When you live in the mountains they are just always there. Omnipresent. Unmoving. You navigate by them. Hike them. Ski them. And, when the vast majority of your home Province is defined by them, you can take them for granted.
Then you leave home, riding through mountains to visit flatter lands. You’re still in your home Country, but not your home Province. The roads are straight. There is a horizon. The sky goes on to eternity. Nothing breaks the straight line marking the curve of the earth and, while it has a certain beauty, it feels… odd. Like there’s not enough topography.
NMBL and I packed up after our second night at River Grove Campground in Drumheller. The staff treated us well, we were both able to shower, and we got our laundry done. Plus it gave us a base camp to come back to. We will return as there is more to explore in the area. Next year perhaps.
Out of Drumheller we took the 9 west towards the 567 and Airdrie. Our goal was to pass north of Calgary and avoid the 1 altogether. Our route was to take us along the 1A to Kananaskis where we’d camp at Bow Valley Provincial Park. The entire ride on country highway. So much better than the freeway.
Not far out of Drumheller the weather turned cold again. Our morning started off hot, so much so that we both had on just basic shells with few layers. We could see dark clouds to the west and the wind was going hard. The wind has been one of two constants on our prairie journey. The other is the obvious flat that allows the wind free reign.
We pulled over, zipped our vents, and pressed on. The ride wasn’t going to be long but we wanted to get to Kananaskis so we could have a relaxed evening. Onward across lightly undulating grasslands, past fields of who knows what crops, in straight lines, first west, then south, then west again. The engineering reasons behind the 90 degree changes in direction are lost on me but we made them in our march westward. The clouds continued to loom in the distance. Darker. Sharper. Jagged. Not just clouds.
Even at that distance, through the clouds, they were visible. Atlas’ North American cousins, the Rockies, holding up our world with broad shoulders. A long dark grey craggy end to the flat. Distinct and resolute in their presence. That was home. I missed them. There was a pang of longing deep down in my gut. I don’t know if NMBL felt it. I haven’t asked her. But I felt it.
Our trip toward the Rocky Mountains felt good. Every minute we traveled they rose up taller to welcome us. They seemed to shrug off some of the clouds that clung to the grass lands, forcing the water out soon after we turned onto the 1A. We made a quick stop to waterproof and moved along, passing through the cloud burst and on to the best ride of the trip so far.
Bikers, ride the 1A west of Calgary into Canmore. It is a stunningly beautiful stretch of road that will keep a big dumb grin on your face the entire time. It rolls it’s way through the foothills of the Rockies while offering a new view of the mountains through every turn. Eventually you will find yourself at the end of it but the memory of this ride will replay itself in your dreams that night. I followed NMBL for a while on this ride with the helmet camera on. We’ll pull the best pictures from that stretch to put up here and in the gallery.
We’re both currently snuggled up in our hammocks as the sun is setting on the mountains. We’ve had some spots of rain since we arrived but our shelter was up first and we got ourselves fed. A nice hot curry dinner followed by twenty minutes looking out over the Bow River had us nice and content. We even helped our campground neighbours set up a particularly troublesome rental tent so they could enjoy their evening as well. Though they thought that our hammock setup might be the way to go next time. Of course we encouraged them. We wish them safe travels through Banff and Jasper.