Leaving the Icefields Parkway and the craziness of Banff during a summer weekend, we head south-west with stops in Cochrane, Nanton and Pincher Creek before our final Alberta destination of Waterton Lakes.
Banff to Cochrane – 110 kilometres
On day four, we returned to the Legacy Trail which brought us into Banff the previous day and continued on through Canmore before heading to the TransCanada Highway towards Cochrane, a bedroom community 20 kilometres from the edge of Calgary. Fortunately, it is Saturday morning and most of the traffic is heading towards Banff. Our side of the highway was relatively quiet and the shoulder was wide, making for safe riding.
The wind was at our backs most of the time and the overall elevation change was downhill, so we made fast progress along the route. We arrive at our mid-point lunch stop by 9:30, hungry in spite of the early hour, and Cochrane by 1:00. After three longer days in the mountains, today seemed like an easy ride.
We have an afternoon off to enjoy Cochrane’s historic downtown, which in my case always includes a stop at the local ice cream parlour. MacKay’s has literally been churning out ice cream from its location in downtown Cochrane since 1948.
Cochrane to Nanton – 164 kilometres
Skirting Calgary, we rode the Cowboy Trail through Bragg Creek, Priddis, Turner Valley and Longview on route to Nanton. It’s a popular Sunday ride for bikers of the motorcycle kind.
It was a century ride day, 100 miles (160.9 kilometres), and a milestone achievement for cyclists. I’ve had a few of them in my cycling career but they don’t get much easier with practice. I remember the advice of Brian, one of our seasoned riders, who commented that the mind is ready to give up before the body needs to. Those achieving their first century ride with the Cycle of Hope were honoured at dinner.
Nanton, only 100 kilometres south of Calgary, is a popular tourist destination, full of antique shops, lunch spots, watering holes, and the requisite ice cream and candy stores.
Nanton to Pincher Creek – 142 kilometres
Continuing on the Cowboy Trail, to Pincher Creek, we have another long day at 142 kilometres. It was cloudy with threatening storms and we were pulled from the road twice as thunder and lightning boiled in the distance.
It was a beautiful riding day, cooler thanks to the clouds, and the tailwind which rustled the grasslands, like waves on the ocean. The views were magnificent; large farms with cattle grazing in wide open pastureland. I’ve only ever traveled through here in the winter when the landscape appears harsh and windswept. The summer, in contrast, is ripe with colour, expansive, and awe-inspiring.
Pincher Creek to Waterton Lakes National Park – 60 kilometres
We sadly cycle our last day in Alberta but what a spectacular ending to a spectacular journey. The rolling beauty of the last few days continued for one more day as we followed our southward path on to Waterton Lakes. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the beauty of this place!
As we approached Waterton, the historic Prince of Wales Hotel comes into view on a bluff high above Waterton Lakes. It was with a mix of joy and sadness that we rode into town. A chance for one more photo and one more roadside lunch before we head back to Manitoba.