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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Canmore and Kananaskis

Yesterday after doing a  bit of work on the VFR I rode it about 400Kms. I took a different route than I normally take.

For a solo day-ride, I usually like to ride out to Bragg Creek, have lunch, then ride up to Elbow falls, turn around, then take highway 762 (Millarville road) and re-connect with highway 22. Depending on how much time I have, I'll either scoot back to Calgary on Highway 22X or continue down the Cowboy Trail to Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Longview, then down to Chain Lakes and across the 533 over to Nanton and up the Queen Elizabeth II highway back to Calgary. This is the exact route I took when I posted my "first impression" entry.

For yesterday's ride I decided to switch things up and ride some relatively unfamiliar local roads. I can't figure out how the hell I've let these roads become unfamiliar to me in my 10 years in Calgary.... they make for a perfect motorcycle ride.

From Cochrane I went west on Highway 1A, aka Bow Valley Trail, aka hwy 40. After passing the Ghost reservoir and entering the Stoney First Nation, the road narrows and the pavement quality degrades drastically. The next 30Kms are a bucking rodeo ride of tight, blind curves and hills with a rough surface, zero shoulder and an unforgiving deep ditch. Around any given blind corner you might happen upon deer, horses, cows or bighorn sheep. There are motorcycle wrecks here every weekend in the riding season. The trick is to ride defensive and alert but still have some fun... easy trick on the VFR1200. This is where the finely tuned (though a bit harsh) suspension, accurate steering and powerful brakes of the Honda come in handy. As you exit Indian land and approach Kananaskis the width and pavement quality of the road improve and you can increase your speed on the long sweeping curves that bring you to the foot of the Rockies at Exshaw, with its out-of-place-looking limestone and cement plants. The Bow Valley Trail then continues to sweep smoothly and gracefully into the beautiful town of Canmore. I made my way to the town centre and stopped at CommuniTea Cafe for a delicious home-made apple pastry and macchiato. This chic little coffee shop stands in stark contrast to my usual lunch stop at the Powderhorn Saloon in Bragg. Frequented by students and beatniks and French ski bum hippies instead of bikers and cowboys and drunks. Still good, but in a different way. Charming little joint... I'll definitely return.

Leaving Canmore I fueled up and headed East on the Trans-Canada highway back towards Calgary. I took a detour to the south down the Kananaskis Trail. (hwy 40) This road takes a long loop through the mountains, approaching the BC border before turning back to Longview where it re-connects with the Cowboy Trail. The entire loop doesn't open until June 15th... The forestry service keeps it closed to allow animal migration and mating to go uninterrupted. Big-Horn sheep are a protected species and flourish in this area. The road is open year-round as far as the Lougheed Provincial Park boundary where the Kananaskis Trail meets the Smith-Dorien Trail about 55Kms in from the TransCanada. I rode to the boundary and back, stopping briefly to admire a small herd of Bighorns. Regrettably I didn't bring a camera, but I got as close as I felt comfortable (about 50 metres) to the sheep and snapped a quick image with my blackberry.

Right after I took this shot one of the big males approached me. He looked scruffy with his winter coat falling off and as he got closer he looked about the size of a horse. I hastily put away my phone, pulled my gloves on as quick as possible and got the hell out of there. I don't think he appreciated me or my strange red motorcycle. I think it's rutting season and I wasn't up for butting heads with the big fella. The condition of this road is excellent, and its long sweeping curves encouraged big handfuls of digital V4 throttle and thrust. Just keep your head up and scan the ditches... this is wild mountain land where bighorns, deer and grizzly bears have the right-of-way.

I reconnected with the Trans-Canada and headed home. Once the Kananaskis Trail opens up I'll start doing the full loop down to Longview, where I can head north back towards Bragg Creek or south and east to Nanton. Maybe I'll go straight west out of Canmore and give the Smith-Dorien Trail (Spray Lakes road) a try as well. What a perfect day-ride.... I've often complained that there aren't enough interesting roads to ride on this side of BC. How ignorant I must have been. Only an hour west of Calgary there is a great selection of beautiful destination highways to explore... and I've got the perfect motorcycle with which to explore them.


  1. I love it! Another writer in the family displays their talents! Interestingly enough, your older sister is also writing a travelblog, sans motorcycle, and in a very different (and much more urban) corner of the world (Sao Paulo). I'll continue to enjoy reading both. I'll stay tuned. xoxo

  2. Okay, you've also helped me realize that owning a performance bike is more than the numbers.. it can take you to places you might not see otherwise, and with a much different perspective. Although it does not make me want a bike, it does make me think there are a lot of roads, close by, that a person should explore.

  3. The travel experience is much richer on a motorcycle... You are very much IN the scenery rather than just viewing it through a window. All of your senses are involved.

    As a follow-up to my entry: The Smith-Dorrien Trail is a gravel road... not going to work for the VFR. I guess I need a dual-purpose bike too.

  4. Very cool blog, phobe. Keep up the good work. We'll look forward to hearing of your further adventures this summer.