You don’t need to be a mountain biker to see mountain ranges up close, orange paintbrush mountain flowers or herds of wild bighorn sheep with their babies. We just returned from several great days of cycle-touring in the Canmore-Banff area, which is over 120 km. north of Calgary.
In the past, we have toured the area by bike between Banff and Lake Louise, as well as on the Canadian Continental Divide near Field, British Columbia. Within Lake Louise and Continental Divide, we have also cross-country skied and hiked at different times. (Winter avalanche warnings are real.) The first time was by car before we switched to self-propelled means.
Each trip has been a different experience with unexpected surprises.
This time, we wondered if we had encountered the next generation of bighorn sheep on bike, since we saw these same creatures over a decade ago in the same vicinity, Lake Minnewanka. Except last time it was in the quiet winter stillness when we were safely protected in our car. There were no other tourists around us at that time.
Bighorn sheep sighting is just a 10 km. detour off of the new 26-km. Banff Legacy Bike Path between Canmore and Banff. You must cycle over an electrified pavement section less than a few metres wide, without stopping as instructed by the sign, to make the turn-off. The bike path just has a few electrified sections to keep the wildlife from tromping into the path. Elk and deer are common in this area –even occasionally near the major highway which we did see last winter. Bears and bighorn sheep are also frequent this area but in abit more remote areas.
In the Banff area and nearby, the Trans Canada highway cuts across major wildlife migration crossings. There are both built overpasses and underpasses for these wildlife migration paths and to protect humans.
During this past weekend, there was a cougar attack on a child at Barrier Lake over 40 kms. away from our area. Certain wooded areas in Lake Minnewanka are off-limits to hikers during these summer months because of bear attacks which have occurred several times in recent years.
Several Local Mountains Loom From Different Angles
Along the Legacy Path, there were several well-known mountains and rock formations in view at a cyclist’s pace: Castle Mountain, Sulphur Mountain, the Hoodoos, Mount Rundle (made of several mountains totalling 17 kms. across) and so on. Too bad we didn’t time our trips to see these mountains at sunset. But at least on bike, there’s time to position oneself for the best shots.
In Canmore, the Three Sisters Mountains were often in view, from different angles.
I’m sure I saw Ha Ling Peak since we did go cycling on various routes locally from different points in town. Ha Ling was named after a Chinese cook for the Canadian Pacific Railway who climbed the mountain twice in 1896, just to prove that he actually could do it. On the second time, he planted a larger flag at the summit for the townspeople of Canmore to see. It was named Chinaman’s Peak but renamed in 1997 to Ha Ling to remove the historic derogatory term of Chinaman.
Canmore now has become more established and upscale than we knew it over a decade ago. For tourists it is less frenetic, less costly and more relaxed to stay here in the summer compared to Banff. This year our trip coincided with their annual Folk Music Festival.
While cycling to our hotel at the northern edge of Canmore, a sharp high whistle pierced through the air above the buzz of moderate car traffic beside me. Suddenly I saw a row of 6 tiny brown-grey pikas shoot out of their burrows from the road bank in a high-speed scamper to safety 3 metres on the other side of the embankment. It was wild rodent action, all in perfect sychronicity within the blink of an eye.
With some headwinds and tailwinds to challenge and delight us on our bike trips, we look forward to more adventures ahead to the Canadian Rocky Mountain area.
Note: The Canadian National Rocky Mountain Parks of: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho are together as a continguous set of peaks, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. More photos of this trip and areas near by are here.