Lynn and I decided on a short road biking tour to end the summer. We picked the most scenic stretch of road in the Rockies we could think of – the Icefields Parkway.
After a few quick emails at the Alpine Law office, we hit the highway for the short drive from Canmore to Lake Louise. We park the car up at the Ski Resort and set off on our road bikes. In place of the heavy old-style carrier rack and panniers are the new, lightweight under-seat and handlebar packs. We won’t be camping on this trip so only minimal extra gear is needed – raingear, changes of clothes, bike repair kits, and snacks. In fine weather we soon pass a grizzly bear munching on berries by the side of the road, surrounded by usual photogs a few feet away. The first stretch is approximately 40 kms uphill to Bow Lake. We stop at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge for a coffee and trail snacks and to put on our raingear 2 hours in. Temperatures drop below 10 Celsius, but luckily the wind is generally at our back. Over the highest point of the trip, Bow Pass at 2097 m, and down the other side we make excellent time past beautiful summits like Howse Peak, Mt. Chephren and Mt. Sarbach. We arrive wet and chilled at our destination for the night, the Saskatchewan River Crossing – near the source of the North Saskatchewan River, flowing east to Hudson’s Bay. A fine dinner and hot shower at the Crossing Resort restore feeling to the extremities. Totals for the day are 3 hrs 30 minutes and 83 kms.
After the cool wet second half of our ride yesterday, and the questionable weather forecast, we are pleasantly surprised to awake to some clear skies with only scattered rain showers. After a good buffet breakfast we head out again. Soon after the road becomes wet, indicating the rain has just passed through, but the system appears to be moving in the same direction – and at the same speed – as we are. Luckily this weather situation persists all the way to the top of the most difficult climb of the trip, Sunwapta Pass at 2065m. We crest the pass and roll in to the Icefields Centre after 50 km and a little over 3 hours in the saddle. Visibility at the Columbia Icefields is excellent, with expansive views of of Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda, the Athabasca Glacier, Snowdome, and Mt. Kitchener. The highest point of the trip is behind us and it is generally all downhill to Jasper from here. The second half of the day goes by much quicker, covering 50 km in 2 hours and 15 minutes. We pass by the Icefield Skywalk and ride along the shore of the Athabasca River, flowing north to the Arctic Ocean. We arrive fairly exhausted at the Sunwapta Falls Resort. Totals for the day are 5 hours 15 minutes and 100 kms.
Most of the climbs and distance behind us, we awake the third day feeling excited for the homestretch. After a good buffet breakfast we head out in a mix of sun and clouds, with low mist hanging around many of the mountain summits. We stop briefly after 1 hour at the Goats & Glaciers Lookout for a beautiful view (pictured here). The intermittent rain and wet roads persist, and we find ourselves soaking wet once again. However the road is downhill and the wind is at our back and we arrive at the Jasper town limits in just over 2 hours. We stop by a local bike shop to pick up empty bike boxes, which are needed for the shuttle bus ride home. One last task for the bikes however, a short ride out to the Jasper Park Lodge for dinner. A hearty meal with views of Beauvert Lake at sunset is our reward for a job very well done! Tomorrow morning we will break down the bicycles, box them up, and board the shuttle bus back for Lake Louise. Totals for the day, not counting the dinner excursion, are 57 km in 2 hours and 10 minutes¸ bringing our trip total to a nice, round 240 kms.