Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Day off in Canmore

Hey, Canmore’s a really nice town! It’s a pretty quiet tourist town and has got a good feeling about it. I’ve just spent the day wandering around and enjoying the sunshine. Plenty of restaurants and cafes to satisfy a hungry Trans-Canada cyclist too! A very relaxing place to recharge my legs.

I shot a few snaps while out and about. All these were taken within a couple of blocks of my motel which was right in the town centre.   

The Bow Valley Motel is recommended by me.
Stream running through town
Ceannmore (or Ceann Mor) is Gaelic for "Big Head" (as in great leader)
It's "Canada Day" tomorrow
The Big Head and the mountain
Interesting fire hydrant
Looking up 6th Avenue
Boardwalk trail in town
The "Day Off" funny!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Bow Valley Parkway

29th June: Lake Louise to Canmore 

Odometer: 85 km, Start: 10.30am, Finish: 4.15pm, Avg: 21.4 km/h,
Weather: Sunny Intervals, Temp: 14-24°C
Bear count: 5, Moose count: 1, Mosquito Bites: 31, Hills walked: 0
Road Conditions: #1A, Great surface small two lane road, no shoulder. Traffic very light (Tuesday). Several restaurants. #1 TCH Banff-Canmore: New cycle-path from #1A junction to 4km west of Canmore. Not yet fully open (June 2010) but mostly rideable. Ascent: 400m up/700m down.

After the couple of days on the Icefileds Parkway and a shortish ride to Canmore to do today, it was a slow start away from Lake Louise. I said my goodbyes to Mirjam and Frans. They’re riding a different route to me over the coming weeks, before heading back to Vancouver and then flying on to Japan. It was great to cycle with them both down the Icefields Parkway. Thanks guys and safe pedalling!

I had a leisurely breakfast in Lake Louise and caught up with the Dutch Girls who also made it to the campsite yesterday. We’re sharing quite a lot of the same route through the Prairies, so we may well bump into each other some more yet. (In fact I met them again at Canmore, this evening).

Bow Valley Parkway map

Most of my ride today was on the Bow Valley Parkway (#1A), a tourist route linking Lake Louise with Banff. It turned out to be a beautiful winding road through the valley’s pine forest, with great views of the surrounding mountains. Traffic was very light and is restricted to 70km/h, so I had very relaxing riding conditions for most of the day. The road was also quite quirky. Every so often the road would split and became two single lanes taking two different paths. While on a single lane section, it felt like you were on some magical mystery tour as you wound your way through the trees before meeting the other lane a little further on.

On the Bow Valley Parkway
Looking down at the Bow River

About half way along the Parkway, in a rest area, a guy appeared to be setting up lunch for a bicycle touring group. I went over and had a chat with Kyle from Bicycle Adventures who was leading their Glacier-Banff-Jasper tour. I got a free lunch out of it as well. A great steak and onion sandwich with salad! Thanks Kyle!

Kyle, cooking up lunch!

I had to do a short stretch of the #1Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) as the Bow Valley Parkway doesn't quite reach all the way to Banff. It wasn't very nice riding on the shoulder of a divided four lane highway, but the views approaching Banff were up there with the best!

On the TCH towards Banff
At the Banff turn-off

I reached Banff mid afternoon and it was heaving. I found a quieter side street restaurant for a second lunch (what else is there to do), before having a quick cycle around the town seeing if I could remember anything from a visit nearly 20 years ago. (Not much actually). After a photo of Banff’s main street I headed back to the TCH expecting a hairy 20km trip to Canmore.

My nice lunch stop in Banff
Banff Avenue

I was in for a pleasant surprise! I’d noticed just before Banff, where the #1A meets the TCH what looked like a new cycle-path running alongside the road. It clearly wasn’t open as there was some evidence of construction and some locked gates barring entry. On the other side of Banff the cycle-path reappeared. This part was useable although again not finished or officially open. I rode along the smooth tarmac cycle lane thankful not to be on the TCH shoulder 20m away. Occasionally I had to hop back onto the shoulder as some bridges on the cycle-path are still to be constructed. The cycle-path went nearly to Canmore (ending at the Banff NP boundary), a length of about 25km in total including the Bow Valley stretch and is clearly a major park project nearing completion. I certainly appreciated it as I’m sure a lot of local and touring cyclists will too.

Part of the nearly finished cycle-path, TCH to the left

I’m in Canmore this evening and I’ll be able to explore the town a bit tomorrow as I’m having a day off here. After a week of riding in the mountains I’m glad to rest up for a while. I’ll be leaving the higher elevations soon and will then be heading out across the Prairies…  

Spectacular Icefields Parkway - Part 2

28th June: Columbia Icefield to Lake Louise 

Odometer: 132 km, Start: 9.30am, Finish: 6.15pm, Avg: 18.7 km/h,
Weather: Overcast with rain showers, Temp: 7-16°C
Bear count: 5, Moose count: 1, Mosquito Bites: 31, Hills walked: 0
Road Conditions: #93, 2m shoulder, still with perpendicular cracks every few metres. Traffic light-ish. Restaurant at 50km and 86km. 7km climb @7% (Bow Pass) to 2067m. Ascent: 1000m up/1500m down.

It rained during the night and it was pretty cold and damp in the morning at 6 degrees. Unfortunately it was to be overcast for the day, but the Icefields Parkway didn’t disappoint again.

We (Frans, Mirjam and me) topped Sunwapta Pass early and without ceremony as there’s no sign and begin the long descent to the Saskatchewan Crossing, our lunch stop for today. After the initial plunge down the pass we were greeted round the corner to a great view of the bowl shaped lower slopes.

Looking down Sunwapta Pass into the bowl
Frans heading towards Bow Pass

After lunch, we began to gradual climb all the way back to 2000m for the Bow Pass. This would be our last major obstacle on the Parkway. The last 7km were a comfortable 7%. We were all used to this type of slow rhythmic climbing by now. At the top of Bow Pass I took a picture. This represents the high point of my tour (2067m altitude).

My tour high point, Bow Pass summit

Just over the pass we stopped off at Bow Lake and the Nup Ti Lah Lodge for tea and coffee. This is a great old building, harking back to the early 1900s with lots of oak panelling inside and hunting trophies hanging from every available space!

At Bow Lake
Nup Ti Lah Lodge

From Bow Lake it’s a long (35km) gradual descent down to Lake Louise where we’re camped tonight surrounded by an electric fence! There must be a lot of bears around here. I’ll get a look at the lake in the morning as we’ve arrived here quite late.

Camping here? I think not...
End of the Icefields Parkway
Behind an electric fence tonight!

Thanks Icefields Parkway, it was a brilliant two days…

One last magnificent view on the Icefields Parkway

Spectacular Icefields Parkway – Part 1

27th June: Jasper to Columbia Icefield

Odometer: 106 km, Start: 9.00am, Finish: 5.15pm, Avg: 16.0 km/h,
Weather: Mostly cloudy, some sunny intervals, Temp: 14-20°C
Bear count: 5, Moose count: 1, Mosquito Bites: 31, Hills walked: 0
Road Conditions: #93, 2-3m shoulder, but is poor for cycling. Perpendicular cracks every few metres make it a bumpy affair. The scenery takes your mind off it though... Traffic light and limited to 70-90km/h. Restaurants at 54km, 104km. Hard 5km climb @9% at end of ride. Otherwise reasonably gentle climbing most of the day. Ascent: 1130m up/440m down.

My friend Bryan from Vancouver had pre-warned me of the poor riding surface of the shoulder on the Icefileds Parkway. It was quite bumpy and annoying, but the views kind of took your mind of it reasonably well!

Two views early on the Icefields Parkway

I met up with Mirjam and Frans from the Netherlands quite early on and we were evenly matched and cycled the rest of the day together. Which was very nice. We later met up with two further dutch cyclists for a loose five on the road.

The two Dutch girls
And me makes five!

The mountains were spectacular, even though the cloud cover was quite extensive. They were high mountains too, lots of peaks well over 3,000m. We climbed steadily most of the day from 1,000m at Jasper to 2,000m where we are camped just above the Columbia Icefield tonight.

Our target is the mountain in the middle
Our wide valley is about to narrow...

As we headed towards the Columbia Icefield the wind got up making it tough and the wide valley we’d been cycling through for most of the day got narrower. We then had to climb sharply, up the lower Sunwapta Pass slopes. A nasty 5km @ 9% at the end of the day!

Approaching the Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefield

All five of us are camped together tonight and have been chatting in a shelter on the campsite (they kindly spoke English for me!) as the heavy showers rained down. Hopefully it will have cleared by the morning and we can enjoy the spectacular Icefields Parkway (part 2). 

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Made it to Jasper

26th June: Mt. Robson to Jasper

Odometer: 86 km, Start: 9.45am, Finish: 4.00pm, Avg: 20.5 km/h,
Weather: Sunny intervals, Temp: 14-23°C
Bear count: 5, Moose count: 1, Mosquito Bites: 31, Hills walked: 0
Road Conditions: #16, Excellent surface mostly, 2m shoulder, sometimes rumble strips. Traffic light, sometimes moderate. No services. 9km climb @3% from start. Then flat until the gentle 25km descent down the Yelowhead Pass to Jasper. Ascent: 500m up/300m down.

I awoke to sun shining on the tent. I was glad after two days of rainy conditions. With the sun out I was promised some superb views as I cycled my last section of the Yellowhead Highway to Jasper.

Today scenery was beautiful. It was mountains all the way (and a few lakes) as I continued to cycle through Mt. Robson Park. A gentle 9km greeted me after breakfast, but I didn’t care, I just pedalled softly and breathed in the mountains. After that I stayed in a broad valley at around 1050 to 1150m altitude for most of the day.

Climbing away from Mt. Robson

Moose Lake was a highlight. A large calm expanse of water with pine forests carpeting from the water’s edge to nearly the mountain summits.

Moose Lake
Moose Lake
Emerald Ridge (?), Moose Lake

I was a little surprised to still be at 1150m with only about 25km to Jasper. I thought I had to descend to then climb the Yellowhead Pass which I knew was coming up soon. I was even more surprised when I passed the pass “summit” sign while travelling downhill! (Note to cyclists coming up the Yellowhead Pass, the top is 2-3km further on from the sign)! At this point I reached the Alberta Border and had to stop for the obligatory photo. I’ve also crossed a time zone as well! I’m now on Mountain Time.

Into Alberta I go
Mountain Time
There's a fundamental flaw with that advice...

After this, it was a long gentle downhill to Jasper, where I’m staying the night before turning south to go down the fabled Icefields Parkway. I’ve met a few cyclists in Jasper who should be on the same road tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get a chance of company for a short while.

At Jasper Station
On Connaught Drive
I made it to Jasper and I’m not quite busted…

Mt. Robson

25th June: McBride to Mt. Robson

Odometer: 85 km, Start: 10.15am, Finish: 4.15pm, Avg: 19.0 km/h,
Weather: Overcast with rain showers, Temp: 14-19°C
Bear count: 5, Moose count: 1, Mosquito Bites: 31, Hills walked: 0
Road Conditions: #16, Good surface, 2m shoulder, sometimes rumble strips. Traffic very light, more after Tete Jaune junction (#5). Shop at Dunster (30km), Services at Tete Jaune. Pretty flat. Ascent: 500m up/500m down.

I looked out of the window (motel again...) at about 7. The clouds were almost at town level and it was raining and very misty. Not worth an early start then! Gradually it brightened and I was on the road by 10.15am, today’s destination now set at Mt. Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

Robson Valley

Luckily, yesterday's headwind that caused such a chuckle-fest had eased and reversed, so I had a comfortable ride along the flat Robson Valley. (Wind direction is very important to a cyclist; too much heat, cold, sun or rain can be an inconvenience, too much headwind can bring you to the point of despair in less than an hour…

Robson Valley

I would have loved for today to have been sunny. I had 2,500m mountains flanking both sides of me. As it was overcast and showery for much of the day the peaks were hidden in dark cloud with just the occasional glimpse of a snow capped summit. At the end of the Robson Valley, I reached the junction with route #5 at Tete Jaune Cache and headed towards Mt. Robson itself. I was now well and truly back in the high mountains!

Wa-hey!...err...I mean...OK

I passed Mt. Terry Fox on the climb up. (Terry Fox was a young guy who tried to run across Canada on an artificial leg but succumbed to cancer on the way across. His story touched the nation at the time).

Terry Fox information in front of Mt. Terry Fox

I approached Mt. Robson, but it was shrouded in mist and cloud. (I think the same happened the last time I came past this way as well). I determined my camping options and while having a meal checked out the view every now and again to see if the mountain was clear. It very nearly was once or twice, but not quite! I got a couple of pictures of Mt. Robson and the surrounding peaks when the sun momentarily caught them. I decided to black & white some of them for moody effect!

Mt. Robson (summit obscured unfortunately)
Mt. Robson detail
Klapperhorn and Overlander
Klapperhorn and Overlander