Monday, September 5, 2016

Day 1--An Auspicious Beginning

Today was the day; we were off and away! Derik and I actually rode from Tunnel Mountain Campground to the start. Connor rode in the truck with Brent. He still had to get everything organized. They met us in the parking lot of the hotel (well, I should say, one of the parking lots). Connor got everything loaded and adjusted. Brent, our photographer (and driver--he has many jobs), took the necessary photos to document our auspicious beginning.
With the lovely Banff Springs Hotel in the background.

We had him take a photo of us riding away toward the trail. So, he takes the photo, I retrieve my camera, we say our goodbyes, and Brent drives off. Connor needed to get water and use the facilities, so we headed over to what looked like a possible place. As we are standing there with our bikes, a gal asks us if we're looking for something. I ask her if the trail behind us is the Spray Lakes Trail, and the beginning of The Great Divide. She says it is not. It is further up the road at the end of another parking lot. Oh, okay. So here's the photo of our Grand Depart, but it was really just riding to get water and pee.

We were finally headed in the right direction, and found the real beginning of The Great Divide.
The end of Spray River Road (notice the bike pump)
Connor and I
Our Grand Depart--for real this time!

The bikes were heavy (some more than others), and at least for me, the going was slow. It's going to take a little getting used to having the weight on the bike instead of the trailer like last summer. Especially the weight on the front. It makes the steering really sluggish.

Anyway, we're doing it! I asked Derik if he ever imagined, a couple of years ago, when I told him I had decided what bike I wanted for The Divide, that he would be coming with us! Of course the answer was no. 

Not too far down the path, the trail started to climb a bit. Now that Connor was having to use his small ring, his front derailleur was rubbing on the tire. That was something we never thought to check with the bigger tires. Fortunately, we have our own bike mechanic with us! Derik fixed it, and we continued on.

Derik and Connor are getting used to reading the ACA map. The maps are very detailed, so the scale takes some getting used to. The guys were nice to wait for me at the turns (see, I told you they'd get lots of time to enjoy the scenery!). We didn't make any wrong turns. At the first bridge across the Spray River (the map says "don't go there"), we met an older couple hiking. Their names were Chris and Connie. They asked us if we were going far, or where we were going. I don't exactly remember what they asked. We told them we were going to Mexico. They thought we were joking. No, we told them, we are really going to Mexico. They were so impressed, that they asked if they could take our picture. Of course we said yes.

Further on, we came to the bridge we were supposed to cross. Then we crossed another bridge. This one, over Goat Creek had a pretty little waterfall nearby. The guys were already across the bridge.
Guys across the way. As you can see from the photo, the trail started climbing. When I got over there, I thought based on the steepness, they were planning to walk up, so I stopped too. Well, maybe we would have had to walk, maybe not, but once I stopped, I couldn't get going again. It is very hard to push a very heavy bike up a steep rocky hill. Just sayin... The guys were able to get back on at one point. I tried, but couldn't get enough momentum to get going. I walked a little further to where the trail widened and curved so I could go across the hill and get going again. Then I was fine.

The entire time we had been riding in the trees. We got a few glimpses of the mountains, but mostly it was trees, until here.
Here it opened up and we could see the escarpments of rock.
You may be noticing that the weather doesn't look so great. Indeed it was not. Although it didn't rain the entire day, it rained enough that I finally put my rain paints and long finger gloves on. It was a mistake to ride so long in the rain with my fingerless gloves. Now they are soaking wet. Oh well, I'll probably wear my long finger gloves tomorrow anyway, because it will probably be pretty chilly in the morning.

While I was taking the above photos, a family out mountain biking rode by. They had passed us earlier going the other direction, but had turned around because it was too cold. We were following them when we came to a steep hill just before Smith-Dorian Rd (according to the narrative, a wide road that can be very dusty...not today). Unfortunately, the two young girls couldn't ride up the hill, and got off to walk their bikes. They chose to walk on the best line. Connor and I tried to go up the other part, but neither of us could make it. I asked Connor if he would help me push MC up the hill. He parked Mike at the top, and came back to help me (all the while making comments about how I told him weight doesn't matter so much with bike touring...yeah...whatever...). Here's a photo from the trailhead parking lot.
Rather massive rock.

The rest of today's ride was on Smith-Dorian Rd. There was still climbing, but it was easier in that it was just gravel, not big rocks. Our destination was Spray Lakes West Campground. We arrived at about 3:00 after, for Derik and I, 26 miles. The rain had stopped, but it didn't look like for long, so we were happy to call it a day and get our tents set up before the next shower. We did manage to get the tents set up. We decided we should set up the tarp too. It was starting to rain really hard. I retreated to my tent to get my rain gear back on (and get out of my bike shorts). Connor and Derik got the tarp up. Once it eased up a bit, I joined them.
This is actually a little later after Connor and I redid the tarp, and moved the picnic table so we could cook dinner. Derik was filtering water from the lake while we redid the tarp. 

For dinner we made appetizers of bean dip, cheese, and avocado quesadillas. For the main course, we had quinoa with rehydrated veggies, crimini mushrooms, and chicken. We discovered one cannot just pour boiling water into quinoa, and expect it to cook. It took another 5 or so minutes of cooking on the stove. It was a very good first dinner on the route. Because it was raining again, we waited to deal with the dishes. Once the rain stopped, we went down to the lake and rinsed out the dishes. Here's a few photos of the mountains and lake.

Looking South
The mountains on the other side of our campsite.

This is major bear country, and they even provide bear lockers. They are not too far from our site. All our food, cook wear, and toiletries are in the locker. My bear spray is in my tent.

Although, we started out going the wrong way, and it rained much of the day, it was an auspicious beginning!

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