Interesting article on how to control fear while on a climbing route, do you have any tips or tricks? It something I have struggled with more since a ground fall a couple of years ago.
“My whole career has been from scratch, so I never took it for granted that people care and support what I do.” – G-Eazy
If you read this blog you will see that I often make reference to Alpkit, who for the last 18 months have kindly supported me on my adventures. When I mention that I am an Alpkiteer to people you get a look of respect (or is that confusion?) in return. Only the pro’s and truly awesome adventurers get supported, right? I don’t put myself in either of those brackets, and I am not a social media “trend setter” either. Who has time or energy to maintain such a public image? But I do get out and about and often end up chatting to random people (or ‘my wafes and strays’ as I tend to call them!) about how great there gear is. I often get asked how I got supported and why did I go with Alpkit?
The answers to both of these questions is simple.
I got supported because I was doing something slightly different and I had the nerve to ask the question, even though I am not a big name. I told them my plan, I told them what I was after, and I told them how I would aid the brand, after all it is a business not a charity! I wasn’t greedy, I didn’t want huge amounts off them. I wasn’t boastful, I had no history of big, epic trips. But I was confident, the challenge was big but it was achievable even with my lack of experience. Brands understand that things happen that cause trips to be abandoned but they want to know that at the start there is a good chance that you will succeed.
And why did I ask Alpkit. Well this was down to a number of things:
- They did the gear I was after… well you wouldn’t want to be supported by a surf brand if you are a high altitude mountaineer would you!
- I like the way they do thing. The brand isn’t one of the old school established brands, they are trying to do something different and be more approachable.
- The ethics. This will be slightly different for everyone, I think ethics are quite a personal thing. Alpkit have a foundation that tries to help people from less privileged backgrounds access the outdoors and generally get people out and about. Would I really like to attach my name to a company that hasn’t got any qualms about using sweatshops and live plucked down? No thank you!
If you are looking at getting supported as an adventurer I would suggest that you talk to the brands that you use, you trust and want your name to be associated with. If you are looking at being supported you have to remember you aren’t just representing that brand, but that brand is becoming representing your beliefs. But my biggest bit of advice for anyone who has read this is: just ask them the question.
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…
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.
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.
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!
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!
Right I need sleep so that all you are getting!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Moose Jaw to Buffalo Pond
On leaving Moose Jaw I headed slightly east before going directly north on the 301, this road goes parallel to the road I entered the town buy but is gravel. I followed this until I reached Buffalo Pond Provincial Park located in a valley next to a lake. I had every intention of just passing through but there was scenery other than farm land so I decided to set up camp for the night. I had a paddle in the lake and washed down my bike before spending a very pleasant evening chatting to some fellow campers who were a couple of pitch down from mine, they handed on a bit of knowledge on what’s coming up, wildlife around the area (one of them was a biologist and twitched (called birders over here apparently)) and some Canadian history.
Pelican at Buffalo Pond
Buffalo Pond to Regina
After cooking up some porridge and breaking camp I followed the valley path as far as I could, the path was a mix of gravel (tough to cycle on) and grass (even tougher to cycle on) for about 20km where I left the park and headed back on to gravel and dirt roads towards Regina. Due to how flat the land being so flat I could see the city for miles before I got the industrial areas at the edge of town. After a few minutes I passed these and found a route to the river which, as seems the case with most cities, I was able to follow for a few miles to the city centre and the youth hostel I was to stay at for a couple of nights. The hostel was slightly run down compared to the other Hostelling International hostels I have stayed and quieter but as ever the staff were amazing and there were people to talk to. After a shower I went for a wander into the Down Town area and found a “traditional English pub” to eat at, it wasn’t very good… I should know better by now than to go to that kinda place! Then back to the hostel for some much-needed sleep.
Its not all gravel grinding!
Today I wandered round Regina, first exploring the bike shops… again its Sunday so not many were open and they didn’t have the cassette that I was looking for, seems that the “easy to get£ components that I had built the bike round aren’t always that easy to get, also it was bad timing being a Sunday. After this I had a wander around Wascana Park (the name “Wascana” is derived from the Cree word Oscana meaning “pile of bones” in reference to the plains bison bones scattered around Wascana Creek before the area was populated by non-indigenous people). The lake is quite pretty with a number of islands and some stunning views over the impressive Legislative Building, possibly the nicest building I have seen so far in Canada. After this I headed back and got supplies for dinner (quinoa with lemon and chilli halloumi yum!) and pack and prep for the next days ride.
Legislative Building through a waterfall
Regina to Fort Qu’ Appelle
From Regina I was heading in a general north western direction to Fort Qu’ Appelle. I followed route one out of town, this was slightly dodgy as there were a lot of roadworks going on meaning the road was narrow and more lorries. I followed this to White City, which seemed to be a service station, and had a Subway for early lunch. After about another 30mins I left route 1 (after having to cross 3 lanes of main road moving at 100kph, thankfully Canadian roads are quiet!) and joined route 10 a few hours of flat Saskatchewan prairie I dropped down into another of the almost hidden valleys and into Fort Qu’ Appelle and headed to the campground and set up the tent. I headed into town to explore and visit the museum to learn a bit about the town, there wasn’t much to learn apart from the fact that it had been set up by the Hudson Bay Company as a trading post and fort and the museum had the second oldest building in Saskatchewan. That night I was treated to one of the most amazing sunsets over Echo Lake that I have ever seen.
Fort Qu’ Appelle to Lemberg
I decided I wanted something other than porridge for breakfast and headed for my first Tim Hortons (aka Timmies), to be honest they aren’t anything to write home about but Canadians make a big deal about them so…!
Apparently this is quite Canadian!
I decided to follow the pretty route (read long and hard!) down the valley of gravel paths with headwinds, it was hard going and it detracted from the beauty of the place the head winds were brutal. A storm had been forecast for about 4pm so I couldn’t hang around which was a shame as at about 1pm a local farmer drove out to offer me lunch which I unfortunately had to turn down due to worrying about the storm. About an 10 mins later and the owner of the museum I had visited yesterday drove up to say “hi” after he had noticed my tracks at the turning and wanted to check how I was getting on.
A few hours more gravel grinding I got to the small town of Lemberg where I got a hotel room to shelter from the potential storm that had yet to appear. As ever it was a quick shower before heading out to look at the town and find some food…. Everything was closed so I had a pizza at the hotel bar and chatted to some “quirky” locals, as I was finishing dinner the lady behind the bar told me that I had been invited around the house of another of the servers to say “hi” as they were English too, so I was walked over and introduced to Tammie, Neil and family. I had a lovely evening with them and am very grateful for their hospitality and the nicest cup of tea I have had this side of the pond! O and the promised storm hadn’t appeared.
Lemberg to Melville
I woke up to rain… and nearly didn’t bother getting out of bed but I have miles that I need to make so even if its only a short day I had to get moving. I popped into the local coop to pick up supplies for the day and then hit the road, I followed the main roads east and north in the rain and brutal winds; I was also tired from the day before and knew that I wasn’t going to be having a big day so just toughed it out to the next town, Melville where I stayed at a cheap motel and hid from the rain, I was soaked through and cold… my waterproof jacket had wetted out and the temperature had dropped to about 15oc with the wind it had got into my bones.
Melville to Yorkton
I struggled to get out of bed again today and was slow getting going… especially as I stopped at Timmies for breakfast again. I think taking pity on me the staff gave me a voucher for a free coffee next time I stop at one. The countryside is slightly hillier today and there seems to be more trees, it vaguely reminds me of Cheshire but flatter. I only 45km; all of which in pretty much a straight line and the wind had dropped; I couldn’t help but try and push the pace, I covered the distance in 2hrs. The scenery is the same until I got to Yorkton. I have to say I was majorly underwhelmed by the city on entering the first thing you see is the Casino in a rather tacky first nation style, the main area of the town is surrounding Broad Street, a three-lane highway right through the middle…. I will stay here a few days to recover and see if I can get my new cassette… Wish me luck!!!
Some days be like…
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.
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!
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.
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.
I need a rest!
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.
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!
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!
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!)
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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!
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!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Internment Camp sign
Then it was down into Banff and to settle into the hostel for a few days rest.
To be continued…