Leaving Canmore by the only dirt road, I wasn’t sure if I was headed to Banff via the Goat Creek Trail, or south toward the Kananaskis Lakes and back toward Hwy 1 and Calgary. Turns out, the Goat Creek Trail is closed due to diverted waters from Spray Lake Reservoir, and thus my mind was made. I had my first “dirt road and mountains” camp that night with colorful remnants of Calgary’s Farmer’s Market, as I pondered my impending destiny of life on similar dirt roads in similar settings. It wasn’t until the next day at a water stop at a restful, upscale inn when I was asked if I was cycling “the Divide” by the proprietor (who certainly doesn’t make his money selling bottomless cups of coffee and offering me free wifi, brownies and pumpkin muffins: $3).
I was on the Divide. That’s it! It’s just a dirt road that goes some places you might otherwise go anyway. What luck– I had made progress toward my goal, and cured the great feeling of “unknowing”. Even better, I met a woman from Missoula who referred to herself as “grandmotherly”, and managed to drag along her husband, son, and a family friend for a section trip along the trail. When rain brought them inside after 14 miles, they decided to spend the day viewing the weather from several panoramic window settings. I would have too if I’d had two-hundred or more dollars to burn. This was a supremely restful establishment sandwiched between two very rugged and wild provincial parks, run by the nicest inn owners possible– people with a passion for kindly serving others.
I managed to peel myself from comforts to hit the road, with luck, about thirty minutes before a downpour. I matched pace with storm clouds for those thirty minutes, and was propelled over gravel and wasboard at an alarming pace (I now have a computer, it was about 25-30mph). Somehow, with underinflated tires and a void of white noise– the second gift of tailwinds– the experience was serene. Was I planing? The world may never know.
Eventually, I got soaked, it got cold, and the sun folded behind those rocky curtains. I stayed awake much of the night finalizing cold-weather gear; brain activity was the little bit of electron activity needed to keep me from feeling cold. Every time I fell asleep, I woke up chilled. No help that I was sleeping on a gravel and cobble drainage, which milked snowfields above.
A day of dirt riding, rain at 5500 ft, and a cold night at a spectacular campsite connected by 7km of single track; without fanfare, the Divide has begun.
I returned to Calgary today under icy blue skies and a familiar, uninhibited sun…and a wicked tailwind that powered me the 80k in two hours. It’s nice to finally be “touring”.