Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Great Parks Tour - Jasper to Jackson Hole

The Great Parks Tour started in Jasper AB and ended in Jackson Hole WY, a distance of 1,650 miles.  In between, we cycled the spine of the Rockies and visited seven national parks - four in Canada and three in the US.

The national parks in Canada were Jasper, Banff, Kootenay, and Waterton.  The three in the US were Glacier, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

In a word, the tour was extraordinary.  Our brains and senses were red-lining from the spectacular and stunning scenery.  Each national park offers its own unique features and visuals and it's hard to say which one is my favorite.  They were all great.

Outside the national parks, two areas really caught my fancy.  The high plains region around Pincher Creek in AB referred to as "Where the Mountains meet the Plains", and the Big Hole Valley in MT.  There is something soothing and sublime following meandering pavement over rolling green hills dotted with haystacks, wheat fields and forests against the backdrop of majestic mountains.

The blue line on the map below delineates the route we followed.  We used Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) Great Parks maps which were invaluable for way-finding and services.  IPhones and an IPad were helpful supplements to the maps.

The total elevation gain for the 1,650 miles was 71,300'.  Over the roughly seven weeks of the tour (7/10 - 8/29), we averaged 41 miles/day.  We camped only seven times and stayed in hostels, motels, lodges and cabins the bulk of the trip.

The participants on this tour were Jay Okada from Los Osos, Bob Anderson from Santa Rosa, Mike Broderick, Frank Gerace, Dennis Engblom, Herb Lee and myself from Sacramento.

The Tour Blog is organized in 9 entries with each covering sections of the route including getting to the ride start by train from Sacramento to Jasper.  At the end of each post, click on "older posts" to continue the tour.

You can click on any photo to view an enlargement and continue to scroll to each photo at the bottom of the page.

Sacramento to Jasper

Frank checking into his sleeper-roomette

Catching the Amtrak Coast Starlight in Sacramento at midnight for the long ride to Vancouver with an overnight stop in Seattle

Breakfast on the train

A stop at the Union Station in Portland

A view of Mt. Ranier

We spent the night at the Hostel in Seattle near the train station and stadium

Next morning, short trip to Vancouver

Approaching Vancouver  and seeing a very cool arch bridge 

Another neat bridge . . . the Skytrain in Vancouver

We had a 2 day layover in Vancouver and went sight-seeing

The False Creek Harbor

Dinner at Safe Harbor Restaurant with Jack 

I had a great reunion with Jack Klemola (right) who lives in Vancouver, my tent-mate from the Nepal Trek

Taking the Ferry across the bay to Grouse Mountain offers fantastic skyline view

Spending the day on Grouse Mountain

Many cool wood sculptures

Top of mountain is launching pad for hand-gliders

At the top of the mountain is a wind turbine with an observation room

Cool mural on base of tower

Visiting beautiful garden in Chinatown

Great timing . . . a neat street fair in Chinatown with unusual treats

Cycling legs?  Naaah!

First sighting of the Canadian Rockies

The next leg . . . taking Canadian Rail (Via) from Vancouver to Jasper

The lads in the Sky Dome

Going past Pyramid Falls

View of Mt. Robson at 12,900', the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies

Lock n Load

We unpacked and loaded the panniers on the bikes upon arriving in Jasper

Our first short ride was visiting Jasper Lodge

The Magnificent Seven ready to tackle the Rockies

Click on "Older Posts" below to continue the tour

Jasper to Lake Louise

Hoping to see some wildlife

Our first major ride was a 69 mile out and back from Jasper to Lake Maligne

Approaching Medicine Lake

Spotting a bald eagle

At Medicine Lake

The first wildlife sighting - an elk cow

Beautiful Lake Maligne, our destination and turn-around point

A great lunch with a view

The view of The Great Wall on the return trip

Totally magnificent!

Bull Elks by the road

Frank and Athabasca River

Stopping at Athabasca Falls on our way to the Glacierfields

"Conehead" Flowers

Athabasca Falls was glorious and ripping!

Beautiful rainbow forms next to falls

Interesting pancake rock formations below Athabasca Falls

After spending the night at a hostel at Athabasca Falls, riding Hwy 93A to the Glacierfields

Dramatic scenery along the way

First views of several glaciers

The view of the glacial field valley after cresting a 6,425' summit. 

The 2nd day's ride was the toughest of the entire tour.  A 45 mile day with 3,456' of climbing.  The last 3 miles leading up to the summit was an unrelenting 10-13% grade.

The Glacierfields Hotel lies hidden around the corner in the above pic. It seemed like we would never get there after the grueling climb to the summit and bucking stiff headwinds the last 3 miles.

From the hotel, you get good views of the glaciers

Preparing to depart Glacierfields Hotel to Saskatchuan Crossings

Over a 6,552' summit and long descent to Saskatchuan Crossings

Hwy 93A descends down a spectacular glacially carved valley

Many great waterfalls along Hwy 93A

Our hotel at Saskatchuan Crossings with dramatic views

Continuing on Hwy 93A toward Lake Louise

Stopping at lodge for a great lunch

Aquamarine lake with awesome views

Blackfoot Glacier

Taking the Bow Valley Parkway to Banff

Some interesting history . . . a monument to internment camp housing Eastern European people during WWl

Encountering molting sheep on way to Banff

Click on "Older Posts" to continue Tour