Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rockies

The Rockies...umm...yeah, they're big and beautiful and I could stay around these mountains for a long time.

So, I met up with Iain in Jasper and we set off down the Icefields Parkway which runs between Jasper and Banff. This area is the "jem of Canada," full of tourists and a haven for cyclists which were everywhere. The road was fantastic with a good shoulder as it climbed and wound around and over the mountains. The views were stunning, it's hard to think of a more beautiful place to ride in North America.






Columbia Icefield



Some killer descents





Iain and me
Not having ridden in the three years since his cross-country tour, and coming fresh off of two months of leading hiking courses, Iain was a great sport ridding through his soreness, back and knee pain. This was a beautiful, but very challanging section to meet me for; we climbed a lot!



Gorgeous lakes

This was the longest time by far that I've spent riding with anyone on this trip; Iain and I were together for 10 days. I'm sure I was a big pain at times as I've realized just how used to my own routine I am; I'll admit I had some difficulties sharing my journey and changing my routine. However, it was good for me to be challenged and remember that I'm going to have to start compromising again once I enter back into the world of non-touring.
Riding into Banff we had some storms come through and bring fresh snow to the mountains. I'd hoped I wouldn't see that until September, but oh well. We waited out some heavy rain in Banff, then had to bundle up against the rain and cold the next day. We'd planed on staying up high and climbing an extra pass, but with the weather decided to instead retreat to the foothills. The roads there turned out to be fantastic, beautiful rolling through the hay fields with the high mountains on the horizon.

Fresh snow up in the mountains!


Way too cold for the middle of August


This property had hats on top of every fence post, there were hundreds of them.

We past through Waterton Lakes NP, then crossed the boarder back into the US. With every singe car in front of getting getting a thorough search, I was sure we'd get the same. However, they just asked us a few quick questions and sent us on our way. This was the first time ever that it was easier to get back into the US then it was to get into Canada. I wasn't as excited to return to the US as I thought I'd be, maybe it feels too close to finishing.
Our next stop was Glacier National Park. We stayed in the campground, which was a zoo, and started off the next morning climbing up the Going-to-the-Sun road which crosses 50 miles through the park. It was a good 12 miles climb with a steady grade, slow but comfortable. They're doing a whole bunch of construction on the road, so we got stopped in each place and had to wait 10-30 minutes to pass-gave me a break anyway. Up at the top at Logan Pass, we crossed the Continental Divide and made our way down the 30 miles of downhill-maybe 15 of which were 6% grade. After we got through the construction and bad pavement at top, we got onto new surface and had a blast winding down the narrow road blasted into the cliff. It's really something!

Enjoying the view while waiting for construction

Iain and I then rode into Whitefish (after stopping for huckleberry milkshakes!) where he was catching the train the next day back to Seattle. Our arrival was perfect, just in time for the farmer's market which we were both very impressed with. Both being in search of a good ski town to move to, we immediately liked the area.
Strangely enough, that evening when I called my parents, my dad told me about a ski coaching job that the Whitefish team had just posted. So, the next day I made some calls and was able to meet with one of the board members, Linda to talk about the program. She then invited me to spend the night with her family which was wonderful. I got the scoop on the team and the town and am very excited about the possibility of living here! Iain took off and I headed back into Glacier NP the next morning to do a little hiking.
With my hip bothering me, I was cautious, starting with a short hike to Hidden Lake. After getting past the lines of people, it was a glorious place.

Hidden Lake

Mountain goats were everywhere, I probably saw 25 on this little hike including lots of kids

The next day I took the shuttle back up to Logan Pass and set out on a point to point hike nearly following the Continental Divide. With perfect weather, the views were incredible and wildflowers were everywhere. I nibbled on wild chives all along the traverse. My hip was feeling good and I was happy to be on my feet. The last few miles were though a burned area and teeming with saskatoons, huckleberries, raspberries, and thimbleberries. The hike down was slow as I gorged myself on my favorite treats!

Looking up valley from the Highline Trail, the Going-to-the-Sun road is below


This gal was part of a herd of 15 sheep right along the trail

After returning from the hike, I high-tailed it back to Whitefish (so much back and forth!), and back to the Engh-Grady families place. This morning I helped out with a mountain run they put on to benefit the nordic team and was able to meet a bunch of the athletes and their parents which was a lot of fun.

Dave, Linda, Cassy, Maddy, and their dog Sage
It's been a crazy last few weeks. I can't believe how well some things have worked out, but that seems to happen a lot on this trip (I sure hope that continues once I finish). From here in Whitefish I'm headed down to Missoula where I'll spend a few days as I continue to take my time here in Montana. I'm so close to being back to Seattle, but still have three weeks before my year is up, so I want to make the most of it!

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