The Icefield Parkway and a nice break

The Icefield Parkway and a nice break

On my second night in Jasper National Park, I ended up meeting two Kiwis who were cycling north. Really cool people and we spent the night together with John who also ended up at Jonas Creek. The night before, Amy and Ryan stayed at Rampart Creek campground and were woken up in the middle of the night by park wardens that asked them to move to the nearby youth hostel. A wolf had attacked a family in their tent, a very unusual occurrence.

John, Ryan and Amy at Jonas Creek on a chilly morning
Athabasca Falls

So the next day, when I arrived at Rampart, the campground was closed. I went to the nearby youth hostel where the host told me they were full, but kindly offered me to stay in a little cabin/shed. It sounded really good to me, especially when I saw the big empty couch in the communal area and a pile of outdoor magazines and books next to it. I spent the day reading and relaxing on the couch until John arrived hours later and eventually a group of 24 youths.

Morning fog slowly lifting to reveal beautiful peaks
The youth hostel at Rampart Creek

The next days, the weather was more unsettled, with a mix of fog, some blue skies and eventually rain. At times it covered the mountains, but when it lifted, the scenery was absolutely incredible. There were some pretty big hills and I felt really tired going up some of them, even if this was a lot easier than the Dalton Hwy had been. I felt like I really needed a few days off to recharge my batteries.

Foggy morning
The view from the summit: not much to see, unfortunately…
Minutes later, it started to clear up, as I was going down the pass
The rewards of riding the Icefield Parkway
Melting glaciers

I stopped briefly at the Columbia Icefield Centre, where you can buy a sandwich for $14 (I didn’t), and carried on, happy that I still had enough food to make it to Banff. After more climbing I fully enjoyed the biggest, longest downhill I had so far on this trip and stopped briefly on the way down to chat with a group of cyclists who were doing a van supported trip. I was offered granola bars, given a couple of addresses in Idaho if I end up going that way, and the guide told me they were always looking for guides, in case I was interested!

Group of friendly cyclists enjoying a van supported trip

And shortly after, I hit the 4,000 km mark…

4000 km, one pedal stroke at a time!
Proud cyclist

On my last day in the parks, I was planning to take advantage of another youth hostel as it was supposed to rain very hard all night. I reached the Mosquito Creek Hostel, and even if the place was also full, the accommodating manager offered me to stay in the communal area for the night. But the place was very stuffy and after weeks of camping and living outside, I did,t think I would be able to sleep there.  And the weather was still good. So after a nice chat with some of the guests, while I was eating my lunch, I decided to continue to Lake Louise where there was also a very big youth hostel. I figured there would be room for me there.

More beautiful views on the way to Lake Louise
The fog added character to the already scenic views
Great road to ride on
Ahhhh, our Canadian Rockies!

I arrived shortly before it started to rain, and was very happy to hear that there was room in the dorms. But less happy, not to say shocked, to hear that it was $70 plus tax for the night. In a dorm! So I went to the nearby campground, hoping there would be spots left for the ‘walk-in guests’, like they had everywhere else in the parks.  But no, Lake Louise is different. The unfriendly campground attendant would not let me stay there and apparently the fines are pretty stiff if you get caught wild camping.

I had already covered 95 km that day, including almost 1,000 m of climbing, so I was not very excited about continuing. And this is when it started raining.  I found shelter at the visitor centre where the friendly staff told me there was a campground 15 km down the road. It was a gamble, as there was no way to know if there was any space left. At that point I just wanted to get out of Lake Louise, so I put all my rain gear and started pedaling. It was not flat, but it wasn’t too bad either and the road was really beautiful. The A1 parallels the main highway but has much less traffic. Each kilometer seemed pretty long to my tired legs, but I had hope to find a campground with a cooking shelter.

Sometimes the scenery reminded me of the Lord of the Rings

And yes, there was a campground, with a cooking shelter and lots of free space. But there was also a big sign saying: “Tenting not allowed because of bear activity”.  Oh great!  Apparently the visitor centre people didn’t know about it. I put Laf inside the cooking shelter, and went into the heated sanitary block to stay warm and dry out a bit while I was weighing my options.

There was no park officers around, so I thought maybe I could take a chance and camp in the washroom building, but I probably wouldn’t have had a great night as people would come and go, and I would worry about an officer coming to give me a fine or a reprimand! But the worst was the smell, not any better than the one in the youth hostel at Mosquito Creek. Well, this was going to be an adventure, and this is what makes these trips  interesting!

As I waited to either hit the road or pitch my tent in the handicap’s toilet, I pulled out my map of the area and saw that there was another campground about 12 to 15 km away, and even better, a little hostel symbol just before the campground. I was now at about 110 km, but I thought it was worth a try and put my cycling gear back on and started riding again.

Somehow this made me laugh, I thought this day might end up being the best or the worst of the trip so far, but the kilometres went by pretty quickly in the pouring rain and it was definitely supper time by the time I reached the youth hostel.

And there was room, and the price was much more reasonable ($34), and there was a shower, and a nice kitchen, and a couch, and other interesting travelers. My Ramen noodles tasted really good after 123 km, my longest ride ever on a bike tour.

Still on the A1, on the way to Banff

Surprisingly, with a promise of soon taking some time off the bike, my knees did not complain too much, and the next day, after a very lazy and enjoyable morning, I rode to Banff, on a beautiful bike path that actually goes all the way to Canmore.

Totally by chance, my friend Melanie, with whom I biked in Greece a few years ago, was there with her family, and we had a nice coffee together on the terrace of a café.

Melanie and I in Banff
Never too young to start cycling… Melanie’s son Adam

It started raining pretty hard just as it was time for me to go, but I didn’t care, I didn’t have far to go to Canmore where I stayed with an old friend and his family for a couple of days. I had a chance to visit other friends and my cousin Pascal who also happened to be in the area after a season of tree planting.

And now I am in Quebec (no, I did not bike to Quebec, I flew…), taking a holiday within a holiday, to visit my family briefly.  It was my sister’s, my mother’s and (soon) my birthday, so the timing was good.  I won’t stay very long as I know winter is coming and have to stay ahead of winter…

I really enjoyed witnessing the change in vegetation along the ditches, from Alaska to Alberta, and from May to August. Wildflowers have been a real treat all along.

7 thoughts on “The Icefield Parkway and a nice break

  1. Great job just to let you know Mongolia is a country you schould visit . too happy birthday and all the best

  2. Allo Catherine
    Dans tes premiers écrits où tu parlais de tes genoux, je me souviens d’avoir écrit en commentaires: “Ménage ta monture, tu iras loin”. Dans ce présent récit, il me semble que tu as ménagé tes sous plutôt que ta monture, en poursuivant ta route pour trouver gîte à prix plus abordable, mais au prix de plusieurs km de plus que tes genoux ont encaissés.
    Je sais que la fierté tirée de ces 123 km parcourus en une seule étape vaut bien à elle seule tous les conseils d’un pépère, mais je crois que le dicton est toujours valable et je te l’offre à nouveau, cette fois pour ton anniversaire…
    Bisous
    Fernand

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