The Icefields Parkway, then back to the USA.

The Canada portion of the ride is complete, which means I’m back in the US, and solo once again. Just before the border, Marc and Noemie and I split, as my route takes me down into Sandpoint, Idaho to visit a friend from school and they’re dropping directly into Montana to ride some roads then head south. But to get this far, we’ve ridden through Alberta on the Icefields Parkway, billed as one of the most scenic drives in the world. It is scenic, running through valleys between the Rocky Mountains, and its high elevation means that glaciers and glacier lakes are visible everywhere, sometimes right beside the road, other times only a 10min hike off the pavement. For the ride down the parkway, we were also joined by Jordy, a Dutch cyclist riding from Whitehorse (back up in the Yukon) down to San Francisco.

Overall, the Parkway was pretty relaxed cycling. Heading south, the road climbs almost the entire way to the first pass to the Columbia Icefields. But it’s a very gradual climb until you reach the pass itself, then it’s a steep ascent to the top. Riding down the other side should be a nice descent, but instead we hit a headwind that slowed us almost to the speeds we were climbing at. Luckily, there’s only a short distance after the pass to the Icefields Center, a visitor center/tourist trap of tours onto the Icefields, a huge glacier field right beside the road. The center is a nice place to rest and eat lunch after the pass. We took three days to ride the Parkway; the first was planned to be a rest morning in Jasper, then a short 35km ride to the first campground along the road. This campground ended up being closed due to bear activity, so we ended up riding another 15km to Honeymoon Lake Campground. Not too far, but the Alberta weather kept us diving off the road every 30min as a 5min wind/rain storm swept up and over us. These rapidly changing weather patterns kept up the whole way down the Parkway, so rain gear was always kept readily available. Our second day on the Parkway was to tackle that first pass, ending at Rampart Creek Campground, which incidentally had the first mosquitoes we’ve seen since the Yukon. Luckily not nearly as bad as up north. Our third day we rode up and over the second pass of the Parkway, up to Bow Summit and Peyto Lake, a beautiful glacier lake. The third day we got rained on pretty steadily, though fortunately the pass is not nearly as steep as the first, and as soon as we got to the top, the sun came out so we at least saw the lake in nice weather. Once back on the bikes after the lake, a chilling descent sent us into a small lodge seeking warm coffee and tea. The end of day 3 put us in Lake Louise, where we planned to rest and take a day off to go on a small hike up to a teahouse in the mountains.

Lake Louise is another glacier lake, forming the southern end of the Parkway. There’s a resort town built around the tourism generated by the lake, as well as a monstrously ugly hotel right at the base of the lake. We stayed at the campground (a fancy one, with oh so hot showers) and did a short day-hike around the lake. At the end of two of the five or so possible hikes around the lake, teahouses were built in the 1930s to support climbing expeditions into the surrounding mountains. There’s no electricity at the teahouses, and all supplies are trekked up or down the paths. They’re a pleasant place to rest from the sometimes steep ascent.

Post Lake Louise, Jordy headed into BC towards Vancouver, and Marc, Noemie, and I went south and then west into the Kootenay National Park towards Radium Hot Springs. BC welcomed us back with warm sun immediately upon crossing the BC/Alberta border, which, partnered with the oh so relaxing water at the hot springs was all we needed to convince us that BC is definitely more our favorite province than Alberta. The hot springs at Radium weren’t all that crowded, and the water is pumped into swimming pools that make lounging about oh so easy. After spending a morning soaking in the hot springs, we left town only to be greeted by a fierce headwind, which continued into the next day until we reached Cranbrook, which apparently in native language means “where the wind blows in your face”. We can attest to the validity of this translation. In Cranbrook Marc and Noemie and I went our separate ways, after a farewell Coke float/mudball (spreading that Stanford Cycling gospel) party and a final grocery run.

Battery’s running out and Picasa is acting up, so I’ll post more and upload some photos in a few days. Expecting to have better access to internet here in the US than Canada.


3 thoughts on “The Icefields Parkway, then back to the USA.

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