Unexpectedly, we added a few days to our cycling journey and cycle the Golden Triangle to cross the BC/ Alberta border and spend a few days in Invermere, just passed Radium, to give presentations to the high school and elementary school.
The ride from Golden to Radium was 135km of pure mountainous bliss. We followed the railway and one of the Rocky Mountain ranges leading south and passed through the world’s second largest wetland area. The shades of blue and green contrasted the black rock of the mountains that have snow-capped peeks. The shoulders were wide and paved so Mischa and I could cycle at ease. Yes!
We ended our ride at Radium Hot Springs and had a small 4km climb to get the the hot pools. We hadn’t showered in a long while, so bathing in a giant pool heated by geothermal power was incredible. The talk of the town was all about the national park; the hikes, trail conditions and the bears. In a few hours we knew that there was a ‘mama grizzly’ and her cubs roaming around the highway close to Radium.
That night we packed up to find a camp site it started to rain. One thing we have noticed about this area of the world is that the weather can change so rapidly. The mountains create little microclimates making weather quite unpredictable. So there we were- tired, cold and now very wet at 6pm.
Thankfully, we are members of Warm Showers, a hub for cyclists to network and find accommodation. So, we looked up Radium and found one member- Margret, and decided to call her. With no real explanation of who we are, after a 45 second conversation we had a place to stay and cycled down to an incredible home with two lovely people at the door to greet us, offer a bed and to share dinner with us. We sat down at the table and shared stories and were inspired by both Margret and David and their sense of adventure and appreciation for their land in Radium.
We woke up the following morning and were so excited to be in a real kitchen again! We went to the grocery store and cooked up a storm for breakfast, topped with any condiment we could find in their fridge. That is one thing about being on the road you really miss- things like dressing, salsa, mayonnaise, spices and for Mischa, ketchup.
David, like Mischa is a dreamer. He challenged us to live with an inquisitive mind and to pretend like we were the first explorers of Canada. Wandering through this giant land of unknown, truly facing all of the elements with no help or services.
This helped us a lot on our cycle up Kooteny Park to Banff. This journey was a 140km stretch through a National Park with no service stations or water in between. In and out is the only way to go. The stretch going north starts with a 12% incline for 12km. With my feet clipped in and us moving so slowly, there is no way I can stop cycling which helps keep me going up those long climbs!
As we climbed this mountain pass right into bear territory, every 4th car pulled over and warned us ‘hey guys, there are bears up ahead.’ Oh Boy. We got our bear spray out and hoped for the best. Keep cycling. I was ahead of Mischa and as I was peddling, up ahead to the left- there one was. A black bear eating flowers on the side of the road. I stopped, rather stunned. ‘Lets go Dani,’ Mischa says. ‘Mischa- there is a bear. Don’t push me.’ (I may have also called him a few names). The only way to go was up. So onwards we went. The black bear and I made eye-contact, triggering my legs to pedal faster and faster.
As we reach kilometre 11 of the climb, we see a National Park officer in his truck, and a few cars pulled over. To our left again, there she was. Mamma grizzly and her three cubs. The talk of the town was not a rumour. Bears are apparently the most aggressive when they are protecting their habitat and their young. Good thing we were cycling through her home with cubs at her side! Both of us couldn’t help but stare as we cycled by, feeling a bit safer with the park warden near. And man! Those baby bears were so cute! Fluffy and stumbling around on their little arms and legs that are not quite strong enough to hold them in single-file behind their mum.
Done with the bears? Not quite. After thinking that we had our bear experience behind us, there was one more we passed. This time it was coming down the mountain pass. As we just began to pick up speed, another black bear pops his head up beside us a few meters away behind the railing at the side of the road. For another brief moment we made eye contact, but the hill sped us ahead and before we knew it, we were moving so fast to feel afraid of animals catching up.
After a giant climb and the adrenaline from biking and the bears, cycling down the mountain pass was magical. The sun was setting and we were greeted on the other side of the peek by heaven. We could see hundreds of kilometres of mountains, lakes and being up high made the sky look massive. All I could think of was how lucky I was to have experienced this, and that never before would I picture myself being in this moment. Life.