Today’s great adventure started with two sunnyside up eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns and toast followed by packing our mountain biking bags and prepping the bikes for the journey.
Last night we were informed the trail out to Big Bend has a few mucky spots due to the rain over the past few days.
The 6.5 kilometer trail is known as Big Bend. Its reported as having 55m climb and 125m descent. Most of the descending is on the way out to the bend and most of the climb is on your way back.
For those seeking additional length and adventure this leg connects up with the Athabasca Crossing trail (9kms)… going over the research notes we learnt in 2014 there was a bridge failure further up the trail and its nearly impossible to reach Fortress Lake due to the impassable river section. Unless you bring a dinghy or floating device.
WARNING: WATERS ARE EXTREMELY FAST AND DANGEROUS IN THIS AREA. DO NOT ATTEMPT ON YOUR OWN
Its super simple to locate the trailhead. Just take the road down to Sunwapta Falls, cross the upper falls bridge and begin your ride.
The trail climbs for about five minutes an easy rooted and rocked section along a pine needle passageway. Its wide enough for two bikes.
We passed our first group of hikers, a family of two women, one man, twelve kids, and three dogs. As soon as we went by a quick hill descended then crested over a larger tree root down into mud section #1.
Although slippery at times we made it passed. Up, down, right bend then left the trail flattened out for half a kilometer making us peddle a bit but nothing to extraneous!
We were whooping and a hollering our enjoyment when the trail veered right and a mud bog appeared. Keeping slightly left, the front 29er splashed down followed by water spray then mud then laughter out of us both!
Another section of 500m of dryness and pine needles lead us to a multi section of mud bogs. Somewhere in the middle as I tried changing to a lower gear the chain slipped then jumped off the rear cassette. Trapping itself between the frame and cassette.
Stepping off the bike peddle my left shoe gingerly took onboard a few litres of water. “What is it?” She asked pulling through the mud and maneuvering around. “Chain came off,” I started. Followed by “need a slightly drier spot to fix it.”
Picking up the bike we moved to the driest area along this mud sodened spot I pulled the bike over onto its handlebars and seat. It was now inverted. Moving the rear derailleur provided the necessary slack as I removed the chain, then reset it. The wife giving a helping hand where required. Chain back on, we turned it over a proceeded out of mud haven.
Somewhere around the middle of the descent we came across a woman with her two sons all three pushing bikes through the mud ladened hill. We looked down over the long winding muddy section. Then peddled harder to pickup speed and push through. At the bottom we stopped for a water break. And a couple photos, too.
Continuing onward we reached the first creek crossing. Then up a short hill back into the mud for 500m. Out of mud came a pleasant 1-kilometer of lush winding forest then the trail narrowed into a singletrack with shrubs creeping into the path. Steering through more mud we found bridges number two then three. Each bridge is handmade by Parks Canada staff from fallen spruce trees.
Another descent of a few hundred meters and the forest began to thin. We could feel the excitement as we must be nearing the destination of Big Bend.
Another ten minutes or so, the trail widened and a signpost appeared. To the left the trailhead for Athabasca Crossing 9kms, or right 250m to the Big Bend campsites.
We opted to go right over to the camp area. Eating a snack and taking the opportunity for a few more photos.
Now the worst and best part of any oneway trail is the adventure back. As we departed from the camp there is a very short very steep tree root section which kicked me right and shoved me ass over tea kettle down into an awaiting soft pine shrubbery! “FUCK! Are you all right?” says the wife standing over her bike at the top of this hill.
“Yup,” is all I could muster whilst determining how to detangle my limbs from the bushes. “See,” she started, “that’s what I was talking about earlier. Going downhill and crashing.”
Out of the shrubbery we kicked back into the correct gearing combination and started the climb out of the camp. At the Y, we chose left and continued down the pathway.
The trail in reverse was somewhat surprisingly less difficult than I had conjured up on the way down. True seventy-five percent was up hill, and true seventy percent of that was mud laden, wet, sections of pure joy!
There were only two sections or maybe it was three were we really needed to get off and push bikes up the last quarter section of a hill. Mostly due to fatigue of riding through the slippery mud pockets and deep puddle bogs.
Overall we produced two new scratches on each leg, added three new bruises on the torso lower back and side plus a few extra mosquito bites. The bike now needs a good cleaning, a tuneup and some chain lube. All in all it equates to two very wide grins and one succesful bike trip!