Whitefish, Montana was nice and Glacier NP was beautiful but, it was time to move on.
It was 60 miles to the border between the USA and Canada and entering Canada is very easy and quick (not so entering the USA!)
A couple of polite questions, a quick look at our passports and voila – we were in. We needed a hot coffee and a new map or two. A few miles in, we found a nice place for coffee and they sold a road atlas too but no maps. No problem – there aren’t that many roads in the wilderness.
This was our first gas and coffee stop in Canada – a place called Fort Steel. We had a CA$50 note from when we were in Toronto but would need a bank soon.
The first turn-off was in a town called Radium Springs
It was a little too busy with traffic and visitors to deal with a bank so we entered the Kootenay Rockies National Park using a day ticket given to us by a kind lady in the gas station; it cost $19 to enter each park (although, the next park we entered told us there was no charge today because ‘Today is Canada Day and it is free entry to all parks).
Immediately, the scenery impressed us. Huge, snow-capped mountains soared either side of us all the way from here, until the place we are in now – and that is 650 miles of riding!
I have to keep this quite short – but I have to say, the scenery was magnificent and it left me speechless
Because we are trying to hurry to Alaska, we aren’t stopping very often to take photos along the way, I am carrying a Panasonic DMC G3 four fifths camera with a 14mm prime lens on. It is small and does the job but it isn’t the same as taking shots with my Nikon. Those I will do on the return journey when we can slow down a little. So I apologise for some blown highlights and the odd blur – probably from being shot at 60 mph! and the photos here don’t do the scenery justice; I really am stuck for words.
Although we entered Canada in British Columbia, the route we were taking very soon took us a little east and into Alberta, but about 100 miles beyond Jasper, we were once again in BC.
We arrived at Louise Lake at around 5pm – no bank, so we had to use US$ to fill up. On questioning the people in the visitors centre, we found we had 329 km (around 200 miles) to the next real town – Jasper and, yes, time was getting on – but we knew it wouldn’t get dark until around 11pm, so off we set.
Nothing seen before prepared me for the scenery on this part of the journey. Highway 93 is known as The Icefields parkway. We passed the Valley of Five Lakes, Whirlpool Valley where there is a Mount Edith Cavell; Horseshoe Lake, Honeymoon Lake, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, Mount Kitchener and then we came to the Columbia Icefield. we rode over the precipitous Sunwapta Pass – where I spotted a rainbow (behind us though). We rode alongside the weeping wall with lots of waterfalls rushing down the side of a massive granite slab, and passed by Mt Chephren – a 3,000M (9,843 ft) pyramid of rock towering over waterfowl lakes; then came Sunset pass and Glacier Lake. We saw 5 bears along the way – one of which I got quite close to (it was only a small one.
At one point, we stopped to put our waterproof over trousers on to help keep us warm. it was really funny the two of us stood by the side of the deserted road, one leg in the pants and struggling to balance and get the other one on when, I suddenly thought – OH. My. God. What if a bear appears now – we won’t be able to run – we’ll just trip up and be deli for the night.That thought soon gave me some balance and dexterity! I said to Jan, we should have put our trousers on one at a time so that at least one of us could escape. Guess what? A bear DID appear!
This ride could have gone on forever; it was breathtaking. But we were getting sore from sitting.
Another handy resort appeared and, getting really sore from the long mileage, a break for coffee and a chance to restore circulation was most welcome. The guy filling the tank should have given us a clue that this would be a busy day for tourists; more on that shortly.
The Icefield Parkway was an exciting ride; a ride of pure beauty and isolation for the most part but, we needed a rest and were eager to get to Jasper.
Snowbird Glacier: Just below this glacier are the flats of rocks, gravel and sand left behind by retreating glaciers.
At Mount Kitchener, we saw the gentle slope that reaches 3,505M (11,500 ft) before dropping off to a sheer cliff on the highway side.
At last, more than 600 miles ridden in this long day, we reached Jasper. The first place to stop was for some well-earned refreshment and to look at the town map.
But Jasper was packed. Remember I mentioned Canada Day? Well, a lot of Canadians were here in Jasper. There were plenty of hotels and motels, but not one had a vacancy.
Despondent, we found a bar to have a meal and a drink and i asked the bar staff if anyone knew of maybe a home that let a room. Nothing doing. The kind man in reception rang all the motels etc – nothing available – except in an isolated resort we had passed 54 miles back and they wanted CA$210 plus tax for a room. But the guy advised us not to leave the town this late at night – it was 1030pm. It was still light-ish, but he said the roads will be full of animals at this time and no gas stations would be open – or if we broke down, we would be stranded for the rest of the night. All made sense.
We walked around the lively town – finally found a bank ATM for Canadian dollars and decided the safest place to spend the night was probably in the train station. it was closed for the night and fairly well-lit – and away from curious eyes.
So we filled up with gas for an early start, had a hot drink and a pee, bought a couple of bottles of water and then parked the bike as near to the area we had decided to sit so we could keep an eye on the luggage.
There were a couple of small benches – but I spotted a trolley and wheeled it closer to the bike – reminded me of taking a bed to the operating theatre when nursing; I was a dab-hand at moving that big trolley.
The mozzies weren’t too bad – well, i kept my helmet on all night to make sure I wouldn’t be eaten alive.
The night wasn’t too bad and it didn’t even get dark until gone midnight. We got to watch a firework display across the tracks – as well as a large group of youngsters partying all night.
But we were tired and getting cold by the time dawn came- at around 5am. It was a fairly nice sunrise
The Haida people were the indigenous population of the northwest coast of North America. A master carver designed the original pole in the Queen Charlotte Islands sometime in the late 1800s (1870-1880). Experts say the large raven figure symbolizes the pole’s original owner’s family’s membership within the Raven clan of Haida society.
In Haida culture, totem poles honor tribal leaders and families. Jasper’s Raven Totem Pole features figures representing long-standing Haida myths about “frog woman,” “grizzly bear mother,” “old woman” and “bullhead.”
The original totem pole deteriorated badly and, in 2009, it was taken down and repatriated to Queen Charlotte Island and a Haida artist was commissioned to build this new one and a plaque gives the story of ‘The Raven’
Finally, it became light enough to set off – at around 0530. We checked the tyre pressure and oil, had a gas station coffee and got back on the road.
It was raining and misty!
And the road was definitely busy – with large wild animals – like caribou
We stopped at a gas station at a place called Robson’s Point but it was closed until 7am! Hang on, it was now 0730. The restaurant next door had a light on way back in the kitchen. I rattled the door and a woman came to speak to us (through the glass) ‘We open in half an hour – at 7am’. AHHH, the penny dropped; we have crossed another time zone now we are back in BC. So we are now 8 hours behind the UK.
Soaked to the bone, cold, tired and saddle sore, we pulled in to a gas station to fill yp again. It didn’t open until 9am 😦
We stood on the porch soaking wet and dripping for a half hour. Finally they let us in. It really wasn’t worth the wait for that breakfast, but at least the gas station opened up shortly afterwards and we filled up.
Only another 70 miles to go the next town, McBride. Sitting behind Jan, I tried my best to stay alert but i kept nodding off.
As we pulled into town we saw not one, but two motels on the main highway. We pulled into the one on our side of the road – it was now nearly 9am.
I went into the office to ask if they had a room – at this point we didn’t care about the price, but it was half the price of a Jasper hotel at $90. Done and the guy, hearing we had sat up all night after riding over 500 miles and now another 200, called his wife to sort out the room that had just been vacated.
In half an hour, we had all the wet stuff hanging up and out of bags, we were showered and sunk gratefully into a lovely, comfy, clean bed. Heaven.
Oh, and look at the room – how do we carry all this shit plus two adults on a little 750cc Breva, I wonder!
Before falling into bed, we had to put everything to dry – that wouldn’t happen quickly in this dank environment.
Leaving in the morning and will probably stop in Smithers which will leave us a fairly short ride the following day to Hyder in Alaska.
ttfn – and a huge thanks to all those who have commented – makes it all worthwhile xxx