Ride to the Rockies, Day Nine
After only a couple taps of the snooze button on my phone I got out of bed, fully rested, and made my way upstairs in hopes of some coffee. Chris and Kimberly were not coffee drinkers so I got out some of my tea bag coffee while some water was heated up. I gathered up my things and packed up my bags then sat at the kitchen island chatting with Chris about hunting and motorcycles, the two subjects the quiet man would come alive to talk about. Soon Chris had to leave for work, and we said our goodbyes as Kimberly appeared. We talked about essential oils, which was a cottage industry for her, and she asked me what I would like for breakfast. There had been mention of elk steak in the fridge the night before, and I did not hesitate to remind her of that. I had mentioned that on the road my breakfast is usually only a breakfast bar or some instant oatmeal with dates and walnuts, and Kimberly set to making some homemade steel cut oatmeal while the elk sizzled in the pan with butter and a little garlic. While Kimberly cooked I loaded my bags back on the Bonnie, the headed inside for a gourmet breakfast, with the elk just melting in my mouth, despite Kimberly's claim that it was much tougher than usual.
By the time I finished Kimberly had packed me a lunch of salad, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, string cheese, and grapes for the road. We chatted after breakfast a bit about life in Montana and her life with Chris, who had been a hunting guide and would disappear for weeks at a time with no contact with anyone, just living on his own in the woods among the Rockies. When they got married Chris had turned to carpentry and started making a living doing that while he worked on finishing up the house he had built for his family.
The gravel drive gave me a bit of trouble as I tried to back up and turn around to leave, with the bike sinking in an inch deeper with every foot I rolled it. Soon, however, through pure determination and brute force the bike was turned around facing the road. I fired up the bike and nicked it into first, rolling out onto the gravel Coon Hollow Road back to the highway at Kila.
US 2 carried me back to Kalispell, where I fueled up and then headed north on US 93 toward the Canadian border at Roosville. The day started rainy and misty, and looked even darker ahead but by the time Canada hove into sight the skies had cleared of rain and I entered Canada easily at the typically friendly Canadian border post.
On my own again heading to Canada
I had a lot of rain during my time in the Rockies. Here was a typical day. I took this before the sun came out at the Canadian border.
Almost instantly, as I entered Canada, the landscape got dramatic with tall snow-capped peaks close by on my right, with more a bit farther away. The highway, now BC 93, ran north through a wide river valley that held the Kootenay River and its glacial snow melt waters between two massive ridges on the west and east. I later found out I was riding the Rocky Mountain Trench below the Rockies on my right and the Purcell and Selkirk Ranges on my left.
The Columbia River Valley south of Radium Hot Springs, on BC 95
In spite of the increasingly stunning scenery, my eyelids were drooping, and soon I found a Tim Hortons where I had a doughnut and a large coffee. AT Radium Hot Springs, I turned toward the mountains on my right continuing on BC 93 and leaving BC 95, which had joined 93 miles back, to climb to even higher latitudes and toward Jasper. Almost immediately I was plunging through encroaching walls of rock making a dramatic entrance into Banff National Park.
In a couple miles I stopped at a seemingly unoccupied toll house with a sign that said tickets could be bought at a couple different visitors' centers. I rolled on and up into the mountains, but never found any of the centers that the sign had mentioned. I operated under the assumption that passage on the highway was free but if I stopped to enjoy the trails and roadside attractions I might need to pay a fee. I clicked on the GoPro and just left it on until it ran out of power as I steadily climbed into the towering mountain range.
In Banff National Park the spectacular views just keep on coming around every curve.
Around every curve another breathtaking view was exposed and felt tears involuntarily welling up in my eyes, brought on by the overwhelming beauty of the place. Not only were my surroundings awe inspiring, but the spectacular views went on for a hundred miles with each new curve revealing a new and magnificent landscape. To think, I was only crossing a narrow waist of that range of the Rocky Mountains, a range that continued north for another couple thousand miles into the Yukon and eventually being lost amid the slopes of Alaskan ranges. Around every corner appeared more peaks, clear blue-green river rapids, deep forests, glaciers high on the mountaintops, and falls dropping in threads of hundreds of feet above from the glaciers feeding them even higher. At the crest of the pass on BC 93 a very light snow was falling.
Another kind woman offered to get me in the photo for this view of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park.
Snow melt cascades down the face of this mountain. The pine bark beetle has been busy destroying the pines as can be seen in this photo.
West of Banff on Canada 1 looking at Mount Morquay
The drop down out of the Rockies was abrupt, with the range towering above the high plains, out of which the grew with almost no transition between plains and mountains. It was extremely windy coming down out of the mountains, so I decided to ride a bit farther before camping for the night, instead of stopping in Banff, hoping to avoid the high winds by being farther out on the plains. Approaching Calgary on Canada 1, I spotted blue camping signs, but when I turned off to look for a campground all I found was row after row of new houses that must have sprung up so quickly they hadn't had time to remove the outdated signs. After finding my way back to the highway after a couple failed attempts, I got back on 1 and took the by-pass around Calgary, hoping to find something on the eastern side. Exiting Calgary I found a “campground” only to find out it only catered to RVs. I could have stayed there but would have been charged the same high rate as if I had been on of those large, electricity sucking, behemoths. It was suggested I tried Strathmore a city a little farther along but I saw nothing promising as I passed through.
Once to the east of town, however, I spotted a campground sign and turned left into a gravel drive, where the old and obviously unoccupied dilapidated buildings did not bode well. But I did see some small camper trailers parked behind and so I asked the half-toothless man who walked out to greet me whether there was camping there. I was told there was and I should walk around back and enter the house. I rolled around back, parked the bike, and started to enter the old house, when a woman came out, apparently startled by someone actually stopping there. The fee was ten dollars (about $8 US)—cash, no receipt, no registration, just a finger pointed to where I could set up my tent. The place was filled with a half dozen travel trailers and a collection of buildings that looked like they were assembled from used buidling materials, sporting unpainted plywood doors laid against openings. Other than a young guy doing chores, the place was apparently deserted. Oh well, all I wanted was a place to lay my head for the night and the price was right, so I moved to my site and set up the tent as the sun set behind the mountains outlined against the prairie to the west.
After setting up camp I strolled over to the bath house. While taking care of other necessities, I decided to skip a shower after seeing the dirt on the battered concrete floor and the walls painted in multi-color—dark blue which had once covered all the walls showing through a light blue that had been slapped on top where a previous toilet paper holder had hung and now was removed. I went back to my spot unwashed and watched the setting sun as the air grew chilly. I would leave my clothes on that night in my bag, insurance against the cold of the coming night. I was exhausted and turned in early. I would have liked to have found accommodations farther west and earlier but stopping where I did meant I would have a shorter ride the next day and could get farther east before stopping and I wouldn't have to be in a big rush to make some easting.
A lady who had stopped up in the mountains near a river where I had stopped had offered to take my photo for me with the mountains in the background and had said that the next few days were suppose to warm up, and now at lower elevation, it should be considerably warmer each day, so I lay in my bag looking forward to a break from the cold. I fell asleep while it was still light outside, in spite of it being almost ten o'clock—a result of my latitude and it being a few days from the summer solstice.
Miles so far 4,081.0