You can find the other parts of the "What I Did For My Summer Vacation" series here:
What I Did For My Summer Vacation (Part 1: The Gaming Edition)
What I Did For My Summer Vacation (Part 2: Climbing - Not Cycling)
What I Did For My Summer Vacation (Part 3 - Canmore Nordic Centre)
Twenty-four years ago my "homeboys" (as they were called then) Mikey K and JC drove out to Mountains for the day to go on an epic mountain-biking adventure! We were all living in Calgary at the time and Mike and I were working as bike couriers. I'd picked up the recently published second edition of Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies and had been reading it constantly trying to find routes for epic weekend adventures.
On a sunny Saturday in the summer of 1994 we loaded up the bikes into the Kirov (Mikey K's bit boat of a car that he aptly - and in true Mikey K style - named "the Kirov" after a Soviet battlecruiser) and drove out to the Canmore Nordic Centre. The plan was to circumnavigate Mount Rundle by riding out of the Canmore Nordic Centre along the Banff Trail/Rundle Riverside Trail into Banff around the North side of Mount Rundle, and then take the Spray River and Goat Creek Trails around the South end of Mount Rundle back to the Canmore Nordic Centre.
JC riding his full-rigid, Hi-Ten Steel Mielle. I seem to recall parts of the trail were a bit more technical than this - with roots and rocks and steep sections... I guess I just didn't stop in those bits to take pictures.
Mikey K with his courier license plate on - because he couldn't be bothered to take it off for the weekend. The bike was a Tech, I think it was Coo-mo. Later that summer it folded under him while riding around downtown Calgary making deliveries and he ate it hard on the pavement. I think he was off work for a few weeks...?
One of many breaks along the Rundle Riverside Trail.
Another break by the Bow River. I remember Mikey K gazing at it and saying "I bet there's a lot of [name of fish] in there..." Might have been Perch...? or Rainbow Trout...? I really have no idea - but I remember it because up until that point I had never known Mike was a bit of a fisherman.
We eventually made it to Banff and stopped at Aardvarks for some pizza and a few cans of pop. While I had two 750mL bottles of water/gatorade on my frame - and a third in the backpack I brought along, Mikey K and JC each had a single 500mL bottle... They were pretty damned thirsty by the time we made it to Banff! They must have refilled there, somehow...?
WE got a little confused trying to find the trailhead for the Spray Loop and ended up riding across the Spray River at a shallow bit where a line of horse riders were crossing. Eventually we found our way and were off!
That's a much younger, fitter, less fat version of me at the little falls at the Goat Creek crossing.
Mikey K and JC crossing Goat Creek
The Goat Creek Trail is a wide easy-riding trail, but from Banff to the trail head in the pass between Mount Rundle and Ha Ling Peak (then still called "Chinaman's Peak) on Highway 742, there are some pretty big climbs... and there was some walking involved later in the day.
One of the fast little downhills along the trail.
Mikey K arriving at the trailhead with the base of the range that climbs to Ha Ling Peak in the background. At this point Mike was DONE. He couldn't ride any further. Especially when he saw the road raise further into the pass. He handed over the keys to the Kirov and asked me and JC to ride down to the Canmore Nordic Centre parking lot and bring it back up to pick him up.
Riding down from the pass was INSANE. Its about a 2km long downhill that drops at least 200m. I swear I just about hit warp speed flying down the gravel road. Was pretty sure I was going to die on more than one occasion. I was afraid to hit the brakes lest they burn right off and/or cause so much head the tires blew off my rims... We made it though and loaded our bikes back into the Kirov's trunk (seriously, the TRUNK on that beast could hold three bikes! (Okay, we may have had to put a couple of the wheels in the back seat... but still!)
WE drove back up to pick up Mike. He got tired of waiting for us and had started limping up the road towards the heights of the pass and that's where we met him. We loaded up his bike and drove down into Canmore.
I think we stopped at a gas station that used to be beside the Rose and Crown. Everyone chugged over a litre of Gatorade and then guzzled a bottle of Jolt Cola on top of it. I do believe Power Bars were consumed as well...
But that wasn't the end of the adventure! 13 Km out of Deadman's Flat the Kirov blew a tire and Mikey K didn't have a spare... (we knew it was 13 Km out of deadman's Flats because there was a sign across the road stating so). Me and JC had to just sit there and wait while Mikey K rode back into Deadman'd Flats and called CAA to get a tow. We waited for HOURS on the side of the road for that two truck to pick us up. During that whole time, of the hundreds of cars that flew by, only one stopped to see if we needed help. They couldn't help, but it was nice of them to ask...
I think by the time we got back into Calgary it was after midnight. I believe we stopped at a pizza place for some very late supper....?
Flashforward 24 years... I was looking around for a bit more of a ride to take the family one. Something a bit bigger to commit to than a couple hours of noodling around the Canmore Nordic Centre. I thought of this trail and wondered if we might be able to do it in reverse - which would be MOSLTY downhill... Especially if we could get a lift up and over the pass to the Goat Creek Trailhead.
I remember thinking of doing this trail last time we were in Canmore. At that time there were cab companies that would give you a lift to the trailhead for $50. So Amanda phoned them to see if they had a van and would be able to do that for a family of four and four bikes. None of the cab companies did that anymore... So we were able to add Amanda's Dad onto the contract with the rental company (for and extra $120!?) so he'd be able to drive us up there...
I started off the day with a hearty breakfast of scrambled tofu!
Unloading bikes and gear at the Goat Creek Trailhead.
Signage at the Goat Creek Trailhead.
Just about ready to go...
The kids heading off down the trail with the Sundance and Goat Ranges in the background.
Amanda following behind with Ha Ling Peak in the background.
The trail was nice and easy riding, there was one washed out area near the beginning of the trail - that made me worry there might be more, but there weren't!
Lots of flowers along the trail. I think these are called Indian Paintbrushes...?
The whole family rolling on down the trail.
One of the bridges along the trail - there were a few. I think this one just crossed an unnamed runoff that few into the Goat Creek.
There were a LOT of fast little downhills going this way. We didn't always go very fast...
More run off feeding into Goat Creek.
The Goat Creek crossing! I had really hoped to take pictures that mimicked the ones above (but 24 years later). but I was unable to locate the pictures before we left, to study them and make sure of the angles and locations and so had to go on my very foggy memory...
I think that's actually the falls were I had that picture taken 24 years ago. It would have been a little harder to get to. There was a bunch of flooding in the park about five years back and the course of a number of creeks and rivers changed a bit. Part of what was the bank 24 years ago was completely washed away.
I had Amanda take a picture below the bridge. which didn't quite feel right... ah well...
The family crossing the bridge - taken from downstream instead of upstream - like the one I took of Mikey K and JC...
More pretty flowers - a wild rose, I believe.
There was a bit of a climb after the Goat Creek crossing. Despite there being a 200+ metre drop from the Goat Creek Trailhead to Canmore, we still did almost 250m of climbing on this ride - it wasn't ALL downhill!
Rolling downhill again.
The family... again...
This is the first of the bridges crossing the Spray River.
The Spray River.
Purple Karate Monkey! and a sign telling us it's still 11Km to Banff.... Still riding Cro-mo.
More signage with lots of other options.
There was one big tree that had fallen across the trail that we had to negotiate.
Finnegan heading downhill.
the Grrrlz heading downhill!
Amanda looking like she's having fun!
The Girl back down by the Spray River.
Finnegan riding across a dry spillway - Spray River far below again.
MORE pretty flowers.
The Trail climbed way above the Spray river for a bit again.
Amanda negotiating a rocky downhill section.
The Girl doing the same.
Finally made it into Banff. Obligatory tourist picture by the bottom of the Bow Falls.
Checking out the Bow Falls from above.
More of the same.
It might have been nice to sit here in the shade by the rushing water and have our lunch, but bathrooms needed to be found! so we followed the bike trails downtown.
We had lunch in the sun in a park in downtown Banff.
...and then there was ice cream!
Heading out of Banff on the Banff Legacy Trail - a multi-use (cycling and pedestrian) paved trail that runs 25Km to Canmore. There were a few of these gates where entering and exiting the areas enclosed but the wildlife fences. The mat - which cyclists were expected to ride over, was apparently electrified...? Those travelling on foot had to open and close the gate off to the side to pass through...
Rolling down the Banff Legacy Trail with Cascade Mountain in the background.
Banff Legacy Trail with Mount Inglismaldie in the background (I think...)
Cascade Mountain again.
Amanda and Mount Rundle.
The family and some sandstone formations.
There were a lot of other users passing by us on the other side or overtaking us - usually on speedy little road bikes.
More of the sandstone formations on the other side of the highway.
Amanda and a view down the Bow Valley.
there was a rest stop halfway between Banff and Calgary. WE stopped a moment to have snacks and drinks.
and then we carried on our way.
Leaving Banff National Park
finally some signage telling us we were still a few more Kilometres from Canmore.
Some parts the trail was directly beside the Trans Canada Highway, but in other parts it veers off into the forest - which was nice.
Lots of little ups and downs.
Just before entering Canmore there was a counter. I think we were around the 700th users to go by that day. There was some 47000 users so far this year, and 647000 since the counter had been installed.
Finally we rolled back into Canmore - it was a pretty long exhausting day... but I had fun. this is the kind of mountain biking I like to do. I don't really care for the gnarly, rooty-rocky, technical single-track anymore (if ever I really was). I like to use a mountain bike just to get to places quicker than it would take to hike there...
I had one more day of cycling before the end of our vacation - which I'll post about shortly. I'd hoped for TWO, but the vacation was cut short by a day... you can read more about that at the end of Part One...