Cowboy Trail Cycling

The Road Trip through Western Canada and Vancouver Island with Maud and Tom sadly ended.
This morning we said goodbye to them on the Edmonton airport. The goodbye was hard and difficult. 😢
From the airport we took the bus and train back to the city center and now we sit at Starbucks with an empty feeling of loneliness.
We drink some coffee and lemonade, eat a cake and drink some more coffee and lemonade. It’s still in the morning and we try to contact Sandra, our host where our bicycles have bin parked the last few weeks. She lives 90km out of Edmonton and there is no public transport going her way from out of town, but she told us to contact her when we were back in Edmonton because she drives to town nearly every day and might pick us up.
After a while Sandra writes back she can pick us up around 7.30 at night. That’s good news, we wanna leave this city as soon as possible, just to be back on our bikes again and things go back to ‘normal’.
During day we hang around in town a bit and in the evening we head to West. The part of town where we will be picked up.
When Sandra and her daughter arrive she tells us she has to check a town hall, a place where she does the cleaning. The way back in the car is cheerful with wine and a puff marijuana. We visit ‘her’ town hall and finally we’re reunited with our bicycles.

Curling

Sleeping another night on the cough at Sandra's house

The next morning we sleep long and we rearrange all our stuff so we can leave today. We end up leaving late, around 3:30 in the afternoon. We don’t care and don’t have particular goal for today besides we wanna go south so we can end up in either Banff or at the US border in a few days.
After a few hours of cycling we find a nice camp spot near the road but also along a tiny lake. We’re not 100% sure we’re allowed to camp here but it’s Saturday night so small chance a worker or farmer will find us here. In the middle of the night we hear a group of wolves in the woods close by.

Secret camp spot

Making a paracord bag for our tent

On Sunday morning it’s a beautiful day and we don’t hurry at all to move on. It’s after noon before we leave our nice spot. The road is long and lonesome, it’s highway 22, The Cowboy Trail it is called. On this trail we meet three other cyclists, three young fellas from Edmonton on a trip to Banff for a few days. They heading the same direction as we do but they’re lightweight because they only carry stuff for just a couple of days. Just before the town of Rocky Mountain House we separate. We find a nice campground along the Saskatchewan River owned by a Dutch couple who started this campground in 2006 from nearly nothing. The campground was awesome, not cheap (Dutch he) but pretty awesome. We camped straight along the river.

The "Dutch" campground

The "Dutch" campground

From here we have to decide we go straight south, following the Cowboy Trail, to the US border or we do an extra detour, following the David Thompson Highway and Ice Field Parkway to Banff National Park. It’s a hard decision. Straight south is the fastest way and we can start a brand new episode of our trip: The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the US. But we will miss the awesome National Park of Banff. And from Banff we can start the GDMBR anyway.
In Dutch terms: cycle from Almelo to Maastricht straight or cycle from Almelo to Maastricht via Amsterdam and some 2000m+ mountain passes.
After a lot of thinking, calculating and discussing we choose the hard way. Fuck the boring and flat Cowboy Trail, Banff here we come.

Gravel roads from Rocky Mountain House to the highway

Still Gravel

And even more gravel road

Along the David Thompson Highway we take it easy with long breaks and wild camps all the way. Again we hear wolves at night, this time even closer by then a few days before. “Does bear spray defense against wolves as well?”
On the third day on this road we cycle along the beautiful jade blue Abraham Lake. It’s just after noon when we find a beautiful small hidden beach for our lunchtime.
When we sit here for a while we realize; this place is pretty close to paradise, it’s such a beautiful spot, why not camp here for the coming two nights? We have enough food with us to afford it. We decide to stay.
The rest of the day and the day after we do nothing then relax in the sun. Read some, write some, swim some, do some handcrafts, draw some and make campfires at night. This is paradise 🏖

A random spot along the way

Early X-mas this year?

With Ben and Jason on the road to the Ice Field Parkway

Banff we're coming...

Wild Horses along the road

Wild Horses along the road

Nice spot but we still can't get used to the mosquitos

Camp with a view

Nice spot but we still can't get used to the mosquitos

The mountains are coming

Smoky mountains due the wildfires in the area.

Break?

Doing laundry

Cold but refresing

...

Making diner

Campfires at night

Moon

Sun

View from outside our tent

Doing some handcrafts

Even in paradise it sometimes rains. We wake up with thunderstorms and rain above the now grey lake. It’s only 6 degrees outside our tent, that’s 20 degrees lower than yesterday! ❄️
We dig up our winter clothes and shoes which were buried deep in our panniers. After we packed in our tent all wet we hit the road again. After let’s say 8km we see a resort with a gas station. The petrol from our camping stove is nearly empty so this is a nice opportunity to fill it up again. And go to a decent toilet of course 💩

Next day.... cold (6C) and rain.

Do we see snow???

Once inside we also order some coffee, hot chocolate and pies. In the restaurant we speak an American guy who worked all over the world and also in Mexico. He’s quite interested in our journey all the way to Argentina and has lot of tips about crossing the Mexican border. After a long conversation we say goodbye and continue our trip along the lake to the Ice field parkway. Just before we arrive at the junction with it we pass the park entrance were a nice lady checks our park permit. It’s ok and we may continue. She also tells us that the weather will be a tiny little bit better tomorrow but still cold.
On highway 93, the ice field parkway we go left. To Banff. After a late lunch with a fantastic view we start climbing to the campground 20km ahead. In the National Parks it’s not allowed to wild camp so we have to stick to the campgrounds. The planned campground for tonight is around 130 before Banff were we planned to stay for a day or two. The climbing is not to bad and we arrive around six so we have a bit of a longer evening before go to sleep. The camp spot is just along a nice river and our neighbors play beer pong.

First break on the Ice Field Parkway

Some sun..

The next morning we decide to do the remaining 130km to Banff in two days.
The day starts with climbing to the 2068m Bow Pass. “From there it’s all the way down to Banff” is what they told us. And indeed it is... mostly...
In Lake Louise we do a lunch and we paddle the last 20km to the next campground.
When there we find out it’s just a flat land without trees or something and with gravel camp pits. Not the best place to stay but hey, it’s a spot to camp and we have a nice neighbor, Barb with her tiny dog Jack. Barb is offering us a hot meal at her house when we’re in the Denver area next month. 😊

Boring and flat campground

Jack

Barb and Jack

After a good sleep we pack up for the last stretch to Banff. The route over the 1A road is awesome with great views. To bad the wildfires in the area are still burning so all nice views are smoky. On arrival in Banff we find us a Starbucks for some WiFi and after that we cycle further to Mountain Village Campground 1 were luckily is a free camp spot for us. In the evening we take a shuttle bus back to town to hang around as real tourists and for some dinner.

Nearly in Banff

Banff here we are again 🙂

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Road Tripping Western Canada

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Cowboys and Blood Tribe Indians

3 Comments

  1. JJ Elstgeest

    Hallo Arjan en Kim wat een mooie verhalen. Ik kan me voorstellen dat Maud en Tom hebben genoten. Ik heb van Maud en Danielle al diverse verhalen gehoord. Heb de foto’s van Danielle nog niet gezien maar dat komt nog wel. En nu op naar U S A nog veel plezier en doe kalm aan samen . XXXXXXX Hans

  2. Tom

    Ben jij nu weer doelwit van de muggen Kim? Sterkte! Uiteraard veel plezier de rest van de trip! En wie weet tot later op de route… 🙂

  3. Harry

    Super blog Arjan en Kim, en na onze ontmoeting in Twin Bute (mexicaans restaurant) blijf ik jullie zeker volgen. Groet uit Nobleford, heunig an….. Harry, Anja, Robin en Luna👍

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