Sharon Hawley has finished her bicycle trip in Canada for this summer. She hopes to complete the adventure in another year. Please follow her winter adventure at

Route Map

Route Map

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Crest of the Rockies

I came to the Canadian Rockies warned that the country is absolutely gorgeous and that I came here at the exact perfect time. From Valemount to Banff, they said, will astound you. But by the time I reached Valemount on June 1, I was already in love. The mountains circle about me at every horizon like dark sleeping animals, their backs whitened with snow. And all this grandeur is regarded as peripheral to the real world.

I stayed in Valemount two nights, resting and building courage for the 125km trudge up to the crest of the Rockies, and on to Jasper. I would do it all in one day, because there would be no services, save one small café, and camping among bears and moose is not advised in these parts.

So it was that I left Valemount yesterday, mentally charged for the best and worst. I noticed, like on prior days, that all the creeks and even the little rills and culverts are flowing with spring melt. But today some of them run clear and some flow with a milky gray. The milky ones carry glacier melt with fine particles of rock rubbed away from canyon walls as glaciers flow. I have not seen a glacier, have not seen a grizzly, but both live in these mountains, both leave their tracks.

I came to the Fraser River again, after leaving it eight days ago, and followed it toward Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Here, a creek replaces the massive river I left in the Fraser Valley. And here in August salmon will come to have sex and die. I will miss them. But nobody who comes this way can miss Mt. Robson (photo at left) looming above everything. Horizontal lines streak across it—sedimentary layers where coral fish died, preserved in rock. Our senses of time and place do not allow us to fathom this massive rock as coral reef in tropical water. We are forced to either believe the evidence, or point belligerently to a mountain that came to us in a more sensible way.

I saw all this from the Yellowhead Highway, which I have followed since Kamloops. It has a wide shoulder all the way, and up until now the large vehicles were mostly trucks; they call them transports. They contain courteous drivers almost without exception. The only real hazard I encountered today was rented RV’s with Americans gawking at mountains while they drive.

When I came to Yellowhead Pass, I knew it is the easiest passage through the Canadian Rockies, and the line between British Colombia and Alberta. But I also knew I had accomplished something and could make it down to the tourist town of Jasper.

I am taking a day of rest here at the start of the Icefields Parkway, which I will pedal for the next three days. I will stay in hostels because the few lodges along the way are outrageously expensive. Jasper is expensive too, which is why I am staying in a home, where the family has internet. They rent three bedrooms with a shared bath, but I was the only tenant last night. Many homeowners in Jasper rent bedrooms as a kind of joint rebellion of visitors and residents against high hotel rents. Most of them have vacancy signs.

You may not see me for three days, internet is unlikely. But like a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon, my bicycle should emerge in Canmore on Sunday evening.


  1. Amazing photos, amazing experience... your descriptions are snow-crested, glistening with wonder, we can tell you are in love... no wonder you are solo, the wild lover of the Canadian Rockies must greet them alone, and with only a bike. I love your lonely bike by the welcome sign... do you see wild roses? At first I thought it said "wild moose country!" Well, we saw one when we were there, you are getting close to our footsteps from our last trip there!

  2. "Glaciers and grizzlys leave their tracks on mountains made of coral reefs..." Whoa, who needs drugs for an out-of-body experience after wrapping their brain around that! And the pictures... yum! Sharon R.

  3. Welcome to Jasper, is this the most northern point in Canada you will be, just curious. Photos are as good as they get -- it doesn't get any more beautiful than this when it comes to mountains, snow, green... Enjoy your day off, and then the Icefields Parkway.

  4. Thanks Kathabela, Sharon, and Michael for stopping by. Your comments are encouraging where state of mind makes a difference.

    Yes, Michael, this is as far north as I will go. And when I cross Sunwapta Pass on Saturday, it will be the highest at 2070 meters.

    "Glaciers and grizzlys leave their tracks on mountains made of coral reefs." Yes, Sharon, that's a poetic way of saying it.