We are up fairly early and away from the Moricetown campsite, stopping to admire the Canyon falls as we leave.
The road is nothing special and after an hour or so we reach Smithers.
This is a nice town as it has one main drag (road in and out) and a small high street with interesting shops. Darren finds a great motel just near the high street and as the room isn't ready till mid afternoon we hang out in Macdonalds drinking coffee. We meet a really friendly canadian (trust me there weren't many) who tells us this bear story...
A giant grizzly that lived on the hills just out side of Smithers for years eating the cattle. He was the scourge of the farm world and farmers tried to catch him for years to no avail, he was too clever.
Finally 2 National Park Ranger's (one was this guy's cousin apparently) were put on the case. After months of tracking they manage to trap the bear in a wire leg noose, as the Rangers appoach, the bear broke free and ran for them, with only 7 feet between them they shoot the bear dead.
This bear is now stuffed and on display at the local airport, so we decide to head off and see it to kill some time.
One very large gizzly bear & me
We then return to the motel, stopping at a local falls which look pretty. The road up is- you guessed it- crappy muddy gravel and wet!
We hike up a mile to the falls in our biker gear which is hard going, then wonder why we bothered as the view is obscured by trees.
The stop in Smithers was a good one, as Em had some girly time (read, long baths, get away from bike & Darren) I took a walk around. It was actually the first time that I had time to myself where I wasn't doing something for the bike or trip - so I made the most of it by sampling the local bar and enjoyed a few pints. I also purchase the big knife that Em insisted we have for camping - just in case I can summon the courage to "check what that noise was" outside of the tent at 3am.
Feeling rested, we decide that the next destination, the town of Prince George, could be reached in one day if we pushed it, meaning a day closer to 300 miles in the saddle - a bit more than our average.
The road is tree lined for large areas meaning our view is limited, this makes the day drag a little and I am thankful for the ipod connected to the Autocom. We stop for lunch in a small town and manage to find a Chinsese resturant and so after a good chinese beef curry we set off for the final 170 miles to Prince George.
Along the roadside I see a placard advertising a place called Fort St James - an historic site that featured exhibits and people in period dress and I know this is right up Ems street, so after a quick chat, I thumb the left indicator and a high mileage day becomes even higher.
Fort St James is in a lovely spot on the edge of Stewart Lake.
It was a centre for trade and commerce in the 19th Century, chiefly the fur trade. It has been restored to a snapshot in time of 1896, with everthing as it would have been including period costumes worn by staff and many interesting items, set out in different buildings of the Fort. It was a lovely place to visit and the staff were very friendly and interesting to talk to.
Back to Darren:
After Fort St James, which turns out to be a good day out for all, I realise we still have a long way to go to reach Prince George and the clouds look rather unfriendly. We managed to skirt the weather front for the next 2 hours, but inevitably the final hour run into town was to see us get soaked, by this time its dark and we have covered well over 300 miles - so a motel it is then.
The motel room looks more like a chinese laundry as we try to get kit dry, but with the heating cranked up next day we are able to put on dry kit, ready for the days ride which should be exciting as we are heading for Robson Park and eventually Jasper in the National Park.
The sun is out, the scenery no longer obscured and we have a good run to Robson Park, the road to it gives some perspective to the size of Mount Robson itself, its north Americas highest peak and today just the top is shrouded in cloud.
Approaching Mount Robson
The final part of the day sees us heading for Jasper, on the way we cross into Alberta and pay our entry fee into the park - the scenery is breathtaking and gives us a glimpse of what the run down to Banff from Jasper may have to offer.
We camp just outside Jasper in Whistler state campground and use this as a base for the next few days as we explore Jasper park and the town itself. The town is more upmarket than we had seen so far, being a ski resort out of season and a tourist trap during the summer months.
Jasper park has a lot to offer and we rode most of the scenic byways to each of the numerous lakes, mountains and rivers - on route we saw a very large Stag by the roadside and the odd moose but very little other wildlife, this place seems to be more about the scenery.
After two nights in Whistler campground we pack up ready to ride down through the National Park to Banff, I manage to get this pic of Em doing her moisturising etc - who says a girl cant look after herself on the road!
I had been really looking forward to the ride to Banff and we had a full day ahead of us as we first stop at the stunning Athabasca Falls.
Its then onto the road itself - The Icefields Parkway, words cannot do this place justice, wherever you look you see high snow covered peaks, glaciers, lakes that are so blue that they look almost unreal and round each turn in the road it gets better.
We arrive at another stop - the Columbia Icefields and get the oppurtunity to walk out to the glacier itself and even to walk onto it. At this point it starts to snow and your breath is short giving some indication of the altitude we are at.
Walking on the Glacier
The day from there is full of "wow" and "look at that" comments over the autocom as we try to take in the scene.
Another twisty road
We come across an area of road that is virtualy blocked by tourists who have stopped to look at a Black Bear thats close to the roadside, its all camaras and people running around trying to get a look - until the Bear starts to eat one of the wing mirrors and everyone panics. In the melee, one fleeing pedestrian manages to run out in front of us - I thought it was the wildlife I had to look out for...
We arrive at Banff fairly late, the town is similar in feel to Jasper and after the recent camping we feel that an Inn with a hot bath might be a priority, before trying to get something to eat in the many bars.
I am more than happy with finding a curry house and Em finds her Estee Lauder in a posh shop so all is well. The plan is to use Banff as a base for a couple of days as we explore this end of the National Park.
First up we ride through the Bow Valley back up to Lake Louise before taking some time looking at the town.
Lake Louise is another stunning location and we have a picnic on the lake edge, its a hot day and we get some very strange looks due to our bike clothing - its a second skin to me now, but we must look out of place to some.
That night back at the town, the clouds thicken and next morning the mountains have turned white - the first snows of the season have arrived, its time to head south...
After Darren and I having a great time in Jasper and Banff and feeling that we had seen everything they had to offer we moved on.
This was actually a detour which I wanted to make to Calgary in Alberta as I have always wanted to go there, although I couldn't tell you why that is. Maybe it's just a place I have heard of so many times which made me want to visit it.
We decide after looking at the map that we can do a day trip there and back, then pass back by Banff on our way down to the USA.
We pass through the Rockies and along a straight road, which after 2 hours brings us into Calgary. This is by far the biggest city we have been in since the trip started and I have to admit that being in so much traffic with tight turns and traffic lights is quite unnerving after being in the back country for so long. I think I much prefer being 'out in the sticks' if I am honest.
After a drive round and visiting some local attractions we head back.
The scenery going back to Banff was worth going to Calgary for alone, from this direction you can see the Rockies stretching across the horizon and gradually getting larger as we approach.
The Rockies seen from Calgary
After passing Banff and continuing South we reach our stop over that night at Radium Hot Springs. We stop at a really nice restaurant called 'The Old Salzberg' and enjoy some German/ Swiss food which is a welcome break from giant burgers and fries. After helping Darren eat his pudding, it's off to find a campground for the night.
We follow a sign which takes us on a small track high above the town itself and find a really nice State campground in Kootenay National Forest. As we start to unpack the tent and get pitched a really friendly guy from the Netherlands comes over and says he thinks we could use a beer, then gives us two cans of ice cold lager. We are touched by his gesture and travellers spirit, helping out other travellers far from home is always a nice thing to do.
Two cans of lager = 1 happy Darren
After a restful night's sleep and another freezing cold night, we head back into town to the Radium Hot Springs.
This is a large outdoor swimming pool filled with hot water drawn directly from the thermal springs. It was lovely, like a hot bath and very relaxing, we stayed in there for over an hour!
After shoehorning ourselves back into our bike kit, we set off South once more.
This was a nice road that had lots of twisty turns, trees and now started to open out into parkland. The grass here was a straw colour and it was turning warmer now that we were leaving the mountains behind.
We find a campsite for the night in a ski resort called Fearnie. The site is in a forest on a hill and a state park area, which is a nice place to be with tall trees, but very limited facilities.
That night is freezing and neither of us get much sleep. A train further down in the valley keeps us awake with it's eerie whistles which echo through the trees like a horror movie.
That morning we pack up camp early and head for the USA border with warmer weather in mind as we chase the sun south...Posted by Darren Homer at September 20, 2007 01:12 AM GMT
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