Lake Louise-Rampart Creek, 13th July 2015
A bit of a rough side to the start of the trip...After flying into Calgary I took a 2 hours bus to Banff my planned starting point for the bike ride. The shuttle bus took me at the front door of the Alpine Centre where I had booked my stay. As I was completing the task of assembling my bike and sorting my gear, bathed in the sun I realised that my bike rack was damaged and my rear wheel not turning. All those idyllic vibes quickly evaporated as my thoughts started spinning and figuring out what I ought to do. Of course on my previous trip I had assembled the bike at the airport to inspect if the flight had caused any issues and knew a Brompton shop was at hand should I need it! This time I didn't and had to learn my lesson... In the morning I had to catch an early bus back to Calgary and a suitable shop! Justin the shop mechanic understood my sorrow and started looking at the bike rack. The bad news was that he didn't have a replacement for two more days but the good one is that with a few pull and pushes he put the crooked rack back in a decent shape. The wheel was perfect and the rest all in order and he thought that I might be able to ride on...It was time to get the next bus to Lake Louise, my new starting point! The bitter start made this first day of cycling even sweeter. I left the campsite in earnest and decided to make the most of a clear sky. Soon after Lake Louise I turned into the Icefield Parkway and began a steady climb to the highest point of the day, over 2000 metres. Still the grades were gentle and made easier by long stretches of flat. Right at the start a large bear sign informed me that they are a lot, they are dangerous and if I ever met one I should stay in my 'vehicle'...thinking my vehicle might not be enough protection I cycled on faster and found out how hard it is to climb a mountain while whistling and singing. I had heard over and over how wonderful this road to Jasper was and now I was finally cycling it and it was a never ending display of natural wonders and breathtaking views. The whole day was uninterrupted expanses of forests and dramatic granite peaks, creeks gushing down, waterfalls and every now and then small lakes scattered around, set like jewel stones of a light jade colour I had never even seen. Despite the not so kind forecast of rain, the day turned out ideal, mostly sunny with some cloudy spots here and there and two or three very light showers that were almost pleasant and cooled my effort down. The only longer shower happened right at the time of my lunch break in a chalet and only lasted a sandwich, a cake and a coffee! Despite being the height of the summer season, traffic so far has not been an issue and especially early morning I am often riding long stretches of empty road. Cyclists have also been spare, and the all day I have only seen half a dozen, all heading the opposite way. I planned a stay at the Rampart Creek campsite but I had heard already it might be closed to tents due to a 'bear issue' as they call them here! It seems a bear went into a tent who had some food in it, luckily when the camper was not around! Upon arrival it was indeed close so I hoped the nearby Rampart Creek hostel I had booked on my return to Lake Louise would have a spare bed. Melanie, the host from Calgary, was really welcoming showed me my cosy bed in one of the wooden chalets and to my utter shock informed me that the little hut up the hill was a natural sauna I was free to use! My bliss gauge reached the highest readings on the 'blisster' scale... after sorting my things out she gave me a lighter, told me the fire was all set up and ready to be lit with logs and sticks and to enjoy it, and I really did! I lit the fire in the stove and in no time the large pan on top heat up the water piping hot. After washing I sprinkled some on large rocks set on the stove resulting in spouts of steam and certainly the most unexpected and pleasant sauna experience I have ever had! Food along the road is really spare and the hostel had no cafe and as I was chewing down yet another peanut butter sandwich Melanie took some pity and appeared with some instant noodle I could prepare in the kitchen. Brontie despite the crooked rack seems to work well and hopefully will take me a bit further along this magic road!
Rampart Creek-Honeymoon Lake, 14th July 2015
As far as scenery I believe today was the best part of the Icefield Parkway. I was really blessed as I could ride all day under a beautiful sun and a clear blue sky with just enough clouds to make my pictures more interesting. Views were constantly inspiring like yesterday, just much more wild and dramatic. The day started with a pretty hard ascent to an elevation of 2100 metres. Grades were steeper than I thought yet I managed to do it all on the saddle, helped by several breaks to catch my breath, drink, eat but mostly stare at the wonders all around me. The Icefield Centre was a very overpriced lunch but around here there are not many options and I have already learnt to grab all the food I can find as one never knows how long it will take before the next. Big glaciers and the icefalls, together with the centre souvenir shop, seemed to be a magnet for all the package tourists and the buses crowd; despite the nice scenery in front of me, I couldn't wait to be back on Brontie and to ride back to peace! I reached Honeymoon Lake campground and while cycling along the entrance way, a girl on a racing bike was energetically waving at me! I realised it was the Chinese girl that I had met at Banff hostel and had told me that the following day she would be joining a group tour, riding a racing bike from Jasper to Banff! Tomorrow will be almost a rest day with hardly 50 km to get to Jasper.
Honeymoon Lake-Jasper, 15th July 2015
Today was a short day of cycling, 54 kilometres mostly downhill to Jasper to complete the northbound section of the Icefield Parkway. Tomorrow will take the same road heading south in what feels like the start of another journey, from Jasper to Vancouver. On the way down to Jasper I first cycled under a blue sky and increasingly hot sun. Half way down I stopped at Athabasca Falls that were quite impressive despite having to peek at the waterfalls through a forest of Chinese tourists selfie sticks! As I was about to leave the sky had turned to a menacing lead colour and a heavy downpour surprised me with nowhere to hide like it is the case for pretty much all of the Icefield Parkway. I resigned to wetness, pulled out my rain gear and faced the rain for about thirty minutes or so. Arrived in Jasper nice and early and a bit damp I found out that not all was lost and I was about to enter what must be the best launderette in the whole word with everything a wet tourist cyclist could wish for. Laundry facilities, three shower rooms, wifi, plugs to recharge gadgets and a cafe all in the same place! I decided to use one hour to reset myself to a presentable and perfumed state...Shaven, washed and with clean clothes and after three days of not much civilisation and proper food it was time to indulge in some serious eating. I chose a pizza place, ordering a very large one and a Caesar salad and coke that after few days of peanut butter diet, tasted real good!Weather was still very mixed. I had planned to stay at Whistler campsite but weary to get back to damp in the morning my decision to book the last bed available at the hostel proved very well timed. No sooner than I arrived another big downpour started and I congratulated myself on not having had to pitch a tent for the night!
Jasper-Beauty Creek, 16th July 2015
A very chilly morning in Jasper. I had breakfast chatting with a nice Canadian guy from Seskatchwan, having a trekking holiday for a few weeks. He put canadian distances into perspective telling me his train had been delayed fifteen hours! Now that is unheard of even by Italian railway standards! He still looked at the positive side of things remarking it had been a good thing as they were all given a free meal onboard to survive the ordeal. In Jasper Route 93 splits into two; for this return journey I took much quieter 93A. It was a nice detour and early in the morning I cycled about an hour without meeting any soul. At Athabasca fall where the previous day I had a fight and survived against the chinese selfie stick army, I decided to avoid any further confrontation and moved on eventually merging to the main road. The morning was really fresh and I had to wear my winter jacket, gloves and hat each time the sun disappeared into the clouds. It got threatening and stormy too as I approached Sunwapta Falls the only hope of a decent meal for the day. As I walked in the restaurant rain started falling and I could indulge in a hyper caloric meal that lasted enough for the sun to return and shine. Satisfied and heavy, only 30 kilometres now separated me from my night stop. I struggled up the climbs to Beauty Creek where I met Theo a girl from Atlanta, cycling Banff to Jasper on her first ever solo bike trip. After having been registered by the not very sociable and quickly disappearing host, we were informed that it would be a full house tonight, a rare event in such a small and remote mountain hostel it seemed and something our host didn't seem to be particularly looking forward to! Me and Theo had a quiet dinner in the very basic kitchen where everything in order to work involved a clockwise or anti-clockwise twist of a particular valve connected to a gas bottle; a user manual seemed badly needed... After an hour or so as the evening approached we were wondering what had happened to the crowds that were meant to suddenly animate this peaceful spot of the world. For the tired cyclists it was time to call it another day of pure joy along the Icefield Parkway. As we hit the sack the place came alive and in a dreamlike state we could hear the large party slowly trickling in and settling down on their beds for the night!
Beauty Creek-Rampart Creek, 17th July 2015
I woke up to a heavy drizzle and a very cold July temperature. As the day was not going to be too long I decided to head to the kitchen for a slow breakfast. The group of eighteen hikers mostly from Edmonton that had arrived last night were loaded with enough big boxes of food that could have got them to Everest base camp and back! I found out that they were staying for three nights and trek along the local trails. As the hours progressed more and more emerged probably drawn by the smell of fried sausages, bacon and eggs as much as I was; it all turned into a bit of an early morning breakfast party. Theo also joined in. By nine o'clock the sky got lighter and the hostel buzzed with packing activities of trekkers and cyclists preparing for their adventures. We all said goodbye wished good luck and that the sun would sometime shine on us. I set off my uphill cycling to Columbia Icefield in a light rain but after an hour some blue spots opened in the sky. Seeing the road from the opposite perspective was completely different and going south meant I was also facing the sun for most of the day. I reached Rampart Creek where Alan and Melanie gave me again a warm welcome and, graduated from my previous stay, it was soon time to take charge and light the fire so that the hostel population would be able to enjoy another amazing sauna! The rest of the evening was joyfully spent around the fire chatting and eating Smor, marshmallow sandwiches with chocolate roasted over the flame, the first original Canadian delicacy of this trip!
Rampart Creek-Lake Louise, 18th July 2015
Back in Lake Louise after completing the Icefield Parkway in both directions. Brontie has performed really well so far and from what I can tell the rack seems to hold on alright too. As predicted by the forecast the morning sky was finally cloudless and for the first time in Canada I would suffer the summer heat! I departed really early from Rampart Creek planning to reach Lake Louise in good time and be able to see the lake up the hill. I arrived here just before three but the climbs today were tough and together with the distance and heat, for the first time I did struggle a bit. After Saskatchewan Crossing the road started climbing in rather steep and long stretches that seemed very different compared to the time when I was enjoying them downhill! Once on top the effort was well worth it as I was able to start the long and gentle descent while staring at the beauty and amazing colours of Bow Lake and Waterfowl Lake under a shining bright sun. Arrived in Lake Louise I checked into the campsite and was soon joined by Sophie a student from Minneapolis who is taking her first solo trip with car and tent and will share my camping spot. After a well earned shower I headed up to the lake that despite beautiful was just too overcrowded with the five star Fairmont Hotel crowd and everybody else out on their Saturday weekend break. The traffic up an down the small road was atrocious but here is also where my bike came in handy. I struggled a bit uphill but could speed down fast while everyone else was patiently sitting in their cars and not getting anywhere. I was recommended the hostel restaurant and really enjoyed a massive meal whose main course was a elk burger! Tomorrow all the excitement of starting to move west, already satisfied by the adventure, yet ready for more and certainly looking forward to reach my beloved Pacific Coast!
Lake Louise-Golden, 19th July 2015
Golden-Canyon Hot Springs, 20th July 2015
Canyon Hot Springs-Yard Creek, 21st July 2015
Yard Creek-Squilax, 22nd July 2015
Squilax-Savona, 23rd July 2015
Savona-Lillooet, 24th July 2015
Lillooet-Pemberton, 25th July 2015
Pemberton-Whistler, 26th July 2015
Whistler-Vancouver, 27th July 2015