Friday, August 19, 2016

What I Did For My Summer Vacation - Part II – Canmore

A picture Amanda took of us biking in Jasper. I had to start with that because… well there’s a lot of Not-so-biking stuff in this post, and it IS supposedly a blog about biking… and if you hang on (or just scroll down to the bottom) you’ll find some more later in the post!

DAY 5 – Tuesday, 2 August 2016  
Icefields Parkway (Jasper to Canmore)

After our brief visits to Edmonton and Jasper we packed everything up again and rolled down the Icefields parkway to Canmore. As with the rest of the trip we had completely unrealistic expectations of how long things would take.  We planned to stop at a LOT of “scenic look outs” and originally had even planned to stop at The Crossing and do a short “1 hour” mountain bike ride along a trail by the North Saskatchewan River. After packing and unpacking all our stuff twice now, we had abandoned the idea of the bike trail before we left in the morning – realizing it would eat up half the day (unloading everything to get the bikes out, putting all the other stuff back in, riding the trail – which would undoubtabley taken MORE than an hour, then unloading everything to get the bikes back in, and then putting all the other stuff back in).

As I mentioned in Part I, my camera seems to have spontaneously deleted 4-5 days worth of the trip (which would have been about 200 photos). Luckily Amanda and the kids took a few photos themselves and so I’ve had to borrow a few from them for the first few days…

Amanda and I actually rode the Icefields Parkway 13 years ago – before this blog – and before kids (sort of – Amanda was pregnant at the time). So the drive was a nice – if quick roll through memory lane. I think I liked it better by bike. We had time to linger and check things out.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls with pretty rainbow.

Part of the gorge the Athabasca Falls have carved out over the millennia. It was interesting to explore the area and see how the channel has changed over time – some parts that were the main channel are now completely dry (and have stairs in them now for people to walk down below the falls.

Below the falls there were loads of people setting off on whitewater rafts.

And, at that point, Amanda started planning our NEXT trip to the rockies…

Sunwapta Falls.

Me taking one of the hundreds of photos that somehow autodeleted themselves… (grrrr!)

Oh look – The Boy took pretty much the exact picture I think I was trying to take…

(actually he zoomed in, I think I was going for more of a panorama)

Me boring the children with facts about the Columbia Icefield and its extent.

More water falling.

What is it that is so exciting about water tumbling over rocks…?

I promised the kids we’d see PILES of critters along the way. Refusing to stop so they could take a picture of the first pair of sheepies we saw… as it turned out these were the only other ones we saw during the entire stretch of the highway.

There was a spot a little further on that there was ALWAYS sheep on, but it seems some company has taken over the spot and built some HUGE… I don’t even know what to call it… balcony? Off the side of the cliff and there is no public access to the area and no stopping allowed – only tour busses owned by the company may enter and stop there now…

I think that is Mount Athabasca with “Little A” Glacier hanging off of it.

The Athabasca Glacier.

If you click on it and have a close look The line and dots you can see in the middle of it are Gigantic Galcier Buses that drive out onto it and swarms of crowds around them.

It was very busy at the Icefields centre – the parking lot was chock-a-block full.

After we left the Icefields Centre we realized it was getting later in the afternoon and it was still going to take us at least a few hours and we needed to be there between 7 and 8pm to meet with the owner of the Condo Amanda’s folks had arranged to rent for the week. So we ended up skipping a bunch of lookouts and other stops I’d planned along the way.

We make a brief stop at Bow Lake.

(someone may have had to pee).

Mount Rundle – as we approached Banff in the rain.

We made a brief stop in Banff to pick up some food. We stopped at Aardvarks (which has been there for decades) and I was a little disappointed to discover they no longer did falafels (I’m sure they did last time I was there… 13 years ago… Alas, I got a sub and Amanda and the kids got pizzas.

We made it to the condo just after 8 and were a little worried the owner might have split. In fact she had, but only because Amanda’s folks and Aunt and Uncle had already gotten there! (They were coming in on a train and we hadn’t expected them until much later).

DAY 6 – Wednesday, 3 August 2016 

As Amanda’s folks and Aunt and Uncle were planning to spend today in Bannf, we’d originally planned to ride Goat Creek Trail to Banff (possibly meeting up with them for lunch) and then ride back via the Legacy Trail – a paved bike pathway from Banff to Canmore that, more or less, parallels the Trans Canada Highway. The one thing I hadn’t sorted out was HOW exactly we were going to get to the Goat Creek Trail trailhead? From Canmore it involved a 7Km ride – that was mostly uphill… It was generally decided that the kids would find this no fun at all… There were cab companies in Canmore that would take people there for $50(!) but we weren’t sure if we’d even get all four of us AND out bikes in one load… Alternatively, we could drive the minivan up there and park for the day while we rode the trail and then I would have to ride up there after and fetch it… Which also seemed not entirely fun (given that the ride we’d have done was already 40Km on a mountain bike…

As it turned out the forecast was calling for rain (60%, I think) and we weren’t entirely sure if the trail was open or what the bear situation was around there. Apparently this was a record season for bear encounters due to the bountiful Buffalo Berry crops in the Kananakis  region and a number of trails were closed in Kananaskis and many, MANY warnings were posted everywhere. So we decided to take the day off and wander into “downtown” and pick up a second canister for Bear Spray for Amanda to carry and pick up some groceries and see if we could figure out what trails were open and such….

We had lunch at a place called Communitea, which was pretty amazing. I could have eaten there every day.

There were tonnes of little bunnies all around Canmore. The kids were fascinated by them. They took many, many pictures of them. This is one. I took pictures of places like Communitea… but alas, they are GONE!

DAY 7 – Thursday, 4 August 2016 
Heart Mountain

Today we finally got to doing one of the things I’d initially planned on doing on the day we originally planned to do it! We got started a little later, maybe… but we got out there eventually.

The forecast had called for rain again, but we said to heck with it… let’s do it anyway.

Heading towards Heart Mountain.


More hiking

Hmmmmm… not getting any closer to the top…

And then we started going up the ridge and the hiking got steeper.

And then just a short way up the ridge we came across a VERY FRESH bear paw print!?

There was a bit of a debate as to whether we should turn back at that point. I think we figured there were lots of other people in the area (based on the number of cars in the car park at the trailhead). And we were going up and out of the Bear Zone (who would want to stay in the valley where the berries were.

We continued on, but slower… and sang songs louder…

We ended up running into six other groups – one went up past us, the other five we met coming down. Not one of them was carrying bear spray. Most of them weren’t carrying anything at all!? No rain jackets!? No water!?

Pretty soon were were looking down into Heart Creek – and the rock climbers across the way (if you look close you can see someone climbing on that cliff).



This is just above the Crux. I had helped spot (well… push…) Amanda up, then sent The Girl up and then The Girl took this picture of Amanda helping The Boy up.

Then it got a bit more exposed.

And Rocky. And Steep.

This is the view from where we stopped looking west-ish back towards Canmore.

And looking east-ish – out towards the foothills.

We’d climbed up this chute, which, in this picture doesn’t look all that steep… or exposed… but it had sure felt it going up and while I was comfortable doing it myself, doing it AND watching children, with little climbing experience, to make sure they were doing okay was a little more taxing on the nerves.

Amanda was not so comfortable with it at all.

There was one more pitch and then it leveled off for the last jaunt to the summit (I’ve climbed this twice before).

But Amanda had just about had it and was nearing total freak-out mode.

And then a dark cloud rolled over and it started to rain. Just spitting really. But she envisioned it being followed up with a downpour – like we’d seen in the late afternoon when we drove the Icefields Parkway (it had been sunny and beautiful in the morning and just pouring by late afternoon) and was horrified at the thought of trying to downclimb slippery wet rocks… and, well that was it… we turned back. There was no sense going on with a panicked climber.

And back down we went.

This is back at the crux – again, I’d down-climbed it, helped the girl down, and then she took pictures of me helping The Boy down.

(after he’d gotten down he took my camera and took pictures of me helping Amanda down… alas…).

Going down.

And down.

And down.

And eventually we got to where there were more trees and it was slightly less steep and I think Amanda, finally, started to calm down. We’d been so on edge about the climbing, we were suddenly less concerned about bears. Luckily the kids still had energy and started singing again. They sang through all of the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s Very Scary Solstice Songs. (Seriously, they know then ALL!?)

I think everyone slept well that night. That mountain kicked my ass. It’s an easy mountain to climb… but… well... I’m just not 25 anymore…

Mind you plenty people older than me climb WAAAAAAY more challenging mountains. I can’t really use “being 44” as an excuse. I’m fat and out of shape is the problem and don’t do this sort of stuff nearly enough. Time to crank up the active living a few more notches!

DAY 8 – Friday, 5 August 2016 

Originally we’d all planned to head to Lake Louise for the day and hike up to the Tea Houses. Before leaving, however, a friend warned me that it can be very busy at Lake Louise and it can be hard to find a place to park (and once the lot is full they actually close the road to the lake and you can only get up there by shuttle). When we did some asking we found that that was happening by 9am most mornings as with the Canadian dollar being so low the place was just swarming with tourists! So we abandoned that plan.

(Amanda and I were also feeling pretty stiff and sore from the previous days activities)

Instead we decided to do another walk around Canmore.

DAY 9 – Saturday, 6 August 2016 

Originally we’d planned to do a second scramble up Ha Ling peak… having done one, and no mountain biking so far in Banff/Canmore, we decided the scrub the idea of another mountain climb and try to ride the Goat Creek Trail. Then I came up with a different plan – instead of doing it as a loop, which, once committed, you had little choice but to do the whole thing, we could DRIVE to Banff and park there and then ride up the Spray River trail (which connects to the Goat Creek Trail) and do it as an out and back – that way we could do as much as we wanted and turn back when ever we needed – if energy levels were flagging or bears were encountered.

It was pretty cloudy when we got up. As we got ready it started steadily drizzling.

By the time we were on the road it was raining.

It poured steadily all the way to Banff.


(That’s Cascade Mouintain – with rainwater cascading down it!)

By the time we got there it was pretty clear that going for a ride on a dirt trail in this heavy rain would be muddy and miserable… so we turned around and drove back to Cammore and had another “rest day”.

When the rain let up a bit in the afternoon we walked downtown to the bookstore again and The Girl picked up the next book in the series as she’d already finished the first…

DAY 10 – Sunday, 7 August 2016 
Canmore - Yamnuska

This was the earliest we got up the whole trip… by HOURS. I had suggested to Amanda while we were in Canmore – why not take a rock climbing course – there being a few one or two day courses offered by various different organizations? I’d looked up a few places and sent her links. We eventually settled on hiring Jay Mills of Canadian Rockies Alpine Guides (C.R.A.G>) for some private instruction and a couple of days of climbing.

Jay met us at our condo at 8am and lead us out to the Yamnuska climbing area.

It was an interesting area – from the parking lot we hiked up and the trail brought us to the top of the climbing area, where Jay was able to put in his equipment and ropes and then we took another trail to the bottom where we were able to climb from.

This was the first time we’ve ever done some real climbing on rock (other than the scrambling we’d done a couple days earlier – and similar scrambles I’d done 20 years ago).

There were squirrels all over the area zipping up and down the rock walls… made it look so easy.

Amanda Belaying The Girl.

Man, the kids took a lot of pictures of me climbing these rocks... 

The Boy rappelling. (this is where my camera started taking pictures again... or remembering pictures again - though I've still got a few in here from Amanda and the kids...)

A little further down.

I actually found climbing on this rock a lot easier than climbing at Grip It! (our local climbing gym – where we used to have memberships… a few years back…).

For one, these walls of rock weren’t completely vertical! Which was perfect for beginners like us.

Also, I found the rock grippier than the holds at the gym.

and... you know, fresh air... fantastic views...

(so inspired by this trip, Amanda is now trying to figure out how we could fit another membership at Grip It into our schedule – and budget!)

Someone letting me down.

The kids even got to belay each other.

Keria making her way over a bit of an overhang.

Jay Mills, our guide, packing up for the day. 

Walking out at the end of the day. The Boy off in his own world again. There were occasional sound effects emanating from him. I think there was a battle going on between dwarves and orcs…

DAY 11 – Monday, 8 August 2016 
Canmore - Wasootch

Things didn’t look good for the next day. The forecast said “showers”, not 30% chance of rain, not 60% chance of rain, just “showers”. When we got up things were not looking great either, but when we went out and met Jay, he said it looked like it was clearing up just to the east (where he lives) and so he lead us to a climbing area called Wasootch in Kananasis.

Low-lying clouds in the early morning as we drove down the Bow River valley.

Hiking it at Wasootch.

Setting up our climbing spot.

Here, I belayed Jay while he climbed up (in hiking boots!) and set up the ropes.

The Girl taking her first climb of the day.

Amanda rocking it.

Amanda on belay, lowering me down.

(luckily she decided I was worth keeping and didn’t decide to cash in on that life insurance policy)

(or maybe there’s some clause she’s aware of about being null and void if rockclimbing is involved)

(I’m going to go ahead and hope it’s the former)

Meeting The Girl coming up.

Both the kids had a great time.

The Boy just went at it - I couldn’t belive how quickly he could get up some of these climbs.

And showed no fear at heights.

The Girl was a bit more cautious. But after a few goes, could get up most places.

The kids even got to try belaying each other.

The Boy.

We moved to a new area in the afternoon.

The Girl – gaining confidence.

Kids Belaying each other again.

Jay belying The Boy.

He’s like Spiderman!

Amanda working her way up a ledge.

Amanda again, finally getting warm as the sun moved around to shine on the rock in the afternoon.

Two fantastic days of climbing. I would highly recommend Jay for anyone heading out to the rockies and looking for a good guide. He was a consummate professional – utterly patient, always safe, super friendly. Yeah. We’ll be calling on him again!

I don't think there was a drop of rain all day. 

DAY 12 – Tuesday, 9 August 2016 
Canmore Nordic Centre

Despite parts of it being closed due to the Bear situation, we spent our last day in Canmore up at the Canmore Nordic Center doing some mountain biking! (This is a Bike Blog afterall!)


Unloading the bikes at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

The last time I rode at the Canmore Nordic Centre was… um… 1993…? Mikey K, J.C., and I rode out of this very parking lot along the Banff Trail to… well… Banff on the North Side of Mount Rundle, and then back via Spray/Goat Creek Trails. (We also stopped at Aardvarks for pizza that day too!). I should dig out some pictures from that summer and scan them. It was a summer of epic bike adventures.

Heading out towards the green loop. Which is pretty much all we rode all day…

It was good enough for some junior-sized beginner mountain bikers (and their fat, out-of-shape-old-fart dad). Didn’t want to exhaust them and make them not want to go again. Or… y’know… kill MYSELF... !?

And after one loop of it, it was time for lunch.

And back at the trails.

The green loop is nice – mostly single track – but nothing really rooty or rocky or technical – nor are there any excessively long or steep climbs.

It was hard to get an in-focus picture of Amanda. It was pretty dark in the woods and as she always wanted to take up the rear, she would often let us get a bit ahead and then rocket down the trails on her full-suspension machine…

Not working TOO hard with his butt planted on the seat…

Won’t be too hard to convince this one to go back next year… and try out some of the OTHER trails!

The Girl started the day in a bit of a funk, but eventually warmed up to it.

The Boy again – at Summer Junction #8, apparently. This was at the end of the steepest uphill – followed by a long-ish downhill run – with a sharp turn in it. It was good fun – we did it a couple of times.

Amanda rocketing down said run.

Amanda at the end of said run .

This is the beastie I was riding on the vacation. I picked it up just a week before the vacation and basically did a parts/frame swap with the 1FG (That’s right, the 1FG has been officially been decommissioned and the parts were all swapped onto this little beauty – except the brakes – as the 1x1 only has mounts for discs – so this is also my first bike with disc brakes).

The keen observer will note that the chain looks a bit loose. Which was kind of annoying because that was the MAIN REASON I ditched the 1FG – I could not get the wedge-anchored bottom Bracket eccentric to stay and keep the chain tight. I figured the Surly 1x1 – with it’s rear facing dropouts - was a much simpler set-up and with a Surly Tuggnut could keep the rear hub from slipping forward under force. Unfortunately no one seemed to have any Tuggnuts in Western Canada!? The Distributor (NRG Enterprises) was sold out when I ordered the frame through my friendly neighborhood bike store (Bike Universe). So I tried contacting just about every bike store en route – hoping I might be able to pick on up along the way – Edmonton, Hinton, Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, even Calgary… no one had one… Then I even tried shops in Vancouver (because that’s where Amanda’s folks were before coming to meet us in Canmore!) The only one I could find was at a shop in Toronto… and with potential postal service disruption looming I didn’t want to risk spending $50 plus shipping and not have it show up in time…

So I had to just ride with it loose. I tried to tension it a few times back in Saskatoon when I was taking it out for test rides, but the first hill I hit it would just slip in the dropout – which is never a good feeling on a steep uphill! So I just gave up and left it loose for the entire vacation… luckily it wasn’t so loose that it kept falling off or anything… just occasionally skipping a link with a CLUNK! Every so often on an uphill – which made uphill suck as I tried to go up the gingerly instead of charging them like I like to!

Oh yeah, and that’s fresh bear poo… for out last hour there we tried to do the beginner blue loop. There was fresh bear poo on it.

Poo be damned! On we rode!

Amanda – almost in focus!

There was some more pushing on the blue loop.

Amanda – out of focus again.

Long uphill.

And back down a hill.

And the rest of the family.

Is this enough bike shots to qualify as a post worthy of putting on a bike blog?

Well here’s a few more:

And stopping for breaks and measuring blood-sugar levels.

There were bridges over other paths.

The girl going down that run again.

Hey! There’s one of me riding!

And finally The Girl at the beginning of the beginner blue loop: Baby Beluga.

The next day we packed it all up and headed for a few days in Calgary… but I’m going to leave that for one final post about What I Did For My Summer Vacation!!

Stay Tuned!

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