7/5/2014 – 326 mi – Alberta, CN
Its about 150 mi from our campsite to Banff and the Canadian Rockies, and the end of the plains (finally). We rode through Calgary in the morning, past Olympic park, and could see the mountains in the distance. Calgary Stampede is happening right now, and it would be opportune to stop and check it out. We decide against it. Kevin doesn’t want to go at all. I would like to at some point, but it’s a bit of a hassle on the bikes, and not having reservations to stay somewhere. Once west of Calgary, the land changes quickly from prairie to mountains, without much in the way of foothills. Stopped for a quick lunch in Banff, which was all we needed to know that Banff wasn’t for us. It’s just like Tahoe, an overpriced, overcrowded tourist trap. I don’t get it. Despite the plethora of amazing food, we ate lunch at subway because we didn’t feel like paying $15 for a burger.
We paid the fee to enter the national park and head north on the scenic route 93 through Banff and Jasper national parks. The wildlife spotting started right away. In Banff, we saw our first Grizzly bear. It was far enough off the road to create a comfortable distance. Watching with the naked eye was ok, but the binoculars were excellent for watching the lone bear amble along through the brush. We later saw a mama bear and cubs, but they were too close to the curvy and steep road to stop on the bikes and take pictures. We also rode right by a big white mountain-goat eating on the side of the road. The views here are amazing; mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. The glacial melt rivers are this amazing opaque blue-ish color, due to the “rock flour” dissolved in the water. The water almost looks like the treated water at a water park to me. We occasionally pass a non-glacial melt river, with familiar looking river water.
(The Grizzly is in the bottom center in the above pic, way out of reach of the lens. The bear was much easier to see with the naked eye, or even better with binoculars. Other tourists with their fancy (and very large, no room for that on the motos) zoom lenses were no doubt getting great shots.)
Chose a campsite in the park about 25 mi south of Jasper. While setting up, a black bear strolled right through the campground, foraging. It didn’t seem to notice us or the other 2 campers, and stayed away from our group of campsites. We watched and waited, but continued to set up camp. The bear was not in the least bit aggressive, but eventually decided to meander toward the campsite next to us, where our neighboring campers were set up. At this point, it was maybe 50 feet from us, which was too close. As they say, fed bears are dead bears, so we weren’t about to let it find food near us. Kevin hollered and clapped at it, and it ran away like a scared dog. It stopped and looked back at one point with a hurt expression on its face as if to say “what is your problem?”, and Kevin yelled at it again to let it know he was serious. We’re pretty sure the bear didn’t go too far (other people spotted it later near the entrance to the campground), but we never saw it again. Since this is our first real bear encounter, we’ve chosen to think of Kevin chasing the bear away as some sort of manly right of passage, and he the macho protector of the campground, ignoring the fact that many a black bear has been chased away by mere children with sticks. Even still, I wish Canada didn’t insist on disarming us, reducing our defense capability to a can of bear spray.
7/6/2014 – 480 mi – British Columbia, CN
Continued the trek north in the morning, out of the park, and a bit west into British Columbia. The Wendy’s in Prince George has the best public wi-fi we’ve ever used, so we stayed there for an hour and a half. (Yes, we’re on vacation, but when you own your own company, we still have to work a bit here and there. An hour or two a week on average is just fine thanks. Plus, I posted to the blog). At a rest stop along a lake (‘tis the land of 1000 lakes, there’s rarely a stretch of road without a view of one), several folks approached us to ask about our trip. We’re far enough away now that we’re getting people approaching us just because we’re on motos and so far away from home. The man, his wife, and their adult son were local ranchers, and were at the park enjoying a Sunday afternoon with the extended family. We might have been the only non-family there. We enjoyed talking with them about farming in BC, and about bikes in general. The guy used to be into old BMW motorcycles, but doesn’t ride much any longer. We rode way too long today, and didn’t stop until 9 pm at a provincial park on Tyhee? Lake off rt 16. 9 pm isn’t that late, but after riding all day I’m exhausted, and fall asleep as soon as camp is set up and we finish dinner. Its so light out, it feels like maybe 6 pm, or earlier.
7/7/2014 – 389 mi – Cassiar Highway BC, CN
Today we start the famous Cassiar Highway, the long, lonely, and somewhat scenic route through northern BC. The views are sometimes pretty nice, but the road is straight and long, and the mosquitos are intense if you stop. I tried to use the helmet camera to get a few pictures in the northern, more scenic section, but the mosquitos clog the lens too quickly. We leap-frog with another traveler going north, a pick-up with a trailer. We both start waving and honking as we’d pass each other taking a rest stop at a pull off on the side of the road, or while passing. At least we’re finally seeing other adventure bikes, all loaded up and covered in dirt, looking like they found adventure in remote places. There are several bridge crossings with the metal decks, which can be a little slippery for motorcycles, although its dry and these don’t seem to be a problem. Kevin says the warning sign looks like its signaling a unicycle disco party.
(Didn’t really get a pic of the sign, stole the above from somewhere on the internet).
We pass signs labeled with the Canadian Ministry of Forests, which we shorten to the more entertaining and appropriately Orwellian Mini-Tree. Camping tonight at Waters Edge Campground in Dease Lake BC. It’s not bad, but I don’t really recommend this place. It’s $20 for a rocky spot that does have satellite internet when the generator is running, but no potable water. Should have listened to Kevin and bush camped a few miles earlier.