Day 1 - East We Go Into The Endless Prairie - Before the Ice Age - CycleBlaze

September 13, 2020

Day 1 - East We Go Into The Endless Prairie

Looong Drive From Canmore to Elkwater - Then a Short but Sporty Ride

A long drive to the start line meant an early morning in Canmore. Up at 6,  bikes and bags loaded into the truck by 7 (Larry dropped his stuff off with us last night) and then a drive down to the end of the street to pick up Larry.

Point the truck east, turn a couple of times, then after about 4 hours, take a hard right to the south just after Medicine Hat and start gradually climbing. Very quickly leave the prairie behind and arrive in the lovely lakeside hamlet of Elkwater.

It’s quite astonishing at how different this place looks than the land surrounding it for ~400 km or more in all directions!

The team all arrived by 1 pm and we got the gear sorted and the bikes loaded, then we were off!

Today’s ride was on a designated part of the ‘Great Trail’ aka “the Trans Canada Trail’ and was largely a combination of old abandoned roads and hiking and horse trails. 

The ‘old roads’ were great to ride on but some portions of single track hiking / biking portions were pretty challenging on a loaded ‘hard tail’ bike. They would have been fun to ride on our unloaded mountain bikes and we all remarked that this would be a good area to come and set up a ‘base camp’ and ‘day ride’ the mtb trails. However that's not what we were doing today. You won’t see any pictures of these sections as I wasn’t going to stop pushing my bike to get the camera out!

The landscape and scenery was beautiful and the weather almost perfect for biking, bar the high level smoke that was blowing in from the SW. Given that we’re some 1000 km’s away from the fires on the pacific coast, we shudder to think what the air must be like there. We can empathize though as BC and Alberta had pretty horrendous wildfires in 2018. It’s not something anyone should go through.

The team did suffer a ‘mechanical’ though. As Marc was descending a tricky single track section and approaching a cattle gate he lost his gears. A quick inspection showed a nearly severed shift cable ... and no spare for a field repair. 

Marc’s bike worked fine for the subsequent downhill sections but turned into a brick on wheels for every uphill ... and there were lots.

We did make it to Reesor Lake in decent time to set up camp (surprise, we were the only folks in the ‘walk-in section) and had a good night. First time back in the tent in many many months. It was a cool night, but soooo quiet. Our only regret was the smoke that obliterated the stars. This is one of the lowest light pollution areas in North America and the star gazing is supposed to be spectacular.

I’ll let the pic’s do their thing and show /describe the area more eloquently than I can.

A short and sporty mostly single track ride (on loaded bikes!) from Elkwater to Reesor Lake Alberta
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Getting ready in Elkwater
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It’s a bike trip .... that means Kirsten’s famous ‘side of the road’ hummus , cucumber and avo wraps for lunch
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Marc and Kirsten pedalling along the abandoned roads that made up the first 5 km or so of the Ride
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Brian & Larry on the next section of single track through Timothy grass (aka hay)
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Lovely ripe berries ... any horticulturists out there to help identify these?
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be baneberry.

http://montana.plant-life.org/cgi-bin/large03.cgi?Ranunculaceae&Actaea&rubra2
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7 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks Bill, I'll take your word for it! I can tell conifers from deciduous but get stumped after that!
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7 months ago
Marc descending on one of the nice non-rooty/rocky sections of forested single track. This is where we discovered his ‘cable calamity’
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Me on another nice section of single track by the Spruce Coulee reservoir
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Brian on the same section of single track by Spruce Coulee
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The north end of Spruce Coulee reservoir just east of Elkwater
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Larry heading east towards Reesor Lake through more mixed grass and forested single track
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Marc traversing part of Spruce Coulee. This picture really captures the feel of this place. Big, remote and ruggedly beautiful
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Camp set up in the walk-in section of Reesor lake. Overall it was very quiet with only a handful of trailers and families in the main part of the campground. We know it’s fall though and that we are at altitude. the temp dropped to single digits (Celsius) once the sun was down
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Glenna JefferiesThose tents are not far enough apart to prevent hearing the snoring!!
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7 months ago

Today's ride: 22 km (14 miles)
Total: 22 km (14 miles)

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Rachael AndersonLooks like challenging riding. Hard to believe you have smoke issues that far away. Right now, in Portland, OR you can’t go outside and a lot of homes have to be taped shut to keep the smoke out. We feel incredibly lucky to be in Croatia!
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7 months ago