8/20/14

The National Parks- Jasper to Tetons

Some of the most beautiful places on the planet deserve a lot of pictures, and so there are a lot of pictures in this post. A much needed change after the Ft Nelson to Grande Cache stretch of riding.   

I made a stop in Jasper for food and WiFi and left quickly.  After a couple days of long remote rides and a mediocre night's sleep the tourist crowds seemed overwhelming.  I felt both tired and excited as I pedaled down the Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic roads in the world.  Just outside of town a black wolf ran across the road ahead of me.  Awesome.
   
Darren and Darren, the Professors.

And then Darren and Darren (how convenient) pedaled up behind me.  I latched on to them like I hadn't hadn't spoken to anyone in a year.  Both are professors at University of Calgary, a wildlife biologist and a geologist.  Good company, even without those credentials.  

Just after meeting the professors we came across a "bear jam", the phrase for groups of tourists that stop their cars in the road to look at wildlife.  I had seen many of these along the way, but this one was in fact a large black bear, and perhaps the most jaw dropping,  not because of the animals.  People were outside their cars within 5 feet of the bear, leaning over and taking pictures like they were in a zoo with an invisible fence.

We rode to Jonas Creek and shared a campsite and I was grateful for the company.  They also shared a night cap with me that left a hint of scotch in my water bottle for days to come. A great start to an amazing section of riding.
There were no shortage of cyclists on the road.  Those two guys, brothers from FL, were heading south to Tierra Del Fuego from AK.
Climbing along the Athabasca River
A short hike at the Columbia Icefield tobthe Athabasca Glacier.  Receding at about 5 meters per year, nearly a mile from where it stood 125 years ago.  Go see it while you can.  Riding down the bumpy road to the trailhead my bear spray fell off my bike and began spraying all over the place. I got a new can in MT.  
The mountains towering over the road
More mountains towering over the road
Bow Lake appearing coming off the the second big climb.  Somewhere around here I entered Banff National Park and left Jasper NP.  Canada NPs charge almost $10/day.  Seemed like a lot compared to US National Parks $10 one time entry fee.
I pushed ahead the second day and lost the professors, but had no shortage of company at Mosquito Creek.  The campground was overflowing so people, including me, just set up in the central grassy area. Wonderful cold creek for swimming.   No mosquitoes! 
A nice way to start the morning!
Herbert Lake
Just before Lake Louise, the Icefield Parkway meets the Trans Canada Highway and I headed south towards the towns of Banff and Canmore before stopping in Lake Louise, which is a major tourist stop.  The town wasn't too crowded, but the lake front up the hill was. And as expected, the grocery store was expensive.  The highway is good for riding and incredibly scenic. 

Obligatory ride up to Lake Louise
There are a number of bridges for wildlife to cross the road.  My WS hosts in Canmore showed me a couple videos about the bridges.  Not only do the animals use them, but some studies suggest the avoided expenses of animal vehicle collisions makes them economical to construct.   
This is about as close as I got to the town of Banff, which I was told is a bit of a tourist trap.
So instead of stopping in Banff I stopped in Canmore to stay with Katja and Yves, a cycling, kayaking, hiking adventure couple.  Their stories of South America, and Columbia in particular, have got me thinking about my next trip.  I got a much needed rest day in Canmore, a beautiful mountain town with a very nice library and town center.

At this point I had to decide how to proceed south.  There were 3 options.  First was to head back north through Kootenay National Park, second was to head down the Continental Divide Route (dirt roads and trail), and third was to head out into the plains on the Cowboy Trail, aka Highway 22 into Waterton Lakes.  I was feeling more tired than adventurous at this point so I took the Cowboy Trail, the least remote and least hilly of the three, but still a beautiful landscape. 
After an uneventful ride down the highway and through the rolling hills around Bragg Creek, AB I arrived at WS host Murray, Ingrid, Arlo and Sam in Millarville just before the thunderstorms let loose.  They were a delightful family that was determined to put some meat on my bones.  Ingrid is a veterinarian and  Murray a conservation officer, and both cycling enthusiasts with a family trip in the back of their minds.  
Taking some back roads to Black Diamond
On the Cowboy Trail
Looks like a Cowboy Trail
Camping on the Old Man River.  Notice two cans of beer on picnic table.  When I arrived there was nobody there, but it was Heritage Day weekend so many people were traveling.  The first two cars that stopped by to have a break offered me cold beers.  And then Judith arrived, an attractive woman in her late 20s (married), that offered me company, food and Serbian moonshine.  So a surprisingly good night. 
Sunset on the Old Man River

The Cowboy Trail heading to Pincher Creek.  Always a t-storm in the distance it seemed.
Around Pincher Creek, AB there is a lot of wind, and some of it is being put to good use.
I stopped in Pincher Creek for groceries (food would be expensive in Waterton) and apparently did not go unnoticed.  About half way to Waterton, Janet was standing at the end of her driveway with a cold glass of water and homemade cookies.  She saw me in Pincher Creek and thought I would be thirsty.  Right she was!  She made my day.  
The rain caught up with me just before heading into Waterton Lakes.
Riding into Waterton. 
I had a great visit to Waterton Lakes, which is the Canadian side of Glacier National Park, mostly due to a wonderful Warmshowers Host, Sharon, that I hardly even met.  Sharon works for Parks Canada, and lives in a staff house in town.  She and other park employees live there and there is an extra bed in the basement she invites cyclists to use.  So even though I didn't meet Sharon until the second day I was there, all the other friendly roommates took on the role of hosts, especially Sean. 

Waterton Lakes view heading up to Bertha Lake.  I met a couple on this trail that introduced me to the Saskatoon berry. This was the start of a lot of berry eating.  On the way down the trail a thunderstorm rolled in and I got completely soaked and cold.  Not sure why I didn't bring a rain jacket, but I wasn't the only one.
Surrogate host/Sharon's roommate, Sean, invited me to the Prince of Wales hotel for cocktails.  They insisted on getting me a Caesar, which is like Bloody Mary with clam broth.  That was my first, and probably my last!  An impressive lobby worth a peak.
Sean and his girlfriend, Jasmine, heading off for a hiking/biking adventure after dropping me off at the Cameron Lake trailhead to hike the Carthew-Alderson trail back to town.

I had a wonderful 11 mile hike back to town.  Amazing scenery and lots of friendly people.  Even some that wanted to feed me.  
The highest point on the trail.  Can't remember the name of the peak.  Mt Carthew?




From Waterton Lakes I climbed up to the Chief Mountain US port of entry with tired hiking legs, but rested biking legs.  I have found hiking and biking muscles to be very different, especially in the feet.  The day was hot and I found a cold creek to dunk my head in.

Just as I crossed the border into Montana I met Rich and Pete from Minneapolis. They were heading to St. Mary for the evening and then on over the pass to West Glacier.  I decided to head to the Many Glacier section of the park first for some hiking and a night of camping before going over the pass.  They invited me to join them at their hotel room when I got to West Glacier the next day.

Rich and Pete at the Montana border. 
Me, Rich and Pete having lunch with a view
Riding into Many Glacier was a gradual climb into a bit of a headwind. Beautiful scenery and a Grizzly Bear up on the mountainside visible from the road.  Very comfortable viewing distance!
I arrived pretty late but had just enough time for a hike up to Redrock Lake.
Mama and baby moose near the lake.  
Mom and baby moose standing in the water near Redrock Falls.
The climb up was hot and dirty as a big section of the Going to the Sun Rd was under construction and all dirt/gravel. However, near the top of Logan Pass there is a glorious waterfall  with an amazing view on the side of the road that cleaned and cooled me off.  Every big climb needs one of these near the top!
3rd crossing of the Divide.
Going up the pass was slow, going down the cars were in my way. Left me plenty of time to take a swim in Lake McDonald on my way out. 
Pete and Rich outside the hotel in West Glacier.  Not only did I get a room to sleep in, but they also took me out to dinner and breakfast.  Great guys! I am planning to catch up with them in Minneapolis.

The roads in Glacier NP are not great for riding as there is heavy traffic and little shoulder. Some sections of the Going to the Sun Rd. have restrictions on when bicyclists can use them.  Turns out many of the roads in Montana are horrible for riding, and I am calling Montana the worst US state I have been in for riding.  This is primarily because many of the roads have no shoulders, are two lanes, and have very high speed limits (or at least traffic is moving very fast).

I decided to bypass Missoula to avoid major roads and took routes 35 and 83 along Flathead Lake and Swan Lake, which is one of the Adventure Cycling routes.  Turns out these roads are horrible for riding too. I have no explanation for how people can be so overwhelmingly kind and generous to me, but when behind the wheel of a vehicle they are reckless, impatient, and nearly insane.

Many people are courteous drivers, of course, but there are enough reckless drivers to make me wonder what it is about driving that causes people to take such big risks for what might amount to a matter of saving a second or two of time.  In the US, 30,000 to 50,000 people are killed every year in traffic accidents, 500-1,000 of those fatalities are cyclists.  Montana has white crosses lining the roads where a fatality has occurred.  What will it take for people to slow down?  Driverless vehicles can't come too soon.

Here is West Glacier to Gardiner via Helena and Bozeman:

Camping along Cold Creek Rd. A Black Bear running across the road as I pulled in.  Those are good bears, not park bears, I was told.  That is, they get hunted!
Route 83: scenic, but no shoulder and a lot of RV and camper traffic with no braking ability.
South of Seeley Lake I got on the dirt roads as I was warned 83 would get even worse for riding.  A thunderstorm caught me about halfway back to the pavement. Nice country. 
The friendly guy in the Seeley Lake bike shop told me about Ovando, a town that welcomes cyclists to camp in their museum lawn or town green free of charge.  They also have a TP and wagon cart with a $5 suggested donation. I arrived to a quiet town with nothing open but woke up in the morning to people setting up for a town sale to raise money for their school.  I bought pie, cherries and brownies. 
On the road to Helena.  They just couldn't find space for a shoulder.
A hot day so I stopped in to the cafe in Avon, MT for some water and that sweet lady talked me into a Huckleberry milkshake.
Massive amounts of coal headed west from eastern MT and WY.  Bound for China I was told.
To get to Helena route 12 passes over MacDonald Pass, a nice climb with a spring near the top and a zippy descent.  Nice shoulder :)  
"I Am The Way" .  A noticeable number of Christian billboards on the roads in MT.
John, my very kind Helena WS Host.  He was working when I arrived, so I went and met him at the restaurant. Good food and people! 
A pretty boring 100 miles from Helena to Bozeman, but there is a shoulder for most of it.
The day was hot so I was excited to find a place to jump in the Madison River, along with a number of locals.  That is not me doing a double back flip off the top of the bridge.  Crazy kids.
Greg, my awesome host in Bozeman.  Got a rest day in, and Greg fed me massive amounts of protein (backyard chickens).  He also reinvigorated my conservation ethic with stories and lessons from his time working at the National Park Service. 
From Bozeman to Gardiner I took the road less traveled via Trail Creek Rd. A bit bumpy, but scenic and no traffic. 
Riding into Gardiner, the gateway to Yellowstone.
Rafting on the Yellowstone River, thanks to Mike Barlow and Wild West Rafting.  Mike is a cousin of a WS host that my cycling friend, Melissa, stayed with.  Mike likes to take cyclists rafting, and feed them bison burgers at the Wild West Corral.

And into Yellowstone...I think the key to a successful Yellowstone trip is to get off the road and hit the trails.  The crowds are big, but they are non-existent on the trails.  The park is massive and most camping areas have hiker-biker spots, so no reason to rush, except for high food prices. 

In Gardiner I camped in the front yard of WS Host, Heidi, who I failed to get a picture of.  However, in her place I have the Roosevelt Arch, which is visible from her front yard!  It reads "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people".
After a night of camping in Mammoth Springs I did a day hike up to Sepulcher Mt based on Greg's recommendation.  An awesome hike it was!  Above is the Yellowstone River Valley from the top.  On my way up I had my first close encounter with a Grizzly Bear.  She was less than 50' off the trail and didn't pay me much attention.  With a bit of a wiggle she disappeared into the brush, which made me think people are probably walking by bears all the time and not realizing it.  I was later told by some other folks on the trail she had a couple cubs with her. 

Electric Peak, which has some kind of metal in the mountain that causes people to get shocked if standing on it during a thunderstorm (not by lightening directly). 
A wonderful view of Yellowstone coming down the trail.
Nobody lives forever.  A saw a mom and baby moose just past here.
Mammoth Hot Springs, back near the trailead with dozens of people packed on the boardwalk.
Looking back on the road to Tower Fall
Looking ahead on the road to Tower Fall
The climb up to Mt Washburn pass with t-storms building.
A nice 6 mile round trip hike up to the summit with panoramic views.  I pulled into the trailhead just as a hail storm started and took cover in the bathroom.  Then the sun came back out for my hike up.
Bison, a big attraction.  A species that went from a population of 30-60 million in North America to near extinction after Europeans arrived. 
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
Canyon and the lower falls
Much of Yellowstone burned in 1988 after years of forest fire suppression.  So lots of stubby trees.  Takes a long time for a forest to grow back at those elevations.
Green thermophilic algae growing in a hot spring in Norris Geyser Basin
The Steamboat Geyser, which is the biggest in the park, but rarely erupts.
Obligatory bike and Old Faithful shot.  
Random geyser going off as I rode through the Old Faithful area.
My 4th crossing of the divide, which I thought was my last.  Not too far down the road I crossed it again.

And after 4 nights in Yellowstone and a noticeable change in the weather (temps around freezing at night) I rode down to the Tetons, which I liked even more.  The scenery around the Tetons is dramatic with the steep mountains rising more than a mile from the relatively flat Snake River Valley.  Amazing mountain views! 
A stop for lunch along Jackson Lake on my way in to the park.  
Heading south toward Jenny Lake
The Tetons glowing in the late afternoon sun.
Hiker biker camping at Jenny Lake has a view, and just a few hundred feet to a refreshing dip in the lake.
On my hike up to Amphitheater Lake, another Grizzly Bear sighting!  This time I had my camera ready. 
Amphitheater Lake
The hike down took longer than the hike up, but I filled my water bottle with Huckleberries and Saskatoons!
The nicest bike path I have ever been on, just south of Jenny Lake.
The view from Signal Mt.  A ride that Mike from Gardiner said was a must do.  Right he was!
The view from Signal Mt campground.  A woman, Linda, saw me looking for a spot and invited me to share her site.  We had a nice campfire and some good food.  Including broccoli cooked over the fire. 
With such a nice campsite and $5 hiker biker rates, I decided to spend a day hanging out at the Signal Mt area.  Most of the day I spent picking more berries. 
The Tetons shrouded in clouds as I rode east into central WY. 

2 comments:

  1. Yes, I agree, many pictures are necessary when one is traveling through big sky country. Yellowstone is one of my most favorite places, and I can't wait to get back there again. Last time I was in that area, I saw you! I continue to be in awe of your adventures and I'm so thrilled you are sharing with the world.

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    1. Thanks Em! Gotta get to St. Charles for visit. Some day I will get to the middle part of the country for a ride. Maybe on the way to S. America...

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