Mexico to Canada on Dirt - The Continental Divide Trail

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bwanajames, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Chup

    Chup Namaste...Bitches

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    You really make this forum a gem with your ride reports. It's not just the state of your affairs that you share, but the insight and hindsight, that makes me connect with what this site is about----Adventure. Cheers on you !!
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  2. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    “After 3 days, fish and relatives begin to stink…” - Benjamin Franklin


    Ever mindful of Ben’s sage words, I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. Bidding my family farewell, I pointed the GS toward the Canadian border.

    My last time through (which happened to be my first) Canada’s finest put me through the royal ringer, doing everything short of X-raying my bike for contraband. This time however, the border agent gave my passport a cursory glance, spotted the red maple leaf on my pannier, and said: “Enjoy Canada…”

    I’ve had more difficulty getting into a nightclub.


    IMG_0754_crop_resize1250.JPG

    Tracing the route that carried me to Alaska three years ago, the landscape seemed like an old friend. Traveling north, there was a noticeable change. Braided riverbeds grew shallow, sprawling across broad glaciated valley floors with aquamarine waters snaking around sandbars.

    The mountains too, seemed different. Chiseled crags heaved upward with a prominence unrivaled elsewhere in the Rockies. In the air was a sense you were somewhere special. A land more wild. The beasts larger, more exotic. It was every Field & Stream article I'd read as a kid – horseback adventures into secluded haunts for Dall & Stone’s sheep – hoping one day I too would see these mountains, breathe this air, land a rainbow, salmon, or grayling from these waters.

    IMG_0758_Banff_sig_Unsharpen Mask_Resize1250.jpg
    9,672 foot Mount Rundle seen from Vermilion Lakes

    Some info:

    “The Canadian Rockies are quite different in appearance and geology from the American Rockies to the south of them. The Canadian Rockies are composed of layered sedimentary rock such as limestone and shale, whereas the American Rockies are made mostly of metamorphic and igneous rock such as gneiss and granite.

    The Canadian Rockies are overall more jagged than the American Rockies, because the Canadian Rockies have been more heavily glaciated, resulting in sharply pointed mountains separated by wide, U-shaped valleys carved by glaciers, whereas the American Rockies are overall more rounded, with river-carved V-shaped valleys between them. The Canadian Rockies are cooler and wetter, giving them moister soil, bigger rivers, and more glaciers. The tree line is much lower in the Canadian Rockies than in the American Rockies.”
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  3. 97707

    97707 Go Long

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    Nice writing.
    .
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  4. stoney4vida

    stoney4vida Semper Fidelis

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    Slowly catching up. Great report
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  5. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    “Now I know what I have to do. I’ve got to keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide may bring…” – Tom Hanks in Castaway


    IMG_0759_crop4x6_Resize1250.JPG

    I’ve arrived at the northern terminus of the CDT. But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet. With an overdose of pavement, it doesn’t count.

    Brooding skies awaited in picturesque Banff. Despite the gloom, the town was bustling with people from around the globe - most notably Japan. Hoping for something other than pannier chow, I went searching for a meal. In a food court, I found an Indian fast food operation - A Taste of Sri Lanka - manned by a profoundly unenthusiastic middle-aged Indian fellow (dots not feathers…).

    Food in hand, I searched for a table when approached by Mr. Sri Lanka’s polar opposite - a vibrant, energetic, forty-something Spanish fellow carrying a motorcycle helmet. Though he was not eating, he asked to sit with me.

    Victor from Victoria turned out to be a fascinating fellow. His lively voice told of travels to lands I can only imagine - all on his BMW 1200GS. His life has been one of high-level office manager, to restaurant owner - which led to financial ruin, depression and a broken marriage. Down to his last dollar, he was offered a part as a movie extra portraying a Hispanic policeman. From that humble opportunity, he climbed the film industry ladder to a lucrative position as a production manager. He now works six months on a film, makes a king’s ransom, then rides his bike around the world the other six months.

    His message: “Never go into debt, and never give up. You never know what life has in store for you…” - Victor Sanchez


    IMG_0760_Victor_Banff_Resize1250.JPG
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  6. outbacktm

    outbacktm Bullrun Bison

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    Can we vote BJ best "RR author "
    He is my favorite at any rate
    The sentiment is aimed at the heart not the head
    Truly you are an amazing storyteller
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  7. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    Outback,

    You are too kind. With composing, photo editing, scanning maps and some historical research (so it's not all "The Jim Show"...), it's pretty easy to sink a couple of hours of my evening into a single posting. It's also easy for life to get in the way and run out of steam.

    But it's comments like these that stoke the fire to keep me going. An attitude of gratitude moves mountains. Thanks for the inspiration!

    (Storyteller? A fool engaged in ill-advised activities only has to tell the truth...). :D

    BJ
  8. outbacktm

    outbacktm Bullrun Bison

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    That's what I'm talking about I love that last line
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  9. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    Back on the Map!

    My circuitous route has me back on the CDT. Leaving Banff at a ridiculous hour, I rolled into Canmore and groped about in the dark for a place to camp. Surrounded by so much nature, you’d think it would be easy. But most of this country is shockingly vertical. At a roadside pull-off behind town, I spied a flat above that might escape prying eyes and roared up to it.

    Erecting my tent by moonlight, this was pushing my stealth camping comfort zone. Gauging the angle of passing headlights, I pushed the GS over the rise so its plastering of reflective tape and stickers wouldn’t light up like a Christmas tree. With traffic filing by all through the night, I expected at any moment to be shrinking in the scoldinging flashlight beam of the authorities. But as the night wore on, I developed the distinct impression that I was camped above the local teenager make-out site and dozed off.

    IMG_0762_Banff_Resize1250_4x6crop_sig.JPG
    Ha Ling Peak.

    I’m glad I stopped when I did last night. It would be criminal to pass through this country under a veil of darkness. On sound gravel, the Smith-Dorrien Trail (742) weaved through a valley bordered by shark-toothed mountains, their peaks wreathed in swirling vaporous clouds and chiseled features mirrored in the jeweled lakes at their feet.


    Mount_Assiniboine_Sunburst_Lake.jpg
    (Stock image. Raining when I went through).

    Nearby Mount Assiniboine is representative of the dagger peaks you’ll see along the Smith-Dorrien Trail. Due to its pyramidal shape, the 11,870 foot peak has been referred to as the "Matterhorn" of North America.


    CDTMap20 Notes_Banff to US Border.jpg
    Back on the map.


    Canmore Parks.jpg
    Lucky for us, the CDT passes through a series of stunning Canadian parks.
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  10. Hunterjs

    Hunterjs Fernie Boy

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    Jim - Your last post early this am. You still on the ride ?
  11. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    Hi Hunter,

    Yes, I'm a night owl. But this ride has been completed. While live reports are fun, it's tough to do while camping along the CDT, as many areas are remote without internet (not to mention the time commitment, which really eats into mileage).

    I see you are up in God's country (lucky devil). Sorry I can't swing by for breakfast... :(

    BJ
  12. DunkingBird

    DunkingBird Been here awhile

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    Switzerland, Bern
    I just learned "our" Matterhorn is also advertising for BC :lol2

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  13. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    While the 11,870 ft Mount Assiniboine can’t compete with the 14,692 foot Matterhorn for elevation or death toll (an estimated 500 climbers lost their lives on the Swiss mountain), they do share some interesting background.

    HISTORY

    Assiniboine and the Matterhorn share more than just their good looks. European guide, Christian Hassler, had already done the first ascent of the Matterhorn when he guided Assiniboine.

    In 1903, Edward Whymper (who led the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 – which tragically lost four members on descent…) brought Swiss guides to Canada. Three serious attempts on Assiniboine had already been repulsed. All the higher peaks in the Canadian Rockies were still unclimbed too. The arrival of the alpine superstar created a stir in the competitive world of Canadian peak bagging. No worries! Mr Whymper was reluctant to leave the good life of the Lake Louise/CPR climbing scene (Chris Jones, Climbing in North America, 1971).

    The Swiss guides and James Outram couldn't let such opportunities slip by. Mr Outram politely "borrowed" Mr Whymper's frustrated guides and the enthusiastic team sent! First, they made it up Assiniboine by traversing to the backside and discovering an easier route (SW Face, 4th class). Then they made sure to tick the route everyone else had been trying, the North Ridge (5.5x, onsight downclimb,1903).

    Source: https://www.mountainproject.com/v/mount-assiniboine-3618m/106986097

    1280px-Matterhorn_from_Domhütte_-_2.jpg
    The Swiss Giant
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  14. DunkingBird

    DunkingBird Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    180
    Location:
    Switzerland, Bern
    Thanks bwanajames, mountains always attract some unbelievable adventurers.

    You inspired some research on my side and there are a lot of Matterhorn-doppelganger (German: Doppelgänger :-)) around.
    The alpine museum in Bern counted 238 of them and some are really big boys.

    [​IMG]
    Tibet: Manamcho (6264m)

    By the way the Matterhorn stands for my highest point I ever reached with my old Africa Twin (RD03).
    Me and my buddy approached the Matterhorn from the italian side (in Switzerland you get shot for such an attempt :hung) and reached the theodul glacier at 3300 m.ü.M.
    upload_2017-9-21_18-49-9.png


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  15. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    The Inspection

    As the ceiling dropped on Spray Valley Provincial Park, it began to, well… spray. The already cool morning was about to get cooler. Wriggling into my rainsuit, I continued on, squinting through rain-spattered glasses. After a while, a soaked crotch suggested either incontinence or a lack of seam seal.

    Alberta’s Smith-Dorrien Trail is not going to challenge anyone’s riding skills. Even wet, the road resembles partially cured concrete; just soft enough to carve your initials. Here the greatest hazard is running off the road while gawking at scenery. Remember the stunning mountain backdrop in Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt? It was filmed here.

    IMG_0764_Alberta, Canada_Resize1250_4x6crop.JPG



    IMG_0765_Resize1250.JPG
    Reschedule that winter ride. (Wide-angle settings are great for making your puny bass seem huge, but lousy for photographing rectangular objects).


    IMG_0768_Alberta, Canada_crop4x6_Resize1250.JPG

    Rounding a bend, there stands a bighorn ewe. Right smack in the road. To avoid stressing the creature, I braked at a respectful distance. To my great surprise, she marches up confidently like it’s time for inspection. Rifling through my tank bag, this is a Kodak moment. The next thing I know, she’s sniffing my pant leg! I could reach out and pet her coarse tawny coat, or grab her horns and bulldog her. (The hunter in me couldn’t help but draw butcher lines…). Her delicate muzzle skimmed across my clothing like a dog assessing someone’s travels or intentions (or humpability).

    She then circled my bike, sniffing the panniers. Was she looking for a hand-out? Was she conscripted by the border patrol to catch smugglers? I must have passed the test. She moved off to the side and let me continue.


    IMG_0773_Alberta, Canada_Resize1250.JPG
    Passport please...
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  16. DunkingBird

    DunkingBird Been here awhile

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    180
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    Switzerland, Bern
    Despite beeing a butcher in his working career my father always gets the whole liking of animals :loco

  17. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Adventurer

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    Now THAT is one to remember! Thanks BJ!
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  18. Shunt

    Shunt Adventurer

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    Mar 13, 2009
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    28
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    Norfolk, UK
    Great report so far. Loving your writings an thanks for the time
    bwanajames likes this.
  19. mframe

    mframe adventurer

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    Apr 23, 2017
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    Southwest Missouri
    Bwanajames - man what an awesome job on your ride report, loving that great photography and thoughtful narrative.

    Jeff in SW MO
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  20. bwanajames

    bwanajames Lone Wolf

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    The Crossroads

    IMG_0776_Resize1250.JPG Missing my knobbies.


    Near Kananaskis Lakes, the gravel Smith-Dorrien Trail joins paved Bighorn Highway/40 (also closed in winter). The CDT then flows south following the serpentine Highwood River, known for its flyfishing.

    Before long, I found myself at yet another crossroads: Paved “green route” to Longview and precious fuel? Or the intriguing blue route: a damp earthen corridor ascending through dewy, dripping trees extending to the horizon? My gas gauge was no help, teetering between maybe and maybe not. My inner Lewis & Clark want to explore. To appease both demons, I decided to grab fuel in Longview (44 km), then double back to the original CDT.


    Upper Kananaskis-Lake.jpg
    Upper Kananaskis-Lake (Stock image). Author confession: I’m a little squeamish about using someone else’s photos, but it seems a shame not to show you the beauty of the area just because I encountered lousy weather.


    Through spitting rain and the occasional road crew, I glided east on highway 541, passing the Eden Valley Indian Reservation. Noticing a sign for gas, I turned around. Negotiating the dirt road at the entrance of this seemingly humble outpost, I noticed stern warnings regarding trespass. Not only am I in a different country, but reservations often have their own rules. Painfully aware of my race, I wondered if I was overstepping my bounds. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Spotting a dilapidated blue single-wide trailer beside a gas pump, I rolled towards it. Feeling like an intruder, I dismounted and went inside.

    I was met by a fit, business-like, 40-something native fellow sporting a fresh haircut and crisp shirt. Placing a Canadian bill on the counter, he directed his tall, gangly, youthful assistant to man the gas nozzle. Feeling somewhat out of place (and in need) I tried to connect with the young gas jockey, who lightened up and projected a good-natured smile while engaging in small talk. Though not greeted with open arms, I was at least tolerated.


    bearspaw.jpg


    Lest anyone think I was swimming in a river of white guilt, I had an experience in Alaska which gave me pause. In a similarly remote area, I had stopped for fuel. As a solo rider, I welcome these small moments to connect with people, if only a brief smile and nod. Yet I noticed the native lady behind the counter was making a concerted effort not to make eye contact with me. Thinking little of it, I walked out the door, passing a middle-aged native fellow and received the same treatment. My only success came with native children in a vehicle next to me. With cherubic brown faces and gleaming almond eyes, they gleefully bounced on the seats at the sight of the motorcycle. I gave them a tiny wave and they waved back.

    I later asked a long-time Alaska resident (caucasian) about this. It was not my imagination. “There is a significant portion of the native population that still harbors resentment towards the white man for occupying their land…” he explained. “By avoiding eye contact with whites, the native people are saying “you aren’t worthy…” “you don’t exist for me…” he added.

    Sad. Sustained by venison collected with a longbow, I’d like to think they could relate to me.