What’s more fun than spending a day riding in the Rockies? That’s easy! It’s spending two days riding in the Rockies!! I have the pleasure of getting a Banff trail tour in the afternoon with my new friend David, who leads tours with his company ABMBA (www.abmba.com).
We’re spending time in Banff, Alberta this afternoon to explore some of the known and unknown trails together. With that thought invading my sleep, I’m up early to get a little Lake Louise time in before that. I’m gone from the hotel in Calgary at 5:30am on the dot, and head west as the sun rises slowly across the prairies. Actually by the time I hit the city limits it’s pretty much up, and it’s clear it’s gonna be a beautiful day.
The drive to Banff is a bit of a Mad Max drag – my crappy rental car whacks each dent and divet in the road, and I’m praying I don’t pinch flat before arriving for breakfast at just after 6:30am in Canmore. I have my favorite restaurant to go to for breakfast, and from experience last time know they’re not ready to serve until then so I time the arrival just so.
Well, guess what, the chef isn’t there, and I’m crying and rolling on the floor, flinging my legs – but fortunately for me the kind staff who are there take pity on me and offer to cook up right there and then. Kind of pinch hit cheffing. Woo hoo! I sit down like a happy school kid and wait my meal, which comes looking perfect, and accompanied by an apology that it’s not that great and they will give it to me for free. Well, slap my thigh, it’s my lucky day. Yes the tortilla is a bit crunchy, but who cares! I chomp it back and flirt a bit more and we laugh and the day feels fun already and I’m on my way.
To make a visit to Lake Louise is an annual pilgrimage and I always feel a sense of well-being on the way there. It’s a careful drive at the speed limit, since the cops are out in force on that stretch. It’s cold too, and when I get to the town I buy a nylon gas station beanie and a couple cheap electronics for charging my iphone in the car.
I had planned a brisk, soul stirring walk to the end of the Lake, up the glacier, but knowing I have an afternoon bike date content myself with finding a nice bench. Feet up, pack off, and I’m soaking up the granite goodness across the perfect lake from Fairview Mountain (peak 9,003 ft). Thinking of all the good scrambling up there, I fall into a delicious sleep and stay there almost three hours dozing and half-waking occasionally to tourist voices.
When I come to my senses, it’s warm, the parking lot is jammed, and the Chateau looks like a ride at Disney fronted by a selfie celebration so I’m off again – heading down the valley in search of lunch. Again the path less trodden leads to the Trailhead café which is always quieter than Laggan’s Deli for some reason. But since Laggan’s stopped making to order sandwiches it’s a no brainer. Good coffee, good wrap and it’s time to head to Banff in search of the afternoon’s adventure.
We meet up near Tunnel Mountain and get the gear set up and ready to rock in short order. It’s a perfect afternoon, and the trail is super dry and slippery with the dust. We swoop into the valley, and I’m wishing on my DSLR because every turn leads to something amazing on the eyes. We ride leisurely, the afternoon sun leading us past riders on the grass drinking wine from plastic flutes, young deers, and kids following their mom on technical singletrack. It’s really magical, and although we’re never far from town, we feel like we’re in our own kingdom. There’s some great riding here, and super fun short sections which can all link up to more demanding sessions.
We go in search of the technical stuff, cutting across to the “other” side of the system and up into the Star Wars system. It’s fun to accidently ride up the downhills and work the climbs. It’s hot and dry and we are sweating good now. Stopping to talk to some free-riders, we get some intel on the local routes and more to think about for the next episode. The trail awakens!
We rip downhill and sadly, soon enough reach the van and pack up. We head back to town for beers, pizza (who said pulled pork should be on an Hawaiian pizza) and apart from wishing for more beer time have to say it’s been a great afternoon and a great day. Thanks to ABMBA for an amazing weekend and hope to see you on the trails soon!
Next stop: the hill climbing road riding mecca of Beauceville, QC!