Jasper to Banff Bike Ride, The Second Posting For The Last Day – The Pictures

Perhaps you will sense a different feeling to this post when compared to the earlier ones from the ride.  Of course, one of the reasons this post is different is because of what I did to myself at the end of the day.  The other reason is more sentimental.  I want to acknowledge my travel companions. The focus is not just on the scenery but on the people who accompanied me.  I am going to break my own unspoken rule and specifically mention names.  I am hoping that nobody minds.  We start in the morning as we get ready to depart Lake Louise.

Being his usual helpful self, Rick had packed our luggage into the back of Ben’s van for the last day’s ride. He was quite proud of his effort.   Rick also did his bit to keep us entertained as we rode every day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is Ben giving us instructions for the last day.   Ben was very thorough in his support.  Go ahead and take a tour with him at Mountain Madness Tours.  You will not be disappointed!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been riding thus far on the Icefields Parkway.  From now on we are on the Bow Valley Parkway.  The funny thing is that my bear sighting was pretty soon after we saw this sign. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe road ran beside the Bow River.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the riders on the move.  You may notice that the road markings here are very different from those encountered on the Icefields Parkway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA freight train awaits beside the road.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik, the heart and soul of our riding team.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne way to smell the flowers, perhaps on another planet (get it!?).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANancy and Stacy, old college mates.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen in his vehicle, after overtaking one of the riders.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stopped with KP at a memorial point for the Castle Camp internment camp.  Even though this episode happened during WW1, it is not difficult to imagine something like this happening even  in our modern times.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe last paragraph in the wayside marker for the internment camp below reads “In total, eight thousand five hundred and seventy-nine men became prisoners of war in twenty-four camps located across Canada during the internment operations of 1914-1920.  Most were foreign nationals, a few were British subjects or Canadian citizens.  The majority were non-combatant, unemployed civilians – victims of the 1913 depression, racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. Many of the internees came from western regions of Ukraine, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStacy, Nancy and Sally.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Bow river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABen’s van and trailer at the last stopping point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAResting before the last push.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASally and Bob, our riding leaders.  They were the youngest and the oldest in the group. Bob, a former triathlete, took on the hills we encountered as if he was on a mission. Sally was not too far behind.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA squirrel observing the goings-on at this last stop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was the last picture I found on the camera after the trip.  I did not take this picture.  The time stamp on the picture leads me to believe that it was taken after I fell off the bike.  I suspect that Bob, who had retrieved the camera and eventually delivered it to my home, took a picture to see if the camera was working. A great picture from that perspective.  The camera ended up in better shape than I did!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA That was the end of the ride, but not the end of my adventures.

If you want to continue to read about how I got home from Canada, start with this posting.

Jasper to Banff Bike Ride – The Last Day, maybe a partial posting..

Those who may be reading this blog regularly will know that there was a break in the postings between day 5 and day 6 of this trip. This blog will also look different because I do not have my camera with me to download the pictures I took on the last day.  I might have another posting on the ride when I have pictures.  The pictures do help me remember more details of the adventures.

The last day’s ride from Lake Louise to Banff was the longest, about 60 km.  We left the Icefield Parkway in Lake Louise and got on the Bow Valley Parkway as we headed towards Banff.   We biked on a shaded road for most of this section, surrounded by tall pine trees. Off to our right flowed the Bow river. A railroad line ran along the riverside.  (The pictures I will post will give you a better sense for this.)

I was not able to take a picture of the amazing encounter that I had with a bear.  I was riding at the rear of the group when the black bear ran across the road right in front of me. I stopped the bike, but it had already disappeared into the bushes.  There was no time to pull out my camera. The person riding in front of me confirmed that she had had also seen the bear sitting by the side of the road. Wow!

We had our usual stops along the way for snacks and sightseeing. As we got closer to Banff, we got more focused on the riding.  A group of the riders were leading with a somewhat fast pace, and a vaguely defined and somewhat ragged Peloton of some of the riders began to take form. I was towards the back. I had one other fast rider behind me, whom I was prepared to slow down if needed.

Then disaster struck just a few km from our final destination.  My wheel went off the the edge of the road because I had gotten too close to the side, and the cycle skidded on the gravel beside the road. I could not fight the laws of physics. I took a toss at high speed.  The result was fairly devastating. I have seen my helmet after the ride, and I am pretty sure it saved my life.  I ended up in a hospital in Calgary (from which I am writing) for a few days.  Because of my injuries, I have to take the train home.  It will be some time before I get home.

People have been very very kind to me since the fall.  It is overwhelming. A riding buddy stayed back to keep me company for a couple of days.  My brother arrives to accompany me on the train ride to Toronto.  My daughter drives me home to Gaithersburg.  Everybody is so concerned.  I feel a little bad for ruining the end of the ride for others.  But we also did have a wonderful and unforgettable time for the most part, and nobody and nothing can take that away from us.  I am so happy we did the ride.  What happened was my careless mistake. I am usually cautious, but I let my guard down.

I, unfortunately, did not get a chances to say goodbye properly to most of the others involved in the ride in the end.  They all made the experience even more special. They also took care of me when I fell.  I owe them all a depth of gratitude.

I will have pictures after I get to my camera.


Jasper to Banff Bike Ride – Day 5

As usual, I am up at 5:00am in the morning, and this is my excuse for quickly trying to type up a blog for the previous day.  My pictures for the blog have been preprocessed the previous night and are ready to go.  My roommate has been up late in the night taking pictures of the skies and the stars until 12:45am. (The dark skies above Bow Lake and the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge are free of light pollution and are ideal for this endeavor.) He manages to sleep through the clickety-clack of my computer keyboard as I try to bang out another blog quickly before going down to breakfast.

Ben is already at work when I go down for breakfast. He also has to to take care of the rest of the business and plans for other tour groups while with us since he is a solo operator. While we are chatting he shows me a gorgeous picture he has taken of the lake earlier that morning. That is my cue to run out and take pictures before the others arrive. Here is some of what I saw. (If you click on the first picture, it will open out in full resolution.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlans for today are a little different than usual.  Since the ride is going to be shorter and mainly downhill, we are going to do a three hour hike to the Bow Glacier Falls at the far end of the lake before we start riding. The falls are probably visible in the first picture above if you look at the full resolution version of the picture. The picture below was taken with a zoom lens as we start our hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are pictures from the hike. Note how the color of the water is already beginning to change.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was time to slow down and take pictures of the flowers that lined the trail.  Here is one sample.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other side of the lake is pictured in the morning light below. The sun has yet to make its way completely over the mountains in the east.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe early sections of the trail ran along the lake shore.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWild flowers grow among the rocks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is where the trail left the lake shore.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was time to begin the trek back.  We had to make it back in time to the lodge to check out by noon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe noticed that the color of the waters of the lake had changed in the meantime.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was time to get on our bikes once again and ride!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of us stopped at a location on the Icefield Parkway to take parting pictures of Bow Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a picture of the Crowfoot glacier from the road. The picture did not turn out as well as I hope for.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bike ride to Lake Louise today runs along the Bow river.  Bow river is a tributary of the South Saskatchewan river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Hector Lake from our lunch stop.  The Bow river flows in and out of the lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was time to speed down the hill into Lake Louise.  Folks had told me that it is possible to ride much faster on a road than on a trail. I could not believe how fast one can ride consistently at under the conditions.  We arrived at Lake Louise in no time.  All in all, this was a short riding day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter resting for some time, we went to the Lake Louise Station restaurant for an early dinner.  The trains pass right by the station.  It was delightful dinner in a delightful setting with delightful friends.  We even had a squirrel wander into the restaurant looking for scraps. (It was chased away by a waitress who did not seem the least bit annoyed by the squirrel’s antics.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Rocky Mountaineer also stopped beside the restaurant as we were leaving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter dinner Ben then took us on a ride to Lake Moraine in the mountains. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We passed by Temple Mountain on the way.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here are some pictures from the lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy camera battery ran out at this point, and I could not take pictures at our next stop, Lake Louise.

The crowds that we found at these lakes made me feel like we had wandered back from the wilderness into the thick of civilization, and it was not necessarily a good feeling.  Having experienced what I did during this ride, it is going to be hard to to go back to being a traditional tourist, joining the massive crowds that tend to throng the more popular tourist sites.

Some of us sat ourselves outside the hotel eating ice-cream and chatting after we returned.  It was very relaxing.

We are going to do our longest ride of the trip tomorrow, but Ben assures us that it is all downhill. We might need to be more disciplined with time management since all of us have flights to catch from Calgary later in the day.  The vacation will inevitably come to an end at that point.

(This blog, in its current form, requires much more work for cleanup, but I have limited time on my hands.  I will take care of that later.)

Jasper to Banff Bike Ride – Day 4

Perhaps there are few of you who are actually following along as I talk about our experiences during the many days of this ride.  Some of you may have even discerned some sort of a pattern (dare I say routine) to the daily experience.  After breakfast together, Ben gets us started for the day with instructions and directions.  He has our bikes all checked out and ready to go. He pulls open up a map on his trailer and talks about where we are going and the nature of the ride for the day.   Once we get going, he stops at places along the route to make sure we are OK, and help us out with whatever we need.  He says we can even stop by at some of these spots if we just need a hug. We usually have a snack stop where Ben sets up a “picnic” with a bunch of stuff to revive us. We may also have a lunch stop along the way depending on the length of the ride that day. We stop along the way to do things.  The rides usually end early so that we have time to recover and do other things.  We gather around for dinner.

The descriptions of the next stage of the ride that Ben provides at various stops while pointing to his map are interesting and useful.  He tries his best at each stop to prepare us mentally for the next stage of the adventure. He does not downplay the challenges shown on the map, like the 8% climb the other day, or the major climb that we did today.   Other sections that are not that steep but are still challenging in their own way are described using terms like “Rocky Mountain flats”, or “downdulations”.  The instructions that we get are very complete.

We have gotten to know Ben well during the last few days.  He is a sweetheart.

Let me now get on with with the story of another glorious day of riding in the Canadian Rockies.

I was up early, as usual.  The places we have stayed at so far are in remote areas.  The hotels or resorts tend to be the only human habitation for miles around.  Network connectivity is generally through a satellite link which has it own challenges.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the North Saskatchewan river early in the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI actually saw a black bear today!  I was at the back of the group and managed to get only one picture!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMt. Chephren.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a long picnic stop at a spot along the Waterfowl Lakes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was time to brave the cold, glacier fed, waters of the Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe was the first to actually be brave enough to go all the way in for a swim.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOthers followed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI did step into the water myself, up to my knees. It was freezing.  There was a discussion among the folks experienced in swimming in cold waters and those who were scientifically inclined about what the actual temperature of the water might be, since it was flowing down from a glacier, and since it also felt pretty darned cold! My somewhat unscientific guess was that it was in the 40s – degrees Fahrenheit that is.

As we got going once again, I did stop by to smell the flowers by the roadways.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe downhill slope below is actually just before the start of a brutal climb, this time to the highest point that we are to encounter during during this ride. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABow Pass, the point that we were just about to ride though, is at about 2069 meters.  I was on the lowest gear going up for most of this long and challenging climb.  My thigh muscles were screaming, and I was simply hoping that I would not cramp up and have to stop, because starting up once again on the 4-6% slope in the condition that I was in would have presented an additional challenge. Obviously, I did not stop for pictures. The ride seemed never ending, and every time I came around a hill or over a hump, with the hope of the end of the climb just beyond, there was yet another challenge to overcome. In the end we all made it to the top in grand manner!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point, we got off the main road and rode to an even higher elevation on Bow Summit.  From the parking lot for the buses, Ben took us on a hike to an even higher elevation, to a somewhat isolated spot where we could have our lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeyto Lake below us. Off in the distance you can see the direction from which we rode this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis little guy popped his head out from among the rocks, looking for some scraps, or perhaps the leftover muffin grabbed from the breakfast table that was in a backpack.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was hoping to make out the road that we rode on this morning, and perhaps even Waterfowl Lake where we stopped by for snacks and swimming, in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen were heading downhill to our place for the evening. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is our place for the evening, the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Bow Lake from a window of the lodge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was sitting outside the lodge with some of the others waiting for dinnertime when I took this picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlept well last night after a scrumptious dinner and the company of the wonderful friends, both old and new, who accompany me during the ride.

We have gotten past the highest point in the ride, and it is all downhill from now (in a manner of speaking). But I am also sure that Ben has a few “whoopsies” along the way that will continue to challenge us and keep us on our toes.


Jasper to Banff Bike Ride – Day 3

I know I am very fortunate, and there a times like now, and days like today, and moments like the one I experienced this morning, when a sense of the extraordinary is so overwhelming that I do not know whether to laugh or cry out aloud in happiness when I am out there all my myself.

I woke up a little earlier than the others this morning and went for a walk.   There was nobody around.  The feeling was very different from that of the previous afternoon when there were crowds all over the place.  You could even hear the water flowing in the distance from the glacier.  After dropping by the pond in front of the hotel, I discovered the Forefield Trail and ventured off towards the Athabasca glacier before the others were up.  The sun was rising behind me, the early birds were all atwitter, and off in the distance was the massive glacier and the mountain peaks. It was glorious!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures are from the Forefield trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI joined the others for breakfast after the walk.  Then it was time to get ready to depart. I saw Ben outside our hotel window getting the bikes ready for the day’s ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday we crossed over from Jasper National Park to Banff National Park as we went over the Sunwapta pass. This is the second highest pass that we will cross during the ride, and it is at about 2035 feet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped for hike at Parker Ridge. We crossed over the mountain ridge to the other side to see the Saskatchewan Glacier.  It was a pretty steep climb.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found this chap beside the trail, taking in all the tourist traffic going by.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou could see the support vehicle at the bottom of the mountain as we returned from the hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen came another challenging section of the ride.  This one was a little scary, but we all came through in good shape.  We were essentially speeding down a mountainside on a road that was not in the best of shape, a road that was also lacking a good shoulder, or even a shoulder in some parts.  We were riding besides other motor vehicles on the road.  It was bone rattling ride at high speeds. Ben had a stop for us at the halfway point, where he instructed me on how better to hold on to the bicycle handle so that I could take the rough road without wobbling too much.  One of our riders hit a speed of 70 kmph coming down, a personal best for her.  I was just a little slower. 🙂  The picture below shows a very short section of that descent.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then we were riding the rest of way to our destination for the evening on the flats beside the North Saskatchewan River.  This river flows into the Hudson Bay. The Columbia Icefield is a source for rivers that flow into the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were riding beside a wall of rock for a certain distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a certain while, the river disappeared behind some trees and woods. There was less things to stop for, and the rest of the ride became more about the sheer enjoyment of the experience of riding.  Folks were speeding along all the way to our destination, which was a place called The Crossing Resort. It was located at a spot just before our road, the Icefield Parkway, crosses the North Saskatchewan river.  Here is a picture of our digs for the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are some views from the resort.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter dinner we drove to the Mistaya Canyon where we could take a hike to a spot where the Mistaya river goes over a waterfall.  The Mistaya river feeds the North Saskatchewan river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat evening a few of us stood outside our rooms hoping to see some colors in the sky at sunset.  The show was a little disappointing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are halfway through the ride at this point!

Back In The Saddle

The weather has warmed up enough for me to start training for my July bike ride from Jasper to Banff in the Canadian Rockies.  I am back in the saddle after a break of many months from biking activities, indeed a break from the time of my last long ride! Considering the tremendous amount training that I did for the Pittsburgh to the DC area ride last year, I was wondering how the body would react during my first ride this year.

I started off early in the morning with the intention of not going too far.  It was still quite chilly when got to the trail, and I had to bundle myself to defend against the cool early morning breeze.  It took me a little longer than usual to get prepped for the ride and for me to try to get back into the routine that I was so used to following last year.  I remembered that I needed to gather an adequate supply of food and water before I left home to keep me fueled through the ride.  I needed to fit the basket on to the bike to carry the supplies.  I needed to make sure that the bike was OK after a long period of disuse.

The ride went off OK.  The miles passed by quickly as the bike (and especially the basket on the handlebar) rattled along on the uneven surface of the towpath.  It was quite the different experience from running!  It felt easy at first.  But it did not take too much time to be reminded of the level of effort on the muscles to keep pedaling for a long time.   The muscles in the thighs were out of shape.  I was also beginning to feel it in the butt.  I have a way to go before I will be ready, but the good thing is that there is enough time to get the body back into shape.  We will be riding on a paved surface this time, and the distances we will be riding will for the most part be shorter than what we were covering last year.  So perhaps it will not be as tough.

It is not that one is not already in decent physical shape, but the difference in the kind of effort that is required for running and for biking feels quite significant.  I was reminded of this when I made my first run last year after an extended break when I was only riding the bike, an experience that caused me to take extra precautions in my preparations this year.  But all is good.  It is time to get back in the saddle once again.  Lets ride!