Bike Odyssey
North America 2004

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Journal for 11-June-2004 : Rogers Pass

Overcast morning with the odd bit of spitting rain. Actually very nice cycling today. The climb up Rogers Pass (or Col du Roger in dual language Canada) was surprisingly enjoyable. No steep hills, no (or very few) narrow sections of road, just lots of rolling gentle uphills and a thumping tailwind. It might have been nice to see the tops of the mountains disappearing into the cloud cover that lined our route, but we could see the snow line and that was probably enough.

This road is mostly lined with cement walls again, but a bit further from edge of the road than earlier Canadian roads. They keep the cars out of woods, and the woods away from the cars. Almost. At one point a very black head popped up from the other side of the wall and looked at us very curiously. This bear then went back to grazing on the roadside berries, safely hidden behind his cement wall.

Stopped at the various national parks visitors areas along the way. The Trail of the Tall Cedars is clearly named after the material it was made out of. Most of these areas were either officially labeled closed, or had their signs completely removed.

As we approached the first camp ground of the Glacier National Park we spotted another bear grazing by the road. This one not at all perturbed by our presence. Got a nice close photo, then gingerly took a very wide course around this substantial creature who then showed rather more interest in us than we did in it.

Lots of interesting views of waterfalls, mountains, trees all along this route. Lots of views (and noise) from the Canadian Pacific Railroad too.

Stopped early at the Roger's Pass visitor's centre after crossing the relatively easy summit. Interesting models of the area, lots of stuffed animals, some now quite rare and other points of interest. In one section you walk into a small culdersac, and discover a vicious mountain lion is crouching on the arch waiting to pounce on you.

Roger's Pass was originally chosen as the most suitable route for the CPR. “Most Suitable” meant shortest and cheapest, as Canada's first trans continental railroad was laid in something of a rush. With massive steep sloped mountains all around, and getting 30m of snow a year, it's not entirely surprising this area is prone to avalanches. There are some impressive photos of steam powered snow ploughs carving a path for the railways through 10m of snow. There are some grizzly photos of numerous disasters. Hundreds of people were killed, mostly workers sent to dig out trains buried in avalanches, who were themselves buried by more avalanches.

Eventually, the CPR gave up on the pass, and build a 7km tunnel under the death zone. And in 1988 a longer deeper tunnel was added to the portfolio. The Pass only came back to life with the construction of the highway in the early 1960s. The avalanche problem was “solved” by a team of monitors and controlled shelling to bring down snow in a planned way.

I had a lot of trouble finding a rubbish bin that wasn't “locked”. I couldn't understand why the National Parks service would lock rubbish bins, until Linda pointed out that they weren't actually locked, I just had to be shown how to use the bear proof opening mechanism. Smarter than the average bear indeed.

Asked at very expensive hotel at the summit, after learning all the National Parks camp grounds were either officially closed, completely closed (signs removed, so rather hard to find) or too far back down the wrong side of the hill. Offered a budget rate for being cyclists (still pricey), but cheap enough if we ate our camp food for dinner, which we did. Not quite adhering to the cyclist's motto “sleep cheap and eat well”, but we are warm, dry, and particularly comfortable.

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