I can't remember how long it's been that I wanted to take a big bike trip. I guess I'm fascinated with the idea because of my parents' green emphasis. I've always wanted to do thing under my own power; using the bike for transportation is a regular thing with me, and it extrapolates nicely to vacations.
I remember driving into Painted Desert National Park in the early 90's with the kids and seeing a couple of bike tourists and just thinking about how much better they were going to see the park than I was.
I remember talking with the fellow my parents used to have doing some odd jobs at the Paonia farm (David?) who was somewhat off, but regularly rode his bike to California and Canada, for transportation! His unique patience with the idea, and pragmatic approach to transportation fascinated me.
And of course I've been talking for years about riding my bike to Chile. I'm not sure why I've been planning that, but the time has come to prove out whether it's possible or not. This trip was a bit of a trial run. Can I cope with the solo biker setup? Can I handle loneliness? Can I do it physically? Do I want to do all these things? Can I get emotional balance in this type of environment? Basically, I believe the answer to all is "yes". I passed the entrance exam, and can ride anywhere I want now! Of course I don't know what my reaction would be to riding for several months or years, or my reaction to riding in less beautiful or friendly country.
I can ride up to Yellowstone and spend a couple of weeks hiking there. I can ride to the East Coast to visit all my relatives. I can ride around America researching the Indian Wars and their relevance to the war on terrorism.
Although I'd not had any cycling knee problems in years, I got some real pain and "wrong" sensations out of my knees in the couple of months prior to the ride. There were any number of approaches to it: Change the bike, fiddle with the seat, let it heal, son't worry about it, change the pedals, change the stem, think about how to rest several days along the way, etc. But the problems looked like they could sabotage mytrip even after it was all planned and ready. It was scary.
In a last-ditch effort to try everything, I went to the knee doctor. He couldn't really see anything wrong, and I didn't give a very good description. (Always make it hurt before you go to the doctor. Don't go in and talk about how it was hurting!) He prescribed Celebrex and sent me to a physical therapist. The physical therapist (Gigi) seemed to know exactly what was wrong (IT band too tight, Gluteus Medius really weak) and gave me a number of stretches and balancing exercises to do. I did them faithfully. But the breakthrough came when she convinced me to make sure my knee hurt for the next visit to her; when I did, she understood more. But better yet, I understood more. I started adjusting the seat to increase comfort - and was successful finally! Pushing the seat way forward completely eliminated the problems I was seeing - and I could tell in a minute that it was good. So far forward and up a bit really fixed things. This only came together two weeks before the trip and one week before the shakedown!
It does appear that my body is now extremely sensitive to seat position; when I messed with it to see if I could fix recurring back problems on the trip, the knee problems came right back. So it's important to work on the flexibility issues, or I might get to where I can't fix the problems with any seat position! That wouldn't be good for future riding plans.
The weekend before leaving time was the 4th of July weekend, and I had four days off from work. I was not at all confident that the whole thing was going to work. The knee was still a bit irritated when I rode, and it just wasn't sure at all.
The shakedown cruise really ended up being a basic part of the whole thing. It was one of the nicest things I did on the trip. The pictures of the trip over Corona Pass are spectacular.
I rode up to Idaho Springs on Wednesday afternoon and camped at Indian Springs, which is not a very nice place to camp, but Elisheba joined me and we swam in the hot spring and it was a wonderful evening. In the morning, Joe and Kim Shields came up and rode up to Berthoud Falls with me. Then I went over Berthoud and to Dede's. It only took an hour to get up the pass, which surprised me; the ride to Dede's was easy.
Dave talked me out of going over Trail Ridge Road, which I had been planning. Instead, I came back over Corona Pass, which had been on my "list" for years. I was a bit tired when I got to Winter Park, but there was lots in front of me anyway. I rode the 14 gentle miles up the Corona Pass/Rollins Pass road, but when I got up to the top, didn't really know what to expect. I continued on the old grade, even though the signs discouraged such a thing. I went through a couple of cuts and across a couple of old trestles that looked like they were in fine shape even though the signs said not to. I actually though I'd gone through the tunnel at one of the cuts, but then I found out what was really going on. I passed another place that cars could get to, and thought they got there from the East side of the pass. But then the grade was *really* blocked off, and I was approaching the tunnel. The tunnel is completely blocked, or blockaded now; nobody will try to get into it or go through it. I had to carry everything over a steep goat trail over the top of the tunnel. Two trips, one for the bike and one for the trailer. Wow, was that trailer heavy ont he shoulders. I guess you'd have to figure out some kind of carry system if you had to portage often.
It was getting a little later than I had planned and I went down teh grade, taking some nice pictures of the tunnel. The lake below the tunnel (and above timberline) was a wonderful place to camp; It's just beautiful. The good heavy rain waited until I was set up.
The next morning was a lot of downhill (but some solid work on the Peak-to-Peak highway as well) to Denver. I rode slowly down Rollins Pass. I think I was overcautious because with the way I had my cookware packed it made a lot of noise that I thought was the trailer. I went south on the Peak to Peak to the main turnoff into Golden Gate park. Don't let anybody tell you that going down through Golden Gate is all downhill. There's some dusies of uphills there. Got down to Golden and ate at the Burger King and came on to home. All went well. I even started experimenting with my correct left shoe.
On Saturday, July 13, I got started as planned. Nancy rode with me up to the Morrison Exit on I-70 and I headed up to Idaho Springs. I stopped for a fine sandwich and ate it at the park, laying on the grass and reading my book "Miles from Nowhere". It was the first of many wonderful rest stops with some food and a book and a pleasant place. I stayed at the Mizpah Campground near Berthoud Falls that night; I had to ask an RV-er to share a spot because it was all full. Surprisingly, I didn't do this again for the entire trip.
On Sunday Nancy joined me at the top of Berthoud and we rode to Dede's house, then I borrowed Dede's car to shuttle Nancy back.
Monday, Dede and I started out and ran into another bike tourist, Christian from Switzerland, before we'd even gone four miles. Chris was debating between going to the Grand Canyon or going north to Canada to see his girlfriend in Calgary, so we put the strongarm on him to join us, and he did. We rode to Walden over Willow Creek Pass that day and Dave came over and treated us to dinner and took Dede back. It was a beautiful ride and a pleasure to do it with Dede. We camped in the Walden City Park. On the Transamerica Trail, which we joined at Walden, there are many, many towns that allow cyclists to camp at their park, especially to the east of here. But Walden was also the last place we did the park. Maybe there were one or two other towns that allowed it that we didn't stop at. At the city park that night I met Lance Schamberger, who hauled his dog Milo in a two-seater Tajor child trailer rigged for the big black lab. He had brought Milo all the way here from Kansas City. Wow, what a load! He wasn't sure whether he'd do it again.
On Tuesday 7/16 Chris and I pulled out of Walden by about 7:30am and made it to Riverside by 10:45. 49 miles in 3:15 is pretty fast going. We did drop a lot of elevation that day, but wow was it an athletic day. For the day we ended up going all the way to Rawlins, 114 miles, drafting much of the way. We did an average speed of 15 miles an hour, which is pretty amazing with gear. I'm sure I didn't approach that again on the trip! It was such a fast day that between Walden and Encampment we saw an antelope and its two fawns that seemed to be racing us.
We had a terribly pleasant stop at the Saratoga Hot Spring pool. The "Hobo Pool" was free and very hot. There was also a respectable person's pool where the whole town was playing. The Hobo Pool was enormously hot and had to be really therapeutic. Chris couldn't even get in. There was an easier place to go where the hot water poured into the river. A sane person would have set up camp in Saratoga, a pleasant town where you can camp at the park (I think) but we went on, showed and refreshed, the remaining 40 miles or so to Rawlins.
Wednesday was a good solid day of 88 miles through the heart of the Wyoming plains to Sweetwater Crossing. We probably did the 15 mph pace again that day We ran into Larry Flint and Joe Neely; Larry is a complete gearhead with a laptop, modem, GPS, two cameras, the works. He kept up a wonderful website about his trip at http://www.discoveryride.com. It really was well-done and useful.
That night Chris and I stopped at Sweetwater Crossing, which is something of a Mormon shrine about some Mormon immigrants that were making the trip to Utah too late in the season and had a terrible time. They do all kinds of re-enactments and such. And they're very kind to bicyclists - they let us set up our tent on their grass and it was a wonderful place. Until the hailstorm came. The storm looked like a pretty simple little shower coming, so we shoved some thing in Chris's tent (already set up) and then went to one of the picnic shelters to wait it out. Wow, was it a storm. It was really violent, with an amazing amount of water and very serious hail. This is the kind of storm that cars can't drive in. We were very thankful not to be on the road for this one. The whole area seemed to form into a lake. One of the lakes formed around Chris's tent, so when we finally got out there the stuff we'd shoved in there was floating in a lake! All Chris's stuff was wet; our sleeping gear was OK, but lots of stuff wasn't. We ended up moving into the men's room for the night, because there wasn't going to be any ground to sleep on. My stuff was mostly dry because I hadn't unpacked the BOB trailer yet, and it's marvelously waterproof.
In the morning those Mormons let us use their washer and dryer to get all sorted out, which was very kind. We cleaned the bathroom thoroughly, and finally got on the road. Ran into Larry and Joe again in Lander, and decided to meet them at a commercial campground west of Lander about 10 miles. This was a rouger day of riding, probably because of the previous two really intense days and the storm.
But we got enough rain again that night to make some pretty big puddles, so were happy that the campground folks encouraged us to set up in the men's room AGAIN. I was starting to wonder if it was going to be this way the whole ride, but this was the last time. In fact, it was the last storm of this type, although there were some pretty good ones later.
On Friday the 19th we started out pretty early from Lander. I got a headstart and beat everybody to Crowheart as a reasult. This was a Big Grin day, as the landscapes started to get more interesting, and I made a good day's ride despite it being 75 miles uphill against a headwind. The joy of riding into the beautiful valleys and up into the mountains was glorious. We saw Ramshorn Peak coming out of Dubois; amazing mountains leading up to the Tetons.
We spent the night (all four of us) at the Aspen Grove Bike Hostel. This pretentious sounding place is really the small home of Dave and Jo-An Martin, and was it ever a pleasure. They had a small cabin for us to sleep in, but basically they took us into their home. They fed us (wonderfully) and we drank wine together and they washed our clothes and let us shower in their one bathroom. All this immersed in wonderfuly conversation and great friendly talk. In the morning they fed us a fine breakfast and sent us on our way. What a nice place. I don't know how they'll ever break even charging $15.
That Saturday morning was time for teh ride up Togwotee Pass over to the Tetons. We knew it was a big pass, but it turned out to be just a bit of work to get over. We worked over it and did fine. We sped down the other side of the pass and into the Grand Tetons National Park. But then it was time to say goodbye to all my friiends and head south to Wilson to see Uncle Keith. It was kind of sad to let them go. But I rode south, had some lunch at Signal Mountain while hoping for a storm to clear, then rode along those glorious mountains and down Moose-Wilson Road to Keith's. I barely made it by dark, and was going pretty fast. We had some dinner and he actually let me stay in his guest room.
I took the next day as a rest day, and we did a picnic and drove around and fixed the burned out bulbs in the Fay Gallery. It was a nice thing to spend the time with Keith. I felt later that I should have done some hiking or something, but it was a good thing.
Monday (7/22) I headed back north for Yellowstone. I rode back up through the park and really enjoyed that Moose-Wilson road again. It was a pretty strong 72-mile day to the Lewis Lake Campground, a fairly primitive place, where I spent the night for the $4 hiker-biker charge. Pretty amazing how they take care of us bikers!
It was a cold night and a really cold morning. I got on the road probably the earliest I did in the whole trip. I cleared out by 6:20am and got to West Thumb Geyser area by 7:30 and had the whole place completely to myself. There was steam rising off of Yellowstone Lake and the all the geyser field. But wow, was it cold getting there. I nearly froze my fingers off.
Past West Thumb there were three more crossings of the Continental Divide to get to the Old Faithful area. It was quite a pull. Just before Old Faithful I saw a trailhead and asked about it and found out that it was the way to the Lone Star Geyser, which erupts regularly. And bikes are allowed on the way there. I rode to it and fixed some granola (I must not have had breakfast by this time!) and then it erupted. It was a really interesting eruption, with both water and steam phases, and it went on for about 15 minutes. And I shared it with only 10-20 other people. The contrast with Old faithful was pretty harsh.
I did do Old Faithful with 10000 of my closest friends, and walked around all the geyser basins and had a fine afternoon. A storm threatened all afternoon, but didn't seem to arrive, perhaps because I was waiting for it to clear :-) Late in the day I rode down to the Madison Campground and set up. They took extremely good care of me. They have a hiker-biker spot (again $4) and even have a whole bear box set up with spare equipment for us, including spare fuel and stoves and pots and pans and such. And the ranger even offered to let me put something in their fridge. I got a quick swim in the Madison River, which was warm enough for even me. It was a welcome bit of cleansing; I couldn't use soap, but it seemed better.
I was pretty beat after the ride; it was "only" 52 miles, but I felt used up. Maybe it was not enough sleep or the early start or the fact that I don't seem to have had breakfast until lunchtime...
But I wrote "I was very happy today. Big grin on the face.... This is agreeing with my soul."
Wednesday 7/24 was a transitional day. I rode down to West Yellowstone and entered Montana. I spent several hours resupplying; I bought fuel for the campstove, and got a new handlebar bag to replace the easy-access that my small pack had been intended to provide. I had decided several days ago that the pack made my back much too irritated, so it had been riding on top of the BOB trailer, which made everything hard to get at. I also stopped at the Post Office and packed up a complete box of stuff to send home. I did finally get gone out of town about noon and got to Cameron by late in the day.
I stopped at the Earthquake Lake visitor's center and it really was quite interesting. There was a major earthquake in the area in 1958 that brought down a landslide, damming the Madison River and killing a number of people, wiping out the highway in many places. It was amazing to think of what it must have been like with all the confusion and change, rocks coming down into the valley and the whole river valley changing overnight.
As I was riding along in the heat and looking for a place to stop and stretch I came by a couple (Norman and Janice) stopped by their motorcycle. They offered me a piece of ice as I went by; I stopped to talk, and we shared a beer and some fig newtons. What kind people!
That night at Cameron I stayed at the Cameron Store, which had some campsites out back. $10. After a shower, the folks in the next site insisted that I share dinner with them. It was wonderful and I ate an amazing amount. They were another wonderful treat.
On Thursday I rode up to Ennis, got my hair cut, and went over the big hill to Virginia City. Virginia City was interesting, big historical tourist trap. They had dredged the whole valley below it just like the Fairplay and Breckenridge areas, and during the same timeframe. I got caught by a thunderstorm at Alder and sat in the Alder store trying to wait it out, but it wouldn't go away, so I finally just rode into it toward Twin Bridges, where the rain petered out. I made it to Dillon just as the sun was going down. This was the first day with lots of Lewis and Clark "sightings". There were many to come. I need to re-study their journey now that I understand where so many of the places are.
I stayed at the Dillon KOA and was very pleased to use their laundry! Dillon looked like a big city with its McDonalds and Safeway.
Friday 7/26 was probably the hardest day of the trip. The two passes, Badger Pass and Big Hole Pass didn't look like much on the map, but with the climb to them and an enormous headwind it was a very hard day. I stopped many times to stretch and rest, and my back was miserably sore and cramped. I would set a small goal of a few miles, then stop and rest and stretch and hope to feel better. I laid at the foot of Big Hole Pass for quite a while and may have drifted off a bit. Then there was somebody driving over onto the shoulder with me... They had turned around after driving by me and were stopping to make sure I wasn't dead :-) It was a nice thing for them to do. I guess I shouldn't be so obvious when I'm dead. I eventually got up and struggled up the pass and rode down the other side to Jackson Hot Springs. None of it was easy, even the downhill. But there was some mighty pretty ranchland on that stretch.
I stayed at the hot springs resort. Somebody had warned me not to go down to Wisdom because the mosquitoes there are legendary. But I didn't want to go a mile further anyway! But the real treat was that a bike-touring Dutch couple, Meta and Gerrit, were there. It was so good to talk to somebody! I hadn't ridden with anyone for more than a week and had hardly seen a cyclist. Anyway, they bought me dinner and asked lots of questions about their traveling style. They were riding the Trans-am from Virginia and really know how to do this. They eat so well and have all their systems just right. You would have been amazed to see their nice, organized camp setup. They're 58 and 57 and have done Spain to Finland among other tours. It's incredible how fit they are!
They agreed to let me ride with them the next day, and we had a good ride through Wisdom and out to the Big Hole National Battlefield, one of several where the persecuted Nez Perce met and bested some pretty fierce army men.
The Dutch couple eat very well. They even cook for lunch, and may stop for coffee some other time during the day. They make it all look very easy. I was watching everything they did to try to learn from them.
We rode over Gibbons Pass (named after the Army commander who crossed that way to go after the Nez Perce) instead of going the normal way over Chief Joseph pass. Gibbons Pass was a wonderfully gentle dirt road through some beautiful country (and showing some of the worst of the 2000 fire season too). We thoroughly enjoyed the route.
We came down into the Bitterroot country, over into the Pacific drainage (again). We camped at a pleasant commercial campground in Darby, and the Dutch couple put on an amazing 5-course dinner that I've been talking about ever since. They made a real effort to make good food that appealed to them so they could eat lots of it.
Sunday morning we rode down the valley together and said goodbye at Lola, where they went west to procede to Oregon, and I went north into Missoula. They were wonderful teachers!
I got into Missoula and found my way to Bob and Eleanor Weidman's house. They're the parents of Nancy Weidman, a co-worker, and amazingly bright and active people. We went out to dinner that night, and I spent Monday tootling around Missoula and resupplying and such. Spent one more night with them, just enjoying all the stories of the adventures they'd done.
I said goodbye to the Weidmans on Tuesday morning 7/30 (just as Eleanor was being picked up to go for a hike). There was quite a bit of traffic for the first many miles. I passed Seely Lake and rode to the Lake Alva campground. The Lentz family stored my food in their car and told me about Holland Lake, a beautiful spot on the next day's ride, so on Wednesday I spent much of the morning there. I rode singletrack up to a beautiful waterfall and just thoroughly enjoyed looking at that glorious lake. This was the first of the many glacier-formed valleys I'd see for the rest of the trip, and it was characteristically filled with amazing lakes everywhere. I spent so much time at the lake and then showering and washing my clothes at Condon that I didn't really get going for the day until about 3pm.
At Swan Lake I was sitting writing postcards when the Meredith family invited me to dinner and the beautiful night of conversations that ensured cancelled my plans of getting farther that day. We really hit it off. They were harvesting huckleberries and were just delightful people; they sent me off in the morning with a bag of huckleberries that I put in peanut-butter-and-huckleberry sandwiches and on top of granola and several other things.
I had heard that Chris was ahead of me a day earlier, but now we had a confirmed sighting: The Merediths had talked with him that morning, so he was just the one day ahead of me.
Thursday I rode to the Avalanche Campground at Glacier National Park. It was a fine day. Even though I rode 85 miles I was not beat. And as I pulled into the hiker/biker spot at the campground, there was Chris! I knew I might find him so was not too surprised, but he took a minute to catch on when I said "Mind if I share your spot." It was really fun to find him there!
In the morning we rode up Logan Pass in time to beat the bike restrictions (you have to get up there by 11am). It was work, but just normal grunt work. We made it about 10:40 or so; about 2:30 or 2:40 for the climb. It was a very focused effort because of the restrictions. Chris and I hiked a small trail to the Hidden Lake overlook (about 1.5 mi each way) and it was beautiful. Then I sent him off down the mountain; he had already done his day of hiking and felt the pressure to get on to Calgary. Then I went trekking (fast) on the Highline trail. I really was moving because I didn't start until 1:30pm and knew that the 12 miles or so I intended to cover would be a lot. It was absolutely beautiful, and although the weather was a bit blustery and certainly not warm, it was clear enough and a fine day of hiking. I found out the next day what weather was like and it sure made me thankful for the day that I arrived. I hiked up to the Grinnell Glacier overlook, very steep, even though it seemed like I was running short of time for what I'd already planned. But it was a great day of hiking. The hike down was with full of pleasant conversation with a woman hiking with her 15-year-old son. We talked about many things and many places.
I got down to the "loop" about 7pm and hitchhiked back up to the top of the Pass, saddled up, and rode down the east side of the pass to the Rising Sun campground and set up camp just at dusk. It was cold that night.
Saturday morning the big front moved in. I should have known it. My hand had been hurting all day during the hike (for no reason other than its barometric feature). Wow, did the weather change. It was gloomy. The cloudline was about at my nose. And it was cold, high 30's maybe up into the 40's. No precipitation that day, though, as I rode across the border into Canada (my first -- of many -- international bike crossing) and to Twin Butte, Alberta. The highlight of the day was meeting an 84-year-old man who was touring with full gear. He was doing a 10-day loop around glacier and Waterton with an Adventure Cycling group. I think I'll try to find out who he is so I could get in touch and interview him write an article about what he's done. What an amazing thing!
I ate dinner at the Twin Butte store restaurant, and stayed in their little grassy camp spot. In the night the rain finally started. My tent did an admirable job, but we were all pretty well wet before it was all over. I rode into Pincher Creek with grocery bags on my feet and hands as fast as I could muster energy to go, but that wasn't very fast. It was so wet. I poked around and found a motel and set up. They took wonderful care of me and let me hang all my wet stuff out in the boiler room. I got all resupplied and the next day dawned bright even though it rained much in the night.
Monday I rode from Pincher Creek to the Highwood River area, 112 miles. A pretty good haul for the day. The campground where I stopped at dusk was closed, so I just had to make the best of it and camp in the picnic area. I realized that it was probably closed for bear activity, though, and had no really good place to hang my food (and I really don't know how to - I've been relying on neighbors with cars.) I put the BOB with the food across the road from my campsite, and everything was OK.
I started off cold in the morning, but eventually worked my way over Highwood Pass with only moderate difficulty. It was a good pull, but the mountains just got more and more interesting. From here to Jasper they all look amazingly different. All cut by recent glaciers, I guess.
I rode down to the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which is full of beautiful mountains and lakes and camped there. I got great information from the visitor's center and based the next couple of days' activities on it. Lots of good hiking and mountain biking to be had.
This part of the Canadian Rockies south of Banff seems to be unknown to the tourist; only Albertans come here. It's amazing. Incredible scenery, but not a crowd to share it with. I rode and then hiked the trail up to Three Isles Lake. It was a few miles of riding and about 10 miles of hiking, and a wonderful day.
Thursday 8/8 might have been the nicest day of the trip. My neighbors in the next campsite invited me for breakfast and we sat for hours talking and eating the glorious pancakes that Deb cooked over the campfire. Great coffee, good company, and a very slow morning. Then I rode down to the Kananaskis Ski area and mountain biked the Ribbon Falls trail and then hiked up to Ribbon Lake. It was just a glorious day with the scenery of the creek: every corner held another waterfall. There are so many that only the most outrageous get names. And the mountains! After a wonderful day of riding and hiking I got the trailer and rode down to Canmore for a day of resupply and spent a night in a very commercial campground. I was shocked to pay $25 Canadian, but maybe it was really OK. But it was the most I spent for a campground on the trip, and I only spent $50 Canadian for that motel in Pincher Creek.
It was Friday now, the day of Nancy's arrival in Banff, so I tried to get everything organized and resupplied. I got fuel and got my front wheel rebuilt. (The rim was all worn out from mountain biking for years. It wasn't from this trip. But I'd been worrying about it for several hundred miles and not finding a bike store, so it was good to get it taken care of.) Finally I rode the 18 miles to Banff and had a joyful reunion with Nancy when she arrived late in the afternoon.
On Saturday morning August 10, Nancy and I started out from Banff toward Lake Louise. The scenery was incredible, and I have pictures to prove it. It was a pleasant 43 mile day.
In Lake Louise they'd been worrying about bear activity, so closed the campground to tent campers. Except that hikers and bikers have nowhere else to go, so they set up a little compound enclosed by an electric fence. It was quite a deal to be inside an electric fence.
We took a quick shuttle ride (with our bikes) up to the actual lake/resort, and hiked up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, which was closed of course. The weather was starting to get a little iffy, but we had a nice hike, finishing up just near dusk, and then the rain really came. We rode our bikes down through a cold downpour to the campground (nearly froze the fingers off) and joined everybody else in the traditional place: the cookhouse. All the national park campgrounds we found have delightful little cookhouses with great wood cooking stoves, and enough enclosure that you can get everybody warm and get clothes dried off and such. In the rainy times, they become the social center.
In the cookhouse that night was a young Japanese fellow named Osushi who looked like he wasn't getting enough to eat. We found out the next day that he was riding a bike loaded with an enormous amount of gear - it was a wonder he could even move it. We saw him and heard about him several more times. Everyone who saw him was amazed at how much he was carrying.
We were only allowed to stay one night in the little compound, so we left in the morning for Yoho National Park, just 33 miles over Kicking Horse Pass. There was a pleasant old tram line trail up to the lake, and then an old closed highway (still in good condition) that took us much of the way. This was our one adventure into British Columbia, but we've been there now. It was also one more crossing of the Continental Divide.
We set up camp at the Kicking Horse campground near Field, B.C. and set off on our bikes up the canyon toward Takaka Falls, one of the highest waterfalls in Canada. The road up there was a mighty impressive bike ride; the scenery was glorious, but there were some pretty steep grades. There was one set of switchbacks too sharp for RVs to make, so there were signs on the road showing how to back up on the middle part. We didn't see anybody do it, but we got the picture. There were some impressive grades.
Up near the falls, we took the Iceline trail on the left side of the canyon. It goes up to the feet of many glaciers, and just continues on for miles and miles. It also has astonishing across-the-valley views of Takaka Falls. We got up to the first set of glaciers and ran out of time, but got a good 4 hour hike in before dark, then rode down at dusk, as seemed to be our new habit.
Monday we decided to return to Lake Louise for resupply and begin the push to Jasper. Lake Louise had the only real place to buy groceries between Banff and Jasper, so we went and spent $80 Canadian on groceries. We were eating well, in the tradition of the Dutch couple. Lots of good vegetables and salads, and granola and yogurt for breakfast. But that $80 of groceries went mostly into my BOB trailer and it did make things a little more sluggish.
We did laundry at a motel in Lake Louise, and by midafternoon were on our way. We made it to Mosquito Creek Campground, where there were not many mosquitoes. Nancy found her friends Fred and Sandy at one of the campsites, and that led to some pleasant times. (Fred and Sandy were seatmates on the flight to Calgary and gave Nancy a ride up to Banff.)
Tuesday we rode a pleasant route over Bow Pass (and the beautiful Peyto Lake). What incredible colors in those glacial lakes! We got a view of the valley ahead of us for the rest of the day.
Wednesday we came to the big pass: Sunwapta. It was a really serious climb over that thing. It may have been the steepest highway pass I've ever climbed, and it went on for 7 miles or so. Just over the top was the Columbia Icefield and Athabasca glacier, so we did the required thing and took the snowcat out to the glacier. It wasn't probably worth it; we just stood on snow. They also offer a small group hiking adventure on the glacier, which sounds a lot better. A guy we met in Jasper took our advice and went on the extended hike on the glacier and loved it.
The crossing over the top of the pass was cold and wet, with sleet and rain. Then during the afternoon we spent there it cleared up and was fairly nice. And when we got ready to leave again it got rainy again, so we put on all our gear, with grocery bags on our hands and feet and bike seats, and headed down the pass. We got to Jonas Creek Campground, where a large group was trying to dry out after their wet day on the trail. We helped get the fire going with our excellent pyromaniac skills and finally everybody got some warmth.
Thursday we made the final ride to Jasper. We waited until late in the morning hoping for a break in the weather (which did come, after a fashion). Then we took off, with full gear, down the road. It was a day with much potential for enormous rain and cold, but we got off easy. Only the last few miles were really wet. It rained hard when we stopped for a cup of coffee, and rained hard when we stopped to look at Sunwapta Falls, but overall we didn't get what we deserved. But we were thankful for the roaring fire in the cookhouse at the Whistler campground, even if it was occupied by a large group of self-absorbed French folks on a major expedition. We were happy for a little spot by the fire.
We spent Friday and Saturday at Jasper at the same campground, spending $18 Canadian each night. On Friday we resupplied and went up to the Whistler Tram with Vincent, a graduate student from Vancouver. It was an amazing thing. From the warm sun at the bottom of the tram we were transported in a few minutes into what seemed an alpine adventure movie up on top. We hiked from the top of the tram to the summit through some pretty impressive wind and blowing snow. But the view was absolutely gorgeous. It's amazing that you could see so many impressive mountains anywhere. We were happy to be able to get off the mountain on the tram, because we had doubts that our equipment would have been good enough for the whole thing. We could have gotten really cold up there.
Saturday we rode our bikes up the Edith Cavill Road to Mount Edith Cavill and the various glaciers and hikes up there. The road was an impressive 9 mile climb or so. It was a lot like Lookout Mountain Road in its grade, but just almost twice as long. Once again, Nancy handled it like a trooper. I was continually amazed at what she could do and how fast she recovered when she did start to feel overworked. We hiked a beautiful trail up there, again in pretty poor but tolerable weather. The most amazing memory of the day was the sound of avalanches on the slope across from us. One of them sounded like rolling thunder. There was a very cold lake at the toe of the glacier with a little glass layer of ice on top, and little icebergs floating everywhere. Wow, did that lake look cold.
Sunday was the end. We rode into town, had breakfast with friends Fred and Sandy, and got the bikes and the trailer boxed up and bought our bus tickets. Then we spent about 6 hours traversing the territory we'd gone through in 4 days. But it was a beautiful sunny day and we got views of some of the mountains we'd missed as it clouded up near Sunwapta Pass.
Sunday night we couldn't figure out anything to do but spend the night in the Calgaray airport. Our flight was at 7am and it looked like we'd never make the checkin if we tried to go anywhere else. So we rolled out our thermarests and sleeping bags and slept for 4 hours, exept when they vacuumed right by our heads. We were first in the checkin line, though, and everything went fine. We arrived in Denver, had a bite to eat and went to work. And that was that.
As I said in Yellowstone: This agrees with my soul. I must do more.
It looks like I spent approximately $1166 on the 37 days of the trip, so that comes out to about $31.50 per day. I figure it's about $10 for camping, $10 for food, and $10 for other things. I had a fairly big expense in Canmore ($77) rebuilding my front wheel; that wasn't really a touring expense, but seems like the normal kind of bike maintenance you'd have to do. On some days there were large tourist expenses, like the trip onto the glacier at the icefield.
Some statistics from the ride:
Total mileage: 1971 miles
Days on trip: 37
Rest days: 2
Average mileage: 53 miles/day
Average mileage on days riding: 57 miles/day
Average mileage before Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kanaskis: 68 miles/day
Total mileage on Banff to Jasper ride with Nancy: 246
Average riding mileage: 41 (doesn't count hikes)
Days I rode alone: 18
Weight of my trailer loaded with gear: approximately 60 pounds.