Saturday, August 22: 51 miles/ 2,692 ft. elevation gain / Cumulative gain 16,072′
It was still bitterly cold in the morning when we woke at Lake Louise (top) so Rich decided they’d shuttle us all up to Lake Moraine (bottom) for a look-about. That also would allow us to start riding when it was warmer. Splendid!
Lake Moraine is a small lake at 6,183′ nestled in a group of mountains above Lake Louise. It was gorgeous and would have been a great place for a hike, had we more time. Frost was still heavy on the info signs describing the different layers of rock in the formations above us. We snapped some pictures and wound our way back down to our bikes.
A Grand Fondo was going to do a turn around at Lake Louise later that day, so the roads were packed with expectant spectators. We took off at the front of the pack for our trip to Saskatchewan Crossing. We rode through Lake Louise village, then let ourselves through the wildlife-proof gate and entered the Icefields Parkway. We quickly had to strip off some layers as we rolled along the Parkway. It was a nice place to ride, usually with wide shoulders and rumblestrips to protect us some. And the scenery was jaw-dropping gorgeous. We stopped often to take pictures, like this of Herbert Lake reflecting some mountains behind it. The mountains had a dusting a white from the snow yesterday and the sky was blue as can be.
Even with the climbing we were cruising along at 12 mph which is good for us. But the climb was getting tougher. We were passed by lots of the rest of the crew when we came to signs warning of road construction ahead. That combined with the streams of asphalt trucks trundling up and down the pass warned us of changes ahead.
We saw the remnants of many glaciers as we rode up. Some people in cars leaned out and cheered us on. Then we came around a corner and saw Bow Lake. It demanded a full stop. Its waters were aquamarine in a tone I’d never seen before. Stunningly green. We chatted with a family from Italy in the midst of a 15 day vacation. The father (il padre) told us he thought pictures he’d seen of it were water-colored. It couldn’t really be that shade. He was agog. As were we all.
After that we got to the construction zone. A long line of cars waited for a flagger to let them by. A few cyclists were at the head, so we joined them and waited. Then to our joy, the flagger waved us through first to get a headstart. This part of the road was already paved nicely, so we scooted up as quick as we could. The traffic soon followed, but we all made it through the active paving zone with ease.
We were at the top of Bow Pass. 6,787′ high. The day was bright and lovely and we had a lot of down to cover. When the traffic was stopped for the paving again, we took off. Our average to that point was around 12 mph. We headed down at 47 mph. on the very smooth, empty new road. We zipped!
After about 6 miles it leveled some and for the last 20 miles it was all flat or downhill, with another steep drop in the last 4. We were relaxed and moving well when we crossed the Saskatchewan River with an average speed of 15. Unfortunately we lost that average with a steep uphill to The Crossing, our hotel for the night. Still, it showed how much time we can make back given enough down!
I have to say there is just something about riding through the country. You experience it so much more fully. We are actually part of the landscape, not just encapsulated visitors flashing by. On the bike you feel the change in inclination when the road tips up. You feel the wind, the sun, the shade. You notice the little critters, the flowers, the creeks cascading by. The mountains have a presence you can feel. You get glimpses of even more peaks and creeks through the trees.
And it is generally quiet. It is an awesome experience, made more so by realizing that you can ride over 7200′ passes. What an amazing machine we live in.
We had lunch, cleaned up ourselves and the bike, then spent the afternoon sitting in the sun reading. We were surrounded by majestic peaks, half of them snow covered. It was breathtaking just to look around. The whites, the greens, the blues! Even the grays of the Rockies were pretty.
We won’t discuss dinner that night except to say it was not great. But the day had been splendid.