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Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

Filed in:Cycling

Glacier & Waterton Lakes Cycle Tour

August 22nd, 2005  · stk

Day 5 - Bellevue, AB to Twin Butte, AB (44.4 Miles)

4h 31m ride time – 9.8 mph avg - 37.6 mph max

August 17, 2005

When we wake up, the skies are still heavily overcast, but there still hasn’t been any rain. The clouds hang low and are dark, threatened with rain. Dave, the optimist, says, "The clouds are gonna burn off."

Scott says, "I think it’s a warm front that’s moved in and I bet we’re in for a long, steady rain."

(We hope Dave is right)

We busy ourselves with the morning routine – cooking a hot oatmeal breakfast with instant coffee and hot chocolate, feeding the Oop and packing up our gear. With the prospect of rain hanging over our heads, we move quickly and are out of camp an hour ahead of normal, at 8:30 in the morning.

Just as we straddle our bikes and pull out of camp, the skies release a light rain. It’s not enough water for us to justify rain gear, but we close the front flap to the buggy, which helps to keep Alex dry.

We pull onto the Highway 3 and continue our ride east.. We have 4 miles of highway riding, before we turn off onto PR-507, which is a quiet, secondary highway (more like a farm road). Like most secondary routes, the hills are steeper compared to the well-graded highways. It’s still a good trade-off, as it’s wonderful to be able to ride without cars and big trucks whizzing past, every minute. We’re able to talk, ride abreast and sometimes, we don’t see a car for miles.

A mile into PR-507, we’re halfway up our first steep climb and we spot six deer along the side of the road. They’re in the drainage ditch, off to our left and when they see us, they trot up the hill. We’re climbing the same hill, so we’re able to admire them for some time, before they cross the road, ahead of us and disappear into the trees.

The route is a series of rolling hills, one after another. We slowly make our way up each hill, enjoying a brief descent down the backside. We peddle like crazy, hoping to generate enough momentum that it will carry us partway up the next hill. It’s a good workout that makes yesterday's climb over Crowsnest Pass seem easy.

We continue, slowly progressing toward Pincher Creek. The weather has been wet, but when it rains, it’s very light and punctuated by dry periods. The clouds remain low and there is some fog in the valleys. Six miles outside of Pincher Creek, we stop by the side of the road for a snack and we realize how cold it is, even though the misty rain has let up again. We don’t linger long, before we make our way into town, in search of a warm restaurant and a hot meal.

We stop at the first restaurant we spot - Kings Western & Chinese Cuisine. It’s only minutes after noon and a number of other people in town are entering the restaurant. We enjoy our hot sandwiches and soup, but notice that the rain has picked up outside. It’s no longer misty. This is a full-on, steady, penetrating rain. In the warmth of the restaurant, we look at the map. The next camping is in Twin Butte, 17 miles away. After that, it’s 12 more miles to a campground just outside of Waterton Lakes National Park. We decide to push along and reconsider our options in Twin Butte.

Outside the restaurant, we put on any rain gear that we weren’t wearing before lunch. We leave PR-507 at the edge of town and head south on PR-6. Immediately outside of town, we begin to climb. The rain is steadily falling from the sky. It’s not buckets of water, but it’s relentless – a good ground-soaker. We’re passing through cow country, with large ranches and farms on either side of the road. (Pincher Creek is renown for it’s Annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held each year in June). We find PR-6 busier than PR-507, but nothing like the main highway. It’s pleasant, from a traffic viewpoint, with hardly any semi-trucks. The hill climbing helps to keep us warm, as the rain pelts down upon us. The going is slow, however, because of the hills. After awhile, we realize it’s optimistic to think we could make Waterton Lakes National Park. We begin to wonder if we’ll make it to Twin Butte.

Rachel is looking for landmarks on her cycling map. We cross railroad tracks, which means we’re five miles from Twin Butte. A sign for Drywood creek shows that we’re now four miles from Twin Butte. A sign for Yarrow creek means there’s three miles to go. We’re wet, cold and counting the miles till Twin Butte. Finally, we climb out from a coulee and there it is, the Twin Buttes Restaurant, Post Office and Store (all in one building). That’s it, just the one structure.

We don’t care.

We pull under the covered patio and walk inside, dripping wet - literally. The owner (Julie), a waitress and a local, sitting at the bar, look at us for a second, and then go back about their business. The place has a country, homey feel to it and we strip off our rain gear, only to discover that everything underneath is soaked. We’re making puddles on the Mexican tiles. For ten minutes or so, we just sit there, too cold and too wet to do much else, but extremely happy to be out of the pouring rain. We order ourselves a warm drink, while Julie shows Alex that she’s set aside a box of toys for kids to play with. After a couple of drinks, we begin to feel human again. Enough so, that we begin to move about and change into some drier clothing.

We ask the waitress, a buxom blonde, where the camping is in Twin Butte and she points out the window to some trees in the back, behind the restaurant, where there is tall, wet grass and a picnic table. One look and we know that it’s not a desirable place to camp – not in the rain, at least. For a couple of hours, we sit there, nursing drinks, thankful for the warmth and pondering our wet options. None of us wants to pedal another 12 miles in the rain and for what - another wet campground?

There’s a B&B listed on our Adventure Cycling map, but Julie says it’s closed. We consider leaving our bikes at the restaurant and hitch-hiking back to Pincher Creek, to stay in a motel, but that’s not a great option either and one that Dave isn’t prepared to entertain. We talk with some more of the local patrons, as they filter in during the afternoon. Mostly, they pull up in pick-up trucks, enter the restaurant, shaking off their wet oilskin jackets, taking off their cowboy hats and plopping down on stools, in front of the short bar. It’s the blonde waitress that ends up saving the day. She remembers that Don Brestler, a couple of properties down from the restaurant, has a guest cabin that he occasionally rents out to friends. Julie calls to see if it’s available. It is and for a price ($85 CAD), we can have it for the night. We’re thankful for anything dry at this point, so we eat an early dinner (while Don Brestler tidies up the place) and about an hour later, we’re cycling in the rain again, but only for about a quarter of a mile, when we turn off the road and onto Don’s ranch property.

We’re now ensconced in a very cute, very dry and very rustic, hand-built, log cabin. Don Brestler, a local artist and former cowboy, now in his 70’s, is our benefactor, host and entertainer. He’s very chatty and when we arrive, spend nearly an hour, listening to his stories. He’s written and self-published a couple of books, done Western art that graces the covers of magazines, and the log cabin (which he built by hand) is filled with memorabilia, art and knick-knacks. There’s a bear-skin jacket hanging on the wall behind the wood stove, his original oil paintings grace the walls, depicting the life of a cowboy on the Alberta range. Antique tin cans, an old pair of snow-shoes, oil-lanterns, license plates and a myriad of things fight for space on the walls and are hanging from the ceiling. He continues to chat with us, until he finally departs, leaving us for the night. What a character!

The minute Alex is in the cabin, she becomes hyperactive. She’s all over the place and with a potbelly stove at one end and a china-filled cabinet at the other, we must keep her under tight reins. Rachel pins her down on the bed, while Don is chatting with us, lest he gets the idea that we’ve got an out-of-control toddler amongst all of his prized possessions. After Don departs, we give her a little dinner, a much-needed bath and then lay with her on the double bed, until she becomes bored and (eventually) falls asleep. Rachel has the honor of sleeping with her tonight, as Scott and Dave will sleep in the bunk beds, Scott on the lower and Dave on the top.

We all have a hot shower and for the first time since we started pedaling this morning, we are warm and dry. If anything, we’re now too warm - because Scott stoked up the wood-burning stove too much and we’re having to open up windows to cool the place down! Most of our wet gear is drying on the makeshift clothesline strung across the rafters, bisecting the cabin. It’s late and time to retire. We can hear the rain pounding on the roof. We’re thankful that we’re not still out in the weather. Instead, we’re snuggled into clean sheets, thanks to Don Brestler and his cozy little, hand-built log cabin, situated on the edge of Alberta’s prairie, close to the Canadian Rockies.


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