I’m so far off the beaten track that when I cross into Alberta, there’s not even a welcome sign; the province name just changes on the road markers. This is truly the wild west – literally where the deer and the antelope play (mule deer and pronghorns specifically). The first night in the province I make it to the Southern Ranchmens Inn – a former hideout for outlaws in the time of American Prohibition, now a saloon and hotel in the tiny hamlet of Manyberries. The owner cooks up the best fries I’ve ever had and lets me tent for free on the property. A series of ghost towns and tiny villages line the road to Lethbridge, and I celebrate when the road turns from dirt to pavement. In Lethbridge, Faez and I rent a car to take a little vacation – a side trip to Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump and the incredible spooky hoodoos of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.
After returning the car to Lethbridge and getting back on my own two wheels, I head for Calgary where I enjoy my first shower in ages, dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory, and a spectacular sunset from the stairs at McHugh Bluff. Outside of Calgary my heart races as I catch my first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. I head for Canmore, where by a wonderful coincidence Faez and I run into the organizers of the local bicycle co-op, who invite us to stay with them, rather than stealth-camp in town, where we’re warned that the elk are rutting. I’m properly in the mountains now. The next big stop is Banff, where I enjoy a beautiful hike up Sulfur Mountain and a gondola ride down. Here I also say goodbye again to Faez, as we have different trip plans for the Rockies.
On my way out of Banff I see a man loading huge jugs into his vehicle by the side of the road. He shows me the mountain spring where he collects all his drinking water. I drink right from the ground, and fill my bottles for the beautiful ride to stunning Lake Louise. More hiking awaits me here, where I see snow, a mountain tea house, pika, a glacier, and of course, the lake in all its fall glory.
It’s hard to leave such an inspiring place, but it’s not far to… the final provincial border.