town, following the Elk River upstream to Sparwood.  It was a gradual climb all the way with, again, lots of noisy traffic.  When I got to Sparwood I made the obligatory stop for a photo of the Terex Titan, at one time the largest truck in the world, which was built by General Motors in 1973 and used for coal mining.  However, the coal industry waned and this prototype was the only one ever built.  In order to provide a size perspective I leaned my bicycle up against a truck tire and my bicycle was about a quarter of the height of the tire.  As I was trying to get a photo of the truck and my bicycle, an old guy in a self enclosed scooter roped two guys into listening to his history tales.  I waited forever for these guys to get out of the way and even after the two guys left the scene I had to motion several times for the old guy to get out of the way for an unobstructed photo.  Then he wanted to rope me into listening to his tales but I said I had to be moving on, which I'm sure losing a captive audience was a disappointment to him.

I stopped at a foodmart for my second breakfast and then prepared to leave town at 12:30.  Hwy 3 does a U turn bend at the end of Sparwood and I almost took the wrong road heading north before realizing my mistake.  Then when I got going in the right direction I saw another cyclist ahead of me.  Amazingly, he was even slower than me and I quickly passed him.  However, he was towing a trailer, had front panniers, had a load on his rear rack, AND was carrying a large backpack.  It was no wonder he was so slow.  I assumed he was transporting all of his belongings.

Crow's Nest Pass almost doesn't seem like a pass because it is mostly a gradual climb from Fernie.  Shortly after I rode over the pass I saw a loaded cyclist coming from the other direction and I took a photo.  He pulled over to chat and said he was coming from Pincher Creek and that it was all downhill for me, which turned out not to be true.  Amazingly, he was practically a neighbor of my sister in Hamilton but didn't know her.  He was doing a loop through Glacier National Park up to Sparwood and then back down through Whitefish.  There was a possibility we could meet up again in Hamilton.

It was a fast descent from the pass through several towns.  I had seen all of this before but the scenery was still very nice.  I made great time because I also had a good tailwind in addition to the downhill.  So I thought my plan to stay at Pincher Creek was very reasonable.  A little before 5pm I stopped for a drink and then was on my way.

A little while later I left Hwy 3 and picked up 507 south.  At that point I had about 21 miles to Pincher Creek which didn't seem unrealistic.  But then I started some significant climbing and my tailwind became a side/head wind.  Suddenly 21 miles seemed a lot and it was.  I had one particularly long climb of a couple miles and I started wondering if darkness could become a problem.

Fortunately, with about 12 miles to go the road turned to the east and I had a good tailwind again.  There was some climbing but nothing like before and I started flying with the help of the tailwind.  All along 507 the scenery was outstanding.  There were no trees to block views and you could see for miles in any direction.  The land was rolling and undulating with all of nature's colors – brown, yellow, green – with some mountains thrown in for background.

To prove that the wind I was experiencing wasn't a fluke, there were hundreds of wind turbines on ridges surrounding Pincher Creek, which claims to be the wind capital of Canada.  I would guess there were 500 or more in different wind farms and spaced out along the ridges, taking advantage of the wind.

I finally rode into town just after 7pm and needed to find a campground.  There were 2 in town, one private and one municipal.  I asked a guy at a service station who only knew about the private one.  So I followed his directions on into town and rode past that one to see if I would see signs for the municipal one.  I did and decided to pick that one because it was closer to downtown and food and because I figured it would be a little cheaper.

I ended up with a $15 tent site and the place also had showers.  The host pointed out a path I could take to walk downtown which just happened to come out near a Subway so I ate there.  I walked back in darkness and then cleaned up and settled in for the night, tired but happy that I made my objective.

Yesterday, my knee bothered me even after a day's rest and an Advil didn't totally eliminate the pain.  Today my knee was fine with no Advil and I barely noticed it despite the late climbing.

Day 10 9/13/2012 – Waterton Lakes 38.43 5:03:57 7.58 30.82 2342 1935

It was somewhat warmer in the morning than the last few days.  I packed up and left around 8 looking for breakfast.  I didn't find anything looking down Main Street but then found a restaurant part of an Inn on the outskirts of town.  I didn't expect much but they had a basic buffet for $10 including pretty good pancakes.  The pancakes weren't particularly large but that was easy to make up in quantity.  Interestingly there was a guy in a table near me who spent the entire breakfast talking on his hands-free cell phone.  I wondered if he would have had withdrawal symptoms if someone had taken his cell phone away.

It was 9 when I left town.  I had thought today would be relatively short and be a partial rest day but that wasn't the case.  It was almost 30 miles to the park whereas I thought it was just a little over 20.  Then it was up and down with more climbing than descending, particularly initially when leaving town.  Then the last 5 miles to the park were into a strong headwind, just as it was the last time I visited.  Then it was another 5 miles to the actual park village.  By the time I reached the campground in the village it felt like a full day.

On the other hand the route was scenic.  This was serious ranching country with many fields filled with round hay bales.  These fields were set against a background of the mountains of the park.  And there was the great view of the park from an overlook about 5 miles away.

When I arrived in the village just after 2pm I immediately rode down to the lakefront to check on the lake tour.  I did the lake tour when I was in the park in 2005 and it was a really nice, relaxing tour.  I figured I was too late but saw there was a 4pm tour which would have been fine and then I saw the $40 price.  Having done the tour in 2005, when it cost only $27, I couldn't see spending that much to do it again.

So I got my campsite for $27.50 (along with the $6.80 park entry fee).  It was within a couple sites of where I had my campsite in 2005.  The campground also had a food locker which wasn't at all obvious where it was despite the map showing its location.  The map showed a building behind a shelter building.  I thought the map must be mistaken until I checked another nearby building and then I could see the food lockers sitting as a metal cabinet on the side of the shelter building.

After cleaning up I walked downtown to get food and Internet access.  The place with WiFi was closed until 5pm so I had fish and chips at a restaurant.  A little later the cafe with WiFi was open again and I was able to use their WiFi.

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2012. All rights reserved.