Cindy and I have been eyeing up this ride for a couple of years. There's only certain times of year it works with park closures. This is one of this times. Plus we have fitness and nice weather. We started by dropping a car near our finish, which involved, inadvertently, us going on a progressively muddier and rougher off road trail through the Indian reserve than I planned. Oops. My mom loves that kind of adventure - nothing beats mud bogging and trespassing in her books. We transferred our gear over and drove back the easier way, and other than a highway incident with my bike, make it to Minnewanka parking lot at 1. So here we set off relatively late in the day, 1 bottle only each after some were lost, to make it back. We had an iPhone map that was low resolution and one screen covered about 60km, some typed notes from Craig, and about 7 hours of sunlight. Or 7 hours of sun and twilight. Off we went.
Animals right off the start. They didn't listen to logic when I asked them to move left off the trial, so we had to follow them a while. They seemed pretty placid.
Happy. But we soon learned the 'cross double header got the best of Cindy's legs and she felt drained today.
Little bridge to cross.
Action single track.
That far lump on the right is one half of the devil's gap where we were headed.
Beauty fall day. Bunch of deer up above us at this stop.
Left and right of the Devil's gap more clearly shown.
So after Minnewanka and the next small lake, Criag's notes were perfect. It went to scree and rubble, the cairns were hard to see to follow the trial to the south side of the third lake, you might end up bushwhacking. Well, we did. First hour we did 10km. Second 10km took 90 minutes. Third 10km took two hours. We did a pep talk that digging in deep to make pace was better on the body, even if hard, than bushwhacking blindly on trails we couldn't find after the sun went down. We got on the scree and rolled, knowing trial was south, and made it to the dry lake. That was an easy marker and we could easily see the trail so joined it.
The dry lake.
This is more conducive to speed.
Eventually popped out of Banff park.
We took a slight detour south here after not seeing the climb out of the Ghost River valley Craig referred to, then knew we were off so came back to find the climb. Wasted only 5 mins out, 5 back. Climb was described perfectly, it's just hidden a bit.
Top of climb looking back west. Essentially from here we have 17km left, net down and on roads.
Happy to be making pace for a bit.
Nearing trunk road.
Within striking distance of done.
Overall this was a great ride. Mixed terrain, beautiful scenery. Could work with a Banff drop and a Cochrane pickup. Terrain surprised you, it gets exponentially slower as you go given the trail conditions, so at one point you think you're almost 4h deep for half way, and the extrapolation doesn't feel so good with a chill in the air and sun setting and zero people around. But it gets better just after that.