Day 1: Banff to Spray Lakes Campground

Alternate title: Tree Stumps Look Like Bears, But Aren’t

21 miles, 2144ft of climbing, 0 bears

Well, I made it! Got the day started with a big ol’ Mediterranean omelette (knowing my options for veggies on the trail would be limited) at the hostel, then got my bike all packed up and ready for action.

I had a few errands to run before I left town but I ended up heading onto the trail around 12:30. On my way out I made the obligatory stop at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel for a picture of the historic castle-like building.

Minutes after passing the hotel, I was in the wilderness, with dense forest on either side of me. I spent the first couple miles feeling super nervous about bears, but that wore off pretty quickly. (It’s not that I’m not nervous, I just don’t have the energy to take in the gorgeous views, make it up rocky climbs, AND freak out about bears.) I had music playing and my bear bell jingling throughout all of today’s ride. This isn’t my preference in nature, but one of the big bear risks (especially for solo travelers) is being so quiet that you surprise them. So I can get over my preference for quiet natural solitude.

As expected, the trail was beautiful in all directions. Although I had a purposefully short day, I went through many different kinds of landscapes and terrain.

I’m happy to report that my bike did great! I’m a huge chicken on technical terrain (and for me, badly paved sidewalks count as technical terrain), but I could feel myself getting more confident as I went. I stopped to hike-a-bike a couple times, but overall felt like my bike and my setup were really well-suited to the route.

That being said, today’s trail wasn’t horribly challenging–some loose gravel, some steep-ish bits, but none of the horrific mud or rock gardens or mega-steep descents that lie ahead.

Because today’s route didn’t stray too far from towns (Banff, Canmore), I actually saw many hikers and mountain bikers. Most stopped to chat and were very friendly, and one even saved me a huge headache. About halfway through today’s ride, I had taken off my pullover and stowed it kind of haphazardly on my handlebars. At some point later, I look down to see it’s gone. 🙄 Since it’s a crucial part of my kit, I turn around (back down the huge hill I’d just climbed, of course) to backtrack and look for it. Not 30 seconds later, two mountain bikers catch up to me, and one of them had picked my sweater up! 🙌🏼 She saved me from a scary descent AND another huge unnecessary climb, as she said it was over a mile back on the trail. My hero!

Here is your daily selfie

I also met a Dutch couple doing the Divide down to Helena, and we’re actually camping at the same campground! Now I have to get over my weird hang-ups about approaching strangers and go talk to them. I need Arthur here to be my social butterfly, ’cause I’m awful at this shit.

Anyway, here’s a picture of the view from the campground, since I’m already running out of synonyms for gorgeous, beautiful, majestic, etc etc:

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