Friday, July 19, 2013

My Humps

“What'cha gonna do with all that junk,
All that junk inside your trunk?”

The town of Jasper is a paradox for Parks Canada — to many people it's what they like about the park, but for the institution it's almost contradictory to their mandate of putting environmental protection first. The town is entirely within the park, and I had to pay a park fee of $9.80 for the privilege of staying there overnight. The place is packed with people: passengers pouring out of the Rocky Mountaineer train, hikers jangling with bear bells, RVers clogging the streets with their giant rigs. The bears are all over the place, too, in the form of mugs, hats, slippers, pins, you name it.

After a breakfast at Tim Hortons, I said goodbye to Joshua who was sticking around for the day. I took off into a morning perfect for cycling, with a light tailwind to push me through the Athabasca Valley. The Yellowhead Pass was an imperceptible hump over the continental divide just before Jasper, so rivers on this side now flow to the Atlantic or the Arctic. My amazing ride out of the national park was only marred by the sight of a dead animal (deer? baby elk?) . It looked fresh, I imagine the park is probably vigilant about removing roadkill so it must have just happened within hours.

Poor thing

These mountain goats did not seem to be bothered by the traffic, though

Right outside the park the Rocky Mountains stop abruptly, as if someone lifted a curtain. But the ripple folds in the foothills welcomed me with a long climb towards the town of Hinton. The air was suddenly very different; warm, humid and pungent with the smell of wet foliage. Overhead was an ominous sky and rumblings of thunder. Halfway up the climb I was caught in a squall which I waited out by spreading out my tarp over me and the bike like a large raincoat.

Hinton is like Jasper National Park's messy supply closet. Everything that isn't in the park is here; big box stores and fast food joints line the highway. After getting another flat tire in town, a cheap motel next to a laundromat tempted me to stay here for the night instead of continuing further to a provincial campground with no showers, only pit toilets and a hand-operated water pump, all in glorious spitting rain.

It's strange to be climbing out of the Rockies, but this morning started out with a longish climb up to Obed Summit, the Yellowhead Highway's highest point almost 140 kilometres east of the continental divide. There will be other humps for sure, but this is the crest, from now on it will be somewhat downhill on average. Yeah right.

I'm gonna make, make, make you work ”

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