Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What I Did For My Summer Vacation - Part I – Edmonton and Jasper

This summer we took our first family vacation together since… well… ever. And even longer since I did any Mountain Biking in the MOUNTAINS! Okay 10 years ago we went out to Calgary and stopped at the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and Calgary Zoo… but The Girl wasn’t even a year, and The Boy was only 2.5 years old…. Despite four weeks vacation a year, Amanda, tends to take it to go to Yoga teacher workshops, take the kids to visit her folks and a few extra days off here and there to do stuff like… clean up and fix the house and stuff… Actually, come to think of it, this year is no different – she’s still planning a number of yoga instructor workshops – it’s just that this year she combined the visit with her parents with a trip to the Canadian Rockies.

After agreeing on the number of days in each place, I was put in charge of a fair bit of the activity planning for each location and set about coming up with a (completely unrealistic) plan for fun things to do. For example, we left on Friday, 29 July 2016 and I some how imagined that Amanda would pick up the rental van at 9am, we’d be on the road by 10 am and in Edmonton by 3pm (because somehow I had it in my head that Edmoton was a 4-5 hour drive… that’s what people tell me… I think maybe they exceed the speed limit and don’t have partners and children with miniscule bladders…), we’d hit the MEC, Check in at the  hotel around 4 or 5, head over to Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant and then head over to my friend Bob’s house to hang out for the evening and play some games…

DAY 1 – Friday 29 July 2016

Amanda did head out to pick up the rental minivan on Friday morning… although, she left the house just after 9am (instead of being there picking it up AT 9am…)

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

By the time we had all our clothes and food and four bikes and rock climbing gear and hiking/mountain scrambling gear and a few games and books to read and other sundry items packed up it was well after 11am…

We didn’t get to Edmonton until almost 6pm…!?

So we skipped the MEC….

… and went straight to the Days Inn.

By the time we’d checked in and parked the rental minivan and unloaded most of our crap it was already after 7pm…

So we skipped Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant (much to my chagrin) and finished off some of the left over pizza we’d brought along for lunch and snacks along the road, but hadn’t managed to finish off (mostly because the kids, never spending much time in motor vehicles, were quite car sick most of the way).

I was a little worried when we went in the front of the hotel and found the hallways off the lobby to be quite narrow and the elevator to be tiny and slower than just about any other elevator I’ve ever been in!?

As luck would have it, however, we were able to park in the parking garage attached to the back side of the hotel – from which we were able to directly access the third floor where we were staying! This made loading and unloading WAY easier - we were even able to ride our bikes down from the third floor and ride right back up when we got back!

Unloading and assembling bikes to head to Bob’s

The first, and thankfully ONLY, flat repair of the trip – and on The Boy’s brand new bike! The rim tape had shifted and the tube was punctured when it squeezed into one of the spoke holes…). But it was an ominous beginning to a vacation that had a fair bit of cycling planned.

We headed down to the river and rode along the trail and then back up along a trail through a forested ravine. I don’t seem to have taken any pictures of the ride as a) we were in a bit of a rush b) it was getting dark. I also didn’t take any pictures of Bob’s magnificent yard (to which I an treated to pictures of nearly daily throughout the summer via his facebook  cover photos  - again, rush + dark + MOSQUITOES!). You can find a few pictures on his gardening blog.

Of course it could also all be part of the mysterious missing pictures mystery. Five days and over 200 pictures seemed to have deleted themselves some time between when I took them and when I got home to load them onto my computer… more on that in a bit (like, in Part Two… or at the end of this post...)

Playing Dragon Rampant at Bob’s with his family! (there will be more pictures of this over on my game blog shortly).

By the time we were finished playing it was getting late so we took a more direct route home.

We were able to ride our bikes right up the parking garage and dragged them into our room for the evening.

DAY 2 – Saturday, 30 July 2016

The plan for today was to nip over the the High Level Diner for breakfast at 9am, then pop into Red Bike next door where I hoped to have a look at some Ibex Cycling Jerseys and maybe find a Surly Tuggnut - which was like the grail of my entire journey - even though I’d emailed them a week before and they’d already told me they didn’t have one… Then we would take a leisurely ride about the trail network along the North Saskatchewan River before making our way to  Hertiage Days in Hawrelak Park and sample the food and entertainments…  and in the evening we were invited to my friend Chris’ for dinner and hanging out…


Since we hadn’t made it to the MEC the day before, we planned on nipping back across the river to go there before heading to Heritage days.

The plan started to come apart when instead of being AT High Level Diner for 9am, we were instead just starting to drag our asses out of bed at 9am… we finally made it over there around 10:30.

There was a line out the door.

The kids and I went into Red Bike to scout it out – returning occasionally to see if Amanda had made any progress through the line… By about 11 we made it in and ordered ourselves… well.. now I guess it was “brunch”… and then we waited… 

Luckily my kids are book-geeks and never go anywhere without something to read.

And somehow, unlike myself, they are able to tune out everything around them and be totally absorbed in a book.

I can barely read a menu in a loud restaurant!

I’m not even sure what we all had it seems like so long ago. I think I had some sort of giant cinnamon bun (and there might have been some sort of carmel bourbon sauce involved….)…. And someone had chocolate pancakes.

It was almost noon when we got out of there…

We went next door to Red Bike (which is a pretty rad little bike shop… I’m sure I took some photos… but they seem to have disappeared – along with so many others I’m sure I took..)

I ended up buying an Ibex cycling jersey and THREE pairs of shoes!? (I’m not really a crazy shoe shopper… they were on clearance and a really good deal…).

I think the kids might have got a t-shirt or something…? Chewbacca on a bicycle…? Honestly it feels like forever ago.

When we finally got out of there – it was already after noon and I think we were STILL thinking we’d make it to the Heritage Festival… we just needed to make a short trip to the MEC.

So back we went across the High Level Bridge.

Let me tell you, there is no such thing a “a short trip to the MEC”. I think after our second hour there we abandoned the idea of going to Heritage Festival. This was a holiday afterall – we shouldn’t feel beholden to some sort of SCHEDULE?! We can go wherever we want, whenever we want! (and I felt very glad, in that moment, that I HADN’T made the effort to contact any of the other people I knew in Edmonton and tried to meet up with them at the Heritage Festival – laziness FTW!)

I think we got out of the MEC around 4pm…

There were one or two items we went in for. WE came out with much, much more… Everyone came out with new cycling packs – Amanda and the kids all got some sort of hydration backpack. I got one that COULD have a hydration bladder and hose, but I just don’t care for those… I just got it for carrying stuff and had some good suspension and two foam pads that rand down the back that mostly kept it off my back and allowed for some breathing space. Oh, and I got some shirts. And the Kids got some pants. And Amanda got a hat... and… well… you get the idea.

After we got out of there we went for an alarmingly late “lunch” at a boardgame café right next door to the MEC. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to play any games…

We got back to the hotel just before the skies opened up and it began to POUR rain. Which would have been perfect, if it weren’t for the fact that we had to go back out…

So we gathered up rain gear – and packed some extra clothes – and made our way out to my friend Chris’ – where were treated to a fabulous home cooked meal and had some time to dry off before we headed back home.

Didn’t take any pictures there either… not sure why!?

It has been a long time since I have seen Chris. I miss him so. Hopefuly it won’t be another half-decade before we meet up again!

DAY  3 – Sunday, 31 July 2016

We again shambled out of bed a bit late, but maybe not as late as the day before and made our way to the Blue Plate Diner - another fantastic veg-friendly restaurant that Bob had recommended. I had something with scrambled tofu and potatoes… and maybe toast? While the previous day’s cinnamon bun was fun and tastey for sure – breakfast here was… I don’t know…? More substantial…? I don’t mean the portions were huge - I just felt like I’d eaten a real breakfast.

Conveniently, right across the street was a food store where we picked up some supplies for the next few days.

Found some fun bicycle-ish themed sculptures on the way back to the hotel.

All packed in and ready to head to the mountains.

First view of the mountains.

Again, my original plan somehow had us getting to Jasper just after noon and going for a bike ride along some trails alongside the Athabasca River…

Instead we got into town late afternoon – just in time to go for a very late lunch at Coco’s Café.

Then we got checked in at the B&B and, though it was probably time for supper, we’d just eaten “lunch” so we wandered downtown for a bit before coming back and making supper.

Then we tried out a game called Bananagrams that The Girl picked up in Edmonton.

DAY 4 – Monday, 1 August 2016 (a Civic Holiday)

Well we didn’t get to doing the bike ride the day before, so the kids decided they’d rather to do that instead of the mountain scramble I’d planned for this day. Try out all the new gear and stuff….

I have two mountain bike trail guides – both of which are pretty old (are there newer ones out there…?)

We started on the Jasper Discovery Trail – a paved trail with goes around the Jasper townsite. We took that to the south end of town and across the highway.

Then we were on to dirt!

Most of the trail guides said this trail was rideable in 2-4 hours. I think they were thinking of adult mountain bikers who want to just ride straight through. We did a LOT of stopping and taking in the sights (and taking pictures) and having breaks and snacks…

Across the Athabasca River to Old Fort Point.

Back on to trails.

The trails were technically very easy and all along the river there weren’t any ardous climbs. Most of it was very wide and dipped in and out of woods.

Amanda’s mountain bike finally seeing some MOUNTAINS!

Snacks after a little climb.

And for every little climb…

There is a bit of a downhill.

Which could be ridden fairly quickly – there were very few other people using the trail.

And more snacks and checking blood.

The Boy was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes this June and so stopping to check blood-sugar levels and having lots of snacks has become a regular part of any outdoor activity.

And we’re off again.

Eventually we got to where the Maligne River flowed into the Athabasca River and turned up to follow this faster moving river.

We crossed the Maligne river at the “6th Bridge”.

Faster moving water.

This brought us closer to rock and we had to stop and do some impromptu bouldering.

And then we were off again – over rock and dirt!

The Girl’s a bit more cautious going over anything remotely technical.

The Boy had more of a “go for it” attitude.

I seem to have taken a lot of pictures at this one spot... 

And up and down the trail went – sometimes closer to the water, sometimes closer to the rock. Occasionally there were springs – which made the trail muddy in a few places!

Trail #7

Eventually Trail #7 splits up and cycling is no longer permitted – going up the gorge. #7h is for cyclists to get around the gorge and #7f is apparently for horses.

It’s a little hard to tell from this picture… but where #7 Branches off to #7h is super steep! It just goes straight up the mountainside! We were all pushing and in a few places I had to make multiple trips up and down to fetch The Girl’s bike. Which I wouldnd’t have minded so much if she had just said – “I can’t do this, could you please help me?” instead of whining and complaining about what a stupid trail this was that I had picked out for them to ride and what was I thinking!?


Eventually it brought us to pretty high point with some spectacular views of the valley and where we’d come from.

And then there was more pushing up the hill… I have to say The Boy complained very little and did most of his own uphill pushing.

And then there was a bit of a downhill – which was a bit narrower than other areas with a pretty steep drop off on one side (not entirely apparent in this picture..)

And then more views.

And more downhills.

Eventually we made it to the Maligne Canyon Teahouse – or at least it was called “Teahouse” on my maps and in my guide books. The sign out front declares it to be Restaurant and Gift Shop.

We had lunch there.  There was Veggie Burgers and Sweet Potato fries. It’s difficult to make out, but we’re right beside the Maligne River, just before it enters the gorge.

While Cycling is not permitted on the canyon walk – for reasons that were soon to become obvious – and not entirely to do with the amount of people walking the canyon – one of the guide books suggested it was worth it to walk bikes along the canyon walk to check out the gorge.

So we walked our bikes along the canyon rim trail…

It was really cool to see where water had made channels over the centuries (or millennia!?). and it got very deep very fast in some places.

Unfortunately there were a lot of steep ups and downs along the trail – including areas with very steep steps. AT this point the kids had already cycled about 20 km and their energy was fading fast. The Girl got intensely whiny, which didn’t help things…

Long way down.

One of the bridges across the canyon. There are four that go across at very deep parts of the gorge and two others that cross the river a little further down stream (like 6th Bridge, that we had crossed earlier in the day)

Eventually Amanda and I had to carry the kids bikes up and down the steep stepped parts and then run back and get our own bikes.

That’s Amanda and the kids again at a look out bit standing with their bikes while I ran back up to get mine.

And the same-ish spot up close.

I forget which bridge this is…? 3rd or 4th.

This bit was steeper than it looks.. or maybe it was just past this point...?

By the time we were at the end of the trail the kids were DONE – they were just looking straight down at the trail in front of them and pushing along

Because of this they missed this massive spring! I could see them ahead - just walked on by without looking up.

Eventually we got back to the rideable trail and, thankfully it was mostly downhill for a bit.

It was slow going getting back as The Girl was running on empty.

Instead of going all the way back the same way we came – we cut across at a highway bridge and took the Bighorn Alley Trail back into town. We saw no Bighorns there.

Just before getting back into town…

And this is the last picture I have for the next five days. I know I took a few more as we rolled into town, and all the way down the icefields parkway the following day, as well as pictures in Banff and Canmore and many, MANY pictures on Heart Mountain which we climbed on the 4th of August. I’m sure there were over 200 photos that I took between those days, which just mysteriously erased themselves from my camera/memory card. I’ve tried putting the card in other cameras and downloading onto other computers… nothing.. They’re just gone.

A few f-bombs were dropped when I made this discovery.

Stay tuned for Part Two, which will pick up where the pictures on my memory card do – it’s not all cycling – thought we did spend a day cycling the Canmore Nordic Centre. Hopefully at some point I’ll get to post a few pictures of the missing segments when Amanda and the kids get to sorting their photos and decide which ones I can borrow from them

Coming soon on Tim’s Bike Blog:

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