Banff to Fernie

Since I find myself with an unanticipated extra day in Fernie, I might as well give a bit of an overview of the trip so far.  Its been great, but I have to admit, tougher than I expected.  Already New Mexico is looking very distant -at this rate I doubt if I’ll make in in the time available.  But I’ll still have a go.

Day 1 from Banff had an unexpected little blip – I had to turn back after 200 metres!  The start point is at the magnificent Banff Springs Hotel:

The trail starts at a low key little entrance at the back of the carpark. 

I had just cycled down the track when I ran into a man with two large dogs coming rapidly in the other direction.  He told me his dogs had just riled up a grizzly cub and suggested that it was better to get out of the way before angry moma arrived.  So I did….

Half an hour later, i set off again.

After a mere 30 km or so (much tougher than it sounds!), I camped at Spray Lakes. 

The next day, following the route through woodland around Spray Lakes I met Aurelie and Florent, two French travelers on year 2 of their 4-year cycle around the world.  As a break they were on a weeks hike!  Puts it all into perspective I guess.  They seemed to be having a terrific time.

I hit what I call my ‘3pm’ moment on this day – that point in the day where you find yourself wondering if you should quit for the day or press on, knowing there could be a few hours cycling to a good stopping point.  I was persuaded by passing hikers to stay at the only accommodation in the area, a fairly upmarket Lodge – a lovely place, great food, and I could watch Moose grazing as I supped my tea.

I set off, much fortified with the great food (with lots of the buffet stuffed into my panniers), and stopped for a picnic on the way to Kananaskis (which I still haven’t worked out how to pronounce).  I met another two cyclists, Barbara and Adrian from Switzerland.  They are on a road trip and seemed disappointed with the road system and Canadian shops (terrible cheese and worse coffee!).  Hard to disagree with them on that.

I camped at a really nice small campsite in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  This is much less of a wildlife park and more of a huge leisure park – vast areas of ‘camping’ (which here generally translates as parking for gigantic trucks and caravans) and a great network of beautifully surfaced bike trails.  On a suggestion from the ranger I went to the southernmost campsite, which was a little more low key with less parking.  It was very nice – lots of friendly people just out for the weekend to enjoy some nature.  And a half decent shop where I could buy a picnic.

I was delayed starting out from the park, mainly because everyone was so friendly.  I must have talked for more than an hour to the Canadian-Vietnamese man on the next site, Mr. Ha.  He reminded me of the very best of the Vietnamese I’ve met in that country – intelligent, cultured, and able to talk about his own difficult history (trapped in the North in the war, eventually going to Canada via Europe) without any bitterness.  He also gave me useful advice about how to help locals on the next time i go there – essentially, buy a wheelchair!  Its easy to find a local monk who will guide you to a local who needs it, and as it does not directly involve money, there is less likely to be ‘leakage’ of funds.

I also talked to the English guy who ran the campsite – he told me there was a Grizzly in woods to the north.  I assumed this was just a casual comment, but as I set off down the bike track I went within 3 metres of the bear!  He or she was casually sitting by the trail as I passed – fortunately it was a fast downhill stretch!  I’m not sure whether the bear or me was more surprised.  And no, I didn’t hang around to take a photograph!

I had to push my way up the first crossing of the Divide, at Elks Pass.

Continued above…

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2 Responses to Banff to Fernie

  1. otbiking says:

    I found that first stretch to Montana definitely the toughest, especially on a fully loaded bike. Things ease up a bit, so don’t get disheartened!
    Be sure to go by Polebridge and say hi to Oliver there for me. And plunder the bakery at the store! I miss that ride and all the awesome camping spots.
    Have a great time Philip. Looking forward to the next instalment.

  2. gyatsola says:

    glad to hear you say it’s one of the tougher sections… I was a bit shocked at how much effort I put into making so few kms! I’m looking forward to Montana, I was planning on stopping at Eureka but if feeling fit I’ll press on to Whitefish for my next break. your Guatamala trip looks great, though I’m not sure I’d like all that mud. give my regards to car.

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