Day 13 - Day 16: Golden to Canmore via Kootenay National Park
We had a slow start and didn't get away until 11:00 am but once we got on the road we couldn't be stopped. Not even by a mama black bear with her two cubs on the side of the road. The ride from Golden to Radium Hot Springs was 103 km with about 400m incline and 300m. Most of the downdownhills carried us through the uphills but by the end of the day the hills got bigger and the downhills got smaller. We were very happy getting into Radium as Catherine's parents booked us a hotel room. We didn't feel like we needed it but the hot tub was a real nice touch.
We saw no roadkill! And only one semi got too close, he didn't even have a good excuse but he got close enough that I was blown a foot over and then I saw Catherine get blown a foot over as well. The wildlife was up and around though, we saw the bears, an Osprey carrying a groundhog and a second Osprey that had a HUGE nest on a telephone pole and came out to guard it as we passed.
We spent the day as tourists in Radium Hot Springs. Pedalled up to the hot springs in Kootenay National Park without our bags which was real nice and gave us a taste of what we'd be doing the next day. After exercising and stretching in the pools, we headed back to town and enjoyed an all you can eat chicken dinner. Catherine made it through 5 plates and a lava cake and I powered through 6 plates and a cheesecake. It wasn't our greatest decision, it hurt.. but we mostly wanted to do it to do it. Kind of like the ride.
We headed out of Radium and up the 93 highway through Kootenay and Banff National Park. The first 12 km were uphill ranging from 4% to 11% grades. It's not a fun way to start the day, especially when we got to park office and they told us there was a grizzly camped on the side of the road somewhere in that 12km stretch.
The hill was hard enough. We had to stop about every kilometer to catch our breaths and let our legs catch up. As we got closer to the bear, more and more cars stopped to warn us about him. He was at the top of the hill so by the time we got there we were almost beat. We asked one of the families that stopped to ride with us past and they graciously agreed. I think if we didn't ask they would've offered us in their car. Let's just say Canada is wonderful and we'd like to thank everyone with a silver SUV and Alberta plates. We didn't get names from the family so that's all we have to go on. Wherever you guys are, we owe you our lives.
The bear didn't give us too much grief since we had their SUV between us and him but he definitely thought about it. As we got 50 feet from him, he sat down and swiped up a pawfull of dandelions. At 5 feet he looked me in the eyes and stared me down. I watched him, heart pounding, breaths quickening and my mouth ready to shout obscenities if he made a move. As we got closer he twitched his neck as if to get up and pounce but it was just a fake to see if we'd fight back. We stayed calm and just kept staring him down. He gave a little snort and then went back to his dandelions. I remember passing him, looking over at Catherine and saying "bike like the wind" with as little panic in my voice as I could muster. About a kilometer after that we made it to the top of the hill and took a breather. Got some water and had a quick hug to celebrate being alive. The downhill was steep and quick. Passed a black bear on the way down but we were going well over 40km/hr so he didn't even look up from his dandelion patch when we went by.
Stopped for lunch along the Kootenay River at the bottom of the hill then started the staircase climb up to Vermillion Crossing where we camped at a rest stop with a picnic shelter. Supper was 4 packs of ramen noodles. It was delicious and warm.
We got up early but got ready slowly, conserving our energy for the big climbs ahead. We had oats and trail mix boiled in sweetened condensed milk and water. It was sooo sweet. I told Catherine that when we got back I was going to quit coffee and just eat a tin of sweetened condensed milk for breakfast every morning. It carried us most of the day. I mentioned the ride out of Kootenay was a staircase. We'd have a steep hill followed by a kilometer of flat then back to another steep hill. That was how the morning went. We stopped for lunch at Marble Canyon Campground after about 20km then did the remaining 15km to the Alberta boarder. That's right, we made it through a province, probably the toughest province, British Columbia in 15 days. We already made it over Vermillion Pass so we had to stop in the middle of a steep decline to take a picture. And they didn't turn out great because it was sunny. I may have got the speed limit sign instead of the BC sign... but it means something to us and that's all that counts. The decline took us out of Kootenay and into Banff National Park. It took us all the way to the Trans Canada Hwy about 30 clicks outside of the Banff townsite. We stopped in Banff for some seriously good greek food at Barpa Bill's Souvlaki. Check that place out your next time through! A Banffian cyclist stopped and chatted with us and told us about a trail that would take us straight to Canmore, where we'd be camping. It was the Legacy Trail and we were on it for about 20km. It was a beautiful way to end the day, small inclines with declines that carried you through the next. We got to Canmore and got ready for bed.
That pretty much brings us to now. Just enjoying breakfast and outlets at a Tims and updateding you folks since we didn't have service through the parks.
Enjoy the weekend!