March 05, 2007

Alone Ranger

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Storytime, as inspired by Photo Friday's current theme of alone: this is a composite photo, stitched and seamed together in Photoshop from two side-by-side snapshots. The place is Mt. Edith Cavell, in Jasper National Park, taken in May 2004. Kerry went on a week-long work-related trip to Qu├ębec, so I ventured out on my own, taking my bike with me on the train to Alberta and beating the Rocky Mountain tourist rush by a couple of weeks. I would spend my days there with no real schedule, riding the trails and highways and seeing what I could see.

On this day, the weather was good and I rode out of town early in the morning. At the park gate, a warden told me the steep, switchbacking road to Edith Cavell was still closed for the season. At road's end in the higher altitudes, everything was still winter and snowbound. Out of sight though, I would lift the bike over the barrier and continue on.

I'm a prairie boy, I won't lie: the road defeated me in minutes. The nagging, constant climb forced me off the bike, but knowing it would (or rather, should) level off within a few kilometres, I began to walk. It was sunny and warm. I had nowhere to be. And I had all day, with no one around to prove my lack of prowess when it came to hills. Following a couple of hours like this, the road did reason with me and I began to ride again. Until I reached the snow line, and then I was back on foot (OK, by this point you can call me a fairweather rider).

The narrow, winding road ran about 20 kilometres to its destination at the foot of one of the country's most popular and picturesque sights (Google it, you'll find many a postcard). On this day though, I was the only person for miles. And when the road became too slippery to even bother with the bike, I left it and carried on, shouting occasionally for bears and what-not else.
Nobody knew I was there, and it was deathly quiet.

After what seemed an eternity, the mountain's famous face finally came into view. I may have been only a couple of kilometres from the base, but it was near that point that I sensed the weather turning. Clouds began to boil over the peak, and it smelled of snow. I wanted so badly to make it to the end, but my conscience – and lack of decent clothes – told me otherwise.
I took this photo, and headed back to where I dumped the bike. From there, I received my reward: 15 kilometres, downhill. What ended up taking me three and a half hours to reach from the road's barricaded entrance (fine, including a lunch break) lasted a considerably more enjoyable 35 minutes in return.

Click here for a better look at the photo.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting day. Funny that you thought the trail would level off. Hehe.

You probably still had a long ways to go when you turned back, and it was likely very good that you did.

Apart from the road not being acceptable for traffic, Mt Edith Cavell is closed until late in the season because of avalanche danger.
I go up there quite often, and every single time, I have seen at least one avalanche or some big chunks of ice falling.

Had you continued on, and wandered up to parts unknown, you may have had found yourself in a very dangerous situation.

Jeope said...

Yeah, exactly! I had no intentions of getting too close. I wanted to reach the end of the road itself, not venture out on the trails. I was only at the end once, as a little kid, and remember stuff falling off the slopes – and that was in the fall.

Anonymous said...

Whats cool about this country is that you can find yourself entirely alone even in the most touisty areas. great shot!


k. borcz said...

Beautiful Photo