Day 82: Beauty Creek to Saskatchewan Crossing

We knew today would start with the huge hill we had been delaying with our two previous short days. After a good breakfast we started off in the rain. Riding uphill right away and with the rain easing we were able to take off our rain pants. It was a long steep climb, but we made it to the top and were congratulated by the construction crew at the top. It was mostly downhill from there to the Icefield Center where we stopped for lunch. Jesse asked at the front desk about the road ahead and was met with incredulous stares – “you don’t know?” We were shown some of the photos of Calgary so we quickly knew our route would have to change.

We went upstairs for lunch in possibly the most overpriced place on the trip – especially given it was still fast food. However being behind in schedule and not having tons of food with us we couldn’t worry too much about this. We ate hungrily while looking out at the glacier.

With the sun out we were able to take in the full scenery of the area. Though the glacier itself didn’t amaze me, the area around it was stunning and exciting to ride through.

A quick downhill took us to a warmer elevation riding along the river. We could see thick clouds ahead and the wind did pickup, slowing us down. We seemed to miss the worst of the storm, seeing the rain on the street. We kept going until Saskatchewan crossing. The rooms here were very expensive but again being a bit stuck we decided to stay. Another overpriced dinner in the ‘grill it yourself’ pub, but at least it was a nicer atmosphere. We started talking to a man there to ask about highway 11 – our new route. When he realized we were on bikes he asked if we were going to Newfoundland. He had heard about us earlier on the construction site at the Sunwapa pass. Jesse talked to one guy there and apparently after we were the talk of the site, being discussed over their radios.

After dinner we got some ice cream and were given a huge serving of ice cream at the lowest price – making up slightly for some of the other high expenses of the day.

Day 81: Sunwapa Falls to Beauty Creek

After an overpriced resort breakfast, we went back to the room to get ready. The rain from last night hadn’t stopped so we extended our checkout time a bit and didn’t rush to get going.

A flooded river in the rain
A flooded river in the rain
We saw Bruce and Tom and their sons out front, all as excited as we were to get going in the rain. They had mostly downhill day but into the wind and rain, so we kept thinking of them in shorts on such a likely cold ride. We rode in the cold rain until Beauty Creek hostel. A car had stopped us to tell us the rode was closed passed Columbia Icefields so we weren’t sure what to do. We had been told the Columbia Icefields center wasn’t too nice, and that the food was overpriced. So it wasn’t too appealing an idea to be stuck there. We walked down to the hostel and talked to the hostel manager when he returned. He confirmed the roads were closed and that the hostel ahead was likely full as well. So after an early and short day we decided to stop at the hostel. We spent the afternoon making lunch, talking with Brad the hostel manager and playing Risk. Later two Swiss girls came to stay as well, so we all played a few games of Uno. It’s good sometimes to not have electricity!

We had a late dinner with Brad, making use of some of the hostel food left behind, then turned in for the night.

Day 80: Jasper to Sunwapa Falls

With Bruce
With Bruce
After a great breakfast with Bruce, we got ready and set off for the day. We backtracked to the Welcome to Jasper sign to look for my stand without luck. Jesse wanted to ride back to the border (25km) but I preferred just to keep going and order a new stand. Determined he may find it, Jesse decided to add the 50km return trip to his ride today, and I decided to move slowly forward. We thought through who may need what, then parted ways.

I passed another park gate, realizing Jesse had both our park passes. After explaining I was let through without having to buy another pass. We are quite obvious and easy to find as the only people on bikes!

A little ways farther Bruce rides up behind me. He’s out for a day ride, so we rode along together for a while. He kept my pace up and I got to see his fancy German touring bike, made with all the bells and whistles built in. We rode together to Athabasca falls where we stopped to see the falls and drink some of the hot chocolate Bruce brought along. The falls were stunning, as was the landscape around.

After visiting the falls, Bruce turned back to find Jesse and I continued forward. I was able to communicate with Jesse a bit before losing cell reception. He had made it back to Jasper without any luck finding the stand, and would take a break before starting behind me.

I rode on until the Sunwapa falls resort. Every campground I passed was closed, including the one we had planned to meet at. At the Sunwapa Resort I bought an extremely overpriced sandwich and drink, then asked about the cost of rooms. Since they were expensive, I decided to wait near the road for Jesse to see if he would be able to keep riding onto the campground or hostel 20-30k up the road.

While sitting and waiting, a man came up and started talking to me. Chris was riding from Banff to Jasper with his son, and a friend and his son. He left, then came back with his friend Tom a bit later to talk some more. They went for dinner so I turned back to my book, but then Tom came out to invite me to dinner with them while I waited.

So I joined them and not too long after ordering the meal Jesse arrived. He came in and joined us as well, so we spent the night talking, sharing stories and enjoying their company. It was nearly 11pm when we finished, so we checked again at the hotel about rooms. They were no longer trying to sell me the room with a fireplace and now had a $90 room which was more reasonable, so we took that room. Not long after getting into the room the rain began (which we knew was unavoidable with all the weather warnings) and we felt even more like the cost of the room was justified.

Day 79: Mt Robson Park to Jasper, Alberta

A new province! Crossing state and provincial borders always feels like an accomplishment. After breakfast at the Mt Robson Cafe, we started the big hill right after. It wasn’t too terrible of a hill, though still after we continued minor climbs and rolling hills, but with an intense headwind this hills seemed much larger.

A couple rain storms moved through but didn’t persist. We made it to the provincial border, realized we just lost an hour, took some photos and then continued to the gate to the park. Just to ride through we have to pay $10/day each until we reach Banff. We weren’t sure how many days we would give ourselves for this section so we bought less than we’d need but knowing we’ll have to buy another day farther on.

Just after passing the gates, a car with bikes on the top waved and was shouting something with a sense of urgency – I realized he was saying “bear!”. Just after a transport truck started flashing its high-beams at us and with his hands tried to indicate a big mound. We slowed down and up ahead saw two bears at the side of the road. Had we come flying down we easily could have scared them (and them us) and possibly had an incident. We crossed to the other side of the road to watch and decide our plan. On our left was a drop off and on the right was a cliff, so there wasn’t much area for them to quickly run off. We made some noise with our bells to announce our presence. A van passed and then stopped to take photos, so we decided to slowly pass then, on the wrong side of the road. The bears didn’t seem to care about us being there and continued on with their day.

Farther along the road there was another ‘traffic jam’ to watch wildlife. Earlier we had seen many cars stop to watch a different bear, this time it was a large elk at the side of the road. So we stopped as well and took photos.

Eventually getting cell reception again we were able to see that we did have a Warm Showers host waiting for us in Jasper. We pushed the final way to town, walked around town a bit while waiting to make contact with our host Bruce, then we went to his place to chat and enjoy the evening. However, upon arrival I realized I had lost my click-stand somewhere along the way. A devastating discovery! It’s not that it’s expensive, it’s just incredibly useful and not easy to replace. I will have to order a new one and have it shipped ahead somewhere.