Day 25 Saskatchewan Crossing to Rocky Mountain House AB
Saskatchewan River at Whirlpool Point
Oh what a relief it was to be riding the David Thompson Highway, Alberta 11, instead of the Icefields Parkway! When I left Saskatchewan Crossing, after a good breakfast ata the cafeteria, the wind was strong from the west and it was raining lightly. Because of the wind, the downhill nature of Alberta 11 as it heads east, the great road surface, the wide shoulder, and the lack of traffic, I was able to average over 20 mph for the first half an hour or so. Then, with little net downhill - I climbed over 3200 feet today - and less wind, I was able to average about 15 mph for the the entire 110+ mile riding day. The first half of the day, after I outran those showers, was some of the best riding I have ever done. The second half of the day, after Nordegg, was less scenic, and had some weather problems, but it was still very nice riding.
The David Thompson Highway
On the Ice Fields Parkway, there were some really stunning views, but the ride was spoiled, at least for me, by the traffic. Riding from Radium Hot Springs to Castle Junction, there was a lot of great beauty, and little to distract me from contemplation of that beauty and awe at how insignificant I was in the context of those river valleys. Today there was equally great beauty and even better riding conditions so that the joy, as well as the awe, was very strong.
The not very exciting start of my day
It got better quickly - looking back after six miles
Looking to the side at the same point
And to the front
The first services are at the David Thompson Resort, about 30 miles down the road and 600 feet lower than Saskatchewan Crossing. Most of that 600 feet is lost in the first few miles, then the road settles down into a rolling hills with no real loss or gain of altitude for 50 miles.
Looking back from 20 miles or so east
Some of the best sedimentary layers I've ever seen!
The terrain is still mountainous, but the climbing is pretty gentle. I measured 1600 feet of climbing in the first 30 miles. With the hills, and with a tailwind, I was averaging over 15 mph and having a great time!
Lunch was very good, and very large, so I rode on towards Nordegg which, at roughly 60 miles, is the second and last place with services. The Thompson Resort is on a long reservoir and the road runs along that reservoir for many miles. I saw deer and a mountain goat during this section, as well as a few people. Traffic continued to be very light, with most of it heading west. The wind was getting less predictable, but the hills were also less steep, so I maintained a good speed. I did have to stop regularly to take pictures because there was so much beauty.
Lunch was big enough and I stopped enough times to take pictures, that I didn't actually stop for a break until I reached Nordegg. At Nordegg, which has all services including a very nice Hostel, I had a snack and prepared for the next 60 miles
No Services for the next 92 km
By Nordegg, the land was no longer mountains, but rather buttes, and the road was getting flatter. Between Nordegg and Rocky Mountain house there is another 1200 feet of, more gradual, altitude loss. The rolling hills continue, but gentler ones than farther west. I measured a total of 3600 feet of climbing in120 miles.
Butte before Nordegg
After Nordegg, the land was forest all the way to Rocky Mountain House.
Forest with storm ahead
Riding was uneventful for the next 30 miles. I stopped for a snack at about 80 miles and, as I rode on, I could see rain ahead. This wasn't the spitting kind of rain, but rather the heavy rain storm that you get on the plains.
42 km to Nordegg and a drop of rain on the lens
With about 30 miles to go, I prepared for rain by putting my camera in one of my waterproof panniers. I never really got rained on hard, but I did ride on a lot of wet roads. Since I have fenders, that wasn't too big a deal, although the spray from passing vehicles, especially near Rocky Mountain House, did get me a bit gritty. As I rode I watched the storm in front of me and, later I watched another storm forming behind me. The night was very stormy.
Although there are no services, there are several nice provincial campgrounds between Nordegg and Rocky. Whe the rain was threatening - the last 30 miles of my ride, I planned to shelter at one of them if I was caught by the rain. As it was, I stopped at the last one before Rocky - about 15 or 20 miles out, for my last break. That worked out very well since I needed to use the outhouse as well. Nice camps with shelters, water, and firewood.
In Rocky, I stopped at a Subway for a, much needed, supper and looked in the phone book for a B+B. There was one, about four miles from the center of town, the Kienberg Bed + Board. I called, got directions and, with only one additional
stop to check directions, made my way out in the light rain. This is a new, and quite nice B+B, and I have really enjoed my stay here. I got cleaned up, got my internet work done, a good nights sleep, a great breakfast, and got to know some very nice people and learn a lot about this area. I also got routing help for riding towards Edmonton. All in all, a very good day and night on tour.