A Canadian Love Affair: British Columbia and Alberta Mountains (draft)(prairies soon)

#4

Canmore, Alberta to Fernie, BC

Kananaskas Country

We left Canmore by a steep gravel road to the south past the 1988 Winter Olympics Nordic Center. Suddenly a small landslide clattered down on us from the road cut, causing us to take minor evasive action. While I steered, Claire looked up to see the cause, four Rocky Mountain sheep; the clumsy one started our landslide.

The road lasted some 70 clicks of high alpine lakes, gray chiseled peaks, neck breakingly close. It was as if a wide gravel road had been pushed through the middle of Olympic National Park. Meadows of sub alpine fir, tarns and lakes, rushing streams and meandering ones, always the high cirques and sheer faces of glacial carved mountains hanging over us.

We arrived at the Peter Lougheed Provincial (Alberta) Park, and found a visitor center/interpretive center rivaling any one of our national parks, and equaling even the Icefield Parkway Center. Canada knows how to do parks. We met a bunch of folks outside the visitors center and put on a dog-and-pony-show for a bunch of kids about Zippy and our travels. The sun was warm and we headed for showers and a nice campsite, dinner of red-cabbage and cheese on whole grain bun, apples…

What a day.

On a grade leading to the campground, it felt as if the rear derailleur needed adjusting. No problem, I’ll do it in the campground. Again. Then with a grinding noise, the cranks began spinning, no power getting to the wheels. Dead hub. We both knew the feel of it, what was wrong, what was ahead of us…

This is the second DT Hugi hub to break on us. Both lasted a mere 8,000 miles. We know we put our equipment under considerable strain with the high mileages and bad weather we travel in, but we are also light people and carry a reasonable load. This was a high-tech piece of equipment billed as “indestructible”, and we’ve destroyed two of them. Oh well.

We were given a ride back to Canmore by, Ranger in Charge, Dave Hanna, who also gave us an excellent education on bear control (they’re dealing with a young grizzly with behavior problems) and the concept of the Kananaskis Country, of which Peter Lougheed Park is a part. It is a mixed use concept that allows for ski resorts, golf courses, dude ranches etc. in certain areas while protecting as wilderness vast areas. I think the area is more beautiful than the much more famous Banff and Jasper National Parks.

We were told by a bike shop in Calgary that they had a tandem wheel and would get it to us next day. I specified that it must be a standard tandem 140 mm dropout width, “be sure and check it eh.”

It arrived next morning by special courier and was, can you guess? Wrong size. Sent it back, a whole day wasted, now we were facing a weekend wait in Canmore. The  bike shop in Canmore, Altitude Outdoor Sports worked hard at getting a wheel from a supplier in Quebec, but could not arrange a Saturday delivery.

To make the most of our wait we decided to take a long hike up a big mountain north of town, within walking distance. What we discovered, besides how beautiful our trail was, that there are many trails you can walk to from town, wending their way up all the fabulous mountains and to every part of town. Some of these are official trails, paved or packed gravel with bear-proof trash containers and benches with views, others were unimproved and just as nice.

Canmore is a town of 9,000 with explosive growth since the Nordic Center for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was located here. It is 22k (14 miles) east of the 100% tourist town of Banff, and still seems more like a town than a tourist center, but is losing it fast. Two new golf courses are threatening the integrity of many of their trails, and prices are getting out of reach of the people who work here, much like we saw happening in The States (as they  say here) in such towns as Jackson, Wyoming and West Yellowstone, Montana. One of the guys at the bike shop pays $350 a month for a small room, shared bath and no kitchen, and feels lucky to get it.

There do seem to be concerned people in town, who don’t want to stop the growth, but want to see that it doesn’t ruin what is special about the town. We met two teachers, a couple, out with their dogs on the steep trail north of town. They say they wish the town council, sympathetic with a managed growth plan, had more power to manage. It seems here, the Alberta government is telling the city government they cannot limit growth to less than the six percent it is set at now. In Washington State, it is usually the other way around, with state government telling the cities that they must put limits on growth and control growth patterns. We wish them well, we would like to be able to come back here and enjoy ourselves for a month some summer (easy to do), but will pass it by like we did Banff it if becomes a runaway tourist town. We might not have much influence (we don’t spend the big bucks) but we did send a note to the mayor asking them to keep the right-of-way open for their trails through the new golf courses.

The man (we didn’t get the couples names) was alternately running up the trail and back down again, turning and doing it again and again. Animal. I sensed he was something special and that was confirmed when he told me they were leaving for Colorado, where he will run the Leadville 100 (mile!) race. Hard core. My knees and feet hurt just listening to him.