I’ve been a little slack on the blog front lately, mostly in favor of the welcome company of a riding buddy and a string of extremely generous Warmshowers hosts. Here’s a quick recap of the past two weeks:
Well over 700 kilometres of British Columbia pavement stood between my last rest day in Smithers and my entrance into the Canadian Rockies at Jasper, Alberta.
Luckily I was joined by Salva. A self-proclaimed half Don Quixote, half Little Prince gypsy traveler from Grenada, Spain, Salva has been traveling the world by bicycle since 2006. As a teacher who spent every free holiday exploring the ends of the Earth on his bike, he was finally "fed up with coming home, having a return ticket" booked before he left.
The hospitality of kind Canadian souls propelled us through "the wettest summer in decades," as every local was quick to point out. Curtis and Bonnie Culp's farm along the Fraser River in Dunster was a highlight. Here Curtis waits patiently for Hummingbirds to feed on the irresistible nectar.
At just the right moment, he releases the net.
With a gentle touch the birds are corralled for a brief trip to the 'lab.'
Nestled in the fertile Robson valley, the Culp's farm sits amidst a major migratory path of the Rufous Hummingbird. With up to 250 winged visitors per day (consuming over 2 gallons of sugar-water nectar daily!), Curtis decided to help with a Cornell University research study documenting these beautiful birds.
Blinded and bound by a soft cotton cloak, the hummingbirds are relaxed long enough for a quick measurement and tagged with the smallest of bracelets.
Flying north to Alaska each spring, the male birds pass through before the females to find safe breeding grounds. As the migration south was just underway, Curtis was tagging mostly females during my stay. Part of a North American Rufous network, birds tagged at the Culp farm have been spotted as far south as Texas, and the research indicates they spend their winters in Central America.
Salva carefully cradles the 3.5-gram female before she darted off in a wing-flapping flash.
After tagging a few birds, Curtis took us up the hill to scan through images on his motion-detected camera in the woods. With 175 acres of farmland and pristine forest, the Culps have regular visitors including grizzly and black bears, cougars, moose, white-tailed deer, wolves, wolverines, and this friendly little ground squirrel.
Genuinely warm and generous, Bonnie and Curtis welcome any and all cyclists. At the Dunster turnoff on the Yellowhead, cross the Fraser and follow the Lilac signs. Watch out though, Bonnie will charm you with her quick wit and fill you with homemade beer and pancakes with fresh berries, whipped cream and syrup--you'll never want to leave!
Farewell to friends in Jasper. I hope to reconnect with Salva and Bob further south.
Solo once again on the Icefields Parkway. Rolling through Jasper and Banff National Parks on a busy, 3-day weekend isn't a recipe for quiet enjoyment. The RV traffic seems to thin out by early evening, though, and battling for a slice of pavement gives way to the sound of wind funneling through the jagged, glaciated valleys in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.
Indian Paintbrush bursting through a thicket of 'Hippy on a Stick.' The parks are truly magnificent. Bring your backpacking gear and spend time exploring the endless backcountry, load the camper with charcoal and grill and settle in to a day-hiking/road-riding base camp, or join the ranks of the loaded touring cyclists passing through. Either way, there's something for everyone.
I was high-tailing it to Banff to catch up with Scott Felter, Mr. Porcelain Rocket himself. He was prepping for a week of backcountry hiking with his girlfriend, Naomi, and her father, Bob, and I was eager to hit town before they left. A consummate bikepacker, mountain biker, general bike geek, Scott knew just what I needed out of a 'rest day': good food, rippin' Banff singletrack, cold beer and more good food, multiple juicy burgers and endless Southern-style potato salad!
Scott at work on a quick late-night addition to my setup. The man works some serious magic.
Just south of Banff I caught up with my Canadian Backroads co-workers in Canmore (Emily, Felicia, Sarah, Jake and Antione) for a couple more days of 'rest' and relaxation.
With perfect weather we had the 1500+ metre hike to ourselves.
Jake making it official. On top of the Middle Sister with Elsa, 360-degree views and all.
Gnome Sherpa would be proud.
From Canmore, I hook up with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, 2,700 miles of dirt passing through Alberta, BC, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, all the way to the border of Mexico. I’m trading pavement for dirt, guard rails for fresh mountain streams, motorized traffic for the tranquility of high mountain passes and wide open spaces.