Hiking and Bicycling Greeneville & Greene County Tennessee
Canadian Rockies Bike Ride
Eight members of the Greeneville Hiking Club have returned from a bicycling and hiking tour in the Canadian Rockies. The nine day trip began on September 2, 2006 with a flight to Calgary. The group joined twelve other persons from different areas of the United States and two guides from Vermont Biking Tours.
From the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, the group was shuttled by Giddy Goat Adventures to Storm Mountain Lodge. The lodge, built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1922, consisted of rustic cabins with fireplaces and offered beautiful views of the snowcapped Canadian Rocky Mountains.
A bike fitting session was held plus an orientation about road safety and interaction with the wildlife found in the area, such as elk, bighorn sheep, moose, mule and whitetail deer, wolves and bears, both black and grizzly.
The first day’s bike ride was about thirty nine miles from the lodge to Lake Louise and back to Castle Mountain Junction. The day began with one of the highlights of the trip, an exhilarating five mile descent from the crest of the Continental Divide at Vermillion Pass to the valley floor below with views of 3 distinct glacial advances in the Rockies. The bikers followed Bow Valley Parkway, that was built in 1920 as the original road between Banff and Lake Louise. The ride was on a paved surface except for the final three miles known as the Tramline Trail which followed the route of a now defunct Tram used to take visitors from the railroad station to the Chateau at Lake Louise.
When the group reached the Chateau, they hiked a 5.2 mile trail which climbed up the steep mountainside to the Lake Agnes Teahouse where they had lunch. A huge bear was feeding near the shoulder of the Bow Parkway and was viewed by most all the bikers on the return trip.
The second day’s ride from the lodge to Banff also began with the steep downhill. The temperature had dropped into the 40s making ear bands, gloves and several layers of clothing necessary. The ride was broken up by a two hour mid morning hike at Johnson Canyon, which contained interesting limestone formations and seven different waterfalls, the tallest being over thirty feet high.
The ride continued alongside the Bow River into the town of resort town Banff, nestled in the mountains. Banff National Park was established in 1885 as Canada’s first national park. After the ride, the group took a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain which gave them a total view of the town surrounded by mountains jutting from the valley floor.
The third day’s ride included three biking loops on the outskirts of Banff and a visit to the famous Banff Springs Hotel which opened in 1888. Part of the Greeneville group played golf at the Banff Springs Golf Course, designed by Stanley Thompson in 1928 and rated among the top ten links in the world.
Those that biked rode along a quiet and scenic road past Bow Falls and continued beneath the towering Mt. Rundle and on to Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s largest lake. A short hike was taken at Bankhead, which was an old abandoned coal mining town from 1904 to 1923. The bikers took a lunch break at the scenic Cascade Ponds followed by a difficult climb and thrilling descent on Tunnel Mountain, with great views of Banff and the Bow River Valley. An interesting rock formation, locally known as hoodoos were found on the mountainside. Hoodoos are very narrow and towering rock formations caused by surface water and rain erosion.
Days four and five were spent in Kananaskis Country, which had mile after mile of some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the world. Known as one of Canada’s best areas for cross country skiing, Kananaskis hosted several of the ski events in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. The group stayed in the Fairfield Executive Kananaskis Lodge which had been used to house the Olympic athletes.
The ride from Banff passed the turquoise Barrier Lake and Ribbon Creek. The group then biked on the Evan Thomas Trail past the Kananaskis Golf Course and then to the Boundary Ranch for a barbecue lunch followed by a hike to Troll Falls and a horseback riding excursion.
The Final Day was, by far, the toughest, a 100 km bike ride through the Kananaskis countryside. The riders spotted a mother moose with her calf, deer, wolves and one lady from New York City was startled when a grizzly bear crossed the road just behind her bike. The final 5 km of the ride out was a grueling climb to Highwood Pass, elevation over 7300 ft. The pass is right at the treeline and is the highest paved road in all of Canada. This was followed by an exhilarating downhill ride to Opal Creek for lunch and back to the lodge for a final dinner.
The entire trip was an adventure in physical exercise but the scenic beauty made it all worthwhile. In five days of biking, the group rode approximately 180 miles.