Bike Odyssey
North America 2004

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Journal for 13-June-2004 : Takakkaw Falls

One of the best days in North America so far, and wildlife experience to die for.

Great fun riding today. Toughish but nice riding out of Golden up the massive and spectacular kicking horse canyon. Lots of other cyclists out doing this ride today too. I can't say I blame them, this is absolutely beautiful, with brilliant vistas way up the canyon wall of the white water and snaking railroad below.

Wild Sheep grazing by the road. These things look more like goats to me, and they were losing their fluffy white coats, but even though they didn't flinch at the passing trucks, they bolted in fear at the sight of me.

Road leveled off a bit after 20ks, and the sky became a bit threatening. Made it to the Hoodoos Day and camping area (with covered picnic area – yah!) just before the heavens opened up. It didn't rain too much, to start with. We could see the real storms building up and dumping both up and down the valley. In the lulls the magnificent surrounding mountains poked through the rainy mist. Very beautiful.

Back on the road there was no water falling from the skies, but the roads were soaking wet and the passing trucks' spray had us nice and wet. Then it really started raining. Rain showers became forecastable, as the temperature dropped 5C (from 8 to 3) just before it started.

Detoured down to “Natural Bridge”, where the Kicking Horse River plunges into a gigantic whirlpool, and bubbles up the other side of a rocky spit. Very spectacular, and very hard to photograph without getting your camera saturated by the seemingly endless showers.

Lunch at Field. Field is a strange little town. Lots of old wooden residential buildings from the railway era. Not exactly a lot in the way of shops, just a trendy pub/cafe and a humongous visitor's centre.

Left the highway for Takakkaw (means magnificent in Cree) Falls up the Yoho Valley Road which has some very steep little hills.

The lookout of the spiral tunnels of the Canadian Pacific Railroad showed next to nothing at all. These tunnels are an “engineering marvel”, or in other words a very expensive way of addressing the elcheapo construction and selection of the original alignment.

Reached the final lookout where the Yoho and Kicking Horse rivers converge, rather violently at that. This where the barrier stops motorised traffic heading up to the falls before if officially opens.
“Why's the road closed?” an annoyed RV driver asked me.
“Buggered if I know. I'll tell you tomorrow” and promptly cycled around the barrier and off up to the falls.

The hills got steeper. At one point there is a series of switchbacks etched into the cliffs. To give you some idea, “long” vehicles (>7m, trailers are banned outright) have to back up the middle section of the switchbacks as the hairpins are so tight. They were tight to negotiate on a bike. Once up that hill we were enjoying wonderful (if still quite steep) wilderness cycling on a truly deserted road.

We rounded a bend and I saw two cute as a button bear cubs wandering on the road just ahead. We might not have been making that much noise, but mum knew we were coming before we knew she was worried. She was standing on her hind legs to make herself as tall and as threatening as possible. It worked too! She must have stood 9m tall and weight at least 8 tonnes. We think she looked like a black bear, but the more this story gets told the more certain I am she was a grizzly. We made a very quick retreat. You are supposed to back away slowly if you see a bear, but bugger that, nothing alive without a bike was going to catch me! I looked back over my shoulder and she was gone.

After a few hours (OK, minutes) we continued back up the hill, this time yelling and screaming, “singing” (very poor use of that word) and grunting (I do that anyway). A popular tune was the theme to Play School, which starts “there's a bear in there”.

More IT trouble. We filled the camera up with all our photos taken today. It can only hold 200 or so. It took 3 attempts to *some* of them safely (another dubious choice of words) on the toy. Then the batteries on everything failed in the cold weather.

Takakkaw Falls absolutely brilliant. With all the rain today they were belting massive quantities of water all over then place.

Great camp fire in the kitchen hut at the deserted falls. By 11pm it was almost dark enough to go to bed.

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