58.52 Miles; Redstreak Campground to Marble Campground in Kootenay National Park, BC
We slept in late to relish a shorter day today. In fact, after rousing, we rode down to Radium Hot Springs. Some people passing through the campground the night before informed us that there was no good food nor resupply worthy. They were absolutely wrong. We went to the Bighorn Café in town where I ordered a breakfast veggie potpie and a vegan curry pasty. Janna got her own fixings which we sat back and enjoyed on a sunny morning. Food consumed, we headed north of town towards the official entrance to Kootenay National Park. Our goal for the day was to bike across most of the park and stay at a primitive frontcountry campground.
Kootenay National Park would prove to be one of the incredible highlights of this trip, and a place I would bike through again with anticipation. I knew little about the place, and it seemed most tourists were content with passing through in vehicles on their way to Banff. However, this National Park boasted the swollen Kootenay River pulsing with CFS far greater than it should be this time of year due to the early summer snow storms. Huge glaciated valleys framed by rocky peaks. Massive waterfalls, dense megafauna, striated river seams, and glacial headwaters. I freaking loved it.
Immediately, Janna and I started up the main climb; a long sustained grade with copious signs warning of hazards: Avalanches, Rock Slides, Bears, and No Cellular Service for the Next 105 km. The canyon we were entering narrowed up as careening waterfalls eroded the side of the highway. We climbed past the facility built around the namesake Radium Hot Springs and past the sign warning of no cell service. Immediately, the highway was buoyed on both sides by repeat signs every mile or so indicating EXTREMELY HIGH and DANGEROUS BEAR ACTIVITY. All drivers must not stop nor leave their vehicles for any reason for the safety of the human occupants. I exaggerate not because these signs were posted everywhere. There were even signs that would be lit up saying very active bears were in the area and to not stop the car for any reason. This, of course, was juxtaposed with us who were plainly on bikes with no large glass or metal shields around us, unlike our motorized road-partners. At first I thought the signs were there to keep people moving in their cars (to prevent wildlife traffic jams), but the amount of raw food along the shoulder (McDonalds, wrappers, candy bars, french fries, etc.) made me wonder whether the bears were food/people aggressive because of the amount of conditioning occurring from people LITERALLY THROWING THEIR FOOD out the windows. We kept passing piles of fast food flung from cars and smeared all over the shoulders - which we had to bike through. The bears would be active indeed.
Likewise, as we rode, there were massive piles of Grizzly and Black Bear scat all over the place. Any section of the road seemed to have gigantic piles of bear feces and large tear-aways from bears digging. Janna and I began loudly bear calling lest be turn a corner and run into some unintentionally. Near the top of the climb, a large teal and emerald lake sat next to the road. It was gorgeous to look at but completely closed due to the bear activity. Again, signs mustered people onward for their safety.
We came to a pullout where several cars were pulled over despite the numerous signs indicated the pullout was closed for passenger safety from bears. We pulled over as well and ate some food, taking in a massive view of the Kootenay River Valley below. Then, it was a fast-paced downhill off the saddle and into the aforementioned river-carved plain. At the bottom, we joined the Banff Wilderness Parkway and spun our ways north past signs indicating it was safe to hike but to be bear aware.
The slate gray-green flow of the Kootenay River caught my attention so we biked over to a spur dirt road where rafters put in. We ended talking to some rafters for quite some time. The dads were putting in for a multi-day journey with their daughters during what they said was peak seasonal flow from all the late-winter storms. I loved watching the Kootenay move past, absolutely surging with glacial sediment. Janna and I stood along the banks before rejoining the highway while the Kootenay kept as our eastward passenger. This pattern of adjoining-river-riding would comprise the rest of the day - and I loved it.
A fence rose up quickly to parallel the highway on both sides - boxing us in from the river and forest on either flank. And it was electrified. Janna and I were both bewildered by it, and kept commenting that we felt like we were in Jurassic Park. I later learned it was constructed to keep the wildlife all the highways, and consequently bears and people alive from prevented accidents. We stopped for lunch at a covered pavilion located inside the fence before moving on down the roads towards increasing varied peaks.
Suddenly, we came to aptly named "Goat Crossing" where some 30 or more mountain goats were feeding and galloping right next to the opposing highway shoulder. Traffic was stopped in both directions requiring us to navigate carefully around the vehicles. After watching the mountains goats for some time, we pushed as the Vermillion River (a tributary of the Kootenay) drew close. Janna and I kept pulling over to wander out along its banks and walk back some trails to see its spread amongst the conifers and heightened clouds. We stopped and walked down a trail to check out a narrow gorge carved by the Vermillion suddenly funneled through narrow, dense rock.
As the day wore on, we finally arrived at Marble Campground, which proved to be greatly primitive for a frontcountry site. It seems everyone tries to stay in developed Banff or Lake Louise some 40 miles away, leaving this site relatively open and arguably undeveloped for such a rugged area. We had reservations and made our way to our site where another couple was already occupying it. They refused to leave the site (even them with a car and us on bikes). No host on hand meant we had to find another site, which we luckily did. We asked around about storing our food in this dense bear area and were pointed to a shed labeled "Cyclists food storage." Most notable of all was the number of claw-scrapes and bear paw prints plainly all over the door. We stuffed our food inside and were grateful to be sleeping away from the shed in a site with not much disturbance. As late evening light faded, I noted again that my knee seemed even more aggravated than the day before. In fact, it felt like a roaring reminder of patellar tendonitis - the worst I had felt in years. In addition, Janna had started complaining about searing Achilles pain throughout the day. We hoped that a good night's sleep would ameliorate both.
Leave a Reply.