Fire and Water – Nothing’s Ever Simple!

Bike trips always require a certain amount of flexibility.  My general preference is to not have a specific unchangeable end date and not map out exactly how many miles each day for the entire trip.  That way you can get up in the morning and say “well, I’m tired and lazy, let’s do a short day” or “I’m feeling ambitious, time for another Century!”….  However, this trip being as remote as it is and being in a group of 5 with a variety of end points and dates, we’ve done quite a bit of planning.  We have a proposed outline on a shared Google Calendar of where we hope to get to each day, which camp grounds look the best, etc.  That’s all well and good as a theory.

Downtown Calgary

Earlier this week we learned of major flooding in Southern Alberta.  We all followed a little, but didn’t realize how bad it was until we really started looking into it.  Banff (where we start riding from) and Calgary (where we fly into) were both evacuated and at first we couldn’t get a hold of anyone.  The first 4 day’s of our ride is still fully evacuated with bridges out and campgrounds closed with no proposed reopening dates.  Before (or if we are honest after) panicking, we put our heads together to make a plan.  Several of us, from our respective home states (we have Vermont, New York, Ohio, and Hawaii represented) spent two full days pouring over maps, blogs and websites, and calling everyone we could think of.

Now, several days after the severe flooding, Banff and Calgary are mostly open for business.  However, it’s clear majority of the Canada Section of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is impassible due to bridges out and mudslides.  We came up with three possible plans to by-pass the flooding:  a 200 mile bus ride, an Eastern ride along a probably busy and fairly unknown Route 2 to Route 3 over a sketchy sounding and completely unknown  Crowsnest Pass, or a slightly better known 250 mile detour on Route 93.    The Eastern route would leave right from Calgary which would mean we would miss Banff (SAD) and be riding largely in the plains instead of the mountains (read – into a head wind).  That is also the most likely route they are using to bring in trucks and heavy equipment to fix roads and bridges.  It just doesn’t sound that fun.

This bridge is on our trail - that last step's a doozy!

This bridge is on our trail – that last step’s a Doozy!

On a conference call last night we decided that the Westernmost route 93 was the best option we have left.  We also learned it is part of Adventure Cyclings’ Great Parks North bike route, which means it’s cycle friendly.  I’m feeling really good about this option even though it means missing pretty much all of the Canada part of the GDMBR and riding those 300 miles on pavement instead of dirt.  It’s still the Canadian Rocky’s and it will still be beautiful and fabulous.  So much for all our planning.

Highway 1 between Calgary and Banff

Highway 1 between Calgary and Banff

We also just learned that several sections of the GDMBR are closed in Colorado do to large forest fires – so we may be detouring even more as we get further south.  Fire and Water may change our route but it won’t dampen our spirits or decrease the fun to be had – it just adds to the adventure!  I fly to Calgary to brave the waters on Monday, and we are back on schedule to begin riding on July 4th.  The one thing I have decided for sure is that these detours, combined with the fact that I’m only going the first 2,000 miles of the trail to southern Colorado, means I’ll just have to come back in a few years and do it again.  Ah Shucks!

Widespread forest fires are blocking parts of the GDMBR in Colorado.

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One thought on “Fire and Water – Nothing’s Ever Simple!

  1. I sounds like you will have a wonderful adventure. Don’t worry about missing some time in the mountains. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the freedom of the open roads, and Adventure Cycling’s routes are very sweet. I’m looking forward to following your travels on the blog. Thanks, for indulging our vicariousness.

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