Canada Day 19: Riding Golden to Lake Louise and Castle Mountain
Today was the last day of climbing in the Rockies, I started nice and early and slowly worked through the first few hills. It was hard work, but the overcast and shade from the mountains kept me cool as I progressed up the giant hill. There was a reasonable amount of traffic, but there was some construction in some areas, which kept the cars back while I pedaled along.
The hostel owner in Golden told me about a shortcut to Lake Louise, which took me along the old Highway 1 (via the turnoff at Lake O’Hara Road) and saved me from climbing a further 250m uphill. The surroundings at Lake Louise were extraordinary and the bright blue colour comes from the rock flour that melts from the glacier and floats in the water. I sat by the shore and watched the paddlers on the lake, while I ate my lunch, some salad wraps and orange slices. It was mostly selfie-central along the lake, but there were lots of hikes to different viewing points, which I would have liked, except for my legs were wrecked and I couldn’t take my loaded bike with me.
I rode back down the hill to the nearby town and while I was eating some snacks, I met two cyclists, Kristy the triathlete and her father, who rode up from Canmore, roughly 90km away. She’s from Calgary and we exchanged details to meet up later, so I was pretty happy about that. Unfortunately the hostel at Lake Louise was fully booked (and the rest of the places were expensive resort style lodges), so I cycled a further 30km to Castle Mountain. It ended up being a pleasant ride, along the Bow Valley Parkway, where the speed is limited to 50km/hr to keep the wildlife safe. It wasn’t until the very end that I realised that Castle Mountain actually looks like an epic castle. The hostel was really nice, the manager rode ahead of me and when I arrived, he let me take a shower before checking in. Luckily the other guests were all hikers and early birds, so they all went to bed early and I was fast asleep by 9pm.
Canada Day 20: Riding Castle Mountain to Banff
Today’s ride was super short and easy, since it was almost entirely downhill and free from busy highways. Before reaching Banff, I rode past Vermilion Lakes and stopped briefly to take photos, before the mosquitoes could get to me.
My hostel didn’t allow check in until 3pm, so I dropped off my bags and headed into town to enjoy a jumbo coffee and visit some of the attractions. The Whyte Museum had an interesting collection of Banff artefacts, ranging from traditional artwork, famous mountain climbers and development of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Banff is primarily driven by tourism and it’s reflected in the prices for accommodation and food, so I ended up cooking most of my meals and getting my snacks from the grocery store. On the bright side, they had an amazing flavour of Cadbury chocolate which had cashews and coconut, as well as Kinder Surprise chocolate too.
After dinner I went for a sunset walk to the Bow Falls, roughly 1.5km from the hostel. It’s normally bright blue in the warmer seasons, and the strong breeze kept the mosquitoes from getting too close.
Canada Day 21: Rainy day in Banff
The stormy weather wasn’t ideal for my sightseeing plans, however it provided relief for the forest fires in British Columbia (the neighbouring province). I went to the movies instead and watched a collection of documentaries and short films from the Banff Film and Book Festival World Tour. It was fascinating and nerve wracking, as adventures unfolded through deserts, mountains, oceans and more. It was inspiring to see people push the limits of exploration and the insane level of fitness and dedication needed to climb, ski, cycle and sail in such terrifying places.
As I returned to the hostel, the thunderstorms rolled in and it hailed for a while, I made it inside in time, but had to leave my bike chained up in the rain. There wasn’t really much to do inside, so I mostly caught up on Netflix, my blog and sorting out my accommodation for the next few week or two.
Canada Day 22: Exploring Banff, Natural History Museum, Cave and Basin Historical Site and Safari Tour
The weather still didn’t improve, so I went to explore the museums, which had free admission for Canada’s 150th birthday. I made a friend at the hostel, Justin who is from the UK but currently living in Vancouver, and we went together to enjoy the indoor activities of Banff. The Natural History Museum was quite interesting, it had over 5,000 taxidermy animals on display and it was fascinating to see the array of animals found all over Canada.
The Cave and Basin Historical Site had an exhibit for the history of national parks, since Banff was the first national park in Canada, and the third in the world. They also had a lot of information about the hot sulfur spring and the Banff Springs Snail, which is endangered but happens to live in the area. Afterwards we headed to the Cascade Gardens to sit under the gazebo and eat some caramel popcorn we bought earlier in the day. Even though it was a grey and cold day, I really enjoyed hanging out with someone who shared my sense of humour.
In the evening I went on a safari tour, in the hopes of seeing some animals around Banff, although we weren’t too lucky, as we could only spot a creepy big horned sheep and some elk. The elusive bear was nowhere to be seen, but we did visit some nice spots like the Banff lookout and some nice lakes in the area. Our tour guide really knew her stuff, so I’m glad a learned some cool facts about the animals and Banff.
Canada Day 23: Tunnel Mountain and Riding Banff to Canmore
On my last day in Banff, the rain cleared up (but the smoke stuck around), so I headed up to Tunnel Mountain with Justin from the hostel. Interestingly, the tunnel got its name because some engineers mistakenly thought they could build a tunnel through the mountain for the railway, but it ended up being built north of the mountain instead. Although an American tourist thought it was absurd and should be renamed “Mis-Tunnel Mountain”. The hike was short, but more tiring than I expected, probably because the elevation started at 1400m, which is way higher than any hiking I would do back at home.
After the hike, I hopped on my bike and rode for an hour to reach Canmore, which is a much quieter town, with a nicer hostel. The YWCA Hostel in Banff used to be a hospital, so it had a bit of cold feel to it, while the Bear Hostel in Canmore was really chilled out and social, so I met more travellers and could relax a lot more.
I headed to the supermarket to get something for dinner and found lychees in the Asian section. They’re basically a squishy fruit that looks and feels pretty gross, but it’s something that I’ve been craving for months. I chilled it in the freezer and ended up eating the whole tin and drinking the syrup too. All up it was a truly satisfying experience and I wish I had bought some extra cans.