Friday, May 23, 2008

Days 13 and 14, May 19 and 20: Goodbye BC, Hello Alberta

May 19 Fernie to Blairmore Alberta: 72 km

Ian and Elaine were such wonderful hosts we didn't want to leave their house in Fernie. We slept late, had a huge breakfast of Elaine's special pancakes and Ian's stiff coffee, took our time packing our bags, and snapped lots of pictures – but we finally got on the bikes and took off for the Crowsnest Pass (our last BC pass).

May 19 was a holiday and everyone was on the road returning to Alberta from their May long weekend getaways. This was the only time the #3 highway has been busy. Still, we had a fine ride, and the views of the Rockies were supurb – something new around every turn. We also saw “the world's biggest truck” in Sparwood.

At about 3:20 in the afternoon we crossed the BC – Alberta border. At this point we ridden over 1100 km in BC. Coming down from the Crowsnest we finally saw why it was called “Crowsnest” as the mountain of the same name hove into view when we rounded our last corner in BC.

We rocketted along through the Crowsnest municapalities and we crossed the train tracks in Blairmore at 4:30 and headed for the Lost Lemon campsite. While we were relaxing in the hot-tub (yeah, its a hard life!) we got an invitation to have dinner with two families vacationing in the area. One of the families was from Calgary, the other from Athabasca. We went to bed full that night.

May 20 Blairmore to a wilderness campground on Waterton Reservoir (the 505): 90 km

We got up early and hit the road with the biker's friend – a strong tailwind. We visited the Frank Slide Centre (closed for renos) and did the interpretive walk. The slide was amazing, I can't imagine what it must have sounded like for a kilometre of rock to fall off a mountain.

From Frank Slide we stayed on the #3 until Pincher Creek, then it was into the wind south down the #6. Needless to say, I was cranky as soon as we turned into the wind, but the scenery soon took my mind off the wind (well, at least a bit). About 25 km down the #6 we hit the 505 and headed east to a “wilderness” campsite by the Waterton reservoir. The wind was blowing as it always does in SW Alberta, and it looked like rain, but the evening cleared off and we had fine views of the Rockies down into Waterton Park.

We caught our first glimpses of the flat prarie today. When we were up in the foothills above Pincher Creek we could look out to the east, and there was nothing but Canadian prarie as far as the eye could see. It was here that I really got the feeling that Canada is HUGE and we have a very, very long way to go. In the mountains your view is always a bit constrained, something new around every corner, but in the prarie your path lies clearly in front of you and extends to the horizon.

The day's ride also featured lots of wildflowers. I recognized a number (pasqueflower, shooting star), but most of them were new to me. We saw young elk, a coyote, and some amazing birds – the most surprising looked like a big backbird, except it had a bright yellow head, it looked quite exotic and really stood out.

Enough for now – its time for bed, even though the sun is nowhere near setting.

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