Lake of the Woods

This has taken me a bit longer to get round to righting than planned! Sorry!!

I had a few days staying in Kenora on Lake of the Woods, Ontario… this wasn’t a planned stop as to be honest I hadn’t even heard of the place until the day before while looking at maps but as I approached the town and saw the Lake of the Woods I knew I was going to be there a few days to have a look-see! So I will start of with some info about Lake of the Woods.

Lake of the Woods (LotW from now on as I am too lazy to keep writing the full name!) is big… we are talking 68 miles long (at its longest) and 59 miles wide (at the widest point) with area of 1,679 squared miles… to put that in context that’s bigger than the whole of Somerset… or 2.6 times bigger than Surrey (where I grew up). The lake has 14,552 islands and over 65,000 miles of shore (including the islands)! This is a big old lake…

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The Lake is quite built up with lake houses seeming to cover vast amounts of shore but not in a tacky crowded way… more in a overly rich playboys getaway kind of way but slightly more classy.

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The main (and possibly only) town in the area is Kenora here is what Wiki has to say about its history:

“Kenora’s future site was in the territory of the Ojibway when the first European, Jacques De Noyon, sighted Lake of the Woods in 1688.

Pierre La Vérendrye established a secure French trading post, Fort St. Charles, to the south of present-day Kenora near the current Canada/U.S. border in 1732, and France maintained the post until 1763 when it lost the territory to the British in the Seven Years’ War — until then, it was the most northwesterly settlement of New France. In 1836 the Hudson’s Bay Company established a post on Old Fort Island, and in 1861, the Company opened a post on the mainland at Kenora’s current location.

In 1878, the company surveyed lots for the permanent settlement of Rat Portage (“portage to the country of the muskrat”) — the community kept that name until 1905, when it was renamed Kenora.

Kenora was once claimed as part of the Province of Manitoba, and there are early references to Rat Portage, Manitoba. There was a long lasting argument between the two provinces known as the Ontario-Manitoba boundary dispute. Each province claimed the town as part of their territory and the dispute lasted from 1870 to 1884. Although Ottawa had ruled the town part of Manitoba in 1881, the issue was finally taken up with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which eventually decided in Ontario’s favour. Kenora officially became part of the province of Ontario in 1889. Boundaries were drawn up for the provinces and the Northwest Angle on Lake of the Woods which definitively drew the borders between Ontario, Manitoba, Canada, and Minnesota, U.S.A.

Gold and the railroad were both important in the community’s early history: gold was first discovered in the area in 1850, and by 1893, 20 mines were operating within 24 km (15 mi) of Rat Portage, and the first Canadian ocean-to-ocean train passed through in 1886 on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Among the entrepreneurs attracted to the town was the Hon. JEP Vereker, a retired British army officer and youngest son of the 4th Viscount Gort

Later, a highway was built through Kenora in 1932, becoming part of Canada’s first coast-to-coast highway in 1943, and then part of the Trans-Canada Highway, placing the community on both of Canada’s major transcontinental transportation routes. The original barrier to the completion of the highway concerned the crossing of the Winnipeg River at two locations. The single span arch bridges are among the longest of their type in North America.

During the Prohibition era in the United States, the Lake of the Woods served as a smuggler’s route for the transport of alcohol.

In December 1883, there was a large fire in Rat Portage, rendering 70 of the town’s then population of 700 homeless.

Rat Portage is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood’s famous 1910 story, “The Wendigo”.

The importance of the logging industry declined in the second part of the 20th century, and the last log boom was towed into Kenora in 1985. The tourist and recreation industries have become more important.”

So anyway, I spent a couple of day exploring the town and tried to get a SUP lesson but alas no such luck! On day 2 the weather turned foul and I hid from the weather and did sweet FA (bad Andy!). On the last day I got some chores done including rewrapping my handlebars (again!) as the tape I had previously bought was rubbish, unfortunately I could only get black tape so eve is looking all serious… boooooooo.

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In the evening I took a cruise around the lake on the MS Kenora and had dinner on board, the food was reasonable but I felt I may have missed some of the views as I was stuffing my face!

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The cruise had the typical information about the area, some of the history and such. Whilst underway I was lucky enough (thanks to the skipper pointing it out!) to see a number of Bald Eagles which for me was the highlight of the tour!

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Right I need sleep so that all you are getting!

 

 

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Winnipeg Wanderings

I have spent a bit of time in Winnipeg to explore and to celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday. Interestingly the city is only about 10km off the longitudinal centre of North America so also marks my halfway point of the journey.

Winnipeg is the capital of Manitoba and is situated at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine River. The city is named after the nearby Winnipeg Lake which derives its name from the Western Cree language meaning Muddy Water which given the colour of the rivers running through the town is quite an apt description!

One last fact is that Winnipeg has the highest percent of First Nations people of any city in Canada at 11.7%, the city in general seems to be diverse with over 100 languages spoken.

I got to the city on the 27th June and spent the next two days going between bike shops to get the parts to carry out some much needed maintenance. I had designed the bike so that parts should be easy to come across but I hadn’t taken into account the fact 11 speed cassettes weren’t particularly popular in Canada for some reason! Once I had got all the bits and done the repairs it was time to start exploring properly.

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Winnipeg Legislative Building

On the 29th I walked down the trail next to the river and took a look at the Legislative Building before heading on. The next stop was The Forks which is particularly interesting, this is the point that the rivers join and a traditional meeting point for the First Nations, the area has some old stables that used to serve the river boats but is now a indoor market and restaurants. Pretty much all of the ground floor is food stores with the upper floor being mainly gifts and such. As I am sure you can imagine I spent some time on the ground floor…

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The Museum of Human Rights at the Forks

On the 30th I headed back to the Legislative Building which is supposed to be one of the most impressive in the country, and to be fair it was impressive! The building follows an ancient principle of incorporating the number 13. This may seem odd as its often seen as an unlucky number but in various different times it was given homage either to stave of bad luck or to invite good luck. Another curious feature (for all you acousticians and other geeks) is the Pool of the Black Star, a circular room underneath the dome that, when you stand in the centre, amplifies the sounds around you.

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Looking up from the Pool of the Black Star

After the Legislative building I headed over to St Boniface to have a nosey around the cathedral and university, while trying to get a shot I ended up chatting to another photographer who was going to do the photo’s for tomorrows festivities, as ever I got some info on where to go and local attractions.

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St Boniface façade

After St Boniface it was on to the remains of the old fort then back to the hostel to cook up some food.

1st of July… Canada Day.

A few of the peeps from the hostel and I spent most of the festivities at the forks where there were six stages of live music, a powwow, food stalls and a cheerfulness that only a few thousand friendly Canadians can exude.

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Main Stage at the Forks

I spent most of the day at main stage but couldn’t resist lunch at a pancake house, dinner of poutine and watched the powwow for a while. The night finished off with a fireworks show before I headed back for some much needed sleep.

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Big bangs

It should be noted that not everyone was celebrating, there was a demonstration by a group of First Nations people about the way they have been treated and the treaties that Canada has broken with them. One of the ladies at the hostel did a few interviews to try to understand what this. Check the video out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JecB6Bm5iyc&feature=youtu.be

The 2nd July was at the hostel having a good old natter with some of the other residents and resting up.

 

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Tough times

On leaving Saskatoon my general direction is down towards Moose Jaw, mainly because I love the name, but also because it has a bit of history to it. I had estimated that this would take a couple of days but I underestimated the effects that weather would have on slowing me down…

Saskatoon to Danielson Provincial Park (2nd June 2017)

From Saskatoon I headed south following the river as far as I could then headed through a dog park where I had my closest animal encounter with the typical “he wont bite!”… easy to say when you aren’t the one being run at by an angry looking dog… I have come across bears that are less aggressive then these domestic creatures!

It was nice to be back on the bike and not on roads but hard work as after the dog park it was onto gravel roads heading past Cranbury Flats conservation area and then back onto tarmac on the 219. I would be following this road for most the rest of the day, and in general it gradually rose in altitude for approximately 50km but only by about 100m this still takes energy out of you especially in 30 degree heat. Again this was all through prairies so the countryside is all very samey and I must admit its starting to get slightly lonely while cycling.

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Same old, same old…

By the time I got to the provincial park (effectively a large campsite owned by the province) I was drained both physically and mentally. I erected my tent, had a shower then started to cook dinner, while doing so I noticed some rather large black clouds coming over, it looked like a storm… I moved my cooking into an undercover area and finished up my vegi stew but by now big drops of rain were falling… I have to admit I was worried that this might be an uncomfortable night and had the bivi easy at hand in case I needed to escape a collapsed and broken tent, I haven’t tested it in really heavy wind! Thankfully it wasn’t a storm but the wind was high and the rain heavy… and the tent didn’t even seem to flap, most impressed!

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Camp

Danielson Provincial Park to Central Butte (3rd June 2017)

The day didn’t start well, although the tent had been good I had slept appallingly, so was sluggish when I got up, after my morning porridge I went to the site shop to get a sugar hit only to find they had no change and the card machine wasn’t working! The temperature was already getting hot as I slightly disgruntledly got back on the bike.

It was more miles of the same types of farmland until I got to my lunch spot of the town of Elbow, what an unusal name! After ouch the temperature was really starting to get to me, I never cope to well with temperature approaching (or in this case exceeding) 30 degrees. By the time I got to one of my only potential stopping spots for the day at Tugaske I was ready to rest… only to find the hotel I had planned to stop at and was signed from the road had been closed… my only options were either a roadside camp (les than ideal) or go 20km out of my way to Central Butte, 10km of that down gravel roads, so yet again I was on my last legs when I got to somewhere to sleep and not worried at how run down it was, I had drunk 3ltrs of water and eaten all my snacks but was still not doing well….

Central Butte to Moose Jaw (4th June 2017)

Setting off the day was already quite warm at 9am, and the local grocery store was shut… this meant that I had to hope that one in the other 2 small towns on the way would be open… I had packed a extra couple of litres of water to ensure that I wouldn’t run out today, after all I wouldn’t drink more than 4.5 ltrs in a day right???

After 25km I re-joined the 42 at Eyebrow (what’s with the town names round here!) and headed south east, as had been the case on the last couple of days the wind was coming generally from the south, this makes it hard even without a head wind. It turns out that all the shops and restaurants in the area are closed on Sundays so I have no food for the 100km ride! this was going to cause some issues! To top things off the road after Eyebrow turned in to a gravel surface for 20km, given the heat and dust I was going through water faster than I had anticipated.

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Some roads are better than others

I was struggling with the heat and the lack of food, by 14:00hrs I was in quite a bit of trouble, I was down to my last 1.5ltr of water and I was “bonking”, I had nothing left in the tank, everything was struggling to work an I was in a low gear just to keep my legs turning. And I still had about 20-30km to go. I kept having to rest and thoughts of just quitting were now firmly in my head. It took me about 3hrs to cover a distance that would normally only take 1.5hrs, I was supposed to be camping in Moose Jaw but I couldn’t make it past the outskirts of town where thankfully there was a hotel. I was a sorry mess when I checked in and I am sure I probably came across rude to the receptionist but I wasn’t meaning to be. I hit the vending machine to get some quick food before crashing out for nearly an hour. A shower followed and then it was off to get some food, oddly I couldn’t take much on for fear that I couldn’t keep it down. Also considering how tired it was I had an amazingly bad night sleep.

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I need a rest!

 

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Heads or Tails

This blog covers the section of the route between Kindersley and Saskatoon, a distance of just over 200km which is about 200km (120miles) or two days ride. In true British fashion I will mainly be talking about weather… This is because Saskatchewan is notoriously dull! The whole province so far has been relatively flat agricultural land, but it does have some interesting weather. Sorry for the lack of photo’s

Kindersley to Rosetown (24th May 2017)

Leaving Kindersley the weather reports were looking like I was going to get a few showers through the day, it had been a while since I had been rained on and given how dusty it can be I was hoping the showers would give some release from this. After about 30 mins I realised I had a lovely tail wind that was making going really easy and happened to glance behind, apparently the weather predictions had been correct that it would rain…. but wrong on how much, there was a full blown storm spinning around the plains behind me, it was hard to tell if it would hit me more not as it seemed to move away them come back before moving away.

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Keep a weather eye on the horizon

About 30mins after spotting the storm the edge of it came in and, just in time, I  was back in my waterproofs as hail the size of garden peas started falling for about 30mins (seems one of those days!) 10 mins after leaving the hail a driver flagged me down to warn me there was a hail storm about 10mins ahead… kind of them but it was the storm that had already passed over!

The rain started not long after and gradually got worse till about midday when I decided to stop at a restaurant in one of the local towns to hide from the worst of it…. the restaurant was closed and the weather was decreasing rapidly as the full force of the storm was coming in, I decided to hide under the eves of a building, just as I was getting into the shelter a local came by and opened the local hockey rink for me so I could shelter inside, very kind of him!

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Hail…

I hid away for over an hour and had to change out of my damp gear and into some of the warm stuff I haven’t used since Jasper as the temperature plummeted. I tired to open the door a couple of times to check the weather conditions, I have no problem riding in the rain but I wasn’t going out in a full blown storm… well I couldn’t open the door more than an inch as the wind was so strong!

Once the storm had passed I was out and on the road again, light drizzle came in and out but I made good time with the tail wind and was in town Rosetown about two hours later, I was drenched and slightly cold and there were more storms coming and predicted for the next day so I got a room in a motel and rested up and dried out, the owner was amazed that I had cycled through the storm.

Rosetown to Saskatoon (26th May 2017)

Today was quite different to the last cycling day… sunny and with a 15-20mph headwind… it was going to be a hard day with 120km to cover. I struggled through the day eating all my snacks and easily eatable supplies to try and keep my energy up but 6hrs of cycling into the wind was brutal and by the time I got to Saskatoon I was done in (yet again!) and struggled to even walk to a restaurant to stuff my face with a huge 3 course meal… when I returned to the hotel (I am in town for a few days awaiting a package so splashed out on a bed and shower!) where I got some of the complimentary fruit and munched on that too!

 

 

Into the Badlands

It’s been a few days since I have written one of these so sorry if it gets a bit wordy!

I left Calgary on Monday 15th May and took another detour from the originals route based on advice from locals and other travellers and decided to head to Drumheller and the Badlands… this place is also dinosaurs country but we shall come to that!

This the first time I had used my Garmin Edge Tourer GPS for anything other than recording the ride as I have a terrible habit of getting lost in cities… mountains or wide open plains, fine! But cities are a maze to me! So the GPS (from now on refered to as the scatnav) did well, keeping me off main roads most the way out of the city then through suburbia and the industrial areas and out onto the wide, flat, agricultural landscape of Alberta… this is were things got interesting, the scatnav took me down some lovely backroads, again keeping me away from traffic but unfortunately these roads then turned into gravel tracks… this is fine, Eve is built as a steel framed cyclocross or gravel bike but with all the equipment on her she isn’t quite so handy as normal (but still good!)

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Gravel Grinding

The first hour or so was fun with the tail of the bike kicking out on occasion so I was having think of what lines to take on these roads but as the day wore on I was finding it harder to keep the level of concentration and there were a few times that I nearly came of when the back kicked out too much or I over compensated. After nearly 7 hours on these roads I had had enough, the landscape is just field after field of cows, the roads varying levels of gravel or grit and I was tired, hot, dehydrated (there was nowhere to fill up my filter bottle and I had drained all of my three bottles that I carry…. and worse… I was hungry… on long days I have to keep eating and today was 140km… that’s approximately 3000 Calories burned so I should be eating over double what the recommended daily intake of food…. I had probably eaten 1000 calories all day.

Eventually I came back onto asphalt just outside of a lovely named village of Rosebud but the scatnav wanted to take me back onto the gravel… I ignored it and headed straight north of lovely smooth roads into the Badlands, I stopped briefly at Horseshoe Canyon before heading down a spectacular road and eventually into Drumheller where I was beginning to feel ill through lack of food so quickly showered and headed to the nearest food place and ate everything I could think of!

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Horseshoe Canyon

Drumheller 16th and 17th May 2017

Drumheller is known as the dinosaur capital of the world because of the high concentration of fossils located in the area. In the 1880’s, J.B. Tyrrell came to present-day Drumheller looking for coal and found the skull of a dinosaur near the Red Deer River. That dinosaur became known as the Albertasaurus and so began the collection of dinosaur remains that are sought after by museums all over the world and is provides a steady stream of tourists to the area.

 

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Drumheller water tower

I spent a couple of days in Drumheller having a look round cleaning Eve. I spent the first day eating and having a look around the town itself, its quite nice and has a clear dinosaur theme going through it! Day two I told the scatnav to take me the quickest route to the Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum which resulted in a rather hot and sweaty 50km bike ride for what should have been 15km!!! But the museum was interesting and lets be honest, who doesn’t like dinosaurs!

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T-Rex!

Drumheller to Hanna (aka “Power of the Voodoo; Hoodoos?”) 18th May 2017

I decided to take the less obvious route down the valley today to see the Hoodoo’s; unusual rock pillers often with a “cap” of rock on top that form totem pole like shapes, these only really form in Badlands and deserts so I thought it was worth the trip.

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Hoodoos

Because of this detour I ended up on gravel roads again… and then the gravel ran out and it was onto dirt tracks…. then through fields with hundreds of cows with there calves, if only I had listened to the reprogramed scatnav! It turns out that cows in Canada are scared of bikes and being in a field with literally hundreds of cows stampeding is scary as hell! After a couple of fields (probably 15 miles of track) it was back to gravel roads where a vehicles that came from the farm stopped and the driver asked if I was lost, then laughed as I told him what had happened.

 

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There goes the gravel!

Eventually I got back onto tarmac and after another 2 hours on lovely smooth roads with boring farm landscape I got to Hanna, I was tired so decided to have a couple of nights here, the gravel had drained my legs completely.

Hanna to Oyan 20st May 2017

To be honest there is not much to report from today, the landscape is a never ending sea of farm crop fields and there was nothing on route apart from one bad truckers diner from the start of the day to the end it was slight rolling hills flanked by the golden stubble of last years crops until I got to Oyan  where I set up the tent and cooked myself an excessively spicy salami hash (fried salami with sweet potato, onion and a tin of chopped tomato’s)

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Camp dinner

I wasn’t the only one having dinner, the mosquitos were out in force and were having a feast on me! The prairies (which I was now in) may not be that interesting to ride through but boy, the sunsets are something!

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Prairie Sunsets are quite something!

Oyan to Kindersly 21st May 2017

This was much the same as yesterday with the exception of crossing out of Alberta and into Saskatchewan, I had now passed through two states in full but I knew this one was going to be tough, and it seemed that started as soon as I was on over the state lines, the wind seemed to switch straight away and it became a head wind blowing over miles of open planes at about 20mph, it felt like an uphill battle. the few times that the headwind dropped it became a sidewind and pushed me all over the place on the road, and the amount heavy goods on this section was increasing the buffering I was getting to the point that I had a close call of getting pushed by the aerodynamics into the side of a lorry travelling at 100kph, brown trouser time! on a more positive note though I saw a beaver in a pond off to the side of the road. Unfortunately the wind didn’t help get rid of the mosquitos and I have been eaten to death!

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Saskatchewan…..

I am having a couple of rest days at Kinderley, there isn’t much here but I need to pick some stuff up and possibly get a new chain for the bike, mine is nearly worn out after the last 1800km.

 

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Hangover on Wheels

10/05/2017

I have been on in Canada for a month now, how exciting! Today I went up to Banff Cave and Basin, this is the birthplace of the national parks in Canada. The caves and basin are two thermal mineral pools (one in a cave and one outdoors) that are fed by a number of springs that run of Sulphur mountain.

I am not very good underground… in fact I am down right terrible! But I can’t let my fears stop me from seeing interesting things so I headed on into a really rather wonderful little grotto. Due to a unique type of snail you can no longer access the water but I sat by the side and soaked in the relaxing atmosphere (occasionally broken by school groups or tour groups) for about 30mins or an hour. The slight humidity, hint of sulphur, sound of running water and general ambiance of the place was relaxing. Its really no wonder that the First Nations thought that this was a spiritual place.

Banff Cave

Originally the cave was only accessible through a skylight but the Europeans blasted an access to it to make it easier for the tourists and small resort was built so people could “take the waters”.

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The hostel had organised a trip to the local climbing wall, so I thought I would join in and meet some more new people. The climbing was good, although my lack of practice was quite evident (to me), its amazing how just a month or so of not climbing makes you significantly weaker! After this it was a dip in the pool then back to pick my bike up from having a service, no issues but as I was in town for a few days I thought its was worth the while, and bike shops are an invaluable source of information for what is coming up next!

That eve a few of us went down to the bar for a pint… this turned into a few pints and I crawled back to my bunk at about 2am…. enough said about that!

Banff to Canmore (12/05/2017)

At 8am I was up and packing the last of my things back into the panniers, rather less organised than it had come out but I was feeling sick as a dog and had no idea how I would even with the short day to Canmore, this is only 22km and relatively flat. The views, those that I could pay attention to, were slightly different as the road follows the wide glacial valley with the mountains seeming to get further and further away.

Exiting Banff National Park

I am sad to say I left the national park on this journey and in the next day or so I will be leaving the mountains all together.

I got to Canmore at about lunch time and found a hotel, I was still feeling rough and ended up sleeping most of the afternoon. I can never work out if what I call a hangover is purely the alcohol or a lack of sleep and the fact I can’t really eat the next day.

Canmore to Calgary (13/05/2017)

Today I will be leaving the mountains behind me, and a sad day that is. I headed for route 1A and with my typical grace in towns, got misplaced… After a few wrong terns I got on the right route and headed up into some of the foot hills and climbed for about 30 mins, I was now out of the national park and it was obvious, after the first hour I was seeing signs of mineral extraction and other associated industry that isn’t allowed in the park.

20km from my starting point and I was out of the mountains all together and the next 50km after that were a gradual down hill. I stopped at an old Church called the McDougall Memorial United Church. This place was built in 1875 (old for this part of the world it seems) and was built as a mission to the Stoney-Nakoda and Blackfoot First Nations of this area (its located in a Blackfoot reserve). It was also a pioneering settlement, featuring southern Alberta’s first permanent homestead, first herd of breeding cattle, and first Protestant church, as well as one of the province’s first trained teachers.

McDougall Memorial United Church
After this I briefly passes through Cochran which seemed like it was still a cowboy town! Then climbed a rather large hill that required more effort than I really wanted to give, Granny gear even came into play again! At this point the road was getting rather busy as well so I was glad a few km later to take a turning towards Tuscany, no not that one! this was a suburban maze that confused me like you would not believe, I only wanted to get to the river then it was a straight (or as straight as rivers are!) run through the city to the hostel. pretty much the whole of the river in Calgary has been turned into a park so it was a rather nice journey into town, I was joined by a local commuter for a while which was nice, he had seen the panniers and was interested to know what I was up to.

After winding my way through riverside walk for about 15km I got to the hostel then it was the normal gig of shower unpack a few bits, wipe the bike down and go find some food.

 

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High Point

So the last few days I have been held up at the Icefield Centre as there has been an avalanche between me and my next stop, Lake Louise, but as places to get stack go its not bad. The views of the Athabasca Glacier are stunning, and even though I couldn’t walk on the glacier (its too dodgy with the gear I have) I had a walk up the various trails to it which normally resulted in a shoe full of ice-cold water and jeans that wouldn’t dry for hours!

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Athabasca Glacier

Eventually the avalanche was cleared late on Saturday (6th May 2017) and I could get on with my trip.

Icefield Centre to Lake Louise (7th May 2017)

This was going to be another tough day, they all seem to be! I was starting at a height of just under 2000m and would be 1400m before rising again to 2000m, after that it would mainly be down hill to Lake Louise at 1541m, so a lot of accent hills in general.

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The route

Its hard to describe the day, I was following Route 93 to Saskatchewan River Crossing. This road had been described to me as one of the most beautiful roads in the world, I had assumed this was the typical North American habit of describing everything as “amazing” or “the best”, it turns out that this was not the case, this road is truly awe inspiring, around every bend in the road is another spectacular mountain, lake or river that, for me at least, takes the breath away. Most the mountains were either jagged monstrosities that left me looking for possible routes up then realising they were way out of my capacity to climb; or huge faces possibly 2000m high, then realising that as I was already 2000m up in the pass this would make these possibly 4000m high, again way outside my skill!

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Big boys!

The cycling was tough, I am not sure if I am just tired or I was slightly effected by the height, apparently symptoms such as breathlessness can start from 1500m. To be honest it doesn’t really matter, I knew it was nothing serious even if it was altitude so I just kept plugging away. Even struggling up the hills I in awe of the mountains.

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oooooo pretty!

At about 12:30 I got to Saskatchewan River Crossing, perfect timing to get some lunch. I was under the impression this was going to be a small village but it turns out that it is a rather large service station with motel, grocery store and café. The food was overpriced and not particularly good but it filled a hole.

From the crossing I followed the 93 south and started to climb gain, part way through the clime there was almost a plateau, well really it was just a series of mini hills part way up the mountain. On one of the hills I came across my first black bear, and rather closer than I would like! The general advice is to keep at least 8 bus lengths from bears, I was maybe 8m… at a push… but he wasn’t really interested in me, he watched to make sure I wasn’t a threat, and I watched to make sure he/she wasn’t (hand close to the bear spray on my belt!) I yet again didn’t get a picture but I am sure you can understand that I was in quite a dodgy place to stop and take a pic!

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Curtesy of google… kinda how it looked…. not so flowery though!

After the bear encounter it was more climbing to reach the highest point of my trip at just under 2000m, my legs were dead and my lungs just couldn’t get enough oxygen for the exertion but onwards was the only way, and probably the quickest way to drop height.

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High point!

To be honest the next section was a blur of stunning lakes and glorious mountains but one thing I do recall is seeing a number of marmots that squeaked at me as I passed on the way into Lake Louise.

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I have no idea where I took this, possibly Bow Lake with Mount Jimmy Simpson?

Lake Louise to Banff (08/05/2017)

Today is a short day, 60km from Lake Louise to one of the places I am most looking forward to on the trip, Banff.

I wasn’t sure what route I was planning to take for this section as a quick glance at the road only showed the main road which is a duel carriageway and can get a touch busy at times. A closer look reviled the “old road” (everything is quite new here so its not that old!) Route 1A. This is a quieter road but involves more climbing than the main route, not that much o an issue after the last few days as I have decreased in altitude and the climbs are not as hard. The problem is the views weren’t great in comparison to the last few days but then they were magnificent.

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Not quite as grand as yesterday but still good!

The route took me through high Alpine meadows that had yet to come into bloom and a dark pieces of Canadian history that I wasn’t aware of, the Internment Camps.

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Internment Camp sign

Then it was down into Banff and to settle into the hostel for a few days rest.

To be continued…

 

 

Avalanche Stops Play

The last couple of days really have been stunning so let me tell you about them…

Jasper to Beauty Creek (04/05/2017)

Lets start with some numbers…:

Distance: 89.3km

Accent: 1206m

Highest point: 1610m above see level

But that’s only of interest if you are a numbers geek… Where I think you are reading this for the story so here we go…

I had been advised by one of the guys in a local bike shop to take Route 93A (the old road) rather than the 93 as it was for nicer. What he failed to mention was that it’s a lot higher and steeper that the 93, but the views were amazing and the road is quiet. As you follow the road you get stunning views of high lakes, often frozen still, and even higher mountains giving some purely breath-taking views, I can probably count on one had the amount of times in my life that a view has made me exclaim out loud, I have now probably added another 1/2 dozen to the list! The first is where the 93A crosses Whirlpool River and the view of a mountain (name unknown to me). I had to slam on the breaks and stop to ogle at the view for a while.

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Whirlpool River

From here I descended slightly to where I was to re-join the 93 heading south, at the junction of the road is Athabasca Falls, another rather pretty place. At the falls I ended up chatting to a few brits who had previously cycled the Grand Divide and where interested in what I was doing, it seems everyone wants to talk to the crazy person cycling in the snow in shorts!

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Athabasca Falls

As the miles ticked slowly by I was surrounded by even bigger mountains and the colour of the river slowly became more and more glacial blue and I was getting tired so took every opportunity to stop and look at the sights, in fact I have taken too many pictures to show you them all!

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Ooooo pretty!

Even the view of the tarmac wasn’t too bad with the towering peaks in the distance, you have to remember at this point I was already about 1200-1400m above see level so these things must be 3-4000m.

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Tarmac….

I stayed at one of the Hostels International Wilderness Hostels, there is no electricity and no running water, there wasn’t even supposed to be a caretaker at this time of year but Jennie had turned up a few day earlier than need to have a spring clean. Later on a younger group turned up and a fun night was had by all.

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The hostel

Beauty Creek to Columbia Icefield (05/05/2017)

Today has been the first proper day that I have any real problems with mother nature, it all started of fine as I left the hostel and headed up the tough climb that I knew was coming to what is possibly the highest point of my trip at 1938m and the Icefields observatory, the climb was tough, but not as bad as that to Duffy Lake, and I ended up walking the last 1/2 mile or so. I payed the extortionate fee to access the glass floored viewing platform and I am glade that I did, the views all around were stunning.

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Selfie and views of the Icefield

Whilst there the staff (people again talking to the nutter in shorts!) informed me that there had been an avalanche between there and Lake Louise, my next stop, and it had been a big one. They showed me a group of Facebook posts with pictures showing the road had been blocked by 20ft deep snow and that this covered approximately 100m of the road… there was no way I was getting through there today, possibly not tomorrow. I had no real option but to continue on to the Icefield Discovery Centre, it was the only place to stay before the avalanche, but it wasn’t going to be cheap.

So I continued on into the icefields (still in shorts….) and was rewarded with one of the most spectacular views I think I have ever seen. I had some lunch and checked in to the hotel after checking the state of the road (no updates). After settling in I went for a wander up towards the glacier but the trail is too much, (wet and snowy) for the gear I have, so I went to walk up the road and the weather drew in, so I returned to the hotel and am sat in the café updating you and looking over the amazing vista.

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Athabasca Glacier

If I am still stranded tomorrow hopefully I should get up to the glacier.

 

 

 

Jaunt in Jasper

So I have now made it to the mountain town of Jasper and here is how I got here:

Valemount to Jasper (30/04/2017)

Leaving Valemount I re-joined Route 5 heading generally north, I felt sluggish as I hadn’t been sleeping particularly well for a couple of days. You would think with all the exercise I would be sleeping like a baby but hey ho.

The conditions didn’t really change much, some proper white topped mountains peaking above tree line. This was pretty much the same for the first 20km (12miles) where I joined Route 16 heading East, at this point the road also started to ascend as I approached Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies… I stopped at Rearguard Falls (still on the Fraser River, boy that’s a long river!) The falls are renowned for being the farthest point that salmon migrate up the Fraser River to spawn, about 1,260 km (783 mi) from the ocean. I had a couple of stops before this but I thought a quick walk to the falls may help. On the way back the skies opened and this time it was hail instead of rain, waterproofs were on again and a couple of mins later it had stopped but I was already moving an in no position to strip off, I really dislike riding in waterproof trousers.

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Rearguard Falls

A few kilometres after leaving the waterfalls the road straightens out and I got a view of what I think was Mount Robson and boy is she beautiful! Sheer faces with ledges coated in snow… man, I want to climb her one day!

The day wore on and the trees started to thin out and suddenly I discovered I was no longer next to the river but a giant great big lake, Moose Lake to be precise. The lake is stunning and with the mountains in the background I couldn’t help but stop (and not just because the legs being tired) the lake is 11.7 km long and 1.9 km wide at its widest point.

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Eve at Moose Lake

Leaving the lake I began to notice that the mountains starting to look jagged and fun and I couldn’t take my eyes off Mount Fitzwilliam, a mass of ridges and the nodulous extension to the north-east, I will really have to come pack with my mountaineering gear at some point! Not long after I was into the national park and heading into Jasper. Just on the way in to town I think I saw some elk, maybe :s

Once in town I headed to the hotel, showered, then headed out for a wander around town and check out what there was to see. The town is more touristy than those I have been in since Whistler but that was expected and its actually quite nicely done with buildings in a semi traditional style, also I am out of season so its quite quiet. I have a couple of days here to explore so quite looking forward to that, although unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to get into the hills as my gear isn’t up to 2500m mountains in potential winter conditions.

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Jasper

O and I forgot to mention I have now crossed a time zone, so only seven hours behind UK time!

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Crossing lines

Jasper (01/05/2017)

Most of today I have been wandering around town looking at the sights and eating… lots, but here is what I know about Jasper (thanks google):

“Jasper is an alpine town in Canada’s Alberta province, is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. Amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the park has glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. The Jasper SkyTram climbs to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park.

Elevation: 1,062 m

Area: 925.5 km²

Population: 4,590 (2016)”
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Jasper from the air… well mountain…
Jasper and Whistlers Peak (02/05/2017)
To day I had a trip up Whistlers Mountain (not the ski resort, this is a different one!) by the Sky Tram, which is effectively a gondola, but nice all the same! I decided to walk the 7km to the Sky Tram and I am glad I did the scenery is great round here!
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River walk
From the station at the top I was a bit naughty and continued to the summit in trainers and jeans, the snow is still thick up there with me sometimes going knee deep in it but the views were worth it. I met a nice couple of Canadians up there who I chatted to for a while  and took some photo’s for, they also offered to drive me back to town when we got back down which I took them up on. All in all a very pleasant day!
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 Views!

Whistler and weather

As I said in my previous blog I have been in Whistler so here is a bit of info on the place before I tell you what I have been up to…

Whistler Village is located at the base of the Two Peaks, Whistler and Blackcomb. The village is actually relatively new having been proposed as part of the 1968 Winter Olympic bids. Although the bid was lost the development went ahead and opened in 1966. To start with the two mountains were operated separately, this led to a lot of competition and improvements and upgrades unknown anywhere else. The competition between the two mountains led to the area being named as the top ski resort for many year. Eventually the two companies merged in 2003.

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Icy water on Alta Lake, Whistler

Whistler Blackcomb was the centrepiece of a renewed bid on the part of nearby Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which they won in July 2003. Whistler Blackcomb hosted the Alpine Skiing events.

As you would imagine the town is heavily focused on the outdoors industry with skiing during the winter and mountain biking in the summer being catered for by a host of shops, hotels and restaurants in the chilled and pleasant town, I actually prefer the resort to the European resorts I have been to, but I was here only at the very tail end of the season

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Whistler

Whistler (17/04/2017)

Today I got back out in the snow and got some skiing in. This is only about the third time I have actually skied and last time (in Jan) I ended the first day with a cracked rib and concussion so I was slightly worried when on the lifts up to the slopes but I only planned to keep to the easy “green” runs. Its was a cloudy day and as I got to the top of the lifts it was rather misty. I spent about 4hrs getting more confident and improving whilst the cloud got thicker and thicker till eventually I could barely see where I was going so decided it was time to head down and get some food.

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I spent the evening with Alex and Jack again and one of there house mates cooked an amazing vegi Tai curry (thanks again!)

Whistler (18/04/2017)

The much promised thunder storm hasn’t appeared but today was a full rest day of pottering round town, eating pizza, sitting in the sauna and Jacuzzi. nothing really to report but I am looking forward to getting back on the bike tomorrow and heading to Lillooet approximately 130km north-east.

Whistler to Lillooet (18/04/2017)

I had an early start today as it was planned to be a long hard one, the day started with waffles and maple syrup (hmmmmm….. 🙂 ) then it was onto the bike, I may have got slightly misplaced getting out of Whistler as I was aiming to go to the Lost Lake, but the paths were still too icy on the bike. The first section of the ride to Pemberton was relatively easy with a few ups and downs but nothing to right home about. I had a bit of a stop at Nairn Waterfalls to rest and have a nosey.

 Nairn Waterfalls
Next it was on to Pemberton where I stopped for a spot of lunch knowing that the next section had some pretty tough up hills and was quite rural (next town was approximately 100km and would be my destination for the day.) Just after this I entered into First Nation territory, this meant that the amount of dwelling plummeted and distances between them slowly increased until I passed the last property and headed along the long flat road with the mountains in the distance, since I started I knew that any time I hit flat lands I would have to make the most of it and push the speed a touch, so I upped the pace slightly to approximately 14mph and enjoyed the views of Lillooet and Birken Head Rivers.  Then the fun began…

Fun on the road.

The next 3 hours, yes I did say 3, was all up hill. I started ok, dropping to my lowest gear (I have named this gear Granny (don’t ask!)) and just tried to spin my way up, unfortunately by the end of the first switchback I was already in need of a break so I had one… by the end of the second I was panting like you wouldn’t believe and stopped just past the first of the broken down lorries of the day. A couple more switchbacks and my legs started cramping, this hill was a b£$%h and I was probably only half way up! It was time for me start walking, I might not be bike fit but my legs are used to walking up hills for hours at a time, so plod up pushing my 32kg worth of bike and equipment.

At times I tried to cycle for sections but the gradient was too much for me, even with the support and cheering from drivers going in the opposite direction! To be honest I can’t tell you much about the accent as I was just digging in and plodding up. So after 3 hours I had done 1000m of accent, some of which was 18% hill I was done and I knew I was only about half way and had another hill left!

The next 20km I used the down hill to try and recover, I was in the snowline now and taking on a lot of water and some of my snack. as I was descending I am sure I heard bear calls in the woods, but surely its still too cold up here? But the singing started to warn them that I was around (or scare them off!) After the 20km I came to Duffy Lake, an 8km high mountain lake that was completely and utterly frozen over , I had a quick stop at the far end to take on a Clif Bar, one of my snacks for the day, and to take a picture. I was down to my last bottle of isotonic too and it was helping my legs to get over the cramps but I was still weak, the hill had really taken it out of me!

 

Ice cold! Duffy Lake

The next 30km was mainly down hill so I used the momentum of the downs to get me up the short up hills. I gradually dropped out of the snowline and saw my first bits of wild life, first of were a few Mule deer that surprised me when they scrambled up a steep back that I hadn’t been paying attention to (lesson learned!) Next I had a call from a car coming the opposite way warning of a bear cub up ahead, unfortunately my gopro was dead otherwise I would have turned it on! It was at the edge on of the other side of the carriageway and from what I could tell was a very young grisly cub, mum was nowhere in site and I was singing again to let them know I was no threat but the poor thing looked scared of me (or my out of tune singing!)  This is the first time I have seen a wild bear and it was a cutie! Thankfully I didn’t meet mum!

After this I was into Gott Creak area and my god this place was stunning, huge monoliths of rock on all sides that dwarf anything I have seen before! For miles these huge mountains flanked me making me feel small as a hurtled through at 30mph, doesn’t sound much but on a 32kg bike that’s quite a lot! One final climb followed that I did my best to cycle up and I nearly managed it… but walk some more it was! The last section consisted of downward switchbacks of 13%, and I was most glad I had gone for disk breaks.

I was at Lillooet, the outskirts was dominated by a logging area and damn and the town itself is definitely a working town rather than a tourist destination, I swear I heard duelling banjo’s as I entered! Everything in town was closed by 20:30, having got into town at 19:30 and needing to check in this meant that my only food choice was whatever I could get at the petrol station. But by this point I didn’t care, I grabbed anything edible, headed to the hotel and about 20mins later was asleep.

I will stay here for a day as my legs are shot.