Days One and Two
Time to get to the action and the rides. Days one and two are dusted and done and in the books. I am writing this on the morning of day three as the rest tarry in their tents and my coffee is hot and breakfast has been taken care of. My morning bike packing rhythm starts with one thing, coffee! Two coffees and all is right with the world again . Tired muscles fade a little and you can begin to look forward to the day to come.
I will do a quick recap here with some pictures of the first couple days.
Notes To Frame the Trip:
I am tripping the Rockies (Adventure Cycling Association) Jasper to Banff top section of the Tour Divide route. This is a newer route but John and Sarah (I’ll get there in the next paragraph) needed to finish this segment to have completed the entire Tour Divide route. They have strategically done a couple weeks every year and slowly built the entire thing to completion. This end of the route is not ‘supposed’ to be highly technical more like my standard gravel route with mountains and ten kilometre climbs thrown in.
The group: I primarily invited my self through my friend Eric. I met Eric and Rene from Colorado Springs on my own cross country 2017 bike tour. Eric is riding with us and Rene drives the Truck and schleps some stuff and is like the sag wagon for us. Overall great fun. John and Sarah (Eric, John and Sarah all work at REI in Colorado Springs) like I said before are completing the last segment of the divide route. We are not the young persons convention at this our ages span 53 – 70 (53, 60, 62 and 70) so we are not trying to break and land-speed records. Eric calls it ‘party pace’ which is nice for a change.
Bear Aware: Part of the reason I wanted to cycle with this group for a trip was to gain knowledge and experience at actual back country bear aware camp and life management. It is such a different world out here for campers. In Ontario for the most part raccoons are the pests we have to deal with. In this world of bears you need to change your whole mentality. The campsite has to be 100% clean and in your tent all you have is your sleeping gear. Everything else that might have an odour is placed in bear boxes or stowed away using a bear hang. I am learning from three who have stayed alive in grizzly territory (so I ask them a lot of stupid pesky I want to stay alive questions). Case in point I sat in the camp site the other night at 10:00 (still light) and looked around and every camp site did not have one item left on a table or around the camp site. Every single camp site looked like the day they pulled in before they unpacked. I am not used to that.
Day One The Ride:
Day one started wonderfully with some beautiful trails out of Jasper. We got a late start due to transportation issues. The first part of the trail is like a good rail trail. Then life devolved. We are bike packing and carrying a lot of gear and weight and we came to a 12 km section of what could generously be called single track with the last 8 k being very technical. The hills were such that John Sarah and I were in the order. Sarah, then John, then me. Sarah would come to a hill that we couldn’t push up alone. I would shimmy past John (next stop should I slip and fall is the Atabasca River 400’ below) then push Sarah’s bike up to the next small top place, then I would go back down, shimmy past John and push his bike up then I would go down and push my own bike up. Strava will not show the Herculean efforts of this ride for any of us but basically for John, Sarah and I the last 5K was almost all hike a bike and pushing.
By the time we finished this segment it was almost 4:30 and we still had a 50K press to get to our camping place in Hinton. In the end day one finished the ride portion when we got to the cam site to meet Rene at 8:00 at night. We were all tired and famished. Rene had bought some cold cokes and sprites and they never tasted so good!
Day Two the Ride:
Day two started late again. We all camped on a site at the KOA in Hinton and waiting for tents to dry and then shopping for the trip for John and Sara meant we got away late again.
The ride was what one would expect from Alberta Rocky Mountains, up and down hills all day long. The added fun was that this portion of the Tour Divide route uses primarily gravel logging roads with logging trucks barreling by and covering you in gravel dust every couple minutes. I will try and add a video of one of the trucks driving by in the post.
The last hill into the campground at Lovett River is a killer. It burns the legs and coming at the end of a long day and nearing 8:00 at night it is demoralizing. We all set up quickly and snarfed down food to get to bed to get the rest we need to keep going. The weather has been good. Pit toilets and just a pump for water at these sites that need to be purified to use. We all have various purifiers so all of that is covered.
This was my first night camping fully bear aware. You can have nothing in your tent except what your sleep in and wear in. Pockets and anything that might have a strange smell must be removed. It is weird, even toothpaste or a chapstick can attract a bear. We have the truck so we do have a place to stash the stuff. I choose the garbage cans because they are totally clean with fresh bags and no garbage. I also tend to get up earlier than most of the others so this was I had access to my own stuff in the mornings.
On the wildlife front I have seen bear, deer, fox, elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.