ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH 1991

   In 1980 I had biked through parts of B.C.  and Alberta and for 11
years I had been hoping to return.  I packed my bike and flew to
Vancouver on Saturday, July 20.  I was met at the airport by Kathy Cody,
one of the original Velo Halifax members.  Kathy's husband , Larry Ruble
now designs high end bikes with Rocky Mountain Bicycles.  He was then in
California on a bicycle business trip . 
  The weather in B.C.  had been very wet until I got there.  For the
next 3 weeks I only saw a few hours of rain.  I spent 3 days in
Vancouver getting my bike back together, going to the B.C.  science
centre with Kathy and her 2 kids.  Larry arrived back the second day.  I
took a spin on his $3000 mountain bike. 
   I also explored out an escape route from Vancouver.  Like Halifax,
Vancouver-Burnaby-New Westminster is on a peninsula with few exits. 
Unlike Halifax some of the bridges are bicycle accessible.  Traffic is
pretty bad.  Fortunately I was in the south-west end of Vancouver and
only had to contend with Burnaby and New Westminster. 


Wed July 24: Harrison Hot Springs  [distance:133KM climb:836 m]
   The first two hours involved getting out of Vancouver , Burnaby, New
Westminster and urban parts of Surrey.  Then I got on some nice country
roads in the Fraser Valley farmland.  In the distance I could see the
massive white peak of Mt.  Baker. 
    I crossed the Fraser River at Mission and then followed Highway 7
which has a good shoulder and fairly light traffic.  The morning was
very hot.  After stopping for a swim and lunch near Mission,
thunderclouds formed.  There were some violent winds and heavy showers
in the area but I missed most of them.  At about 6pm the rain finally
caught me just as I had my only flat tire at the turnoff to Harrison Hot
Springs.  I hadn't intended to turn off here but I was offered a ride to
a campground at H.H.S.  where I patched my tube ( a double snake-bite)
in the relative dryness of the games and laundry room.  It was too late
to go to the hot springs. 

Thur July 25: Manning Prov Park  [120 KM 1640m]
        AWAKE ! The empty highway is crying:
       "Who will beyond the hills away?"   
        (  A.E. Housman) 
   So I get up early to get those roads done!
    I went for a swim before breakfast in Harrison Lake which was quite
warm here.  Then I rode the 5 km back to Highway 7 and then on to Hope. 
Hope is only about 50 meters above sea level but the highway immediately
climbs into the Cascade Mountains up to Allison Pass at 1350 m so this
was my first taste of real mountains.  The weather was partly cloudy and
comfortably cool.  The road climbed 700 m to the Hope Slide where circa
1962 half a mountain collapsed and buried the highway.  The road leveled
off for a long stretch then late in afternoon I climbed to the summit. 
For the first time I saw my altimeter read 1000 m.  I camped in a prov. 
campground with some Australian cyclists going the opposite direction. 
The river in the campground was just slightly above freezing so I didn't
get swimming today. 

Fri July 26: Ok. Falls: [165 KM	1164m]
     There was another climb early this morning to the top of Sunday
Summit, about 1200 meters.  There I met a very high-class bicycle tour. 
Their sag-wagon had stopped at the top and was serving them
refreshments. 
    Now there was a long steep descent to Princeton in a very different
climatic zone.  The forests had given way to sagebrush.  The road was
now very flat along the Similkameen River to Keremeos.  Here I chose to
leave the Crowsnest Highway and head north towards the Okanagon Valley. 
     I rode over a few hills to the resort village of Okanagon Falls on
the southern end of Skaha Lake.  The lake was quite warm so I had a
swim. 

Sat July 27: Vernon: 145KM  1048m
    After another swim and breakfast, I took the road on the East side
of the Lake to Penticton.  It was a very scenic , quiet road - like the
Waverley Road.  It is also part of the Canadian Ironman race route. 
That was the end of the nice roads for today.  At Penticton I got back
on the main highway on the busiest weekend of the summer- the Peach
Festival. 
    At first the highway was close to the Lake but then it climbed far
above.  By noon the traffic was really heavy.  Fortunately there was a
wide shoulder.  Thousands of huge motor homes ,pulling trailers with
huge motor boats.  I felt like I was from another planet on my little
bike. 
    I found a quiet road out of Kelowna.  While stopped making minor
adjustments I left my 5mm allen wrench behind , a loss that caused me
much grief a few hours later.  By late afternoon it was very hot and the
waters of Kalamalka Lake were far below me, out of reach. 
    While descending a very steep hill down to the lake at Vernon my
brake cable broke.  At this point I discovered I needed that 5 mm wrench
that was somewhere back on the road.  I managed to get down the hill
with one brake but a search for a hardware store was in vain as it was
Saturday evening and everything was closed.  However at the campground I
went to I borrowed a wrench and replaced my cable.  Then I finally got
to go for a swim in the lake. 

 Sunday July 28 :Fauquier: [135KM  1488M]
     I had a another nice swim in Kalamalka Lake this morning.  After
breakfast I headed on to Highway 6 up the Coldstream Valley and I
entered another world.  It reminded me of the Annapolis Valley.  One
could sense a more relaxed pace.  At Lavington the local store owner
commented that further down the road was like going back 20 years.  At
Cherryville the settled farmlands end and the road heads in to the
Monashee Mts.  At Frank's General Store I studied Frank's topo maps and
saw that his was the last building for about 50 km. 
     For most of the way the road had a good shoulder and there was very
little traffic.  It was a long gradual climb up to Monashee Pass at 1200
m then a long descent to Arrow Lake.  There a unexpected short, steep
hill on the last section to the Needles ferry. 
    Now it was like I was in Cape Breton - it was almost like the
Englishtown ferry.  At the other side in Fauquier there was a small
store and an almost deserted campground.  Alas I didn't go for a swim
this evening. 

Monday July 29: New Denver: [102KM   788M]
    I was now in a very isolated area of B.C.  This morning I had to
stop for over a half hour while a road crew knocked down loose rock off
a cliff.  I had a chat with a middle-aged couple who had left the city,
started prospecting and found GOLD.  They also said they knew where
grizzly bears hung out around here. 
    Before Nakusp I had a swim in Arrow Lake which was warmer than I
expected.  Then there was a small climb to Summit Lake where I has
another short swim.  Gotta get all these lakes done! Then I descended to
Slocan Lake , possibly the most beautiful of the Central lakes. 
    I camped at Roseberry near New Denver.  The lake here was a little
chilly due the glacier fed river entering.  So my swim here was fairly
short. 
    The park warden warned us that there was a "small" black bear
hanging around and they had a cage baited to trap it.  That night I was
awakened by the sounds of garbage cans being thrown around. 

Tuesday July 30: Boswell: [117KM   1420M]
     The first thing this morning I went to look at the bear trap.  The
door was closed and I could hear heavy breathing inside but I didn't
dare peek inside.  A little while later the warden came by and towed the
cage away.  He stopped to give me a look at the occupant who gave out a
good growl.  It was a BIG bear. 
    I took a quick look around the restored mining town of New Denver
and then started climbing an unnamed pass.  At the top I met a cycling
group from Victoria. 
    The descent along the Kaslo River was the most beautiful experience
of my cycling career.  It was a gradual 20 km descent, hugging the
raging river - "whitewater cycling".  Waterfalls coming down the cliffs
on the other side of the road.  Multi-coloured wildflowers on the river
bank.  It was a feast of the senses- the sights, sounds and smells. 
Traffic was very light - maybe 10 cars per hour. 
    At Kaslo I had a short chilly swim in Kootenay Lake.  The cycling
group from Victoria stopped at Ainsworth Hot Springs and I continued
down the Lake to the Balfour ferry.  This was a long crossing -about as
long as the PEI ferry but free.  I continued on to a campground near
Balfour.  Of course there was almost no traffic at all until after the
next ferry came in. 
    I decided to switch my front and rear tires and I noticed my rear
hub cones were loose.  Closer examination revealed that my rear axle was
broken and being held together by the quick release skewer.  I hoped
there was a good bike shop in Creston, and a bank too - there aren't
many Bank Machines out here. 

Wednesday July 31: Yahk: [102KM   832M]
    It was about 50 km to Creston along the lake.  I had a nice swim
near the south end of Kootenay Lake.  Here the Kootenay River flows in
forming a very flat valley crossed by drainage ditches.  I expected to
see Dutch windmills. 
     In Creston I found a bank and a bike shop.  I bought a rear axle
and the shop let me use their workbench to replace it.  I also bought
the most delicious nectarines I've ever eaten at at small roadside
stand, wish I'd bought more. 
     I was back on the Crowsnest Highway which has heavier traffic than
I've experienced for the last few days.  However it has a nice shoulder
and was quite flat for the rest of the days ride to Yahk. 
     It was sunny all day and clear this evening so I didn't put the fly
on my tent. 

   Thursday Aug 1: Wasa: [105KM   504M]
    At 2am I was awakened by loud thunder so I quickly put the fly on. 
However it didn't rain much.  I had breakfast and it looked like the
rain was over.  Then it started again and I went back into my tent for
an hour.  This was the first rain I'd seen in a week. 
     The rain let up a bit so I headed off north.  I passed Moyie Lake
and didn't get it "done".  A road sign warned of falling rocks for the
next 10 km.  Just then a deer scrambled up the steep bank and started a
rock-slide.  A fairly large boulder rolled across the road in front of
me. 
    By Cranbrook the skies were clearing.  I continued on to Wasa Lake
Provincial Park.  I did get Wasa Lake "done".  The water was quite warm
considering the nearby glaciers of the Rockies and Purcells.  A few more
showers this evening. 

  Friday Aug 2: Radium: [123KM   896M]
   The clouds lifted this morning revealing the magnificent Rockies. 
Now I was in the Rocky Mountain Trench and at Columbia Lake I passed the
source of the Columbia River.  I took the road on the west side of Lake
Windermere.  The pavement was a little cracked but there was almost no
traffic.  But lots of cattle on the road- it passes through range
country.  Then I descended to Invermere , a major resort town. 
    I missed the road to the beach so I didn't get Windermere Lake done. 
Anyways, I wanted to get to Radium early to get a campsite and fullfill
a 10 year goal, swim in the the fabulous hot springs.  I had been here
on a ski trip in 1981 when the temperature was -20 C. 
    The National Park campground was already full so I went back to a
private campground where there was a group of cyclists.  Then it was a
fair climb back to the much anticipated hot springs.  There is a hot
pool and a cooler full size swimming pool.  Alas they were pretty
crowded with people relaxing after a hard day's drive in their
Winnebagos.  I managed to get a few lengths in the pool, then I relaxed
in the hot pool - about 10 minutes is the maximum recommended for the
hot pool.  The last time I was here it was -20 C and my hair froze but
there wasn't the crowds.  They do set up the pool for lane swimming 3
mornings a week but I missed that. 
    I was a bit disapointed by the lack of touring cyclists I'd met so
far.  There were fewer than there were on my last western trip 11 years
ago but there were a lot more Winnebagos.  Now I was in a more popular
cycling area.  The group at the campground was a low budget ( ie REAL
touring) group from Bikecentenial in Missoula Mont which has been
promoting bike touring since 1976. 

Saturday Aug 3: Lake Louise: [142KM 1668M ( biggest climb)]
    I expected this to be the long hard day of my trip.  These were the
real mountains - the Rockies.  There were 2 major passes on the road to
Alberta.  I had a profile map that the National Park prints for
cyclists.  I got a fairly early start and rode with the Bikecentenial
group for most of the day.  Today's ride is one side of the famous
"Golden Triangle" which is the west's equivalent of the Cabot Trail. 
Cycling groups do the Lake Louise - Golden - Radium -L.L.  triangle ,
usually in 3 days.  I saw quite a few racing-type cyclists here too,
i.e.  aero bars, bright lycra, no luggage at all .  I wonder where they
were coming from- there are basically no services on this road. 
  There were a lot of "animal tombstones" orange flags marking the spot
where large animals, usually elk had been killed by traffic. 
    The steepest part of the road was from Radium town to the hot
springs through Sinclair Canyon.  The pools weren't open yet.  Then the
grade levels off to about 7 % for the climb to Sinclair Pass at 1480 m
then descends to the Kootenay River at 1100 m.  Then there's about 40 km
of fairly flat riding. 
   The air was incredibly clear and dry.  The scenery was stupendous. 
My camera was almost useless in capturing the beauty. 
    The Bikecentenial group stopped early in the afternoon before the
final climb up Vermillion Pass.  I stopped at the Continental Divide
with one wheel on the Pacific side and the other on the Atlantic.  In
theory it should be down hill but it was still another 100 m climb up to
the top of the pass at 1730 m. 
     Then it was a rapid descent down to Castle Mtn.  where the Trans
Canada Highway joins.  I had intended to stop here but it was still
early in the afternoon so I rode to Lake Louise on the very quiet Rt 1A
along the Bow River.  The very busy Trans Canada is on the other side of
the river. 
    The Youth Hostel near Lake Louise was full ( with people in cars!!)
so I had a choice of sleeping in the kitchen or tenting.  I tented but
stored my food inside since there are serious bear problems here.  There
were 3 or 4 cyclists here and they all had to sleep outside!! The other
cyclists were Japanese and didn't speak much English so conversation was
limited. 
    I had to make a quick trip to the mall in town for groceries.  The
place was swarming with tourists so I got out of there fast.  There
would be very limited grocery stores for the next 4 days. 
  --- I recommend the Mosquito Creek Hostel 20 km north of L.L.  I was
later there on a ski trip.  It had a small store.  If the manager is
still Tony ( keen cyclist) you will hear some interesting tales.  The
hostel at Coral Creek has since closed.  There is now a very fancy
Hostel in downtown L.L.  ---
   
Sunday Aug 4: Ramparts Creek:	[98KM	1008M]
     One bonus of staying here was that there was hot water in the sauna
for a shower.  I learned that the near by National Park campground did
not have showers and was more expensive. 
     I now headed up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper.  I had been
waiting for this for 11 years.  On my last bike trip here visibility was
near zero in fog and cold rain.  Today was a complete contrast.  The air
was extremely dry.  Although it got very hot in the day it didn't feel
uncomfortable.  However I got dehydrated very quickly.  The scenery was
again fantastic. 

    The whole day's ride was above 1500 m and Bow Pass at 2050 m is the
highest point on the parkway.  At Bow Lake I noticed a snowbank touching
the opposite shore.  I didn't even try to get this lake done! At the top
of the pass I took a short walk up to the lookout over Peyto Lake,
considered the prime jewel of the Rockies.  Then it was downhill to the
Saskatchewan River. 
    At the Junction of Rt 11 is a tourist complex which has a small
grocery section.  The very limited selection is all you'll find for many
days. 
   Now it about 10 km to the Ramparts Creek Hostel which was almost
deserted.  There is a nice wood heated sauna but since I'd been in 30 C
heat all day I didn't want a sauna.  I tried the shower but I had to
fill it up inside the sauna room so I had a sauna anyway.  There was a
hose coming out of the creek and it was almost freezing so I cooled off
fast.  The air temperature was about 35 C but nearby the creek came out
of a narrow cleft in the cliff and it was about 20 deg cooler. 
    The first rule of the hostel was not to take food into the sleeping
cabins because of the bear problem.  Bears had broken into the house
parent's cabin a few weeks before.  They could easily break into the
kitchen cabin but that was preferable to having then in your bedroom. 

Monday Aug 5: Sunwapta Pass - Ramparts Cr.:[89KM   1100M +300m hiking]
    This morning the temperature was about 3 C but it went up to 30 by
afternoon.  I decided not to ride all the way to Jasper and back in 2
days.  Instead I left my gear here and rode past Sunwapta Pass and back. 
    I had heard that Sunwapta Pass was the hardest climb.  It is 2000m
up which was "only" a 400 m climb from the Sask.  valley.  That's about
the same as MacKenzie Mt.on the Cabot Trail but after 2 weeks in the
mountains 400 m is just a bump.  Also I wasn't loaded today.  The climb
was only about a 6 % grade so it wasn't very hard.There is about 15 km
of riding on the plateau on top before descending again. 
    I rode into Jasper Nat.  Park and now the rivers flowed into the
Arctic Ocean.  Here a tongue of the Columbia Icefields comes down to the
highway.  There is major tourist resort here.  I continued to the start
of the descent into the Athabasca Valley.  It looked steeper than the
other side. 
    I rode back past the big tourist area , took a brief visit to Hilda
Creek Hostel and then went for a walk up Parker Ridge. 
    The hike climbs about 300 m in 3km.  Near the highway I saw snow in
the small clumps of trees, then I was above treeline and there was lots
of snow patches.  At the top of the ridge I could see the Saskatchewan
Glacier in the valley far below.  On the way down I walked out into a
snow field and had lunch. 
     The ride down the pass wasn't very nice since there were cracks in
the pavement.  Back at Ramparts Creek there was an English couple
cycling and later another cyclist arrived. 
   To say that the scenery for the last 3 days was stupendous is a vast
understatement.  It's really more than mere mortals can fully fathom. 
It was certainly far beyond my photographic skills to capture.  The
scenery along the Kaslo River was more intimate .  Here it was
overpowering, intoxicating.  Rocky Mountain High!

Tuesday Aug 6: Nordegg Jackfish Lake:	[145KM	1048M]
    This morning I headed back to the Junction of Highway 11 and
searched the meager grocery store again.  Another cyclist came and said
that there were 2 cyclists from Nova Scotia coming behind!! So I waited
for them.  I didn't know Amy and Ian McDonald but Amy knew several Velo
Halifax members.  She had been a roommate of Velo Sonja Magnusson in
1987.  They had been touring for about 2 months. 
    Now I headed east on Highway 11.  The last 3 days had been the
climax of my trip and today was a letdown.  Although it looked like an
easy ride along the Sask.  River it was quite a drag.  Later in the
afternoon my energy picked up and I rode into the Nordegg, the only
settlement for about 200 km.  There was a very small grocery store here
( they had lots of videos!!) I decided to continue on into the early
evening. 
    There had been thunderstorms around all afternoon but they never hit
me.  I rode another 40 km and turned off to a small free campground at
Jackfish Lake.  The ground was very wet so it must had rained heavily
here today.  There was also a lake so I had my first swim in 4 days. 

Wed Aug 7: Alex: [200KM 844M]
    I didn't have much food left so I had a snack and left very early
and rode 50 km to Rocky Mountain House where I found my first real
grocery store in 5 days.  Then I had a late but big breakfast in the
town park. 
   The country changed dramatically here.  I was out of the forests and
into the prairie fields.  The road was straight for about 50 km.  Thank
heavens there wasn't a head wind.  It was sunny and getting hot.  The
prairies had a more subtle beauty.  The roadside was coloured by several
varieties of clover, just buzzing with bees.  The fields were all
different shades of green and gold. 
    I had a first lunch at the campground I had stayed at 11 years ago. 
Then I headed for Sylvan Lake and arrived by mid afternoon.  There is
long beach in the town.  If it's this crowded on a Wednesday what's it
like on a weekend! However I had a nice swim. 
     Since the campground was full here I decided to keep going to my
sister's place.  I passed Red Deer and Lacomb where I called my sister. 
Dark thunderclouds were looming in the distance but I was feeling good
biking along in the early evening.  Unfortunately I rode past the road
to my sister's, took the next road instead and spent about an hour
riding around on gravel roads as the clouds were getting very black and
lightning flashes were getting close.  I ended up in the village of Alex
which was 10 km past my sisters and by that time it looked like a
tornado was about to hit.  I swallowed my pride and called for help.  My
sister's husband picked me up. 

 Thurs Aug 8: Stettler: [53KM  180M]
     The thunderstorms passed over night.  I rode back to Alex and on to
my mother's place in Stettler where the trip officially ended. 
     The Alberta Summer Games were happening in Stettler for the next
few days and it was extremely hot - approaching 40 C.  They had several
bicycle races in that heat.  I was hot just watching.  The swimming pool
was closed and the nearest lake was 30 km away. 

     I did get out the Buffalo Lake for a swim a few days later plus a
few other day trips in the area totalling 125 km.  Then I flew back to
N.S.  on an overnight flight.  I put my bike back together at the
airport and biked the last 30 km to Dartmouth, stopping for a swim in
Waverley of Ccourse. 

Conclusion: After this trip I thought that cycling across the rest of
Canada would be anti-climatic and even after 4 years it was, but I had
to check it out.  Hopefully I will be able to write up the story soon.