bikes canada general moosling trip reports

Fall bikepacking to Lake Minnewanka

Getting out on a family bikepacking trip is one of those things that we kept meaning to do, but somehow we had nearly run out of summer weekends and it still hadn’t happened.

We’d initially been thinking of riding the Elbow Loop. Or maybe just going out and back on the north-west side. But our attempts to book a campground failed. Curse you, Alberta Parks with your “oh, sure, we have sites available” website, but then when they get back to you 48 hours after you tried to book online it turns out that there are indeed no sites.

Contemplating alternatives, we realised I was supposed to be back in town by 3 or 4pm on Sunday afternoon, so it would be better to stay close to home. And so Lake Minnewanka it was. Especially as there was a whole lot of camping availability out there – for some reason K-Country was packed, but the lovely LM8 campground on the shores of Minnewanka was fully available on Friday. We ended up sharing it with one other couple. It was amazingly deserted out there.

We convinced our friends Kat and Mike that they should come along on their first bikepacking trip too, which meant a lot of borrowing gear and working out how on earth to fit everything into such a small space when you’re used to panniers or hiking packs. It took a little while, but they sorted it!

A lazy start meant that we decided to head out on the Legacy Trail rather than Goat Creek. The downside was that we had no justifiable reason to stop at the Wildflour Bakery in Banff. But at least it was fast and easy going, and plenty of chances to work on fine tuning gear setup.

With a three and a six year old along, we made regular stops along the way for them to get out and play. And for snacks.

We made it onto the Lake Minnewanka trail in the mid-afternoon. This was our family setup above – pretty similar to our Scotland trip last summer.

Getting up The Hill before you start heading north along the lakeshore always warms you up. And sometimes, just sometimes, loaded bikes and towing kids means you just can’t ride everything.

But while Alex kicked the boy off the trail-a-bike, the boy discovered the joys of poking puff balls with a stick.

Then it was just scenic lakeside singletrack, through golden aspens and alongside the turquoise lake.

It’s only an eight kilometre ride in to the LM8 campground (unsurprisingly, if you think about it). As we hit the bridge just before the campground, the kids hopped out and ran the rest of the way to camp.

There were so many deers hanging around! Fairly oblivious to us, they wandered around and did their thing, and had me jump out of my skin a couple of times when one wandered up unexpectedly close.

Collecting water from the lake was more challenging than usual. The camping pads were quite sheltered, but the cooking area was further south and thoroughly exposed to the wind. A nice series of waves was rolling onto the stony shore, and a few of us received an accidental foot soaking.

Cooking dinner in the trees, thankfully we had a shelter at our cooking spot.

We all curled up in bed pretty early. I was testing out how the boy would go in a full-sized sleeping bag for the first time, after realising his kid bag was just no longer big enough (or warm enough for shoulder season adventures). The end result was – he was super snug and warm in my 15 year old down bag, and I might see if I can adjust it a little so it’s a bit shorter/lighter/smaller, and he’ll probably be able to get at least five more years of use out of it (depending how fast he grows).

Morning light is gorgeous on the aspens. We slept in until 8 or so, and then eventually gave in and got up for breakfast.

There’s been so much going on before the trip that food had been thoroughly disorganised. Breakfast was mostly pastries that we’d picked up the day before from Le Fournil Bakery in Canmore. Delicious tasty pastries.

The boys enjoyed hanging out some more, and playing in the forest.

And then we got things packed up again, ready to hit the trail before it became too busy.

It was a beautiful ride out, and it felt much easier than the day before – even the hill climb!

Although – sometimes it’s just so steep you have to push. But the trail has recently had some work done on it, and the section on the hill that used to be loose and rocky and pretty interesting to ride… well now it’s flat and hardpacked soil, and far easier.

Just after we got the group shot below, some tourists came up to get their photos taken with the crazy group of bike people (and were thoroughly startled when they realised that the trailer had a child inside it).

After this, it was a tail-wind home on the Legacy Trail.

Bikepacking trips sometimes seem to require a lot of effort, but are thoroughly worth it, and so much fun once you’re out there pedalling and camping!

Route: From Canmore, along the Legacy Trail, via Cascade Ponds, on the road to Lake Minnewanka, then along singletrack to LM8 campground
Distance: 35km one-way
Elevation gain: ~400m on the way there, ~200m on the way back

bikes canada general moosling

Family High Rockies ride

Mostly about the photos this time round, because I’ve kind of already given the rundown of the High Rockies trail.

We stopped and had a picnic lunch at our favourite mossy spot.

There were a lot of stops to play.

And then also stops where I jumped out and went to take photos of everyone else, then dropped my lens cap in the waterfall and made the wise decision not to jump into the waterfall to rescue it.

Some bike swap action happened. The conclusion was that the boy still fits in his Singletrailer, but noone wants to pull him. And the girl kind of nearly fits on the Streamliner trail-a-bike, but not quite properly yet.

And then we were at the end of the trail where things get scenic, and I couldn’t resist taking the same photo multiple times.

Down through the burnt trees just above Buller Creek.

And then to Buller Creek, to throw rocks in.

After pedalling out to the road from Buller Creek, the menfolk bravely set out on the dusty road to fetch the cars, while the rest of us napped by the lake. And looked for fish in the lake, and threw things in the lake, and got annoyed with mosquitos. The usual.

bikes canada general moosling trip reports

Bikepacking Jumpingpound Ridge

With a couple of sunny days at our disposal, a new set of bike bags for Alex finally complete, it seemed about time for an overnight bike adventure.

We’d been hoping to do a big loop from home and out into K-Country, via the Elbow loop. It’s still in poor shape following the floods though, so instead we opted for good old Jumpingpound Ridge, where the camping is free and the views can’t be beaten.

The road is still closed to cars, hurrah, and so we had a quiet ride out, much like last time.

This time we were riding early enough to hit wildflower season though, which was nice.

Once we hit the trailhead for our path up to the summit though, the flowers disappeared and the boy was kicked out of his trailer to walk up. Some genius had placed geocaches every 200 – 300 metres along the path. Usually this would annoy me, but on this day, it was perfect bait to lure on a small boy who started to get a little fed up with jumping over roots.

The last push up to the ridge over, we settled in just below the summit to cook dinner in the same spot as last time. Last time it was a bit cold, with a wind picking up that was bringing rain with it. This time it was eerily still, and swarming with mosquitos.

We ran around in circles, slapping and stomping as we enjoyed our dinner and the views. The mosquitos weren’t actually terribly bitey, most of them just hovered in confusion, not sure what to do with the vast expanses of delicious food that had turned up before them. They were a good incentive to get the tent set up though, which we did, piece by piece, in between running around in circles to shake off the clouds of mosquitos (except for Alex, who was for too dignified for such behaviour).

We didn’t bother with the fly on the tent, as the forecast was good, and it was easy to keep an eye on any incoming weather from where we were. We lay in the tent, and eventually switched from mosquito hiding and sky watching, to actual sleep.

A few storms rolled around on the far edge of the horizon overnight. We heard low rumbles of thunder, and watched lightning flashing in the distance. But the sky above us stayed clear, and filled with stars, and the temperature dropped enough to scare the mosquitos away.

The next day dawned wonderfully clear and warm. I watched bits and pieces of the sunrise from the tent, occasionally sticking my head up to acknowledge the different colours banding along the horizon.

As tempting as it would have been to keep lying in the tent, the sun was starting to shine on us with intent, and we had a 3.5 year old in there with us, who is quite insistent that if the sun is up, he should be up.

It was still a lazy and meandering sort of disassembly of camp. There was tea to be drunk, and gear to be thoughtfully rearranged in new bags, as we meditated on the optimal arrangement for the future.

On the descent we found just one surprise drift of snow – not too bad if you’re just out for a day trip, but a small challenge to get around with fully loaded bike and trailer. That was nothing to the next challenge though. As I stopped to photograph Alex coasting down a section of trail, and then off into the distance, put the camera down – and then the singletrailer exploded! The wheel bounced off down the hill in a most poetic fashion. Actually, there wasn’t so much an explosion, as just the wheel coming off and bouncing away. Which did cause Alex to stop pretty quickly.

Here the boy looks despondent as Alex re-seats the bearing into the wheel so it could lock on properly. No rocks were harmed in the making of this photograph.

The final hurdle was the fording of the de-bridged river, which was flowing just a little higher than last year. I tried riding it, and ended up falling in. Which was fine, as I’d been riding in sandals all weekend, due to a forgetting-I-had-flat-pedals-on-my-bike-still incident. After seeing my less than stylish crossing, Alex opted to just walk across as well. I went to throw him my sandals for the attempt, and one fell short, and started floating away downstream. Cold footed lurching and squealing ensued, as I rescued the errant sandal and returned it to Alex.

The rest of the ride passed without incident, and we even made it back in town in time for the Canada Day parade (which was apparently too noisy, so we didn’t stay for the whole thing anyway).

Total trip distance: 33km (Day 1: 18km, Day 2: 15km)
Total elevation gain: 860m (807m of that on Day 1)
More details: We started and finished at the Dawson Recreation/Camping Area, where the Cox Hill trail joins the road. The road is currently closed to public vehicles beyond that point. And we took the trail directly beneath the summit to reach the ridge. Our packing list was much the same as last year, but with no diapers and more spare clothes/underpants for the boy. We did take less water, and now we both have fancy Porcelain Rocket bike bags, everything is much easier to carry.

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Moab biking roadtrip – the video

Aha, finally finished! Here is the little video/slideshow from our trip down to Moab in April this year. I miss my bike. Well, I miss riding my bike in warm weather on red rocks and dirt. Riding on snow just isn’t the same. But this is a nice little taste of the awesomeness of Moab. I’m amazed I managed to take as many photos, and as much footage as I did, the riding was so nice it was easy to get distracted.

Mountain biking around Moab, Utah, April 2013. Featuring Megan, Alex, Finn, Brendan, Jeremy, Jackie, Chad & Michelle, and a lot of very awesome red rock.