Heavy rain and high winds through the night make it tough to get going this morning. There’s a steady drizzle as I pack up the tent and haul on extra layers of clothing. It’s likely to be a very cold, uncomfortable day on the bike.
I struggle to stay warm on the wet, hilly Highway 93. My feet feel like blocks of ice and my hands aren’t far behind. Reaching Sunwapta Falls, the only stop of the day at 53 km, seems like a monumental task.
I walk into the restaurant and see Jim, Travis, Fred, Mike, Harold and Charles sitting by the fireplace. I pull up a chair and join them, waiting for my feet to thaw, as I fumble with my lunch with stiff fingers. At this point, the thought of going back out there is about as appealing as a root canal.
I am huddled by the fire for an hour and a half before I get back on the bike. The cashier at the gift shop provides me with plastic bags for my feet, and I buy a wool hat and mittens since there’s a good chance I’ll need them tonight.
For the next 30 km, there is a crack in the pavement every 6 feet which makes for a rough ride. The bags on my feet make a big difference as the rain comes and goes and there are plenty of great views to distract me from the hills.
After 90 km I get to Sunwapta Pass, a steep 4 km climb and the toughest one of the day. As I approach the summit, the rain turns to hail, and I grind through a stiff headwind the rest of the way to camp.
I arrive cold, wet and tired just as the snow starts falling. Too bad it’s a primitive campground with no electricity, no showers and no indoor plumbing. At an elevation of 7000 feet, my wool hat and mittens will get a lot of use in the next 15 hours.
The wood stove in the cookhouse works wonders for drying wet shoes and lifting our spirits after such a tough day. Jackets, socks and bike jerseys hang from a makeshift clothesline overhead as we devour a delicious meal of burritos and peach cobbler.
Tonight will be the first time I’ve ever worn my shoes to bed. I don’t imagine it will be very comfortable, but in this weather I wouldn’t dare go without them.