Bike Touring the Canadian Rockies, page 2

Page 1: Canmore to Lake O'Hara
Page 2: Lake O'Hara to Mosquito Creek
Page 3: Mosquito Creek to Jasper
Page 4: Jasper to Jonas Creek
Page 5: Jonas Creek to Canmore

Thursday, July 28

Kathy cooked pancakes this morning, and during breakfast we figured out that we really like the layout of this campground. The 30 campsites are spread through the woods along a couple walking paths, but to keep smells (and bears) away from the tents the picnic tables, dinner shelters, food lockers, fire ring and bathrooms are all in a central area. Each campsite is assigned a different locker, but everything else is shared. As a result all the campers talk and eat together, sharing stories and food. The children run around playing together and are relatively safe because there are no cars driving through - the campground can be accessed only by bus. It worked so well that I wonder why other campgrounds don't imitate it.

The campground is so high in the mountains that beautiful scenery is just a short hike away. We hiked around Lake O'Hara and then followed a series of ponds and waterfalls up towards Lake Oesa. The full hike was a little too much for the kids, so Kathy returned down with them while I finished hiking to Lake Oesa. It was cloudy but patches of blue sky came and went throughout the day, and it never really rained. Other campers said it was the best weather we'd had for days. The lakes and rivers around here have a turquoise color that stands out from the gray rocks and dark green forest.

Tonight at camp we sat around the campfire and made s'mores with leftover marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate that another family didn't want. At first they couldn't find anyone to take the food, but Kathy and I will eat anything we are offered. We've been eating through our supplies faster than we planned due to big appetites. Last night we were given leftover chili and pasta, and we gobbled right through it.

The start of our hike at Lake O'Hara.

Daniel pretends to be a soldier above Lake O'Hara.

Lunch break on the trail to Lake Oesa; Maggie touches a marine fossil that we found on the trail.

Waterfall on the trail below Lake Victoria. Behind it are Mt. Huber and Mt. Victoria.

Well-placed paving stones made the hiking easy.

Lake Oesa

Panoramic view of Lake Oesa with Mt. Huber, Mt. Victoria and Mt. LeFroy.

Some hikers continue past Lake Oesa on the Alpine Circuit trail.

Looking at Lake O'Hara (farthest lake) on the hike back down.

Daniel and Maggie try to play a new card game with the other children.

Maggie joins another family for story time.

Making s'mores before bedtime.

Friday, July 29

Rain showers were forecast for today with clear skies appearing this evening. That didn't sound good for a hike, but we gave it a try anyway. After walking the access road to our trailhead (about 1/2 mile from the campground,) the children were so discouraged by the rain that we took a break to eat carrot cake and hot cocoa at a small day shelter. We waited until the rain paused to start hiking, but it soon picked up again. Maggie acted so tired that I carried her, and Daniel began throwing fits of protest as he became tired and cold. I looked around at the sky and decided to cancel the hike.

Back at camp we ate a large lunch/dinner and hoped for the rain to clear away soon. Kathy wanted to hike to Lake Opabin by herself while I watched the kids at camp since she didn't get to finish the hike to Lake Oesa yesterday. At 4 o'clock the sky was still threatening, but the rain had stopped and we could see some tiny patches of blue sky. I gave Kathy my good rainjacket and our bear repellant spray and she walked off. We had radio contact for only the closest half of her hike, and while she walked the far half I was nervous. I go on solo hikes occasionally, but Kathy hadn't hiked solo in the mountains since our marriage. She finished her hike in about 3 hours and said the views were incredible. I felt a big relief when she radioed to say that she was above Lake O'Hara and on her way back to camp.

Our kids played with other children all afternoon and never missed their mother. Daniel's favorite toy was a stone knife. While hiking to Lake Oesa yesterday I picked up a piece of shale and chipped it into a crude knife blade for him, and today another camper fashioned a wooden handle for it. Now Daniel feels like a real mountain man.

I passed my time in one of the cooking shelters, talking with two Canadian couples that also enjoy bicycle touring. Tomorrow morning I may get up early and hike to Lake Opabin before our bus departs at 11:30 a.m. The weather forecast is warm and sunny.

Kathy starts her solo hike.

Looking back during the climb to Lake Opabin.

The weather cleared up partway through Kathy's hike.

Lake Opabin

Saturday, July 30

Distance: 25.7 miles
Riding time: 2 hours, 36 minutes
Average speed: 9.8 mph
Maximum speed: 34.1 mph

I climbed out of our tent before 7 a.m. to hike up to Lake Opabin and view what Kathy saw during her hike yesterday. It was cold, but clear and sunny, and the air was warming up. I hiked to the lake and then along some ledges high above Lake O'Hara, and saw the best views that I've had on this vacation.

Back at camp we finished packing just in time to catch the 11:30 bus. Daniel said goodbye to Eli, a boy that he'd played with these past three days. A mother and her children who had played with Maggie gave her hugs as they said goodbye. Everyone seems to love Maggie, who spent much of her time at Lake O'Hara pretending to be a princess in a little castle of pine trees.

We biked back to Lake Louise Village on the Trans-Canada highway, which was busy but fast since it's all downhill beyond Kicking Horse Pass. We needed to resupply our groceries before riding north on the Icefields Parkway, where there might not be a grocery store for 150 miles. Groceries in the village cost twice as much as groceries in a normal town. We walked through the visitor center and ate our lunch, and by the time we started riding again we'd killed a couple hours in the village. These resupply stops always take longer than they should, but we can't seem to get more efficient.

Looking back during the climb to Lake Opabin. This picture is taken from nearly the same spot as the picture that Kathy took yesterday, but this time the sky is clear.

Sitting on the Yukness Ledge above Lake O'Hara.

Hiking the Yukness Ledge trail.

The Lake O'Hara lodge, built in 1925. Staying in one of the shoreline cabins costs $835/night for a couple, or $949/night for a young family of 4. The rooms in the main lodge are cheaper, at $580/night for a couple. These prices are in Canadian dollars - in U.S. dollars the prices are even higher.

The rest of our ride was north on Icefields Parkway, perhaps the most famous scenic road in Canada. Mountains line both sides of the road, and no commercial traffic is permitted. When we reached the Mosquito Creek campground I was hoping to share a campsite with other campers again, but wasn't sure how to ask for that. Luckily, while I was taking the kids to a bathroom a man from Quebec told Kathy that the campground was full, but that we could share with him. Jeff was already sharing the site with Sarah, a British bike tourist who is taking two months to ride across Canada and Iceland. Sharing campsites has been interesting so far. Jeff wouldn't accept money, so we're camping free tonight.

Eating lunch outside the Lake Louise visitor center.

This bridge is for wildlife, not cars. The top of it is covered with vegetation, and many large animals use it to move through the park. Barb-wire fencing near the bridge keeps animals off the road and tourists away from the wildlife.

Daniel and Maggie pick wild strawberries.

Taking a break during the long, uphill ride to our campground.

Our kids help set up our tent while Jeff and Sarah start working on dinner.


Page 1: Canmore to Lake O'Hara
Page 2: Lake O'Hara to Mosquito Creek
Page 3: Mosquito Creek to Jasper
Page 4: Jasper to Jonas Creek
Page 5: Jonas Creek to Canmore