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Begins: Mar 19, 2013
Date: Wed, Aug 7th, 2013
Trip Distance: 880.0
Entry Visits: 2,941
Journal Visits: 57,934
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Guestbook Entrys: 28
Hayduke Trail Map
Cycling Alaska to Lower 48 - Days 48-53
Day 48: 22 miles, Jasper
Day 49: 26 miles, Icefields Mile 26
Day 50: 48 miles, Icefields Mile 74
Day 51: 70 miles, Icefields Mile 144
Day 52:10 miles, Bow Valley Mile 2
Day 53: 34 miles, Banff
Cumulative: 2,506 miles
I was up and riding by 6:45 am. Not the greatest nights sleep but it wasn't horrible either. The train came through maybe 4 more times. It was chilly in the shade and warm in the sun and the ride to Jasper was pretty quick. I saw a beautiful elk with an enormous velvet covered rack on my way in. Just before town I encountered the park gate and was annoyed to find out that it was $ 10 per day not per week as I assumed which is how the US national parks work. Considering I'm on a bicycle and have extra time I was planning on taking 5 days to get to Banff plus today in town would be 6 days. I'd say $ 60 is a little ridiculous to visit a national park. It's not like this included camping which is always outragiously priced. The guy wanted me to tell him how many days I was going to spend in the park so I pleaded ignorance and he let me go through and told me I could pay when I got on the Icefields Parkway outside of town.
Jasper was an absolute zoo with tourists. I expected it but it still felt crazy. Several million visit Jasper and Banff each year. I got a bunch of info at the visitor center and read through it at Subway while drinking endless cokes. I put together a tentative plan of riding and day hiking to get go Banff slowly.
Susprisngly Paul showed up who was the cyclist who arrived at David's in Prince George just as I was leaving. On the way into town I had scoped out a mediocre stealth site just in case but the visitor center mentioned that the huge campground nearby had walk in tent sites. Normally I would never stay at a 500 site campground but when they have a section that is walk in only, no cars, then I would consider it. Splitting it with another cyclist is perfect and it turned out to be a really, really nice campsite. There was a loop of walk in sites away from the road and even other campground loops. By the end of the night I had met 8 other cyclists staying there too. Plus a guy from Colorado who just finished his trip gave me an annual park pass that someone had given him! Sweet, saves me $ 50 and hopefully I can pass it on to another cyclist in Banff.
I slept well and was able to leave my panniers with the campground enterance folks so I could day hike without being worried about my stuff. I didn't want to do anything crazy and there wasn't anything spectacular in the area but I did do a nice 10k loop around the Mina lakes. It was real pleasant and quiet and I really enjoyed being in a forest without hearing cars. I even saw a black bear and was able to watch him eat for several minutes.
After the hike I ate at Subway for the third time in town. Everythin else in town was really expensive and given how much I eat I'd rather just eat at Subway with free refills. Paying $ 20 for a 12" pizza doesn't do me much good. I rode out around 2 and flashed my annual pass with sketchy signature and the girl just waved me through as I rolled on by. I rode a few miles and stopped to do another day hike, the Five Little Lakes Loop which ended up being not quite as nice as described or this morning's hike. One of the five lakes was gorgeous and the other 4 were in reality brown ponds. I rode out around 4 and it's uphill for a very long time for me but I had a very strong tailwind so I was happy. The wind is pretty inconsistent and seems to change a lot here so I'll take a tailwind when I can get one. The typical afternoon thunderstorms were popping up and I could see a big one behind me and a big one in front of me so it seemed likely I was going to get wet. I found another cyclists back light flashing red in the shoulder and picked it up. Maybe I'll find the person who dropped it ahead although at my slow speed it's unlikely. I did run into the rain although it wasn't too bad and I fairly quickly rode through it for one final stop at Athabasca falls which turned out to be rather amazing. The falls were small but they went down this narrow canyon with incredible power. It was me and 200 of my closest Asian friends viewing the falls.
After the falls I wanted to camp as soon as I could but I knew finding a road was going to be tough. My best bet would be riding a short ways down a hiking trail but the next hiking trail was 8 miles away. The only options were really close to the road and the weather up ahead looked very bad. The Athabasca river was on my right making it unlikely I would be camping that way although the strong glacially silted river with huge mountains overhead was quite gorgeous. I rode on and spied an interesting option. A dry creek with raised sides that led down to the river. I got off my bike and rolled it down the bumpy left bank of the dry creek bed and found myself with an excellent camp spot especially given that I didn't think I'd find anything decent. I'm actually just 10' from the river slightly above it and the rushing water is a nice white noise. The mountains loom overhead and I was quite pleased with my clever camp spot. It's even out of sight given that camping anywhere but a campground is illegal.
Not only was my campspot awesome but within the hour a cold rain came through so I was glad I stopped and later I found out as suspected the next chance for camping was 8 miles further so I definitely would have been soaked and tired.
In the morning I packed up camp and went to retrieve my bear canister and kevlar Ursack bag and it was obvious that something had messed around with it for the first time all trip. Upon further inspection it was obvious that it was a bear as there were about a half dozen small punctures in the Ursack. He must have been pissed because he couldn't get into the bag but he did leave his mark. I'll have to email the company and ask if punctures are normal or not. He did crush my poptarts and break my cucumber in half but otherwise all was well. And he never came to my tent so the whole deal of storing my food away from my tent actually worked.
There were possible showers in the morning so I slept in a bit and when I woke it didn't seem likely that it would rain but the clouds had dropped down and all the mountains were covered. I wanted to ride being able to see everything but I didn't want to delay too much and then end up riding later into the day with afternoon thunderstorms. I compromised and started at 9:30 still under clouds but after 8 miles it cleared very quickly and it was an amazing day. I continued to follow the Athabasca river and the mountains all around were huge and gorgeous. Lots of cool formations and interesting erosion patterns. Almost the entire day was uphill and thankfully the wind was a tailwind which doesn't help a ton with uphill but I'll take it for sure. The shoulder was huge for riding but also incredibly bumpy from the frost heaves. The road was better but with a fair number of cars it was tough to ride in much. I believe the highest point on my trip previously was on the Denali highway a long time ago and was a bit over 4200'. I was now well beyond that as I climbed up and up and up. I hit a stretch of about 700' of insanely steep climbing up a winding, narrow road and it was easily the steepest of my trip. I was in my easiest gear and still peddling hard and it was getting dangerously close to walking speed but I made it up soaked with sweat and feeling great but tired. My legs were even shaking a bit from the effort. A bit further along was the Icefields Center which had at least 1000 cars between the center and the parking lot for the Athabasca glacier. It was insane there were so many people although I bumped into a cyclist I had met way back on the Casiar. I had an expensive burger and fries and snuck back in several times to fill my no free refills soda. I'm a pro.
I decided to skip the glacier. I'm 99% sure I was here 10 years ago with Cory and all you do is walk up to the end of a dirty glacier. The views from the road were great and I've travelled across a glacier before so walking up to the end of one isn't that big a deal. Instead I rode 5 miles going over my high point of 6700' at Sunwapta Pass, leaving Jasper and entering Banff National Park and then stopped at the Parker ridge trailhead for a quick hike. I climbed 1000' up Parker ridge into the alpine and fantastic views of all around and also the Saskatchewan glacier. My plan after hiking was to push my bike a little ways down the trail and stealth camp but it got real steep real fast and I would have had to camp too close to the road so I continued on. The next trailhead had a ton of cars so that didn't seem great and then I started to bomb downhill at almost 40 mph! I came down to a huge horseshoe bend in the road and at the curve a valley and galcial river came in and there was a small hiking trail leading away from the road alongside the river. It had big river stones and I couldn't ride so I pushed along to the end where a canyon started and I could go no further. I was pretty far from the road but also totally out in the open and possibly a park ranger would be able to see my tent so I was a little worried. But then I spied a little path up the slope to my right and there was a small flat spot in the trees perfect for camping and completely out of sight. The river is rushing by and the mountains overhead are awesome. The Park is making me get creative but that has just led to my best campspots of the trip.
I loved my campspot and I woke to light rain although the sky didn't look to bad. It passed after an hour and as I was packing up for a stealthy retreat a helicoptor landed near the road. I pushed my bike back to the road and it was pretty obvious I had camped but the park employee only made a joke about it and didn't give me a hard time. I saw Daniel from New Zealand ride by and after a few miles I was able to catch up and we rode the mostly downhill miles to the Sascatchewan river together which was nice. There was also a cafe and motel here and I had another rather expensive meal although the BBQ beef was quite good and a notch above the usual burger fare. I also snuck many free refills so I got my moneys worth. The bus loads of Asian tourists make it crazy and easy to sneak refills!
Packing up, I noticed my bear canister had a pretty good chunk taken out of it which appears to have been done by the bear the other night. He didn't break through but the bite mark looks like he tried pretty damn hard!
From the river I had the biggest climb of the trip to the highest point on the trip. Over 2000' up to Bow Summit at 6800'. It was fairly well graded although there was one 600' super steep part which was like the other day. Probably a 15% grade or so. I had some amazing luck with the rain. As I was leaving the river a wall of rain was coming and before it got to me it took a sharp turn to the west and never hit me. Then about 2 hours up the hill I was passing a campground and I looked back to see a wall of rain so I pulled over and took shelter under the registration station for an hour as a cold, hard rain passed over. Then it was blue sky and sun so I rode on up the hill and finally topped out at Bow Summit where I did a short hike to gorgeous Peyto lake although the entire ride has been amazing today and the last few days. The most exciting part was this was my last real climb. It's pretty much all downhill to Banff!
So downhill I plummeted looking for camping and my best chance at a lake trail was impossible as the hiking trail immediately started steeply uphill. But then luck again a cold rain came through and I had shelter again. After 45 minutes of rain it was blue sky and sun again. 3 times lucky today and totally dry. But then my camping luck changed. I rode and rode and rode and camping was absolutely impossible. The left side was a steep uphill and the right side was a steep downhill. Fortunately I was riding downhill so all the miles were not as tiring as they could have been. I rode so long that I was passed the point of accepting a shitty spot and vowed to find a good spot. I ended up at a picnic area where I hid in the woods and it turned out to be a great spot. A small hill blocked most of the road noise and I was pretty well hidden in an illegal spot. My plan was to camp about 20 miles from Lake Louise and instead I'm camped only 2 miles away. Lucky this picnic area was here as I'm so close to Lake Louise that stealth camping would have been really tough any further.
It was a quiet night and I decided to sleep in as I was tired from yesterdays miles and huge hill! I crept out of the woods at 9:30 and rode the easy 2 miles to the Village of Lake Louise. As much as I thought impossible, it's possible the prices here are higher than anywhere else on the trip. I bought a banana, good loaf of bread and a liter of diet coke and was happy as could be. I planned to do a day hike here and all the hikes start at the famous Lake Louise (as in the actual lake) which was 2.5 miles on a side road. I should have known but it was a 600' climb! Son of bitch, I thought I was done with the big uphills. However, the visitor center nicely held my panniers for me so riding uphill was a bit easier than normal. I arrived at Lake Louise with about 1000 other tourists. It was insane! Banff and Jasper are just way too crowded. I'm glad 99% of my time is spent on the bike taking in the gorgeous mountains. The lake surrounded by glacial peaks is impressive but honestly I've seen this elsewhere in the Sierras, Cascades or Wind's. It's funny how one thing can be so popular over other things. Anyway, I took the obligitory pictures and went for my dayhike which I apparently didn't exactly read too much about because it turns out the climb to Fairview mountains was over 3000'. This was probably a bit more than I should have done given all the bike riding I'm doing but I was invested in it and made my way up the steep, steep trail. The second half through the alpine was straight up the boulders of the mountain and went up 1500' in 9/10 of a mile. That's seriously steep. I topped out at 9000' after 2 hours and took a nice break with Lake Louise way down below and glacial mountains around. The descent was of course easier but not by much. It was so steep that my legs were exhausted trying not to roll down the mountain. Overall, it was nice but maybe not worth the fairly big effort. However, the descent. back down to the Village on bike was pretty awesome going over 40 mph. I was easily going just as fast as the cars!
I ate a bit in the Village and rode out on the more scenic and probably hilly Bow Valley parkway versus the paralleling Highway 1a which is basically an interstate. My way to Banff will be harder but more scenic and low traffic. A big thunderstorm was coming and after just 1 mile there was a picnic spot with a closed off road that led to a lake that seemed perfect for camping. Unfortunately there was a guy at the beginning with a video camera trying to film the mama and baby grizzly that had been hanging around. I really wanted to camp and stay dry but this seemed like a bad idea! However, this road unlike the past several days, had a lot of options. The next side road looked awesome as I rode down it to the river and right into railroad tracks. Damn it! The thunderstorm was just about here and I rode on and quickly spied a super old road with downed trees. I carried my bike over them and set up my tent as fast as possible as the rain and thunder started. I'm not far off the road but it's low traffic so it should be fine. The thunderstorm wasn't too bad but I was glad to be in my tent and not on the bike. 33 miles to go!
I was riding on my last day at 9:30 and within a couple minutes there was a huge female grizzley eating berries about 20' off the road. Holy crap, that was close to where I was camping! She seemed real happy with the berries and I was able to get several pictures and just watch for a while. Eventually, the cars started stacking up as everyone was stopping for the grizzley and I decided to ride off before she got pissed off and ate a little Asian kid who was way too close. The Bow Valley parkway was way better than expected. A nice quiet road with a 30 mph speed limit and great scenery. There were lots of little exhibits along the way and great forest with good views popping up here and there. It was a little hilly but not too bad and I was glad to have such a nice road to end the trip. I stopped for the short walk to Johnston Falls which were nice but it was so crowded that it was hard to really enjoy. A sign said over 1 million people walk the short trail each year. Never visit the Canadian Rockies in July or August! I rode on the final miles and my heart jumped as I passed by a black bear sitting and eating in the bushes not 3' away! That was really close. It's like stepping over a snake. You don't see it until you've already committed and your heart jumps through your throat. The bear just gave me a funny mouth full of leaves look and went back to eating.
I finished off the Bow Valley parkway and thought I'd have to ride the interstate for 6k but instead found a real nice paved bike trail. Go Banff! And then I was in Banff. 2,500 miles, 53 days and around 150,000' of elevation!
A while back I had decided to finish in Banff and not Glacier as the flights out of Glacier were ridiculously expensive. This was a great place to end. I've got a day and a half to hike and soak in the hot springs in Banff and then I'll fly out of Calgary to visit my parents and then sister. There's still time for one more trip this year! Stay tuned.
The Hayduke Trail is an extremely challenging, 800-mile backcountry route through some of the most rugged and breathtaking landscapes on earth. Located entirely on public land, the trail links six of the National Parks on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona with the lesser known, but equally splendid, lands in between them. Encompassed in the route are Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks as well as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and numerous National Forests, BLM Districts, Primitive Areas, Wilderness Areas and Wilderness Study Areas. The Hayduke Trail is not intended to be the easiest or most direct route through this incredibly varied terrain, but is rather meant to showcase the stunning Redrock Wilderness of the American Southwest.
http://s1250.beta.photobucket.com/user/tanzmbr/library/ (click on "show albums and stories" on left hand side)