|At the top of the Continental Divide|
The tallest of trees begins to thin. The snow upon the peaks recedes. The land begins to drop as the lush green valley’s spreads its mighty girth. Even the air smells different, laced with thick wheat and canola field pollen. It is without a doubt my rocky mountain crossing is coming to an end, not abruptly in any sort as one loathes the flatness of the plains for nearly 1000km’s of treacherously steep mountain passes. An end which is welcomed but will thoroughly be missed. The feeling of threading through these giants of the world is something in which can only be imagined but hardly explained. The sheer mass and beauty is neither shy nor inaccessible in these parts as we are reminded of our inferiority to these giants in which surround you upon your journey through. Healthy and in good spirits I am welcomed to the gateway of the Canadian prairies without incident, it’s not always the case as these lands are still lurking with wild beast and natural disasters around every corner. This is how my journey went.
|Walwa Falls 40km outside of Golden|
Leaving Revelstoke was tough as it remains my favorite mountain town but it was time to push on. I had been procrastinating leaving for a few days already to avoid the heavy rain showers that continued to fall but I realized that cycling for 3 or 4 months I would need to toughen up and get on with it, and considering what I’m dealing with now, a rainy day would be praised beyond belief. I cycled a good five hours stopping in at every board walk and nature walk along the way. Cycling is a great way to force yourself to do all the touristy crap because your ass and legs are screaming for any reason to take a break. Making sure to read every plaque and information board slowly and deliberately for the sake of time rather than absorbing the information. Rogers pass was next up. I had read a lot about it and heard from other people how treacherous It was so it was anticipated beyond reasonable doubt. The steep climb only lasted about 5 km before I pulled out of the rain cloud and found myself at the summit fully relieved. At the top I found 3 young guys on Canadian tire mountain bikes carrying skate boards, hatchets, water, and of course a few ounces of marijuana. They passed the pipe to me for a hit but I had to decline as getting stoned before descending the other side of the mountain at 70km/h seemed like a bad idea. I have to admit though that cycling from Calgary to Vernon to fruit pick for the season with nothing but skateboards and weed is pretty ballsy so hats off to those fella’s.
With 10km to go into Golden the highway information screen flashed up before my eyes “Multiple wash outs ahead” “Route #1 closed east of golden” Well shit, all that rain I had been hiding from a couple days before ended up washing out roads, bridges, and towns down the track, luckily though I was in good hands as a good friend of mine I met in Vietnam offered his house for me to crash in where I met some awesome people and drank way too much. It was going to be at least a week before the road would open again and the only other road would take me 700km out of the way in the direction that I had just came. River rafting, mountain biking, and partying were all good reasons to hang tight and let the road crews do their thing. I spent most of that week building and setting up dance platforms, teepees, stages, and bars in the forest for one of the coolest Canada day parties I’ve ever been to. 13 Dj’s 300 people and lots of drugs kept the party going from 7 pm to 8 am (at least that’s when I passed out). Golden was my last frontier for partying and getting crazy as the next couple months will be only about getting fit, healthy, and smashing off kilometers. No more messing around, its time to get some real km’s on these wheels.
|At the entrance to Lake Louise Village|
I left Golden early afternoon which was a bad idea as the weather went from cold and rainy straight into a heat wave of high thirties. The climb out of golden is in no way for the faint of heart either starting off with a section of road literally called “Ten mile hill”….FML. I didn’t make it more than 20km before ditching my bike on the side of the road and hiding under an animal overpass crossing to hide from the sun. I snuggled up on a cold hard piece of concrete and fell asleep regardless of the motorcycles and trucks wizing by a few meters away. I waited for the first shadows to be cast upon the mountains before getting back on the bike and cycling a measly 20 km more to the base of Kicking horse pass, the final frontier of the Rocky Mountains. It was already 9:00pm and I was really contemplating suffering the next couple of hours to the top and leaving myself a cruisy day ahead but my body protested and I’m glad I listened to it, I would have never made it in the condition I was in.
I didn’t waste any time the next morning waking up at 4:00am to cook a hearty mr noodles and hitting the 12km hill before the sun could hit me. I hadn’t heard anything about this pass at all but it turned out to be the most extreme elevation gain of 6.6% in all the TransCanada highway. The Rail Way had nic-named it “The big Hill” being the most fatal and dangerous section of track where runaway trains and derailing’s were often and disastrous. I’m not sure exactly how long it took me to get to the top but the sun was high above the horizon and already licking the sweat from my arms when I reached the peak in a sweaty panting heap in a half-conscious state. I made it! At the top was the continental divide and the border into Alberta, the peak of my climbing had been reached and all water flows to the Atlantic ocean 6000 km due east from here. It was a great feeling knowing that the mountains I had just spent the past month lingering in had been conquered; I won’t be seeing anymore hardcore hills for at least a couple thousand km’s into northern Ontario.
|Summit of Rogers Pass!|
Lake Louise was my next stop down the road for some food and rest. I wanted to take the old highway down because it’s closed to traffic but the barricades told me there was grizzly bear research being done and it was closed to everyone. Normally I’m more rebellious but for some reason it didn’t seem worth the risk. There was no messing around on the way down though as I followed the gradual slope of the river into Lake Louise it almost felt unnatural to be cycling without so much resistance. The mountain training paid off as my legs pumped hard at a steady 40km/h. being in high spirits and stoked to finally be going downhill into Calgary I decided the extra 10km round trip from Lake Louise Village to the Lake above was worth it. I had seen it before in the winter and wanted to see the summer perspective so I set off up the hill….. Worst mistake ever. Looking back now I would have paid $50 to get a drive up because the 5km climb at 8% grade nearly finished me off. I stopped several times on the way up to roll into the grass and catch my breath and stop my heart from exploding out of my chest. I got passed (slowly mind you) by hard core cyclists with fully dropped jaw in awe of this retarded kid with an army helmet pushing a touring bike loaded with 105lbs of gear up the hill. I good round of high fives and cheers welcomed me at the top however.
|The loaded up Canadian tire bikes|
It was nice at the top as expected but the hordes of tourists snapping the iconic Lake Louise photo was a bit of a turn off so I high tailed it down the mountain flying past cars, and other cyclists making sure not to waste any of that hard work I put into getting up there on rubber from my brake pads. At the bottom I was starving and my hands were quivering from over exertion, it was nearly mid-day and the sun was relentless so I stopped into a restaurant and loaded up on a burger and beer. I made it through some of my fries and most of my burger before passing out cold on the window bar. I was asleep for 45 minutes before the bar tender startled me with an offer for another beer. I had only 60km to go all downhill into Banff and the shakes had gone away so I pushed on out of Lake Louise early afternoon despite the heaving sun above. I had my bike clicked into low gear feeling great for cruising at 35km/h on the flat sections and even more on the downhill’s but the sun was just too much. I couldn’t seem to physically drink enough water to replenish what I was sweating out. At one point I crawled down to a nice cool snow melt river to drink and passed out again on the river bank in the direct sunlight. The day got hotter and hotter; one perk was spotting four grizzly bears frolicking in a field just off the highway which was surprisingly only the second time in my life to see a wild bear and the first time ever for grizzly’s. I was able to get within 15 feet of one for some incredible photo opportunities.
At last I’m in Banff meeting up with an old friend I met in Australia. Hiding from the sun and recovering from heat exhaustion things are looking good and I’m on pace now to get back home. The days are way too hot to be cycling so my new strategy will be cycling throughout the night across the parries and hiding in the shade during the day.