Lower Kananaskis Lake CG to Banff

July 17, 2010 – 63 miles

This morning was my last on the Great Divide. I started the day right with a steaming bowl of Mac N Cheese. We packed our gear and pedaled out of camp one last time. The weather couldn’t be better. Clear skies and fair temps.

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After a short stretch on pavement, we turned onto a gravel road. At first it was very loose – the kind of gravel that makes it too easy for your wheels to slip out from under you. The road hardened after a few miles and the traffic increased. The area along the Smith Dorrien Spray Rd is a destination among motorists.

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Aroud 13:30 I reached the Mt. Shark trail and found Mathieu waiting. Some curious backpackers came over and started chatting about our trip. I remember talking to people and telling them it was day #1 or #2 back in New Mexico. At the time, making it this far was an uncertainty.

Mathieu wanted to keep riding so we left the backpackers behind. We had 8 hours of light left, but he was worried the trail ahead might make for slow riding.

The trail was indeed slow riding. At first it was a series of short/steep ups and downs. I thought it was a fun ride. Eventually, the trail became narrow singletrack – with front and rear panniers, it was difficult.

The trail spilled onto an un-maintained forest road, but the riding still was slow. We pushed our bikes over multiple downed trees.

Our hurry to make mileage meant we delayed lunch. It was pushing 15:00 and I hadn’t stopped for a substantial meal since breakfast. I was growing hungry to the point of bonking. After pushing up one last steep section of the forest road, I started skirting Spray Reservoir. The spectacular view distracted me from the discomfort.

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Soon I reached the Spray Reservoir Dam and Mathieu was there. I knew it was time for me to eat. Tortillas with tuna and tortillas with nutella. I had packed along a package of chocolate pudding and decided it might help give me more energy. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the package carefully – it needed to be cooked.

I didn’t want to mess with my stove, so I drank a gritty mixture of water and pudding mix. Despite a slightly displeasing texture, it gave me the energy I needed. I certainly was riding faster with food in my belly.

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We crossed the dam and continued toward Banff. We rejoined Smith-dorrien road. There was more traffic than before and the amount of dust had increased. Not to mention horrible stretches of washboard.

Finally, we reached the Goat Creek Trail – the last 12 miles of the Great Divide.

The trail once again consisted of fun ups and downs. I was tired and my butt hurt, but I felt good. My goal of reaching Banff was so close that it didn’t bother me.

8 miles from Banff, I met a solo SOBO rider. I wasn’t in a hurry and decided to chat. He had started this morning and had traveled those 8 miles in 5 hours. He was 58 years old and not in the best riding condition. He had two months to ride the trail. How far he’d make it, he didn’t know. And after his first day he wasn’t sure if he’d continue much further.

I tried to encourage him. I was in the same situation 6 weeks ago in New Mexico (although I had “youthful hubris” on my side).

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I wished him luck and continued North. As I came nearer to Banff, I flipped on my helmet cam to record my accomplishment. The Great Divide must have felt my cockiness. Whenever I thought I was done climbing, another short/steep hill would appear. I no longer though of these hills as impediments, but rather like opportunities to test my strength. I tackled them like a pro.

Suddenly – I turned a corner and rode into a parking lot. It looked familiar – I had seen it before in youtube videos and personal accounts of other Great Divide riders.

I was done with the Great Divide.

As always, Mathieu was patiently waiting for my arrival. We took some photos in front of the HUGE Banff Springs hotel.

We rode through town to find a place to stay – it was very crowded and filled with traffic. I felt like an outsider – dirty, smelly, and weathered among the well dressed folks strolling though town.

It was a Saturday night and all the hotels were booked or overpriced. $300+ for one night! Then again, if I were a receptionist at a hotel, I might night want folks like me to dirty up one of their prestigious suites.

It was getting very late so we rode to a campground on the opposite end of town. It disappointing to . We weren’t welcomed like celebrities as we might have subconsciously hoped.

When we reached the campground (which, of course was seated well above city level) it was dark. We pitched tents, took quick showers, and changed into street clothes. We rode back into town for our well-deserved celebratory dinner. Unfortunately, by the time we got there it was 22:30! Maybe eating a late lunch was beneficial.

I ate a bowl of spaghetti at Giogrios. Mathieu had a pizza, which seemed a bit stale. We left and climbed back to our campsite in the dark. It was midnight by the time I collapsed in my tent.

After riding around looking for a hotel and going back and forth between the campsite and restaurant, we put an additional 17 miles on our odometers! This wasn’t the greeting we expected from Banff.


Stats
Distance: 59 miles
Ascent: 4331 ft
Descent: 5358 ft

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