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Missoula Montana to Jasper 2016

I road a bicycle tour with loaded panniers from Missoula, Montana to Jasper, Alberta in the middle of the summer of 2016. Overall, the weather was wonderful with most rain at night. The days in Montana were hot, at times, but the nights were cool. As the tour progressed, the days became cooler and the nights, at times, approached freezing.

This tour was with a group of 14 people organized by Adventure Cycling for their Great Parks North Tour. #acaGNC_2016 #adventurecycling

This web page contains a number of pictures in the order that they appear going south to north on this route. A few pictures are also grouped:

Other people on the tour took pictures that are now on the web… Niles, Mike A, Judy, Cyndy


The first day, we all try out our bicycles with a ride in the hills to the east of Missoula in the morning. Most pavement is at least OK though there are a few rough spots with lots of potholes. The route today starts and ends on paved roads with some mostly well-kept gravel roads in between that go through Pattee Canyon.

Missoula is a city of about 100,000 in its metropolitan area, that was founded in 1860 and is location of University of Montana. There are lots of big box stores in this relatively flat landscape. Politically, Missoula is more left-leaning electing more Democrats than Repulicans, and having more liberal attitudes to marijuana.

Everyone makes it through today's ride so we're all going on the trip, eh? As it is, everyone will eventually make it to Jasper, too! The other riders in our group of 14 seem OK at first glance on our first ride. They all get up the steep parts one way or another in a determined fashion. I bet this will be a great trip.

Near Missoula along Speedway Avenue is everything: estates, ranches, house trailer parks, run down houses.

Confluence of Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers. This is the former site of the Milltown Dam that was removed in an environmental clean up in 2008 – an EPA Superfund site - Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site. The contamination here was due to Arsenic residues from former copper mining and smelting. There's a view of where I am standing today from Milltown below that I take tomorrow

After the group ride, I ride around Missoula, mostly the southern and western parts as I spent a few days here on an earlier ride and saw other parts including the University of Montana and it's big fitness hill Mount Sentinel. This time, I aim to see a few new sites. I ride many roads south of Clark Fork River, and, then, paved trails along both sides of the river using the trail bridge at the end of California Street – I ride the Ron MacDonald Riverfront Trail System!

After today's ride, I visit the REI store that's next-door to the campground and buy some new 1-sided click'r pedals with SPD cleats on 1 side and a platform on the other side. I do like having a platform on 1 side for riding with a loaded touring bicycle as it gets awkward at times and one needs to be able to touch the ground quickly with one's foot. My new pedals are much more comfortable for bicycling long distances as I do find on the rest of the trip. I eventually discard my old pedals on the second day in Swan Lake.

These Speed Bumps on a neighbourhood street in Missoula have flat parts so bicycles can avoid the bump

A woman playing a classical tune on a piano in downtown Missoula

Fancy bicycle rack beside Splash Montana, Spartan Park, Missoula

Splash Montana, Spartan Park, Missoula has everything from water slides to an Olympic sized 50 metre pool

People playing in the rapids of the Clark Fork River near downtown Missoula. Some are trying to stand-up paddle board down the rapids. One can!

Ducks in the Clark Fork River in Missoula

Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula is south west of Missoula. It was built in 1877 to help control the original residents and later used as an internment camp in World War 2. This fort was always open concept with no walls. At one point, troops stationed here tested the practicality of having soldiers traveling by bicycle.

Fort Missoula: Officers' Row. Now Northern Rockies Heritage Center that is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of the heritage and integrity of historic Fort Missoula.

Fort Missoula: Officers' Row

Fort Missoula: training ground for University of Montana's Woodsmen Team that is a serious competitor in sports like axe throwing, pole climbing, crosscut sawing, log rolling, and chopping.

Fort Missoula: Sliderock Lookout was moved here in 1983 from Sliderock Mountain 40 miles east of Missoula


I leave Missoula and cycle on eastward, at first, the next day, then northward towards Glacier National Park. This area is arid. There is ranching, farming with irrigation, and forestry.

Looking downstream at Clark Fork River near Bonner, MT.

Merriweather Lewis statue in Two Rivers Memorial Park, Bonner, MT that was established in 1996 as a legacy of the Milltown Superfund that was the first Superfund site in Montana. One force driving the cleanup was contamination of well water in Bonner and Milltown

View from Milltown of former Milltown Dam. Looking at location where took picture yesterday of Milltown Dam that was removed in an environmental clean up in 2008 – an EPA Superfund site - Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site. That's just the other side of the highway.

Fishing while floating down Blackfoot river in inflatable river boat.

Blackfoot River, from the bridge at McNamara, just downhill of Steel Toe Distillery

Johnsrud Park Road near Bonner MT, Johnsrund Park is great for fishing

Road to the Steel Toe Distillery, Potomac MT: Lisa, Bill, and myself stopped at this deteriorating stone bridge for lunch that was a walking path to the distillery and found this road on the other side of Union Creek

Canada Geese enjoying the spray from an irrigation sprinkler. These are the only Canada Geese that I see near here. They remind me of the flocks of Canada Geese at home.

Hay bales: looks like at least some of the hay is produced with irrigation, near Greenough MT

Near Greenough MT

Lubrecht Experimental Forest & Conference Center

Clearwater River

I stop for a bit at the State Park on Salmon Lake. It's a pleasant reprieve from a busy and, at times, narrow highway. I go swimming in Seeley Lake, near the campsite, with a few of the other cyclists from our group. It is pleasant. There are a few other locals also in the Lake.

My notes indicate that I was a savior twice today:

Salmon Lake

Salmon Lake.

Seeley Lake where I go swimming

Seeley Lake

The second day of the trip continues on a busy road with a few logging trucks, and lots of tourists once they wake up and get on the road after 10 am?

Condon MT is noted in the trip since the local store just burnt down and the original plan was to buy food there. Luckily, a smaller store at a local gas station had just stocked up to fill in the gap, and we got some food for the night's supper.

Lake Inez

Flathead National Forest

Post Office in Condon MT

Swan Peak Scenic Viewpoint showing Swan Peak in the middle between Goat Creek Hill and Van Mountain. Swan Peak rises to 9289 feet (2831 metres). Most forest shown are multiple use: Swan River State Forest & Flathead National Forest

I and a few other cyclists end the second day with a swim in Swan Lake at the beach of the Swan Lake Campground in Flathead National Forest that is a bit over a mile from our campsite at Swan Lake Trading Post. The water is a good temperature for swimming. Some cyclists plan on swimming every evening! We'll see. My current understanding is that at times the only place to swim is glacier fed and the water temperature approaches freezing, but if one is determined ...

Swan River National Wildlife Refuge

Swan Lake beach where we went for a swim

Campground at Swan Lake Trading Post.

Campground at Swan Lake Trading Post

Swan Lake Trading Post where we camped

Swan Lake the next morning

The route through Montana to the mountains continues on the 3rd day and passes through Big Fork, Creston, and Columbia Falls before arriving in West Glacier and entering Glacier National Park. Columbia Falls is a city of almost 5,000 residents and is a regional center so our group buys food there.

near Big Fork MT

near Big Fork MT

The best road, by far, today is Columbia Falls Stage Road since there is little traffic so one can actually hear the birds and other natural sounds.

Near Creston MT

Irrigation sprinkler beside Columbia Falls Stage Road

Columbia Falls Stage Road

Columbia Falls Stage Road

Stop and get food in Columbia Falls as it has last big food stores before Glacier National Park though I did see sufficient food in a store in West Glacier. Perhaps, a bit more expensive? A tourist trap and prices, eh?

Columbia Falls

Columbia Falls – Mural on a building across from Smith's Food and Drug Store where we bought food.

The first part of Highway 2 after Columbia Falls is wide with good site lines and paved shoulders though it has considerable traffic. The next part is through Bad Rock Canyon. Suddenly, road conditions change for cars, as well as bicycles. The road has bad site lines, no paved shoulders, and shrinks from 4 wide lanes to 2 narrow ones. My notes say that I get off the road at one point to let a semi-trailer truck pass rather than trying to share-the-road with the beast.

Many locals do traverse this road to get to a water spring in a parking area, part way down the road. I stop here for a moment and take a picture of the Bad Rock Canyon sign. The sign says that this is a historic place of conflict between the Blackfeet and Flathead tribes where horses were stolen and scalps lost.

The ride through Bad Rock Canyon part of Highway 2, after Columbia Falls, is dangerous: there are no bicycle paths or paved shoulders on this section, and Highway 2 has a crash rate here that is two and a half times that of similar roads. Many of the crashes are due to head-on collisions even though this section of 2-lane road is marked for no passing with a solid line down the middle. There are plans to re-build this road. Bicycle paths on both sides of the highway are part of the plans, so, by next time I visit, hopefully all the local politics will be worked out and there will be either road improvements or a new road constructed, as Bad Rock Canyon is a scenic spot that I want to see again.

Flathead River as seen from bridge on outskirts of Columbia Falls. I walk across the bridge on the sidewalk so I can appreciate the River as there is way too much traffic to ride and sight see at the same time

Flathead RiverBad Rock Canyon

Approaching West Glacier – the mountains are tempting us, eh?

Glacier Highland Restaurant and Gifts, established in 1938, across from the train station in West Glacier

Glacier National Park – Going To The Sun Road

After passing under the railroad in West Glacier I'm in Glacier National Park. The first part of the route through Glacier National Park is on Going-To-The-Sun Road through Lake McDonald Valley. Today's camp spot is in Apgar campground, Glacier National Park. I swim and cool off in Lake McDonald near the campsite.

West Glacier – train station and visitor center for Glacier National Park

West Glacier – train station and visitor center, track side – this station was originally called Belton by Great Northern Railway when rail line was built in 1893. Station is now used by Amtrak

West Glacier

West Glacier going under the railroad

West Glacier

Apgar campground, Glacier National Park

Apgar campground, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald where I swim.

The ride up Going-To-The-Sun Road starts early in the morning before 6 am since the park rule says that bicycles are only permitted on this bit of road until 11 am. The climb is rather steep in spots and is substantial going from Lake McDonald at 962 metres (or Apgar Village at 966 metres) to Logan Pass at 2,026 metres – that's at least 3,450 feet of gain in elevation. The road winds and twists, there is often a serious drop-off on the right hand side where I'm riding, and the traffic is rather busy at times. I get to Logan Pass by 10 am, or in about 4 hours – an hour to the base of the climb and then a steady climb for 3 hours. Some other cyclists in our group take much longer almost topping 5 hours, but, we all make it! There's a good cyclist from Seattle, that I speak with, who rides up in 3 and a half hours on an unloaded bicycle. Wow!

Very shortly, in the morning shadows, after leaving Apgar campground, I momentarily see a small Bobcat walking across the road about 10 metres ahead. I slowly stop. The cat stops and looks at me. We both nod and go our separate ways. It is a Bobcat with a square drawn by long legs, body, and ground, and the Bobcat's big ears. It looks like this one [from a CBC news story ].

Going-To-The-Sun Road was started in 1921 and completed in 1932. The road is named after Going-to-the-Sun Mountain which one sees when going down the east side of Logan Pass.

McDonald Creek and Falls


Mt Oberlin, Mt Clements

Bird Woman Falls in upper left corner of last picture

Rosy Indian Paintbrush flower – the paintbrush flower is most often commonly orange, but variety in Logan Pass is bright pink

Haystack Falls

Weeping Wall has a continuous flow of water

Mt Canon

Clements Mountain

At Logan Pass, top of Going-To-The-Sun Road

From Logan Pass looking towards town of St Mary down Reynolds Creek with Going-To-The-Sun Mountain in background

Lunch Creek

Sunrift Gorge. Near here are Baring Falls, St Mary Falls, Virginia Falls on little hikes leaving from the same parking lot.

Sunrift Gorge

St Mary is just outside Glacier National Park on the east side of Logan Pass. I get to the camp spot at Johnsons Campground just as the pouring starts. I decide that it's time to wash my clothes in the laundromat. The rain stops by the time I want to put up my tent.

I notice that I've had a net gain of elevation today as St Mary Lake is about 1,500 feet higher than Lake McDonald where I was this morning.

Leave road and go down to edge of (upper) St Mary Lake (south) to take this picture of the lake and Curly Bear Mountain

St Mary River between the 2 St Mary Lakes

A few cyclists at Johnsons Campground, St Mary, MT

Lower St Mary Lake (north) early the next day

Cattle Baron Supper Club, Babb MT

Thronson's General Store, Babb MT

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

In 1932, the United States and Canada created the first international peace park by joining together Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks into the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. WGIPP is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Going through the Peace Park is Chief Mountain International Peace Parkway. This road is a peaceful ride with an almost unused border post.

Cattle guard when turn onto Chief Mountain International Peace Parkway

Chief Mountain

Belly River

Sofa Mountain

The trip is now in Canada in Waterton Lakes National Park that was founded in 1895 and named after Waterton Lake that was named after Victorian naturalist and conservationist Charles Waterton.

Looking towards Lower Waterton Lake – townsite is in fold in mountains in upper left of picture

Maskinonge Lake

Trail riders in Waterton Lakes National Park

Bicycle trail in Waterton Lakes National Park

The town of Waterton Park in the park is commonly called Waterton. It has a year round population of less than 200 people and less than 200 dwellings. Possibly, I see 10 times that many tourists there when I visit? It is busy with lots of cars and people.

My first diversion is taking the road to the Prince of Wales Hotel that's just after the information centre. Accommodation starts at only $249 per night. It is a National Historic Site of Canada. It is a very windy place. I can only walk my bicycle rather than ride.

At the western end of downtown is the RCMP Detachment Building. It is a Federal Heritage Building that has a rustic architectural style of the Tudor-Revival motif. The stone walls out front add to the building's picturesque appearance.

Lower Waterton Lake

Prince of Wales Hotel

Cameron Falls just beside the townsite of Waterton Lakes AB, near the campsite; some of our group walks here in the evening

RCMP, the police, Waterton Lakes AB

In Waterton the group camps at the Townsite Campground. It is infested with Columbian ground squirrels that are commonly, though incorrectly, called gophers. They are everywhere in the campground and quite friendly.

Pat's Waterton gas and service station

Vimy Peak is across Lower Waterton Lake from Waterton Lakes townsite

Townsite Campground, Waterton Lakes where the group camped. It is infested with ground squirrels or gophers.

Looking back at Waterton Lakes National Park. Near here, I stop at the Buffalo compound. I can see a few buffalo in the distance.

Crowsnest Pass – A Windy Place

Crowsnest Pass is noted for coal mining, rum running during prohibition era, and being very windy. The trip skirts the edge of the prairie to get to Crowsnest Pass. The day gets a bit hot. I stop, have a break, and eat under some trees in front of the community center in Pincher Creek, Alberta that's right beside the arena. I'm happy to see a pool here as I like to swim and do so often at home. So many small towns in Canada, by contrast, just have an arena.

As it is, I'm resting up to face a strong breeze in my face. Up to this point today's travel is mostly north and at a normal pace. The route turns west, into the wind, at Pincher Creek. The wind is strong enough today that I often pedal at 10 kph or less rather than the usual 20 to 25 kph on a loaded touring bicycle – 10 kph is rather slow and rather frustrating, eh?

Twin Butte Country General Store & Restaurant, Twin Butte AB. It's scheduled to open soon. It advertises live entertaining singers and groups.

There are lots of cattle here

… and a few horses. The grass is greener than usual as Alberta had much more rain than normal this year.

Downtown Pincher Creek AB that's somewhat dying due to a Walmart store on edge of town

Pincher Creek downtown on a Sunday – a wide street. City founders had big thoughts at one time

The pincers in Pincher Creek

Progress into the wind has a break when I stop at the historic sites of the Leitch Collieries and the Frank Slide.

Leitch Collieries historic site

The Frank Slide was in 1903. It killed about 70 people.

Oh! What a kind and informative sign, eh?

One of many fields of wind turbines

Municipality of Crowsnest Pass

Crowsnest Pass

Crowsnest Community Trail beside Crowsnest River

Blairmore downtown is strung out along 20th Avenue with railroad tracks on opposite side of street

The Blairmore Crow, near where we camped for the night

Coleman downtown: part of Coleman National Historic Site

I camp with the group in Blairmore. There's a stream beside campground with railroad tracks on the other side. There are freight trains all night, including an oil train. This is the main east-west railroad track, eh?

In the morning I see the Coleman National Historic Site by first taking a paved bicycle trail just near the campground and staying off the highway. The Coleman National Historic Site preserves a coal mining town with its rough edges, hard times, and boom and bust life. Coleman was named after the youngest daughter of the president of International Coal Ltd. Prominent on the other side of the railroad tracks are the coke ovens that burned brightly into the night at one time. Coleman is historically an important town with its Alberta Provincial Police barracks, the fire station, and Miner’s Union Hospital. The latter is now a drop-in centre for Coleman seniors.

Historic Coke Ovens in Coleman: part of Coleman National Historic Site

Miner’s Union Hospital: part of Coleman National Historic Site

West Coleman residential area: part of Coleman National Historic Site

Looking west from West Coleman (same location as last picture, camera is turned in opposite direction in the valley pointing west)

Sparwood was planned and built in 1966 to replace the faltering communities of Natal, Michel, and Middletown that were demolished. Coal mining and logging are the major industries in this town of almost five thousand residents. The 1985 Disney film The Journey of Natty Gann contains barn scenes from Sparwood.

The largest truck in the world, at one time, the Terex Titan 33-19, is in the middle of Sparwood to attract tourists to stop. This truck is typical of those used in large open pit coal mines. Now, would these tires fit on a mountain bike? Would they make all-terrain travel comfortable?

Sparwood: cenotaph in front of the public library

The Largest Truck In The World, the TITAN 33-19

Yesterday's winds were more of an annoyance than those today, but the sign reminds cyclists to be cautious, eh?

Elk River


The tour paused for the first rest day in Fernie, British Columbia. It's a pleasant place.

I spend most of the rest day working on my bicycle. One task is tightening all the bolts. Many are surprisingly a bit loose. Next, I decide that both tires are mounted on wheels in a way that may cause a bulge in future. I counteract this tendency by removing both tires from the wheels, moving tires to a different location on wheels, remounting tires on wheels, and taking extra care to avoid any bulges when filling the tires with air. The bicycle now rides much better on a test ride, but ... it sounds like the pedals are loose on their bearings so I take the bike to Gear Hub bicycle store to get this fixed. This is a good store with a wonderful mechanic who does re-grease one of the pedals, the one that was going "click" on each turn. On another short ride, the bicycle clicks a bit less, now, but are there still problems?

Historic Oil Derrick beside tourist information centre in Fernie BC

On the outskirts of Fernie BC

Raging Elk Hostel in Fernie BC

1st Avenue in Fernie BC where there are many restaurants and small stores

Fernie City Hall

Fancy bicycle racks outside Fernie City Hall

Fort Steele

Elk River

Store in Elko BC.

3 & 93 Dairy Bar is closed this morning

Kootenay River valley with a tanker train in it; likely an oil train?

Kootenay River

Wardner Fort Steel Road that is almost car free

Beside Wardner Fort Steel Road

Sprinklers for irrigation beside Wardner Fort Steel Road

Continuing along Wardner Fort Steel Road is peaceful

I turn off the highway less than 1 km to visit Peckham's Lake in Norbury Lake Provincial Park, and eat more food while sitting on the dock. The Lake is very calm and clear. I almost go swimming. 1 fellow cyclist did.

As I leave Norbury Lake Provincial Park, I start chatting with another, almost local, cyclist Stef who spends summers here with her young family. She's out on a short ride recovering from an accident. Our chatter makes the kilometres go by faster between Norbury Lake and Fort Steele. I recall my own problems of the past, and feel fortunate that, so far, I have none on this trip.

I make supper with Lisa. Our camp food – a casserole: instant magic potatoes that are garlic flavored, frozen vegetables – peaches and cream corn and tiny peas; tuna; cheese; spinach. It's well like by most, if not all, of the group.

Somehow, I also visit Fort Steele Heritage Town for almost 2 hours, first. It's less than a kilometre from the Fort Steele Resort and RV Park. These camp trips are busy at times, eh? Luckily, we purchased the food for supper yesterday in Fernie.

Fort Steele Heritage Town

Fort Steele Heritage Town is a genuine historic site that is currently run by the non-profit Friends of Fort Steele Society with the help of donations and volunteers. I enjoyed my visit of a couple of hours at Fort Steele and would love to go again and explore it further. I visit Fort Steele after setting up my tent in Fort Steele Resort and RV Park. Fort Steele Heritage Town is an amazing value at $12 admission.

Fort Steele is a historic settlement, the actual location of the pioneer settlement of Galbraith’s Ferry. It was renamed Fort Steele in 1888 after NWMP Superintendent Sam Steele (The NWMP was combined with the Dominion Police force to form RCMP in 1920). The town first blossomed with a gold rush in 1860s; later boomed again in 1890s with the discovery of local silver, lead, and coal; and soon declined when Cranbrook was chosen to get the trans-continental railroad, and government offices. Fort Steele was declared a historic park in 1961 that is managed by the non-profit Friends of Fort Steele Society since 1989.

Map of Fort Steele.

Peckham's Lake in Norbury Lake Provincial Park

Riverside Avenue in Fort Steele Heritage Town

View looking towards Riverside Avenue from the Bandstand Fort Steele Heritage Town

Selkirk Avenue in Fort Steele Heritage Town

Kootenay Highway

Bummers Flats

North Bummers Flats, a conservation property owned by the Nature Trust of British Columbia

Bummers Flats

Wasa Lake Diner

Wasa Country Pub and Grill, General Store

Wasa Country Pub and Grill, General Store

Wasa Lake Provincial Park is less than 1 km off the highway

Skookumchuk Service Centre

Skookumchuk Pulp Mill produces premium grade softwood pulp

Half-way between Skookumchuk and Canal Flats

Approaching town of Canal Flats with a bridge over Kootenay River

Canal Flats – in 1889 there was a canal built, The Bailey-Grohman Canal between Columbia Lake and Kootenay River across Canal Flats

A small park in Canal Flats beside the arena

Industry in Canal Flats

Columbia Lake – the source of the Columbia River

Columbia Lake

Radium and Fairmont Hot Springs

Camping for tonight is in Spruce Grove Campground, just down the hill from Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. I help get food at Fairmont Mountainside Market. The store has an amazing number of choices. It's easy to carry the food as the route from store to campsite is all down hill.

A few fellow campers try out the hot-springs in Fairmont Hot Springs Resort while others try the mini-hot spring in a creek close to the campsite. Almost all will patronize Radium Hot Springs tomorrow. It has cheaper rates and is larger. The day and evening are quite hot. I cool off with a plunge into the Columbia River that's just beside the campsite and, again, sit on the washroom floor to get power to run my netbook computer. Once night falls, the temperature also falls quickly. I wear a sweater when returning from the washroom floor to my tent.

Luckily, there are no mudslides at Fairmont Hot Springs today like the one 4 years ago.

Dutch Creek Hoodoos are just before Fairmont Hot Springs on the road.

Dutch Creek that's just beside the Dutch Creek Hoodoos

Approaching Fairmont Hot Spring that are on the right at the point that the highway climbs into the mountains in the distance in this picture

Mini-hot spring right beside Spruce Grove Resort where we camped. At this point a hot creek dumps into the Columbia River.

Fairmont Mountainside Market

Fairmont mall

The route leaves the highway between Fairmont Hot Springs and Invermere. Instead, I ride Westside Road. It is much quieter than the highway as there are no transport trucks and commercial vehicles, just a few cars. This is the last peaceful road on this trip. All other roads are through roads used by many tourists and trucks.

There are signs along Westside Road for the proposed Westside Legacy Trail that is planned to run parallel to the road. The Westside Road is recommended for cycling by locals – on their webpage for Cycling in the Windermere Valley. Some residents of Invermere do a loop regularly, taking the highway in one direction and Westside Road on the return trip. Others mountain bike. It's popular here.

Westside Road

Westside Road: there are lots of birds and hawks and other natural sounds near this pond. I see at least 2 hawks soaring

Westside Road is a hot spot for local cyclists. A popular ride is to loop Windermere Lake by using the Kootenay Highway on the east side and Westside Road on the west though these mountain bikers turned off on a single-track trail

Westside Road: Looking towards town of Windermere across Lake Windermere

I spend quite a bit of time in Invermere at the north end of West Side Road. It's an interesting resort with lots of tourist shops on the main street, 7th Avenue, including a bicycle store Bicycle Works that's almost across the street from Valley Foods where the group picks up some food. I get a bit for myself in this well stocked store: a black plum, some milk, and a banana popsicle. I also get my tires pumped with the floor pump in Bicycle Works.

Invermere has many tourist facilities including a huge beach and watersports on Windermere Lake. One access point is James Chabot Provincial Park at the north end of Windermere Lake that's close to our route. Others use marinas like Pete's Marina that we pass just before the big, steep hill along Athalmer Road when leaving Invermere.

The route out of Invermere is up a steep hill on Athalmer Road. I walk up this hill on a narrow trail beside the road, behind cement barriers. It's awkward just walking a loaded bicycle up this trail. As for riding? Some people in our group try sharing the road with the heavy traffic. I want to fully appreciate the scenery so go slower. There are good views of both Windermere Lake and Invermere. I take some pictures. I also chat with another almost local who is trying to ride down this hill on the narrow trail. He really lives and works in Calgary, but has a house here, too! What a great way to live, eh? I talk to many others who have summer places here, both near and on Windermere Lake. Invermere is a resort with amazingly normal prices for food in the grocery store unlike many other resorts that we visit where prices are often +50%.

Bicycle Works with some of our groups steeds featured, in Invermere

7th Street - Invermere downtown

Rusty the Moose in Invermere

Looking out a Windermere Lake from Pete's Marina in Invermere

The route continues along the Columbia River and wetlands. There are lots of billboards on the highway just outside Invermere. Many tell us how to purchase real estate in this growing tourist area.

The Columbia Wetlands are 180 km long between Canal Flats and Donald Station. These wetlands are the longest continuous undeveloped wetlands in North America. The Columbia Wetlands are over 20,000 hectares in size (77+ square miles).

Lots of billboards on the highway to Radium Hot Springs just outside Invermere

Columbia Wetlands

Columbia Wetlands

Legend's Field in Radium Hot Springs town-site is one block from the highway with baseball diamond, children's' play area, and exercise equipment

Most people in our group do try out the heat in Radium Hot Springs pool that just up the road from The Canyon RV Resort where we leave our tents and gear. The important word here is “up” as there is a huge hill with a steep grade. The pools are definitely worth it. There's a hot pool and one with water at regular temperature for a swimming pool. People sit around in the hot one, and some actually swim a bit in the swimming pool with water at regular temperature. I get in the spirit, dive into the hot pool and use the slide in the swimming pool. Before returning to camping, I get an ice cream bar at the gas station at the corner if highways 93 & 95.

Now, Radium Hot Springs is named after the element radium since it is present. So far I'm surviving my exposure in the hot springs pools. According to Wikipedia, my exposure is inconsequencial: “The radiation dosage from bathing in the pools is inconsequential; approximately 0.13 millirem from the water for a half-hour bathing.” Hmm, I think I stayed an hour?

Radium Hot Springs: entrance to the pools

Radium Hot Springs – the natural hot-springs water from this stream first goes into this hot pool; then is recycled to a pool with normal swimming pool temperatures.

Kootenay National Park

Sinclair Pass, the first challenge in Kootenay National Park, lacks a pass sign. Just over the pass is Olive Lake where there was a campground in 1920s to 1960s. It was closed in 1970 due to environmental degradation caused by over use. The trip through Kootenay National Park is better understood by looking at park map and downloading PDF of the map.

The group stays at Vermilion Crossing in the rustic cabins of Kootenay Park Lodge due to the lack of other available accommodation. The temperature drops from a hot day to near freezing during the night.

Olive Lake

Olive Lake

another great view

Canoeists starting a 3-day trip down the Kootenay River

Kootenay River

Kootenay River

The trip descends Sinclair Pass and first follows the Kootenay River through Kootenay National Park on the Kootenay Highway. The highway has high fences and underpasses for the animals to use. I do see some deer on the other side of the fence on the other side of the road. They are quite wild and run off when they see me coming.

Construction of Kootenay Highway began in 1911, and was completed in the 1920s after World War 1 when the provincial government gave the federal government 5 miles on each side for a national park. The original road had steeper grades than today, but the Model-T's were up to conquering them.

There's a need to clarify when the trip leaves the Kootenay River and starts to follow the Vermilion River. In Wikipedia: “The [Kootenay] river becomes significantly enlarged as it reaches the confluence with the Vermilion River, which is actually the larger of the two where they meet near the settlement of Kootenay Crossing.” Consultation of a map indicates that the Vermilion and Kootenay Rivers join SE of Kootenay Crossing. When traveling NW, as in the current trip, from this point where the Rivers merge, highway #93 follows the Kootenay River up to Kootenay Crossing. After Kootenay Crossing, there is no river beside highway #93 for a bit up to the point where Vermilion River is beside highway #93.

The following picture is at the point where I started to see a river beside the road again after Kootenay Crossing so I conclude this is the Vermilion River which, as Wikipedia tells us, still has quite a bit of volume.

One interesting stop along this part is the remains of the Simpson River Fire in 2001. This fire was allowed to burn as fire is part of the natural regeneration of a forest. It looks green today, 15 years later though tall burnt trunks of former trees are featured.

Vermilion River north of Kootenay Crossing

Vermilion River

Vermilion River

Having a conference with cyclists from England at point where see views in last 2 pictures when walk 10 metres towards Vermilion River. The flood plain indicates that this river is huge when in flood

Simpson River fire, 2001

Vermilion River at Vermilion Crossing, across the road from Kootenay Park Lodge

Numa Falls are just at the side of the Kootenay Highway a bit up river from Vermilion Crossing. The trail along Numa Creek is closed since the bridge is out so I can only get a view of Numa Falls from the side rather than straight on from the bridge

Vermilion River at Vermilion Crossing just beside Kootenay Park Lodge. I took this one on a short walk after watching a big thunderstorm with heavy rain, from inside a cabin

Numa Falls

Numa Falls

Vermilion River

Marble Canyon is another good excuse to take a break from cycling. It surrounds Tokumm Creek just before it tumbles into the Vermilion River. Marble Canyon is the site of a significant new find of fossils in 2014 - Cambrian Lagerstatte.

Vermilion River

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon

Marble Canyon: I walk all the way up the canyon and this is at the top

There's a false summit of Vermilion Pass since the Kootenay Highway gets to the sign for the pass, and, then, continues upwards for quite a few kilometres rising another few hundred metres.

I take a picture at the Vista Lake Lookout that's just after the true Vermilion Pass, and am tempted to walk down to the Lake. By this time, the temperature is warm enough, in contrast to the freezing temperatures of last night, that I descend from Vermilion Pass without wearing a jacket or any other extra clothes. The Kootenay Highway becomes the Banff Windermere Parkway at Vermilion Pass as it is now in Banff National Park.

Top of Vermilion Pass

Just after Vermilion Pass, in Banff National Park is Vista Lake. There is a trail down to it

Banff National Park and Lake Louise

Castle Junction is at the t-junction of Banff Windermere Parkway with the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park. Work began here in 1910 for an auto route across the great divide but was only completed in 1920 after World War 1. There are picnic tables at the small store and gas station. The temperature is warm in the sunshine. It's definitely a good place for an extended rest, eh? All of the group agrees?

Banff National Park was established in 1885 and is Canada's oldest national park. Winter tourism started in 1917 with the first Banff Winter Carnival. The prisoners of the internment camps in World War I helped improve the roads and facilities. This ride passes the site of the former Castle Mountain Internment Camp. Thousands of immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were interned there as enemy aliens in World War 1.

Bridge over the Bow River just before Castle Junction and the left turn onto Bow Valley Parkway at the t-junction

Castle Cliffs to the east of the Bow Valley Parkway

Memorial for Castle Mountain Internment Camp in World War 1

Storm Mountain, Vermilion Pass, and Mount Whymper (from left to right)

At one point along Bow Valley Parkway, I can see the Bow River and the railroad rather than lots of trees in a forest. I stop and take picture. Then I see a long train in the distance. I take pictures of both the beginning and ending of this long freight train.

Freight train approaching at lookout point on Bow Valley Parkway of Bow River

Last cars of same train

A continuous view of this bend in the Bow River

The tour camps at Lake Louise Campground in the townsite for 2 nights. There is rain off and on late in the first afternoon and evening. It is heavy enough at times that I need to wear a rain coat and cold enough that I need to wear a sweater. The cold is put to bed by having a fire in the campsite's fire pit.

The next morning, on the rest day, I bicycle 35 km on a trip to see both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. It is a rather strenuous trip with lots of bicycling up “walls.” The road has improved since the last time I cycled this route: there are fewer potholes and there is smoother pavement. This is a Saturday so there are many tourists. The tourists' cars quickly fill the parking lots and the edges of the roads 2 to 4 km from the Lakes. I am glad to be riding a bicycle as I can ride right up to the Lakes and take these pictures. This ride takes about 4 hours. About a third of it is as challenging as Going To The Sun Road.

How I stalk Lake Louise to avoid the crowds:

Chateau Lake Louise was first built at the turn of the century. The oldest existing wing was built in 1913. The railroad originally promoted Chateau Lake Louise as a vacation destination and great spot for honeymooners. Current rates start at about $600 per night.

I start writing today's diary in the laundry room in mid-afternoon in one of buildings at the Lake Louise Inn where Cindy is also washing her clothes. We have a pleasant chat. After this I scramble to get to Lake Louise Hostel on time to “eat out” with our group. The food is great and reasonably priced for a tourist town. I recommend it.

There is a good bicycle store in Lake Louise, Wilson Mountain Sports that is conveniently located in the Samson Mall. I use their air gun to put air in my bicycle's tires.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake - Valley of the 10 Peaks

A view when returning on the road from Moraine Lake: looking at Protection Mountain in the distance across the Bow River

Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise

Paradise Bungalows a bit further from Lake Louise than the Chateau

Ski trails of Lake Louise Ski Resort across the valley as seen when descending into Bow River Valley from seeing Lake Louise

Bow River near the campground – a Spotted Sandpiper in the picture

Icefields Parkway

The trip leaves Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway, headed north to Jasper. There's one road, as shown on this map and lots of glaciers and mountain peaks as these pictures show.

Portal Peak across Bow Lake

Mount Thompson across Bow Lake

Crowfoot Glacier and Mount Thompson

Bow Glacier

I make a special side trip to see Peyto Lake. As it is, I bicycle in to the lower parking lot and hike a trail for 15 minutes going up and up and up. The walk is well worth it as the picture shows.

Peyto Lake

I stop at Silverhorn Creek Campground for a short break from listening to traffic. Silverhorn is a great looking creek, too, eh?

Mount Patterson (this is at the right side of Peyto Lake in the last picture)

Silverhorn Creek

Waterfowl Lake

Mistaya Canyon

Saskatchewan Crossing, North Saskatchewan River

Saskatchewan Crossing, North Saskatchewan River

The campsite this evening is in Rampart Creek Campground. There is a great picnic shelter where previous campers left some wood to dry. We have a fire in the wood stove in group camp shelter. It keeps us warm. There is a big rain storm at night with continuous heavy rain for hours and some thunder and gusty winds. There's another fire in the group picnic shelter in the morning to get us all warm to start the day. Actually, I stay to get the fire going in the morning as some group members are feeling a bit ill and need the fire to keep warm. They catch up later, some with the help of rides in vehicles.

North Saskatchewan River at Rampart Creek Campground. This water is glacial fed and very cold

Nigel Falls at side of highway and almost under it. Nigel Falls is only seen when one stops and walks along a highway bridge to get this amazing view as I did

Jasper National Park

The climb up to Sunwapta Pass is about as difficult as Going-To-The-Sun Road, but half as long. Sunwapta Pass is a boundary of Jasper National Park, Canada's largest park in the Canadian Rockies. Sunwapta Pass is also another great divide, the boundary of the Arctic watershed. From this point, all water flows to the Arctic Ocean.

There's basically one road to follow from this point when going north in Jasper Park, the Icefields Parkway, as shown on the Park mapmap PDF.

Shortly after Sunwapta Pass is the Athabasca Glacier. It is the most visited glacier in North America. Across the road is the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre that is packed with tourists.

I see another bicycle touring company assembling their group near me, across the road from Icefield Discovery Centre in a small dirt parking lot. It looks like they, too, want to avoid the crowds. They are obviously van assisted tour as their bicycles are missing panniers. After Athabasca Glacier, the road follows Sunwapta River to Sunwapta Falls. Soon after, the Sunwapta River joins the Athabasca River.

Sunwapta Pass

Athabasca Glacier with Sunwapta Lake at it's toe

Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre

Sunwapta River

Sunwapta River

Tangle Creek and Falls

Beauty Creek Hostel is one of several hostels in Banff and Jasper National Parks. This one has no modern amenities. It's truly a place to get away from it all! I, and several other cyclists, stop for a break and try out the hostel's wooden chairs at the edge of the Sunwapta River. Maybe I should stay here on my next trip?

Sunwapta River

Sunwapta River

Sunwapta River from Beauty Creek Hostel

Poboktan Creek beside a picnic area where I stop for a break.

I swim a bit in Honeymoon Lake, near today's campsite, before supper. A small green fish taps my feet when I first just stand in water; word gets around and many of these fish converge on my feet. There's no damage to me and they really like it. I break their spell when I swim a bit. The swim is great, cool and invigorating after a hot day.

The campground is rather crowded. It's a rather rustic place with outhouses and a water source of a large water tank at one side of the campground. It's rumored that one RV camps out in the parking lot without a real campsite after the driver tells the Park Ranger that he is drunk and cannot drive. I'm told the Ranger is none too happy about all this... Our group has 1 campsite and shares another with Pia and David, our road-friends from Holland. They bicycle lots at home but have a rental RV on this trip. They are somewhat envious of us on our bicycles?

Sunwapta Station on Poboktan Creek this is a historic Ranger Station from before the highway. It is made from local wooden logs.

Sunwapta River

Sunwapta Falls

Honeymoon Lake beside Campground

Athabasca River

Mountain goats

Mount Kerkeslin

Athabasca River, Mount Christy

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

Mount Edith Cavell

Buffalo Berries are a favorite food of bears (bear food!)

On the last day of bicycling, I hike Valley of 5 Lakes hiking trail with 2 other cyclists – Lisa and Bill. It is about a 10 km hike and is only about 5 km from where we pitch our tents this evening at Whistler Campground. We see the fifth lake 1st, and by going this counter-clockwise direction on this trail, see the Lakes on the first half of our loop; whereas, on the second half, the Lakes are all hidden by a hill. The Five Lakes look even better than these pictures show.

Valley of 5 Lakes hiking trail

Valley of 5 Lakes hiking trail

Valley of 5 Lakes hiking trail

Valley of 5 Lakes hiking trail

Mt Tekarra, Athabasca River


Our group stays one night in Whistler Campground that's 5 km south of Jasper townsite. The group “eats out” in a restaurant in Jasper. On the way back to the tent I find a bicycle and pedestrian path under the railroad tracks. It was built in 2010 since my last visit.

Jasper Community Garden

2010 path under railroad tracks in Jasper

Columbian Ground Squirrel in Whistler Campground

View from hill near Whistler Campground in Jasper after our group is gone

One plan in Jasper is to preserve older buildings such as Robson House, Jasper Train Station, the Post Office, and the Jasper Information Centre that was originally the park's administrative building and completed in 1914.

The Robson House, built in 1920s, is representative of Alfred Calderon's residential architecture, and is now the home of Jasper Chamber of Commerce

Totem Pole by Jasper Train Station: this is a new pole that replaces the one that lasted 94 years and was removed in 2009

Jasper Information Centre, built from local building materials in 1914

Jasper Train Station

At the end of my last day in Jasper, I stay in The Downtown Hostel so I can catch the 7 am bus. As it is, the Sun Dog Tours bus picks me up in the morning at the hostel! I take a picture of it while waiting for the bus in the early morning. There's a great coffee shop just across the street – TAGS Jasper. I have a coffee there while waiting for the bus.

Connaught Drive in Jasper is beside the railway. There are lots of small stores, tourist traps, and restaurants

Jasper Post Office

Residential street (Patricia St.) in Jasper: notice all the fences; almost every lot has a fence beside the sidewalk

The Downtown Hostel

Whistlers Mountain

It's such a nice day when I leave Whistlers Campground where we all stayed on the last night of the Great Parks North Tour organized by Adventure Cycling. At first, I head a few hundred metres towards Jasper town site, then I stop and pause and think of what I really wanted to do today. Hmm, I just passed signs for the Jasper Sky Tram and it is a bright and sunny day with very few low clouds. A great day for pictures, eh? I decide to go up Jasper Sky Tram. To get there, I go up this steep hilly road with my loaded touring bicycle. I recommend leaving one's gear at the bottom as this is a dead end road, but, I persist. At the top of the Jasper Sky Tram I hike to the top Whistlers Mountain.

The trip to see Jasper Sky Tram is well worth it as these pictures show.

A view of Jasper town site from the waiting area for Jasper Sky Tram

The summit rocks of Whistlers Mountain

View from summit of Whistlers Mountain

View from summit of Whistlers Mountain

View from summit of Whistlers Mountain

View of Jasper town site in Bow Valley from summit of Whistlers Mountain