Day 2- “No Spot? No!” Spray Lake to Engadine – He Said

It sure was nice waking up in camp to the sound of the Loons singing on the Lake. It took us a little long than I thought to repack all our gear, taking extra time to rebalance our loads so our bike would respond better. I wanted NO MORE wobbly bikes! Bob, who had pulled into camp last night and is doing the same ride decided to ride with us.

Denise and Bob at Spray Lake

Denise and Bob at Spray Lake

Spray lake

Spray lake

The beginning of the ride took us the rest of the way along the west side of Spray Lake. We were treated to some spectacular views.

We came across several rock slides that required we walk our bikes over as well the big drainage basin for the dam at the end of the lake. Then we crossed several beautiful little creeks with wooden bridges.
Banff to Fernie 056

Then came the big hills. Some were so steep that we had to push our bikes up them. Pushing was actually almost harder than riding up as our riding shoes are not really meant for comfortable walking. In the longer section we actually took off our bike shoes and put on our tennis shoes.

After about 11 miles it was time for lunch. As we were getting our gear out I noticed that my SPOT locator was missing from the back of Denise’s bike. She had actually tipped over into the brush about a few miles back and I was sure that was where it had come off. I unhitched the trailer and told Bob and Denise I would be right back as I was going to go back and look for it. Along the way I passed several hikers and I asked if they had found it but no luck.  I came to the spot where Denise had laid her bike over and search everywhere, but no SPOT.  Losing the SPOT would have been no big deal. Sure my Dad loves seeing where I am at but another important function of the SPOT is that it is our cry for help should we get in trouble. It uses satellites to email an SOS to my family with our location. I was worried that it someone picks it up and pushed the wrong button, my family would scramble the rescue.
I decided to keep going as it must just be around the next corner.
One bad thing when I took off was, I left with very little water and no food and no bear spray. I kept going, riding faster and faster freed of the trailer and knowing Denise would be worried as I was now gone for a while.
I was now almost all the way back to our camp when it started raining. I had no rain gear but I thought now it had to be at camp as it was bright orange and I could not have passed it.
I pulled into our last night’s camp and frantically searched the whole area. My heart sank deep when I realized it was not there and now I was, thirsty, wet, cold, hungry and 12 miles away from Denise.
As I turned around and raced back to Denise I knew I was fading fast. I needed water and food and fortunately there was lots if water in the streams. I didn’t have the water filter we had been using but figured, if the water was bad here, I might as well cash in the chips.  The water tasted so good!

I did figure I needed to slow down. I knew if I didn’t I would not make it back. Also, I was still sure that somehow I had missed the SPOT and would find it on the way back. I had forgotten how hard the hills were but was now doing them again. Fortunately, I rode out of the rain and the sun brighten my spirits. However, I had now been gone about three hours and knew I had made a big mistake, in that Denise would be very worried.
Still no SPOT  but I finally came to the big last climb back and Denise came riding down to meet me. Little was said, I know she was very glad to see me but I also knew I was in bad standing.
We got back to the trailer and she had made clam chowder. I would have eaten boiled rocks, but the chowder was heaven.
Now way behind schedule, we had to change plans. Bob had taken off like I had hoped he would as I did not want to be holding him back. Looking at the map we saw there was a remote lodge five miles ahead. The rain caught up to us, but somehow I managed to slug it out going deep into my reserves.
When we got to the lodge, we learned they where full, but the nice manager offered us a yurt they had down the trail. I felt like Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, it turned out to be a dry heaven in a stormy night.

The dry yurt!

The dry yurt!

Inside the yurt

Inside the yurt

Day’s totals Hans – 38.5 miles, 3794 ft climb, 3474 ft  decent. Average speed 4.5 mph, ride time 8.5 hours.

Trip totals, 2 days:  63.9 miles, 5866 ft climbing, 4455 decent, 11.5 hours

Day 1 “On your mark, get set, slow” Banff to Spray Lakes

Banff to Fernie 018

The Big Elk

He Said:

After our start and seeing the large Elk  (see Hopefully the first step is the hardest), we settled into our first day. We began to figure out that if the wobbly bikes didn’t kill us the mileage of the first day might. We were excited that the first day was “only” 20 miles. Well what we didn’t realize was that it included 2000 feet of climbing. In fact, we ended up pushing our bikes up hills three times. Still this was a beautiful trail and we were really enjoying being out of tourist area of Banff.

Everything was coming together when we rounded a corner with a nice wooden bridge spanning a river. There was a sign saying bridge closed with a barricade.  I thought well this can’t be, and saw a guy with a skip loader blocking the entrance to the bridge. I sent Denise over to ask nicely if we could pass thinking how could a construction worker refuse a beautiful girl. But noooo, he said we had to forge the river.

Bridge Closed

Bridge Closed

I took a good look and the river looked fairly deep and was moving fast. Well we did sign up for adventure, so I took off my bike shoes and put on my tennies. I thought I would walk across first and make sure it was doable. Well I am telling you that was one cold river. The rocks were very slippery but I managed to get to the other side.  However my feet were so cold I did not want to go back to the other side. Well it was getting time to get to camp so we sucked it up and managed to getting everything across. The cold water actually felt good after everything went numb.

Forging River Day 1

Forging River Day 1

As our bikes were already way overloaded we decided not to carry too much water as we had heard that water was readily available in streams and rivers. Well of course I forgot to get water in the river we just crossed so getting thirsty we luckily found a stream. It is very cool to be able to get drinkable water right off your trail. We are filtering it just to be safe but I am sure there is no problem. Best news is NO PLASTIC BOTTLES!!!

Water collection

Water collection

Finally we rounded a corner and saw our first nights destination, beautiful Spray Lake. We road for a few miles finally finding this beautiful spot, our first campsite. We were in heaven. After finishing dinner,  I headed away from camp to hang our  food and bear bag out of reach of any hungry, wandering bears. All of the sudden I started hearing a bell ringing, I though what the heck, and out through the brush walked up another cyclist. He was pulling a trailer and doing the same trip as us. I asked him to join us as it was almost dark and I was  thinking safety in numbers when in bear country. His name was Bob,  and he was pulling a Bob. We quickly became friends. More on Bob later.

Spray Lakes Campsite

Spray Lakes Camp

The days numbers: 25.4 Miles, 1972 feet climbing, 981 feet decent, 6.9 miles per hour average,  max speed 20 mph, ride time 3 hrs 24 minutes. Total travel time 5 hrs 23 mins.

Hopefully, the first step is the hardest

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OH NO! WOBBLY BIKES, YIKES!!!

Without boring everyone on all the details, a lot of research and preparation went into just getting us to the start of the trail. That being said, with everything in life there are going to be some surprises. Who knew our youth hostel private room offered barely enough room for us and our gear to coexist.

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It took a lot more time than we imagined in getting everything put back together. We had spent several days taking everything apart and carefully packing everything into 3 cardboard bike boxes, and a box for the trailer. Really don’t know why I expected everything to go together much faster. Sadly we only budgeted one extra day in Banff to prepare. It really was barely enough time so we did not have a lot of time to enjoy Banff before heading off. It is truly a beautiful and magical place, but as such, there were a lot of tourists.

View from downtown Banff

View from downtown Banff

Bike friendly Banff

Bike friendly Banff

Church downtown Banff

Church downtown Banff

View from Main Street Banff

View from Main Street Banff

Up to the final hour of needed departure we were still trying to figure out how to put everything we thought we needed onto our bikes and “Bob” our bike trailer that I would be pulling. Finally it became clear that we could just not bring it all, so off Denise went to mail the extra ahead to a post office on our route. Finally it was time to leave or we would not make our first campsite before dark. Well guess what? I am sure you have heard stories about people building boats in their garages and not being able to get them out when finished. Well, two assembled fully loaded bikes, a fully loaded trailer, and two people in an extremely small room made for a very interesting Tetris puzzle. It took us 30 minutes just to get everything out of the room!

Finally out the front door, we were slammed with the reality that Denise’s overloaded bike and my overloaded trailer did not behave anything like our test trip in the Laguna’s. The bikes where so unstable we were actually afraid to pull out of the parking lot much less head out on a 2700 mile adventure. I hid my concern from Denise as much as possible and knew this could be the end before we even started, as we must be able to control our bikes. We looked at each other and decided to just go for it. Pulling out into the street I could tell it was going to be interesting trying to keep tailer  “Bob” from being boss of my bike. It was totally like learning to ride a bike for the first time again.

The good news was we had about a mile to road before we started out on the trail behind the fancy Fairmont Springs Hotel. As we passed thru their parking lot I almost ran over several people out of control and got some very mean looks. I saw Denise wrestling her beast (now known as BUCK) also with two over weighted saddle bags trying to take her anyway but straight! We stopped for a picture and tried to regroup. Secretly I had my doubts, and if Denise had said she didn’t think she could pull it off, I would have agreed and we would have come up with a plan “B”

Surprisingly,  I came up with, “I think we just need to readjust the loads a little lower to the ground, lets just try to get to the first campsite and we will deal with it there”. Good news was, she bought it, and down the trail we went. Luckily there was no one else on the trail for us to maim. However at mile one we saw the largest male Elk I have ever seen, standing in the middle of the trail. We managed to stop before hitting him and I got to count his rack as 14 points. Seeing the Elk brought us back to reality that all the trouble it took to get to this point, was really worth it. So we pedaled on.