Site 6G – Really great site. It’s on the way to firewood, so there are cars going past sometimes, but it is very private and set apart.
It was with a bit of melancholy that we packed up and headed back south. This felt much as it did on the big bike trip, with two main impressions: 1) wow, this place is stunningly beautiful and it is sad to leave it, 2) wow, cars/busses go way faster than bicycles. It is cool though to see it this way because you get a better sense of the changes in geology and vegetation. North of the Icefields is a lot more rugged. You can sort of imagine what it might have been like in the early days of surveying safe passages across the mountains, or just what it would have taken to survive day to day. And though the Icefield is not the highest point on the highway, that title belongs to Bow Summit, it feels higher. More dangerous. Less inviting. In contrast, the lower areas between the two summits feel like pristine and magical little jewels. They don’t seem real because they are just too pretty.
Land of glaciers and cold wind
There were two missed spots on my final Icefields Parkway checklist that were confirmed as “must stop” places by Gypsy. One was a quickie picture at Tangle Falls, which I somehow missed right after leaving the glacier. I was probably focused at the time on how much it was going to rain on Richard. The other was a stop and short walk at Sunwapta Falls. I believe we must have stayed at the little lodge at Sunwapta Falls before, but I honestly don’t remember it. I don’t even remember if we walked to the falls. But we did this time and it was unsurprisingly quite spectacular. It is intimidating to stand on a bridge, no matter how solidly built, over that much raw energy. We did not hike down to the lower falls, so that is maybe something for another day. Instead, we kept on rolling, saying a little sad farewell to Silverhorn, Num Ti Jah at Bow Lake, and the turnoff to the Peyto Lake viewpoint.
Once you come down from the Icefields Parkway, you are back in civilization. There is the intersection at Lake Louise to remind you about highways and traffic, and there is the reappearance of cell service, which can be both good and bad. This was a decision point for whether to continue by joining Highway 1 toward Banff, or take the slower and less efficient 1A. The last little precious stretch of wonderland from this adventure was 1A, the Bow Valley Parkway, and we decided to properly commemorate our Rockies, nineteen-years-later-do-over with a bang.
Last Hurrah on the Bow Valley Parkway
I dropped Richard and his bike at the north end of the Bow Valley Parkway, making sure stuffed Dory got some selfie time. Then, very quickly, I came upon Morant’s Curve again. I figured this was my last chance, at least for a long while, to get the train coming the right way, so I committed. As noted earlier, there is no trailer parking at the view point, so I had to park a ways away and walk back. There were maybe eight die hards there, all poised and ready for the train. And it kept not coming… We all had the same thought: the second I bail and walk away, that is when the train will come. So we all just waited there for about a half an hour. Finally, we saw it and we all cheered in solidarity! The train conductor saluted us with many hoots and we all waved and whooped as it slowly moved past, shutters clicking every second. It was great, so awesome.
By then, I was actually worried Richard was going to beat me to the other side, so I very purposefully headed to the south end, still constantly scanning for moose and always going at or under the posted speed limit. Almost at the other end, I spotted what is known as a “bear jam.” This is when lots of cars are pulled over on the side of the road and you know there must be wildlife there. Sure enough, there was a mama black bear with TWO tiny cubs. People were being mostly good, in that no one got out of their car and they were slowly rolling through. I got blurry super zoomed pictures, but I can tell you that the cubs were unfairly cute balls of black fluff that went bumbly bumbly bouncing behind mama, making it look like it is no easy feat to navigate tall flowers. So awesome.
Black bears – mama and two cubs
I met up with Richard at the south entrance and he had only been there about five minutes. He was chatting with some other bikies who were part of an organized ride from Banff to Lake Louise and back. They had extra T-shirts and decided he had more than earned one. So Sweetie gets a commemorative T-shirt for his Rockies ride! So awesome.
Another baby, just outside the campground
He changed and we headed back to Two Jack for a last nighter. The ranger was quick to tell us that there was a Grizzly around the campground and they’d gotten “a bear a day” so we should please be very careful not to leave any food or cooking things outside. No problem. Our plan was dinner and shopping in town. Our last meal in Banff was at Magpie and Stump. I had the tacos, one chicken and one battered cod. Then churros for dessert, served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce swirled on top. OMG. So awesome.
What a place! I mean, dayum!
So ends our Canadian Rockies adventure. We are consoling ourselves knowing we still have some beautiful places to go before it is home time. This was such a great trip. We loved everything we did even though we know there is so much more. Yes, it was a tad cold and rainy for our California bones, but it never stopped us. There were just enough breaks and blue skies to satisfy the needs of Mr. & Mrs. Whiny Little Bitch. Richard proved that his legs can still bike those miles and we got through some travel toughies together. Our hearts, and my Bingo Board, are full.
Total miles from Jasper Whistler’s: 186.4, 20.2 mpg, 6 hours, 5 min with stops. Site 6G really nice. Set apart from others. No hookups. Not much cell, but a bit for Verizon. Not much solar. Banff IGA is a solid market, though Canada seems to be out of blueberries.