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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour
Day 4 - Hosmer, BC to Bellevue, AB (41.6 Miles)
4h 24m ride time – 9.4 mph avg - 25.8 mph max
August 16, 2005
We wake up to a dew-soaked tent and warm, bright sunshine. All the gear that’s been left out is also soaking wet. It makes a heavier load when we pack the tent, but it’s not as critical as it would be, if we were hiking instead of cycling.
We’re on the road again by 9:30 (which is really 8:30, because we haven’t flipped over to B.C. time). We’re ready for the small climb to Sparwood and then, the bigger one, to Crowsnest Pass and the Continental Divide.
The slight incline continues most of the way to Sparwood and with the lighter, morning traffic, it’s a pleasant ride. It’s not until about two miles before Sparwood that we encounter the climb and even then, it’s not very long. As we near town, there’s a large sign saying "Sparwood - Home of the World's Largest Truck".
Dave says, "Now that’s my kind of attraction!"
When we pull into town, we see it (you can hardly miss it). Bright green, perched on tires that dwarf any human, sitting 3 stories tall, there it is - the "Titan". We stop at the Tourist Information building and walk over to take a couple of photos. Alex is barely as tall as the tire tread is deep. Dave runs off to purchase some items at the nearby grocery store and later, we all enjoy a snack of cheese, salami, remaining banana bread and candy bars. We make an enquiry in the Visitor's information center, about the terrain ahead, but the information we receive isn’t helpful.
"What’s the grade of the road up to Crowsnest Pass?" Rachel asks.
"It’s all paved," replied the clueless, young girl at the desk.
Rachel rephrases her question at the high school level and in return, the girl can’t find the words to describe what an eastbound cyclist might expect in terms of terrain. Trying to be helpful, she says, "I don’t really know, but another cyclist just came from Crowsnest Pass and he said that it took him a bit over an hour to get to Sparwood."
Thanks! Just the kind of information we’re looking for! (Hello?)
We give up and figure that whatever it is, is whatever it is, so we head out of Sparwood and face the pass. The gentle grade continues for another nine miles, before we begin to climb the Continental Divide in earnest. Even then, the ascent is steady and the highway grade isn’t too steep. Helping us is a stiff tailwind, which pushes us over the pass and we’re thankful for the boost (and even more thankful it’s not a headwind).
Atop the pass, we enjoy beautiful views and after, a brief, but speedy descent, crossing from British Columbia into Alberta. We pull into some mountain cabins rentals near Crowsnest town site, survey the map, and refill our water bottles, letting the Oop climb around on a playground apparatus. We plan to quickly ride the next 4 miles into Coleman and stop at the bike store, so that Dave can pick up some new brake pads. (His have worn away and are making metal-to-metal contact with his rim, digging a groove into the aluminum). At four miles, we figure it should be a 15-20 minute ride, no problem.
An hour later, we finally pull into town. As soon as we leave the Kozy Kabins motel, we round Crowsnest Lake and encounter fierce headwinds. We’re not expecting such opposition, especially because of the tailwinds over the pass, but the wind is brutal and relentless in its resistance. At times, the gusts are strong enough to bring us nearly to standstill (or so it seems). It’s particularly draining on Scott, who’s towing the buggy, which acts like a sail, robbing him of energy and forcing him to pedal harder. Scott doesn’t let the wind dampen his spirits and pedals onward.
In Coleman, we pull into a small municipal park, just off the highway. It’s got a nice little water park and a bunch of kids are playing in the water, despite the stiff wind. We pull up to a picnic table and Dave unloads his bike, pedaling off, down the hill, in search of the bike shop. Alex is sleeping, but we don’t wake her. She would want to play in the water, but with the wind, would get too cold. It’s just easier to let her sleep. Forty minutes later, when Dave returns, she’s still sleeping. It’s chilly enough, in the wind, that Rachel puts on her camp pants and warm-up jacket, but is still complaining about the cold. We’re eager to be cycling again, just so we can warm up.
Poor Alex. Right when we’re leaving, she wakes up and misses out on an opportunity to get out of her buggy.
When we pull out of Coleman, we shorten our day’s goal, because of the headwinds and aim our bikes at the municipal campground in Bellevue. There is a camping option another 4 miles beyond that, but unless the wind abates, we’re setting our sights closer.
We manage to draft off one another and we increase our speed a bit. The coal mining towns of Coleman, Blairmore, Frank and Bellevue blend into each other, with very little open space between them. We ride on through, still battling the wind. We stop briefly at the viewpoint to the Frank Slide, marvel at the damage and huge boulders at the side of the road.
A couple of miles further along, we pull into the Bellecrest Community Campground. Like last night, it’s right on the side of the highway, but unlike last night, the price is by donation. It’s a nice little campground, with about 23 sites, many of which are available. There are public washrooms, with running water, free firewood, a covered patio area and even a miniature chapel (for some odd reason).
We pick a site and set up camp. The wind continues and it’s becoming cloudy. Not long after we're situated, a family returns to their campsite, not far from us. Don’t you know, they’ve got a 21-month-old toddler and the two toddlers are immediately drawn toward one another. Like two dogs, they check each other out, circling one another and doing everything but sniffing their each other’s rear ends. Alex abandons us and plays with Daniela, the toddler, and her older siblings. We pull her back a couple of times because she’s taking Daniela's toys and saying, "Mine!" Aside from this possessive transgression, they play very nicely together.
We prepare our evening meal and the clouds completely cover the sky. Some are dark and grey. We decide to prepare for rain. We put all our gear under the vestibule of the tent and make double sure that the buggy’s cover is cinched down.
We’re beginning to think about bed, when Daniela and her family pay us a quick visit. It’s Angie’s 11th birthday and they used cinnamon buns (with a candle) to celebrate. They give us a plate of three cinnamon buns and a sealed, snack-pack for Alex. What a treat! Right after they leave, Rachel and Dave eat their buns, which are dripping with frosting. (Scott saves his for the Oop, who’s now fast asleep.)
We head over to the bathroom to brush our teeth and rinse the plate we were given. On our way back, we stop at their campground to return the plate and thank them again for the special treat. We spend the next 35 minutes chatting with them, before finally retiring for the night.
It hasn’t rained (yet), but the sky is still looking swollen and the cloud cover blankets the whole valley, when we zip up the tent and lay our heads down to sleep.
Table of Contents
• Start Page
• Intro and Route
• Day 1 - Whitefish, MT to Olney, MT
• Day 2 - Olney, MT to Loon Lake, BC
• Day 3 - Loon Lake, BC to Hosmer, BC
• Day 4 - Hosmer, BC to Bellevue, AB
• Day 5 - Bellevue, AB to Twin Butte, AB
• Day 6 - Twin Butte, AB to St. Mary, MT
• Day 7 - Going to the Sun Road
• Day 8 - Glacier N.P. to Whitefish, MT
• Epilogue, Planning & Resources