DAY FOUR, PART 2: MONDAY, JUNE 15
Where were we…oh yeah…the Icefields Parkway. If you cannot ride all the way to Alaska but can get to the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, DO IT. We saw more wildlife on this highway than any other on the trip. While the scenery was excellent in British Columbia, Yukon, Montana, and Alaska, this Parkway blows all the others away mile for mile.
Back to the dilemma of which photos to post here. Over 400 photos from the three of us just on this one road. That’s how spectacular it is. Very hard to ride past the next curve without stopping to gawk or take a photo. There is something magical about this road and its offerings. Looking around at many of the pull-offs, people were actually smiling and talking to other strangers. Even the kids that were there had their attention captured by the astonishing beauty in front of them. This road actually makes you feel good. And the weather, all day long, was simply beautiful.
The mountains are close…really close to the road. Their size overpowers you easily and makes you feel insignificant in comparison. Glaciers abound in views, lakes seem to be around every base, and mounds of rising granite thousands of feet into the sky surround you. This easily could be a whole day venture and you would still feel like you did not have enough time to see everything.
So of the many possible hundreds of images, I give you a variety of fourteen that I think shows a sampling of what you’d see in this 140 mile stretch of riding bliss.
At top of the highest road overlook:
Watch our for the tour buses in the middle of the day, they are all over. They stop in the road like the cars do when wildlife is seen on the side of the road making it really tough to pass in congested areas:
The famed Columbia Icefield and Glacier, taken from the Columbia Discovery Center, another good place to take a break off the bike (no fuel there though):
From up close. Those things in the middle of the picture are buses/trams to go out on the Glacier…of course somebody figured out a way to charge for the ride. This Glacier is HUGE:
After seeing numerous bears, here’s a sign we saw at one of the pull-offs.
Really? There’s bears here? Oh my, guess I’ll lock my doors. Where’s my bear spray???
Full-size grizzly bear paying us no attention:
Full-size black bear paying us no attention:
What is that, walking mounds of wool?
Momma goat would get aggressive when a gawker got too close to the group. Notice the baby…always within a foot of Senora Goata.
So, next Alaska trip misconception: You cannot just fly through the Icefields Parkway; you’d have to be inhuman not to spend lots of time there even if you are on a mission to make miles that day. Plan to be there for at least half a day. If you can reserve an entire day and get done early, just get to Jasper on the north end and go relax; it’s a tourist town with lots of eateries, pubs, and shopping opportunities. We bypassed Jasper on the way up (we did spend time there on the way back) and pushed for Hinton so we could be closer to the bypass to Alaska road, which we’ll cover in the next day’s write-up.
It was getting later and we had noticed at the Mount Fernie campground the previous night that it was definitely staying darker much later…much, much later. Like as in 11PM it was still daylight. So even though we were tired, we managed to push on to Hinton, Alberta. We were awarded with the sight of four different caribou grazing next to the road. This picture was taken with just feet of space between us:
Once it realized I was no threat when coming to a stop, it went back to grazing.
It was like this all over Alberta; the animals didn’t even dart out of the way of traffic, they just mozied (Midwestern term I think) along the road and the sides.
We planned none of our night stops other than a couple of AirBNB reservations that we had to keep us on a general schedule of advancement. We simply rode until we decided to retire for the night. Hinton is a good size city with prices reflecting the additional expense of being in Canada. I guess it’s expensive maintaining all those mountains. We tried a couple of the local chains of hotels and were shocked at what we believed to be exceptionally high prices for a room. So, we decided to act like true adventurers and found a “mom-and-pop” motel:
With all taxes, the Pines Motel was $97.01, one of the cheapest motels we found way up north. This rate got us a two-bedroom suite with a kitchen and large living room. Jeffrey and I split the room; Rob paid $10 less for a room of his own. Everything was clean, quiet, and nice. Definitely recommended. Dinner this night was delivery pizza; don’t remember the name, but it was quite good and allowed us each to have some leftovers the next morning. Damn, just like being in college again. Pizza for breakfast, not a care in the world, hanging out with some good people, doing some fun things. Little did I know that testing would come later in this trip.
The Pines Motel is just a couple of miles from the famous Alberta Route 40 turnoff, the scenic route to Alaska. This road would not disappoint. And…it would be our introduction to the infamous bad riding roads of the north.
Mileage: 425 miles give or take…
Areas traversed: Cranbrook, Lake Louise, Jasper, Hinton
Gas: $58.01 (welcome to shocking gas prices)
Gift: $4 (yep, big spender here…nothing is too good for my wife)