Intro - the Team and Game Plan - Before the Ice Age - CycleBlaze

Intro - the Team and Game Plan

A New Experience - A Unique Ecosystem in the Middle of the Pairies

In the middle of the Canadian prairies lies a unique geographical and cultural area called the Cypress Hills. During the last ice age, the Laurentide and Cordilleran ice sheet covered  virtually all of Canada and a good portion of the north east USA. There was one relatively small area of high land that straddles what we now know as the Alberta - Saskatchewan border that escaped these thousands of years of glaciation.  That area is the Cypress hills.

Towering some 600 m above the surrounding prairie at an elevation topping out at ~1400 m (a little higher than our lovely mountain town of Canmore), the Cypress hills are the highest point in Canada east of the Rockies. It has been a significant feature in the lives of the indigenous peoples of the region for millennia , and as it was not glaciated, has unique geological features and flora / fauna not found anywhere else in Canada.

Since I more or less grew up in Alberta, you’d think I know this area well.

Well, think again.

Growing up I heard my Saskatchewan relatives talk about all the holidays they took over the years in the Cypress Hills, but after 60 years of travelling the globe, I had never set foot in this unique area. Neither had Kirsten, although she did grow up in Quebec so cut her some slack.

We’ve been kicking around the idea of a short bike tour through the area over the last few years but nothing ever came of it. 

Then covid hit and we’ve been hunkered down in the Bow Valley since March. Not a hardship as it is a beautiful part of the world, but we were getting itchy feet to get out somewhere different. That’s when our local Canmore friends Brian Frank and Larry Kwan mentioned that they were planning a trip to test out their new gravel bikes. Brian, also originally from the east like Kirsten, had also never been there. Larry though grew up in Swift Current, about an hour east of Cypress Hills and he knew the area well. We now had a tour guide.

A couple of detailed planning sessions involving a few pencils, napkins and a couple of Google searches and this trip was launched. We had one more addition, Marc Moquin who was wanting to test out his fat bike and see what this bike packing thing was all about.

Dates  confirmed, a couple of campsites booked (although probably not necessary in mid September) and we were off! Four days to traverse the heart of the park (and return) on a combination of single track paths, gravel / cobble roads and a little bit of asphalt thrown in for good measure.

Follow along and see what we saw!

Out of the Rockies, four hours driving across flat prairie and then up into the Cypress Hills! Highest point in canada east of the Rockies and slightly higher than our mountain town of Canmore
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Our planned route ... east from Elkwater Alberta to Reesor lake, then across the Gap Road to Center Block in Saskatchewan. Survey the scene ... then return! We more or less followed this with a few diversions.
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Rachael AndersonGlad you could hit the road again!
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7 months ago