Day 3 Tuesday, July 31, 2001: What's All The Big Fuss About?

Oatmeal, sausage, pancakes: I could eat like this everyday, I think. At last! The day dawns clear; these are the Canadian Rockies I've heard about. Crisp, bright summer day, morning temperature 38F, no rain in sight. First, we have to get down the hill in the chill, then a warming sun brings us around the bend down the old Tunnel Mtn, Rd. to this vision of the Banff Springs Hotel. While I was loading up on this vista, Fred and Mike made good on their promise to pedal up the Mt. Norquay Rd. Looked too steep for me; I want to save my legs for the grind up to the Lake this afternoon.

While some folk took the freeway, I went back the way I came, this time up hill along Bow River Parkway, route 1A. Tucked in the woods, I came across several wildlife jams: an eight-point elk (try translating "Wapiti" into German), and some bighorn rams. The short day's ride to camp gave us lunch at the Protection Mountain campground. Then, two hours later, on up the Parkway to the town of Lake Louise. There, Steve was thrilled to find a bike shop willing to work on his bike (now was that a spoke problem, or the bottom bracket which needed cleaning?). I took one look up the road to the Lake, and opted for the tram, loading by steed onto the back of Jim's rig, and chasing the real climbers in our group - Susie, Pat, basically all the girls - who had chosen to actually bike up this hill.

In 1968, the Byrds, a rock group famous for turning Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" into gold, and launching the career of David Crosby, got together with Gram Parsons of the Flying Burrito Brothers, and invented "Country Rock". Being 19, I thought this was kind cool, and bought the resulting album, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo". I never listened to that record after I left college, but out of the foggy mists of thirty-some years of rock and roll recollection, when I heard of this trip, I thought immediately of the song on that record, "Blue Canadian Rockies". There's one phrase in, from the chorus, sung in three part harmony, which goes "... in the blue Canadian Rockies, on the banks of Lake (actually 'La-aake') Louise...". Stuck in my brain all those years, conjuring images of the lovelorn traveler, longing for the girl he left behind, living in a cabin or tent as a trapper by the shore of a mythic mountain lake. The kind you have slog over a five mile hike up hill to reach, and then come across a drop-dead view of pearly-blue water chopped by the wind, glistened by the sun, stuck smack at the bottom of the grandest mountain vista ever. Well, the view is true, but ...

What if you'd backpacked in for two days, hoping to find a quiet alpine retreat in the pines on the deserted shores of that glacier-fed lake, only to find a high-rise resort with two massive parking lots and epauletted parking valets blocking entry? Big disappointment, but then, what else should I have expected, with a four lane highway going right to the edge of the thing?

So I took a few pictures, sat in the sun, and whooshed back down to town. There, Dave and I hooked up with Steve and Fred just out of town, and pace-lined all the way down hill to camp at 25-28 mph. We went so fast, we forgot to stop and look at the bears foraging by the roadside. I did manage to snap a picture of them as we whizzed by, though.

At camp, we devoured the snacks, inhaled the beer, had chicken and ribs for dinner, with tapioca pudding, and began intense negotiations for tomorrow's epic ride. Three different groups, shuttle service up the passes, and 65-120 miles into Jasper, where maybe - just maybe, the weather might be better.

Miles today: 55

Jasper, Here We Come!