The four of us get up early, pack the vehicles, and complete an hourlong drive to Jasper. I kept watching the car thermometer, noticing it dip into the low 40s in the low spots. Brrr.
We soon find ourselves in the town of Jasper. Touristy but not nearly as crowded as I might have imagined. Bikes are readied and panniers loaded. Time to get this thing started! Linda takes a group photo and heads off on her own, with a plan to golf and spa her way around British Columbia for a couple weeks. I know she’s going to love this vacation.
Our first tour task is to stop and figure out today’s plan. We hit up a Tim Horton’s, thinking we might even run into Linda there but didn’t. Instead we look at the uncertainties of camping the next couple nights, set a target for today with contingencies, then set off looking for pack food.
Jasper Grocer is just down the street, so I stock up on Fig Newtons, Pop Tarts, and 2 cans of V8, and the guys did likewise.
Finally south on the main park road 93. Let the tour begin! And what a beginning! The views are magnificent right away, you know, mountains, rivers, evergreens, wow, all in perfect temperatures. Right away, we observe that the rivers are a milky turquoise up here and at first wonder if that has something to do with soot from the wildfires (it doesn’t).
We follow our maps onto route 93A, hillier but a lot less travelled. Let the climbing begin! 300′ and 400′ ups and downs. Seems every time we turn west (away from the river) we get another climb, and east another descent. Left is good, right is bad.
We reach Athabasca Falls and stop. A big volume of water rushes through canyon walls here forming all sorts of interesting pockets and geometries. There we learn that the milky blue color of the water is due to the entrainment of “rock flour,” which is a product of glaciers grinding over rock. This powder gives the whitish appearance and also absorbs much of the light spectrum except blue. It is a telltale sign of a glacier-fed waterway.
We rejoin the main park road. Despite some traffic, the shoulder is wide. It’s also highly populated with jarring cross-ways expansion cracks. In the middle of the shoulder, though, is a 6″ wide strip of smoother concrete, a product of past repairs, probably the placement of a line or pipe. Very soon both Jack and I both are riding precariously down that little strip.
Nothing overly steep today, but up and down every minute. Ridiculous views – words fail. It is simply gorgeous up here. At the 31 mile mark, we reached a potential overnight – Honeymoon Lakes Campground. We went in to scope out availability and found a handful of sites open. Encouraged by this, and it being still early in the day, we decided to head on to the next campground.
We stop at Sunwapta Falls Resort for food. Cafeteria-style food and expensive, but hey, we’re on vacation. My elkburger, fries, and lemon tea cost $28 CAD. We discus our overnight. Recall that I have 3 hostel beds reserved tonight, and we’re already past the cancellation limit. This was a conscious decision to make sure we had a place for tonight. Jack accurately termed it a “sunk cost” as in irreversible. The only money we’d lose from this point is any additional fee for tent camping, which we prefer to do.
Another 19 miles brings us to Jonas Creek Campground, elevation around 4000′. The place is filling up fast, with most sites taken and cars looping down the paths looking for vacancies. We spy a couple of suitable places, pick the best one, and submit our fee. Great! Out the hostel reservation money but tenting is better! And in a beautiful treed setting.
Assembling my tent, I discover the 2nd omission in my packing – stakes. I’d assumed they were rolled up inside my tent. No worries, really, my tent is quite stable without them, and once gear (and body) are inside, the tent isn’t going anywhere. Still, Jack kindly lends me 2 spares and Phil another 2, which helps shape out the vestibules.
Up a hill from our campsite are some beautiful sites for tenters without motor vehicles, known as “hiker/biker” sites. These are secluded and, from what I could tell, no one was using them. We actually consider moving ourselves up there, but decide to stay put for inertial reasons.
Alas, around 8pm, with the camp full, an RV rolls in and informs us that we’re on their site. They say they tagged it early in the day and are now coming back. We’ve paid for the site too. A discussion ensues, and in the end it’s us who apologize – it appears they did tag it first and we didn’t realize. Jack felt they’d violated a cardinal camping rule, however. To properly “claim” a campsite, one should always leave at least one camping item in plain view. These guys had left nothing, inviting our mistake.
The tenters next door immediately and generously invite us to share their site, but the RV driver was OK with leaving my tent and Phil’s tent in place. He oddly wanted Jack’s moved about 6′, which I help him do. OK, whatever, at least the disruption was minimal and mostly amiable.
Things quiet down. Phil explores around up the hill for a while, and Jack and I follow. We eventually put our food in a bear box and trash in the bear garbage and dive into our tents for the evening.
What a beautiful first day. And tonight’s cool temperatures are going to be perfect for sleeping.
Today’s Ride: 50.3 miles
Today’s Climbing: 3,146 feet
More Stats: http://cyclemeter.com/
Tour Total So Far: 50.3 miles