One of my regular half-day cycling outings is the ride from Seebe to Canmore. The road wanders through the Bow Valley with lakes and mountains on both sides. There is one other good feature to the ride - there are some great places for coffee and a snack in Canmore.
One of the rules of cycling is to try to head out into a wind and come home with the wind behind you. The Bow Valley offers this sort of wind and offers it constantly. The wind sweeps down from the Kananaskis, through the gap near Mt. Lougheed and then down the throat of the Bow Valley on its way to the prairies. My cycle route takes me up through this throat and gives me an extra work out in a short distance. I guess I should be thankful for that, but I’m not.
I've had pristine looking days on my Canmore ride. On those days the sky is blue for the most part, with some clouds scudding along above the tops of the mountains, driven by the westerly wind. I start out with my head down, trying to create the least resistance to the wind, but soon find that gets boring, so I raise my eyes and look around to refresh my thoughts with scenery that I like so much. Looking at scenery on a bicycle is more intense than driving down the same road in a car. On the bike there is time to notice things, time to smell the odours, and maybe a time to connect with a herd of mountain sheep who challenge for the right to be on the road.
I usually head to Canmore's town centre for a treat at the restaurant called 'CommuniTea', but one day, pre-Covid, I thought I would like to go to another place called 'The Summit'. It's located higher up the hill on the north side of the highway. The view from there encompasses the whole valley and the surrounding mountains. I arrived when the place wasn’t crowded. There was ample room to safely park my bicycle, and the staff were friendly and helpful. There were a few groups of young women hanging out and talking mostly about activities or planned workouts. Clearly, these were people interested in athletics of some sort. They looked the part - fit and enthusiastic. Ah yes, I remember those years. I’m still enthusiastic about physical stuff, but these days I need to make sure I do it at my own pace.
I finished my lunch and then stepped out on the patio to get my bike ready for the trip back to Seebe. As I stood there and looked up, it happened. For some reason, I was overwhelmed by the mountains at that moment. The day before had been stormy, so the rocks and crags of the mountains were covered in snow, but the ridges were poking through, providing a contrasting black on white outline that made the view look like a pen and ink drawing. The air was so clear that the peaks seemed to be right on top of me. I’m not sure if I staggered on my feet from the visual impact, but I did sit down and soak up the feeling. It was all familiar stuff: the Rundle Wall, Ehagay Nakoda(1), and the Three Sisters, but that day they all came together to force me to look at them carefully.
I delayed my ride back and really let myself go in the moment. It worked and I felt marvellous as I mounted my bike about twenty minutes later. The ride back to Seebe was a breeze, literally. The westerly was now in my favour and it helped blow me home with that mountain image floating around in my head.
1-This is the Stoney-Nakoda name for Mt. Lawrence Grassi near Canmore, where Ha Ling Peak is located.