Day Three, 9-19-05
Given the fact that this is our shortest mileage day, and that Nate was behind in his homework, we decided to not leave until 1pm or so. The lodge served a fantastic breakfast – in “two courses” no less. The first was “porridge” (or what us Yank’s call oatmeal), with lots of “fixin’s”, and the second were very tasty scrambled eggs with sides of sausage, home fries and of course their home made bread toasted. It was perfect. They gave us stuff to pack our lunches also in the morning. A choice of meats, cheese, lettuce, tomato, home made bread, fruit and cookies. We were going to save these for our “dinner” at the cabin, but they assured us that the trading post near the parking area had a restaurant that stayed open till 8pm. That would therefore be our plan – to meet there for dinner, so we would only have to pack in our breakfast and snacks for the next day’s ride.
We cleared our stuff out of the rooms and hung out in their very roomy reading room, with huge windows that looked out onto the mountain range and streamed valley below. I composed the first day of our trip, Nate did homework, Mike read his book, and Papap read and slept. At about 1:30 Nate and I got ready, we all took our “obligatory photo” in front of the lodge, and we left.
I never actually rode with Nate – he did not have the patience for all the stopping I do to take pictures, nor the slowing down to let me catch up. He did call me a couple of times on the radio to see if I wanted him to wait, but I thought it better to let him keep his own pace. I had my MP3 loaded so I had plenty of “company” J.
This day was not the sunny “perfect” weather day that was Day 1. It was a case of alternating overcast with no precipitation, drizzle and rain, or occasionally hail. For the first part of the day it was mostly just overcast. The rain the night before, and in the morning while we were in the lodge helped to keep all the dust down on the Smith Dorien, so we were very happy about that. I was hoping that the lack of a bright sun might allow me to get some better digital pictures, since my first day shots really had the snow caps “washed out” and too bright to really see in the pics. As I took more pictures though, it still seemed like this was happening – the mountains and sky were too bright. I don’t know if it’s the camera, or if there are some unique settings I can use to prevent this. It’s frustrating to know that none of my pics will truly reflect just how magnificent this beauty is here. It’s been one breath taking scene after another.
After riding around 15 miles or so, we hit the pavement and are nearing the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park visitor center. We are also now in range to talk to Mike and Papap by radio as they are in the car. They are going ahead to check out the restaurant at Boulton Creek Trading Post – the only place to get food or any sort of supplies for probably 35 miles. The weather becomes a bit nasty now, as the rain increases, mixing with good size hail. It’s time to break out the rain gear. In a way, I’m glad, since I carried this stuff for the entire Telluride to Moab trip last year and never got to use it. Now I will get to see how well it works.
I find that the jacket fits over my camelback – which is a definite plus, since I’d like to keep the contents dry, and it is not even uncomfortable wearing that way. I must have ordered it a size larger than I needed, or the “one size fits all” is perfect for my smaller than average size. The pants go on easily, without taking off my riding shoes, so I was able to manage the change in less than 2 or 3 minutes – I like them so far.
Before long we hear from Mike that the Trading Post closed for THE SEASON, just YESTERDAY. Yikes! There goes that plan. While Nate and I continue to head on over to the parking area at the Elk Pass trail head, Mike and Papap go back to the visitors center to see what other “food options” there might be. The folks there confirm that there is nothing – not even a vending machine – for less than 35 miles. Well, we all have lots of snacks and plenty of water (it was a good thing that we bought what we thought we would need for the week on day 1), so we have no other choice but to “snack it” for dinner.
We meet at the parking lot/trail head and begin to prepare for tonight, as well as tomorrow. We have to not only pack whatever snacks will feed us for dinner, breakfast, and riding tomorrow, but we also have to consider any change of clothes, reading materials for this evening, and we each have a light but slightly bulky sleeping bag we need to take with us as well. This makes the packing for riding take about an hour – since we have some serious single track type terrain to traverse for the next 8 miles or so, and a good bit of it is uphill.
We finally get ready, and it’s around 5:40 – we will need to “make tracks” to get there before dark. The first quarter mile or so is one heck of a climb. Nate and I make it to the first little plateau without having to push, but we wait for the others. Mike is close behind, but Papap… where’s Papap. We don’t see him for a while, then he comes into view, leaning and pushing his bike … like he looked on Day 1 only worse. He gets to the top and tells us he is going to sleep in the SUV. He won’t be able to do much more of this, and the hill continued as far as we could see at this point. We agree and give him the keys. After he leaves we discuss whether Nate should go with him, since Nate is driving tomorrow (Papap can’t drive), but we all agree Papap would get mad and tell Nate to come with us. He deplores being “coddled”, and it is embarrassing enough for him to continually have to bug out of stuff he NEVER had to before. We agree he will be fine – he lives alone, and has done a cross country trip alone on motorcycle, sleeping in pup tents each night; this will be no problem for him.
We push on, and unfortunately I mean pushing. We eventually hit what the Adventure Cycling map calls “a virtual wall”, only we feel it was probably the 2nd virtual wall in our quest to get to the Alpine Cabin. The terrain is quite rocky, loose and very steep. We can pedal about half way, and have to push the rest. Once on top though, a decent climber should not have to dismount for the remainder of the ride. There are still more hills, but they are more of the “grinder type”, and just require tenacity and patience. When we hit what seems to be the top, we turn left to go behind the gate, and stay under the power line, and we get treated to some of our first down hills. They are short lived though, as there are many long stretches of straight to uphill sections. Finally we hit the highest point of this section, and some pretty wild downhill sections are our reward. Mike gets caught in a rut and goes down fairly hard. The ground is wet and fairly soft, so the landing is forgiving, so the bike is not damaged, and neither is Mike. We all stop, and I remind them that the middle of this “two lane” service road will probably offer the safest line since “ruts live in the tire tracks”.
We finally arrive at what we think is the entrance trail to the cabin, and I hear Nate – “No way, this is our Cabin!?!” There is a broken down miniature log cabin there, with only a few slats on the roof. This can’t be it. I tell him, at this point I am in complete denial, and I’m going to go down this other path to see what’s down here. Finally, my denial turns out to be justified, as the real cabin is just ahead.
Theoretically, you could bike from Engadine to Elkford, but only the most fit and advanced riders could make those 75 miles of mountain biking. I am not one of those, and since this is meant to be a vacation, not a race or a training exercise, I opted to try and find a place to stay. That’s when I found this cabin – operated by the Alpine Club of Canada. This cabin was the only possible “non-camping” place to stay between the Engadine Lodge and Elkford. I went on line and got all the information I needed about the place (I initially found out about it by calling the visitor center at Peter Lougheed), and in order to book the cabin, I had to join the club. Once I was a member, I called their office to arrange the booking. I found out that most people only book their “spot” to sleep, as the cabin will sleep 8 or 10 people. The cost per person wasn’t that much, so I booked the entire cabin. That made it convenient for Mike, Nate and I to lounge around in our underwear J.
The cabin is truly beautiful, and the setting even more striking. There was dry wood and an axe under cover behind the cabin, so Mike and Nate did the “lumberjack” thing for the first hour. Even though there was probably enough dry wood inside the cabin, they enjoyed it for the last hour of daylight we had left. The cabin also was equipped with gas lamps located in strategic spots to keep the place fairly well lit. There was a gas stove that also didn’t require a match to light (I was relieved of that because we had few matches with us). I got the fire going inside, so the time the boys came in things were toasty.
After fine dining on such delicacies as granola, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, snickers, and protein powder, we topped the meal off with a fine assortment of jelly beans. It was sad but we got a few chuckles out of it. After reading some of the entries into the cabin log, we were ready to hit the sack. I did make one mistake though. I added one final log to the fire before we went to bed, and it kept it too hot in the loft. There was a single bedroom on the first floor (which I took J), and it was not too hot downstairs, so Nate ended up sleeping on the couch cushions on the 1st floor after he couldn’t take the heat anymore.
All in all, it was a good ride, a good day, and only a modest snafu vs. the plan.
Stats & Lessons Learned: Miles: 30, Ave: 9.6 mph for, 3:07 riding time, climbing = ????????