Aug 19

Day 3 – Glacier to Waterton Lakes

by in Glacier-Banff-Jasper

Wednesday, August 19: 49 miles / 3,359 ft. elevation gain / Cumulative gain 10,017′

IMG_20150819_081554This morning we discovered we hadn’t read the tour offering very carefully and in fact breakfasts are not being provided. Oops. Another unmet expectation. These were going to crop up all week. There must be a lesson here. But we enjoyed bowls of oatmeal overlooking the lake and snapped a few shots of the hotel before departing.

We headed out at 8 AM with beautiful weather and a nice tailwind. The ride back out of Many Glaciers was quick. We saw lots of cows right next to the road again. A little spooky to ride right next to such large animals. The river out of Many Glaciers was lovely. I should note here that there was only one “glacier” still visible at Many Glaciers, a very small patch of snow called Salamander Glacier. Of the 130 glaciers once in the park, only 25 are left.

DSC02786After 16 miles we turned uphill again this time onto the Chief Mountain International Peace Highway. It was steep for the first couple of miles, then a variable grade to mile 20.There was a large group of Backroads Adventure cyclists who had been trucked to the top of that climb and gleefully rode down what took us more than an hour to ride up. A quick rest stop, then up and down in steep increments until we got to the international border at mile 30. The headwinds had picked up again, too. It took us 30 minutes to get through customs. Notice the line of cleared growth that marks the border. Who keeps that cleared?! Once through customs were rewarded with a long spectacular descent at full speed. Got up to 47 mph without pedaling.

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We had a quick run across a flat and then began another long ascent. That was today’s pattern, fast downs with long slow climbs. And headwinds. But the weather milder than yesterday. Some sun, some clouds, never extremely warm or cold. The scenery was again wonderful. Small lakes everywhere, looming mountainous rock formations surrounding us. We saw Sofa Rock, a huge bed of pre-Cambrian rock (600 million years old) thrust over a layer of Cambrian (100 million years old) rock. Very interesting.

Living at sea level, we were noticing the altitude’s impact. The lowest point we’d been at since Logan pass was 4,400′. And all three of the passes we went over today were above a mile high. That seemed to be making us a bit more winded than usual. This third climb was accompanied by headwinds characterized as “brutal” “fierce” and “unrelenting” by those at the lunch stop just past the summit. We were justifiably proud to have made it up the last climb. We gratefully sunk into the camp chairs on the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley of Waterton. We swapped stories with some of the large group of San Diegans on our group and enjoyed lunch.

IMG_20150819_153019After lunch we had an even better descent to Waterton. It was very straight and steep. We got up to 50 mph this time. then we had to fight the headwinds into the town for 5 miles. We saw a bear scurrying into the woods along the bike trail, but failed to capture it in digital form.

We stayed at the world famous Prince of Wales hotel. The hotel sits on a bluff overlooking the lake. The winds actually blew it of center twice during its construction. That’s how fierce they felt today. We went into town for an afternoon of sitting around and reading after we strolled through the shops. Had a lovely dinner of “Hippie Wraps” (kind of a southwestern burrito) before returning to the hotel.

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