Much too early in the morning my bleary, bloodshot eyes snapped open to the sound of Emanuel tapping on my tent.
"Hey Guys, get up. Im taking off to Calgary soon. Lets grab a bite to eat and cycle for a couple of kilometers before we split up."
It was a day that Downey and I had been dreading for a little while. Emanuel had become part of our group. A trio if you will. Without him there would be a gap that could not be fillled and it was not something we were looking forward too.
"I'm up... I'm up..." said Downey
We made our way to a little coffee shop in Lake Louise. Not too much was said between the three of us. The pending split was a little on everyones mind but we busied ourselves with facts about the road. Where the next summits would be, what kind of weather we were to expect, and what kind of drivers would be running us off the roads.
The day started off warm, warm enough to cycle comfortably in a long sleeve shirt (warm in the mountains). When we got to the highway 93 and highway 1 turnoff, we said our goodbyes and Emanuel rode off East, and us West.
From that point on, the comfort level of Downey and myself suffered alot. There was intense rain and cold. By the time we reached the first pass on the way to Jasper (pass is the highest point in the road, like a peak or summit) Downey and I were wearing all of our equipment. We had our touques, gloves, sweaters, bandanas, long shirts and pants. Even with all the clothes and cycling we were doing, nothing could stop the shivering that came with high mountain travel.
The first pass was hard, but the second pass was much harder. There was a sleaty kind of rain that started and it chilled us to the bone. As we sat resting before attempting the second pass a group of German tourists stopped long enough to warn Downey and I about the looming dangers ahead.
"Watch out ya, Dere is a big mama Grizzly bear up dere. She eat you... Ya?"
And so with our fear perked we set out uphill into Grizzly territory. I found some comfort in the fact that if a mother grizzly bear did find the site of Downey and I aptizing, I could still pedal faster than Downey. It took us about four hours to climb the second pass and there was no sign of any Grizlies on the way up. The sign said we were 2300 meters above sea level and you could feel it. Our hearts beated faster. You couldn't catch your breath, and with the cycling you almost had a sense of light headedness.
Just about the time where we were going to celebrate the success of a successful climb, we noticed a huge grizzly bear about a hundred feet down the road, only about twenty feet from the road. It was digging in the ground and eating grass and roots. Downey and I looked at each other, than the Grizly, then the hill we had just climbed. It didn't take long for us to make the decesion to cycle past the Grizzly, because there was no way we were going to climp up that long hill a second time. The decesion was made to cycle together and slowly, we figured if the Grizzly saw us together he would mistake us for a car and not bother with us any longer. As we approached, the grizly didn't seem to take notice, but then we stopped. The draw of this beautiful beast in the wild was too much for us. The adrenaline pumping threw our veins made us feel alive, and so we risked second of time with the Grizzly for a lifetime memory.
When the Grizly stopped digging for roots and started looking at Downey the same way Downey looks at a twix bar, I knew we had overstayed our welcome. We got back on our bikes and put miles between ourselves and the first wild Grizzly I have seen.
The air got considerably cooler at we entered the columbian icefields. The columbian icefields is a historical and natural tabluture of time. It has one of the last remaining glaciers that is easily viewable by the public. It was truly an honor being able to see this from our bikes and experience the cold wind blowing off the mountain glacier and into our face.
As the moon rose and the sun set, we came upon a place called high beauty creek. There was a wilderness hostile there and they were more than impressed by our double pass day and allowed us to spend the night for free. It was late when we arrived, but there was a fire and a guitar, and so I busied myself with singing songs for the group, however the songs I sang brought me to a place far away from where I was. I couldn't help but picture myself back home, surrounded by friends and familly in the back yard, playing guitar around a fire. Downey and I haven't been gone for too long, but the twinges of loneliness associated with living on the road are starting to occur more and more often.