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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

August 22nd, 2005  · stk

Day 3 - Loon Lake, BC to Hosmer, BC (45.0 Miles)

4h 12m ride time – 10.6 mph avg - 43.3 mph max

August 15, 2005

Can you guess what time we woke up? If you guessed seven o’clock, you’d be correct! Alex and her internal clock! It’s a much warmer morning, this morning and we lay comfortably in our sleeping bags, listening to the sounds of loons, on the lake – how appropriate. The sun is just starting to shine on the tent walls and looking out, we can see steam rising off the lake’s surface. It’s time to get up.

We break camp without needing to layer up, to keep warm. We’re ready to pull out at 9:30. The sun is bright and warm. We’re already stripped down to our cycling shorts and lightweight shirts. It’s going to be another hot day.

The ride out of the campground, as anticipated, isn’t fun. It’s dusty and the loose gravel only makes the steeper parts tougher. We’re fresh from a good sleep, however, and after 15 minutes or so, find ourselves back at the Grasmere general store, on Highway 93. We return our empty bottles, top off our water and head off.

It’s a quiet morning on the highway and we enjoy a ride without a lot of traffic. We’re riding through a lovely valley, with agricultural fields on either side. Occasionally, we pass irrigation sprinklers and catch a light misting of over-spray, which cools us. Again, the wind can't decide what it wants to do. It’s pushing us, one minute, and retarding our progress the next.

We’re riding toward the Highway 3 junction and so far, the terrain is fairly flat. There's one 8-percent, mile-long descent, which takes us down to the bridge that crosses Elk river. It's a fun ride down, but on the other side, we’re slowed by an equally long climb out of the river valley. If this is the "big climb" depicted on the Adventure Cycling map, then their mileages are way off.

We’re nearing the junction and we pass a southbound cyclist towing a BOB trailer. He waves and then doubles back and catches us from behind. We stop to chat. He’s from Phoenix, Arizona and flew up for a solo ride from Edmonton to Kalispell, via the Icefield Parkway. He quizzes us about the border crossing. We chat with him for a bit, then it’s back to cycling.

At the junction between Highway 93 and Highway 3, we stop at a burger joint, ordering some burgers and fries. It’s a pleasant spot, with a few shade trees and a couple of picnic tables nearby. Alex has fun playing and saying "Hi" to folks. It’s warm and we’re starting to feel the heat. We’re not able to finish the huge plate of fries and feel somewhat guilty for dumping the remaining lot in the trash. Alex isn’t eager to be back in the buggy and Scott isn’t feeling great, so we end up taking an hour and a half over our lunch.

The next 20-mile segment, along Highway 3 and into Fernie, B.C. isn’t covered on the Adventure Cycling map. Fortunately, Rachel grabbed a Canadian Rockies map at one of the gas station/store stops. It shows the roads, but there isn’t information about camping or other services. Rachel’s nervous about this section of the ride, because we’re getting closer to the Continental Divide as we approach Crowsnest Pass.

Her anxiety is for naught. The terrain along Highway 3 is great. There’s a short climb into the Elko town site, just east of the junction, but after that, the busy, two-lane highway begins a gentle descent, which continues for a number of miles. We’re riding up the Elk River valley and know that, at some point, we’re going to have to climb. Where would we begin to climb toward the Continental Divide in earnest?

The grade of the road finally changes, but it’s a gentle enough climb that it’s barely noticeable. We’re still hugging the Elk river and we follow its gentle, meandering course upstream. We see a number of fly fishermen, thigh deep in the water, or drifting downstream in their dories. Each of the small towns we pass through, boasts a fly fishing shop. It’s a pretty valley and very scenic river.

We’re not complaining about the grade, but riding is far from optimal. In Canada, there are only three highways that cross the Rockies and we’re riding along the southernmost one. There’s lots of traffic, especially because the highway has only two lanes. For safety reasons, the highway has rumble strips just beyond the white line that delineates the shoulder. This significantly narrows our riding lane, as the rumble strips are on the shoulder side of the line. It’s not a problem for Dave and Rachel, but because the buggy is wider, this often means that Scott must "thread the needle" and ride between the rumble strips and the guardrail. If he strays too closely to the roadway, the buggy wheels bump violently on the deep rumble strips, slowing his speed and jarring the Oop. If he strays too closely to the guardrail, the buggy scrapes along the metal. Add the roar of semi-trucks, RV’s, trucks and automobiles whizzing past and you've got a recipe for an unpleasant and tiring ride. To add an extra unpleasantry, there's very little to maneuver away from road debris, like rocks, bolts, hub caps and the like. Yuck.

We arrive in Fernie a little after three in the afternoon. Riding through town, we pass Rotary Park, which has a large playground area and is filled with kids. Scott’s in the lead and pulls over to give the Oop a reward for being so good. She has fun playing on the round-a-bout, climbing on the wooden "forts" and zipping down the slide. An hour later, when we finally decide to leave, she puts up a temper tantrum about going back into the buggy. She’s missed her afternoon nap, which she often takes in the buggy, head lolling to one side, so she’s tired.

After Fernie, the terrain remains much the same, so we make relatively short business over the last 8 miles to Snowy Peaks RV Park, in Hosmer. The Park isn’t ideal. It’s right on the busy highway and doesn’t have much shade. We consider going on, but the next camping is in 11 miles, in Sparwood. We’re told there’s a climb into town and that the RV Park there is much the same as the one here, so we decide to stay. At least we can camp behind two small pine trees (shade), on grass and have a hot shower. All is not lost.

It turns out that the RV Park is a treat for Alex. Just beyond where we’re camped, there’s a mobile home, where two young girls live (about 3 and 6 years old). The younger one comes outside, sits on the deck and immediately catches Alex’s attention (like dogs spotting each other in a crowd). It isn’t long before Alex is in their backyard, playing. A little later, she’s invited inside. Within an hour of our arrival, the Mom pops her head over the fence to say, "The girls are having a great time with Alex, is it OKAY if she has some pizza with us?"

"Sure," we reply. That’s our Alex, making friends with everyone. She’s such a social creature.

We’re not sure where the idea comes from, but we decide to order pizza for dinner. Just before eight o’clock, a Dominos delivery guy pulls into the campground with two large pizzas. The magic of home delivery, even if our home is made of thin nylon! Our dehydrated meals are good, but this pizza tastes way better.

It’s now getting dark. Alex has been crashed out since eight, when she had an over-tired tempter tantrum because she had to leave her new friends and their toys. Scott and Dave are both lying down and Rachel is journaling in the fading light.

Scott hasn’t been feeling well all afternoon. We’re hopeful that it’s just a touch of heat exhaustion and that he’ll be back to his usual self tomorrow.

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