Canadian Rockies Tour – Part 1

June 3, 2022 – June 16, 2022 Eureka, MT to The Icefields Parkway, Canada

264.2 Miles / 425.19 Km Elevation Gain 13,444 Feet / 4,111.14 Meters

It felt amazing to be heading off on a new adventure. Plans had been made for us to cycle The Continental Divide back in 2020. Covid-19 brought those plans to an abrupt halt. We focused instead on making our little red house that we purchased in August of 2019 into a cozier home.

This region of Canada is a revisit for us. On September 1, 2016 through September 11, 2016 we traveled this area from Jasper, Alberta to the US Border north of Eureka, MT. We were southbound back then. We decided to revisit the area by cycling south to north this time, making Jasper, Alberta our northern most destination. Our original plans were to begin the The Continental Divide Trail from Jasper and head back to the US, making this a 2-3 month long trip. The ride in 2022 for us would begin and end in Eureka, Montana.

We broke the route into segments. Our first segment would take us from Eureka, Montana to Radium Hot Springs, Canada and then on to Lake Louise where the Icefields Parkway started.

British Columbia has Recreation Sites which offer free camp sites, most of them at least. We hopscotched our way from Eureka stopping at Edwards Lake Rec Site, Kikomun Creek Rec Site, Horseshoe Lake Rec Site, Johnson Lake Rec Site, Findlay Falls Rec Site before rolling into Radium Hot Springs.

There were so many birds along the way.

The camping was no charge at the Rec Sites, most had Out Houses (BYO TP), fire rings and water sources. Most water sources were rivers and streams. Water is a huge factor for us when we camp and we filter water with an MSR Filter. Some water sources are more memorable than others. This one particular water re-supply stands out for us. Findlay Falls was a hike to get to and then Curtis has to be an acrobat to reach the fast moving water. Cold and crystal clear, this was incredible tasting water!!

My oh my how Radium Hot Springs has grown since our ride through there in 2016. It was a town, now a bustling city that we had wanted to revisit. We took a stroll down memory lane and ate at a local German Restaurant. It was definitely as good as we remembers. The new chaos of the city was not what we expected but we took an extra day off here and stocked up with groceries for the road.

Our departure day from Radium Hot Springs was on June 13, 2022. The day greeted us with pouring down rain and it was cold! We had our first real pass to conquer, Sinclair Pass. This time we would not take hypothermia and the rain for granted. In 2016 it was pouring down rain with temperatures near freezing as we approached this pass from the north. This time, we approach from the south but again it was cold and rainy. We geared up with as few clothes as possible to climb the pass. We planned to hit the pass, strip off the wet clothes, put on dry clothes and rain coats for the fast, long 6+mile drop. Our campground was just past the end of the downhill. We did have one other main concern this time, the pass summit had had a lot of grizzly bear activity. Slow, cold cyclists = meals on wheels. Luckily we did not see any grizzly bears only bear shit on the road and WOW do they leave a mound!

McLeod Meadows Campground ended up being home for us for 2 nights. We did so because of the hard cold rain and we opted to hunker down and stay put. We had a cook shelter complete with a wood stove, real toilets and a place to fully dry out our gear. We tent camped the first night but moved into the cook shelter for the 2nd night. The park host/ranger came by and said it was ok to sleep in the shelter since there was almost no one else in the park. Most that were there were in RVs. We literally hung the tent from the rafters and strung lines to hang wet clothes. We kept the wood stove going at all times and drank an enormous amount of hot beverages. Hot chocolate sounded good but we didn’t have any so the next best thing was we started cutting fudge into cubes and putting them into our mugs. It was actually pretty good!

We departed McCleod on June 15, 2022 and continued our way toward Lake Louise. We saw our first black bear as we cycled. Sites along the way were beautiful. We saw a lot of wildlife. It’s amazing how familiar the entire ride was. Memories from 2016 flooded back in.

One place we were both really looking forward to revisiting was Storm Mountain Lodge Restaurant. We took the time again this year and stopped for supper, enjoying incredible Bison-Elk Burgers along with a bowl of steaming hot Pumpkin Soup. OMG! Incredible!!

Before we left Storm Mountain Lodge the manager that had left to go home for the day called back to have the staff warn us of a “Huge Grandpa Grizzly” literally on the road that we would soon be on. We opted to hang out at the restaurant for a few extra minutes and then we cautiously headed out. The idea of running into one of the big grizzlies, yea not very high on our wish list. It was downhill from Storm Mountain Lodge. We were flashed over to the side by an oncoming motorcycle. It turned out to be a man that we met back in Radium Hot Springs. We chatted with him on the side of the road for about 10 minutes, giving the grizzly bear time to move along. And it had, by the time we passed it was lumbering into the trees in the distance.

We had planned to stealth camp but quickly changed our mind with such a known big bear in the area. HI Castle Mountain Wilderness Hostel welcomed us with open arms. We were warm and dry and enjoyed the evening chatting with the other guests, including another cyclist, Ron. He rode with his cat Patrick. Never did see Patrick but that’s ok.

June 16, 2022 was an amazing day. Castle Mountain loomed beside us as we cycled down The Bow Valley Parkway. We met so many cyclists from so many different region. It was incredible.

We stopped for lunch in Lake Louise. The Magpies were very friendly. We bought a few groceries for the road and continued on our way.

Next stop is ….

The Icefields Parkway

Keweenaw Peninsula Fall Tour 2021

Sept. 16, 2021 – Sept. 29. 2021

Our Salsa Fargo Bikes ready to roll.

I guess you could say that bicycle touring is in our blood. Yea, I have to admit that the call of the open roads and secluded byways call to us. After all, we did live on our bikes for just shy of 3 years. But our goals in touring have changed. Neither of us want to live on the road month after month, year after year. We settled into more of and “event” type touring. It’s good to be able to roll out the side door and head into the woods.

This is the 3rd tour up onto the Keweenaw and we never tire of it. We take the days slow and meander our way east north east from our little red home. The ride never gets old, we have found favorite camping spots along the way to Copper Harbor, MI and then we head on up to the far tip. This year we went to the Missile Range and wow. The touring for us isn’t just about the cycling, it’s about the experience, the camping, the laughter and the sites along the way.

Day 1 – Sept. 16, 2021: We loaded up our Salsa Fargos and hit the road. Today we are attempting to make it to Misery Bay via logging roads. It was quite the adventure and we found success in the roads / trails that we were pretty sure were there. We set up camp in a grove of trees out of site of the roadway. We passed active logging operations. I’m pretty sure the men thought we were crazy but that’s ok, we are use to is.

Day 2 – Sept 17, 2021: We departed the Misery Bay area and checked out the boat ramp for future rides and additional camp possibilities. We climbed away from Lake Superior and stopped near the top for a quick snack. We traversed gravel roads today as well as 4 lane roadways. We ended our day on a bike path and found a lovely campsite at Cole Creek. We crossed the small stream and set up camp.

Day 3 – Sept 18, 2021: Gratiot River, one of our all time favorite camping spots is in our sites for tonight. We packed up at Cole Creek and headed out. There is a steep drop off of the bike trail into Houghton. Then it was along the Portage Canal and across the lift bridge entering into Hancock, MI. We found out trail out of town and set our sites on Calumet. Most of our ride today was on trails and we loved it! This route today is one of our favorites and we keep coming back to it time and time again. We have an amazing campsite along the Gratiot River and it was there waiting for us, including the stash of maple wood that we had left last year!!

Day 4 – Sept. 19, 2021: We slept late and took our time as today is going to be a very short day. We took the road to a logging road and cut in. We took this route over the hill back toward Lake Superior. It’s an incredible off road, through the weeds route. We made our way to Silver Falls and tucked back into the power line clearing. We could have gone further today but we decided to take it easy. So needless to say this afternoon was a time of watching clouds. yea, watching clouds, the shapes and colors drifting by in a sea of blue. Butterflies danced among the wildflowers, birds sang their many different tunes. It’s days like today that make life feel good.

Day 5 – Sept. 20, 2021: The ride from Silver Falls to Copper Harbor was very fast. We got into town and secured a hotel room for tonight. Curtis got a very sad phone call, Covid19 took the life of his older brother Greg. This wretched virus has touched so many families.

Day 6 – Sept. 21, 2021: Copper Harbor is a cool little tourist village. We picked up breakfast from our favorite coffee shop and then headed into the logging roads. We decided to check out the Missile Range. It is probably the most beautiful camping area we have ever done and that says a lot. It’s an uphill ride on rough dirt roads. There is a number of water crossings and we had a blast. There are campsites along the water and we found a beautiful one, complete with fire ring.

Day 7 – Sept. 22, 2021: It’s so incredible here that we are spending another day. So today we walked the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. We build a Cairn in honor of Curtis’ brother Greg and my sister, Juli-Ann. Greg died a few days ago, we lost Juli to lung cancer in April. Today was a day to just be and that is a very good thing sometimes. We built a fire tonight and watched as the sun dipped low and the stars came out so bright. Sleeping to the sound of the waves on the rocks was magical. Yea, days like today are why we tour.

Cairn we built for Greg & Juli-Ann

Day 8 – Sept. 23, 2021: We are heading out today on unknown roads. We hope to make it to the Lower Montreal Falls but it doesn’t look like much of a road to get there. The initial road was dirt and we headed toward Fish Cove. We ended up filtering water here and passed on camping since there was literally nothing flat to pitch. We backtracked from Fish Cove to a over grown trail. This got quite dodgey and we ended up on single track along Lake Superior. Finally making it to the Montreal River, our big question of the day was “Do we cross the river here above the lower Montreal Falls or do we camp on this side of the falls and cross in the morning? Well, we decided to cross. The water wasn’t too deep and we ended up making a number of trips across the slippery rocks to get our gear from one side to the other. One woman was filming us and she stated to us later that she was sure we were going to get swept away. Not likely but she thought so. Anyway, we made it across and found a spot to camp. Today was tough and from what we are hearing from the hikers that come in from the way we will be leaving tomorrow, we are in for a push to get back to pavement. It’s all good.

Sunset at the Lower Montreal Falls

Day 9, Sept. 24, 2021: Coffee first and then it’s push time. Yea, the folks yesterday were not kidding! The trail was quite narrow and at time ran right along the lake. It was tough, a lot of log crossings and hoisting of the bikes but we made it. The hill getting away from the lake …BRUTAL at 20% grade!! We ate lunch at Lac LaBelle and then continued on to Gay, MI where we opted for supper at the bar. We camped at a local campground where we could finally shower. Tonight the rains started.

Day 10, Sept. 25, 2021: Gray skies and drizzle, the temperature was also dropping. It’s going to be a chilly wet ride today. The rain even coming in will last about 2 days so we decided to head back across the peninsula to Gratiot River. It rained, then it hailed on us. We stopped in Mohawk, MI for lunch at Slim’s Cafe and wow was that good! After a hearty lunch we braved the cold and wet and headed to our camp spot at Gratiot River. We put up the tarp and tent. We were soaked and cold but having a tried and true dependable site made it all worthwhile. Before long Curtis made up hot soup and we snuggled into a warm sleeping bag. The sounds of the river lulled us both to sleep.

Day 11, Sept 26, 2021: It’s still cold and rainy so we are staying put. There were a few times throughout the day that the rains stopped so we did some Gratiot River area exploring. We continued to dry our clothes on a line and enjoyed the river.

Day 12, Sept. 27, 2021: Goodbye Gratiot River, until next year! The rains were passed and we crossed back to the other side of the peninsula, cycling through Dollar Bay. It was a fast uneventful ride. We booked a room in Chassell, MI. Nothing that great, pretty run down actually. Curtis bought a couple of beers from the local C-Store and I got some ice cream. Life is good.

Day 13, Sept 28, 2021: Our destination today is Emily Lake and much of it will be on back roads and trails. It was a spectacular day until the very last segment. The roads got pretty rough and the trails were very sandy so needless to say that involved a lot of pushing. Emily Lake is so beautiful and we found our favorite spot and set up camp.

Emily Lake Campsite

Day 14, Sept. 29, 2021: We left Emily Lake and headed for home. The entire ride this year was incredible This no doubt will be an annual event, some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve ever cycled. But it’s good to know we have a warm cozy bed and a hot shower waiting for us at home.

It’s a Pandemic People – No excuses

Social distancing, masks, vaccines; conversations revolve around these topics, overshadowing living. The reality that Covid-19 and all of its new variants is here to stay and there is nothing we can do about that but we need to learn to be safe and work around this forever with us virus.

Covid-19 screwed up our 2020 plans of cycling the Continental Divide but then again it messed with a lot of peoples plans. Oh well, adapt and modify but do it safely.

Social distancing is easy where we live, there are very few people and we live with a very low population density. Social distancing is and always has been the norm and its just the way we like it.

2021 has been a rollercoaster year, again postponing our summer tour plans. After my time in south Texas (December – April) I was emotionally spent, frazzled and flat worn out. I just wanted to go home. I hate to admit it but bikes have been dormant, lost in space so to speak and every time we think “now’s the time” something new rises up and grounds the bikes once again. Fall is fast approaching and it’s time to make it happen. It’s time to dust off the bikes, air the tires and pack those panniers.

Today is August 20, 2021 and we got out for a short 10 mile ride.

Taking the Salsa’s for a spin to Lake Superior. What a lonely, lovely spot!

Sliding onto the saddle of my Salsa Fargo I feel like I am getting re-acquainted with an old friend. We spin down the roadway and find ourselves at a quiet beach. This is peace, this is freedom, this living the life we choose with no excuses.

Life is Good ; Life doesn’t get much better than this!

After family has gone this next month we are loading up and hitting the road. We have gained weight and our butts are soft but we need this. We need the open road, the secluded trails, the lonely campsites. It re-sets the soul and we are ready, not physically but mentally. Cycling is physical but more than that it is mental. Hills are a mind f*ck and if you let them conquer you they win. The realization that “I can do it” is a strength that I rely on and push that little negative voice to the back. It doesn’t take and enormous physical ability to tour but it takes an open mind and willing attitude.

So get ready, CJBikeTours will soon be ready to roll. See you soon!