Jasper is a beautiful town high in the Canadian Rockies which boasts a fantastic network of Mountain Biking tracks. Today I was fortunate to be able to explore them.
I only had one day, and had no idea where to go, so Chris from Freewheel Cycles in Jasper loaned me a brand-new Rocky Mountain dual suspension bike, and gave me a paper map of the best trails in town.
He suggested I do the “Five Lakes Trail” which should take me 3 or 4 hours.
I set off on my new bike along the banks of the Athabasca River, feeling like I’d just jumped into a postcard.
A short distance away on the powder-blue water, whitewater rafters waved excitedly at me.
No guys, I’m not going to swap with you. This bike is mine 🙂
The single tracks started in town and just kept going. I couldn’t believe it. This was mountain biking heaven.
Chris had warned me that some parts of the track might have bears on them. He said if I talked loudly the bears would stay away from me.
So I made up some corny sounding songs about “Going on a bear hunt”, and “Please don’t eat me, Mr Bear”, and sang them as loudly as I could. Hopefully the bears would avoid the bad singing.
A happy looking mountain biker zipped up behind me. I wondered if she heard my singing. She was smiling, so I guessed not.
“Hi, I’m Neil, ” I said.
“I’m Lonie,” she replied.
“Loinie?” I wanted to make sure I had the name right.
“Yeah, like Lonie Macaroni!”
Since I was in a singing mood, I asked her if she had heard the song “Bony Moronie”
“Of course!” she smiled.
Lonie was friends with Chris from Freewheel Cycles. She told me to say “Hi” to him.
After going our separate ways, I started singing “Bony Moronie” to myself, under the snow-clad gaze of Mount Tekarra.
“I’ve got a girl called Bony Moronie…
She’s as skinny as a stick of macaroni…”
I’m sure the bears would love this song.
One cool thing about Canada is these great signs that actually point to the mountain they’re naming. They’re all over the place – I saw dozens along the Icefields Parkway while driving.
Although Chris had told me it would take 3 or 4 hours, I was in no rush. I stopped by the river to enjoy the view and have a snack.
More single track – this was great.
I kept up the anti-bear songs. It appeared to be working, although I was running out of tunes.
My track emerged at the car park for the Five Lakes trail. It wasn’t too crowded, so I wouldn’t be clashing with many walkers today.
Rather than just do the Five Lakes trail, Chris suggested I try out the Wabasso Lake trail first. This was an “out and back” with some views he thought I would enjoy.
More postcard single tracks with mountainous backdrops. If I lived here I think I’d call in sick and spend most days riding.
I ended up at a green-looking lake. Was this Wabasso?
I found out later it wasn’t. I should have continued another couple of kilometres. Ah well – the ride was nice anyway.
I slowly wound back along the tracks to the trailhead.
As with my previous rides on this trip, I lamented not being able to share this with anyone. I was by myself – I just muttered “wow” to myself, and kept rolling. Would anyone like to return to Jasper with me?
I followed the Five Lakes trail.
This is a valley of five stunning turquoise lakes.
It’s a bit rough in parts. Thankfully Chris gave me some pointers about the most suitable route for the bike.
An impossibly colored lake stood before me.
The water looked clear. Should I try it out?
A few crazy Canadians swam in it. It was too cold for me. I just waded around and tried not to get my knicks wet.
The track hugged the side of a hill. I shared it with a few walkers who kindly moved out of the way as I passed them.
One woman was in a bikini.
The sun-smart Aussie in me couldn’t help it:
“You’ll get bad sunburn if you’re not careful,” I warned.
Another crazy-blue lake. This was insane. I understand the science behind the colors, but it’s still stunning to behold.
Eventually I hit a steep section and had to walk.
Sadly, I had mis-read Chris’s map and had taken a wrong turn. But when you’ve got lots of time, and are enjoying the views, there aren’t really any wrong turns, are there?
A couple of English tourists were enjoying the track ahead of me.
I said “G’day” as I passed.
It’s easy to pick tourists – we’re the happy-looking ones with continuous grins on our faces.
By now I had figured out that I took a wrong turn, and retraced my tracks.
The endless single tracks stretched before me. I was having a great time, but I was beginning to tire.
I had been gone almost five hours, and had to push my bike up some of the steeper climbs.
Eventually the track emerged at the top of a hill with a couple of red chairs on top of it.
The view was amazing.
I rode around for a while enjoying the views in every direction.
In Alberta, the national park people place brightly colored red wooden chairs at many difficult to reach spots. It’s like a reward for making the effort.
It’s called the “Old Fort Track”, so I suppose there was once a fort on top of this hill.
It’s an ideal spot for a fort – you can see a long way in all directions.
Below me, the light blue Athabasca River meandered through pine forests.
I rolled downhill and came across a herd of Mountain Goats grazing on the hillside.
One old male looked intimidating. I kept my distance.
Below me, a couple of mountain bikers rolled over a bright green bridge.
“That looks like fun! Why not?”
I rolled over the river back towards town.
This amazing river system originates in the glaciers of the Columbia Icefields and flows into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River. So much icy-blue water – this Aussie was impressed.
Max elevation: 1151 m
Min elevation: 998 m
Total climbing: 1473 m
Total descent: -1440 m
Average speed: 11.47 km/h
Total Time: 06:09:54
I rode a total of 43 kilometres in about six hours.
During that time I climbed about 1,000m in elevation and burned about 2,000 kcal.
This was a moderately challenging ride with amazing views. It took me longer than expected because I stopped so often to admire the scenery.
I’ll rate this one 7.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.
Thanks Chris for the awesome bike, great advice and good service.
Thanks, Lonie, for stopping to say “hello”.
I hope we catch up again soon!