So, after nearly having exploded with rashes and itches we managed to depart. What was it like? (if you’re interested in just the pictures, scroll down. All pictures are clickable, which will take you to a larger version if you click again)
Immediately after leaving the magnificent-looking and magnanimously overpriced Banff Springs hotel, you’re on the trail. The “Goat Creek Trail” . A small forest road snakes its path, uphill and downhill, through Banff National Park. Towering mountains loom threateningly to the left. To the right are mostly trees and scrubs.
We encounter two pairs of construction workers, working on one of the many small bridges. There are no flat sections, the trail goes up and down continuously. Sometimes there is a nasty bump with gradients of about 15%. Up and down, but slowly we are gaining altitude.
It is not all forest track. Soon we encounter Smith-Dorrien Spray road, a big, broad, dusty gravel road. After that one, we are riding next to Spray Lake Reservoir. We don’t see a lot of wildlife — mostly squirrels and birds. Ah… and mosquito’s, of course. My skin still reacts violently to each mosquito bite but it doesn’t get as bad anymore as two nights ago. After the lake we rejoin Smtih-Dorrien Spray road again. We meet another cyclist: a dutch guy named Rob, who is also doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
The day ends in Mount Sarrail campground after more than 7 hours of pedaling. Excellent day!
Soon however, the next challenge poses itself: how to camp bear-safe? We are at spot 5 of Mount Sarrail campground and there was a bear sighting reported at spot 26. Totally paranoid, I stuff everything in a metal bear box. Including the sheer boatload of cookies, brownies and other assorted delicacies we got from a couple of old ladies. Sweet!
I tuck in at 10, hearing lots of strange noises. Too tired to worry for a long time though… I had a sweet, dreamless sleep until 6:30.
The second day was good as well, though not as good as the first one. Again there are magnificent views; sometimes it seems like you are riding straight into the stone wall of the Rocky Mountains. There is a lot of bear scat along the way and many parts of the route are densely forested. Sometimes I get paranoid and it’s time for another loud ” HEY BEAR!!”. Today marked our first Great Divide crossing too, on top of Elk Pass at 1964m altitude, albeit quite an unceremonious one. Not even a small sign to acknowledge our “Riesenleistung”!
Near the end I’m bonking (meaning not having eaten enough, draining all the energy from your legs) and when we arrive in Elkford I’m pretty spent. Nothing that a bottle of Mountain Dew and a Snickers can’t solve though.
It’s such a blast to ride these trails. The densely forested mountain slopes are immense. There is virtually no traffic. It really puts the mind to rest. So far, so good!
Day 1: Banff Springs hotel – Mount Sarrail campground
Riding time: 7:21:28
Distance: 101,23 km
Amount climbed: 1421m
Day 2: Mount Sarrail campground – Elkford municipal campground
Riding time: 4:53:51
Distance: 77,83 km
Amount climbed: 823m