Night and day, on the Divide

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The expanses of road up north are a memory.  The rest of the summer will have a distinctly different flavor than the previous months, dominated in the next few weeks by the Great Divide Route and the web of forest service access roads of southern Canada and the lower 48.  Cross the Bow River, turn off Main St. Banff toward the historic Banff Springs Hotel, continue past the statue of a long-ago baron and roll onto dirt.  Your summer is ahead of you and it looks like this.  Leaving Banff behind; leave RV’s and national park concessionaires and ants crawling north and south along paved routes; I’m a spider on a web and for as much as I leave behind, there’s more to gain than to lose.  Leaving Banff at sunset, I pierce darkness and camp along Goat Creek.  By day, I awake to a sniffing, sniffling creature.  A black bear is inches away trying to decide if a snoring green cocoon is worth further investigation.  As I’ve prepared for this, I turn to meet his eyes with my own and speak sternly, reach for my camera and then my bear spray.  Nothing but a scared black bear and my calm fifty-five beats per minute.  Six miles from Banff, this is what day brings.  This is a 7AM wake-up call on the Divide.

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Spray Lakes is exactly how I left it eleven months ago and I am at home.  I meet riders on their first and second day, and smile at the enthusiasm and the coming weeks in their lives.  I depart, knowingly wishing them luck that they don’t need and fun that is already in the cards.  This is likely to be the best part of the year for these riders– it is for me.  Evening is again falling as I encounter a self-contained ACA trip with a dozen riders.  We talk bikes, share experiences and e-mail, and a giant pot of cheesy rice.  The are camped for the night but a full belly and a setting sun beckon me over Elk Pass to the Tobermory Cabin on the other side, and I wish to spend the night.

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If you insert Anchorage, AK to Missoula, MT into Google Maps, it routes you through Jasper and south along the Icefields Parkway.  It then follows main highways west of Banff and south to Montana, but I knew a better way.  The Divide route travels directly south from Banff on the Goat Creek Trail, along the Smith-Dorrien Road (Spray Lakes Trail), and over Elk Pass into Elkford, B.C.  From there it’s a straight shot to Fernie, the US border, Whitefish and Missoula.  The Divide is more than just a fun bike ride, it’s real transport!  Welcome home.

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7 thoughts on “Night and day, on the Divide

  1. I remember that cabin well. I’d have stayed, but got there ‘too’ early. I was too full of beans at that point on the GDR to slow down and enjoy these little pearls.

    That bear looks awful close…

  2. We hung out at that cabin too. It was mid morning and we snacked and swatted mosquitoes. From your bare feet in the photo maybe they weren’t quite so bad for you? If you get a chance to camp at Clearwater Lake I highly recommend it.

    • Tobermory was almost free of mosquitoes. I missed Clearwater this time as I detoured to Missoula for a few days to pick up my friend Sean. We’re in Ovando enjoying some mid-afternoon shade, and a cold Mountain Dew– simple pleasures.

  3. As much as I love adventure (har), I much prefer a regular alarm clock as a wake-up call vs. a bear sniffling round my tent. Yes, you can call me a “woosy.”

    Nice photos! Love those lakes in the mountains. What do you think their temps are right now?

    • I hate alarm clocks.

      Lakes are generally quite cool, but are real nice by comparison to the glacial streams I was enjoying in a cool, cloudy Alaska June.

      Here in MT I’d guess most water temps are 65-75deg.

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