THE AUDIBLE: BIKEPACKING CYPRESS HILLS
As far as the riding goes, this route utilizes an excellent section of Trans Canada Trail, (Now called “The Great Trail”). There’s also some fun singletrack and enough gravel to rack up some serious mileage. The local mountain bike club (670 collective) is doing lots of work to increase the quality of trails in the area. The rolling hills go on and on, with twisting roads and long, steep climbs and descents, matched with seemingly endless flat sections up on the plateaus.
The route is peppered with amazing lakes for fishing, swimming and boating, while small creeks jammed full of beautiful Brook and Rainbow trout criss-cross the area. The camping is quiet and plentiful, and, being a dark sky preserve, the stars are absolutely silencing on a clear night. Everywhere you go, the views are incredible, with the terrain falling down around you, allowing you to see for up to one hundred kilometres on a clear day. Wildflower meadows are everywhere, full of orchids, dragonflies, caterpillars and more butterflies than you can imagine.
The forests are Lodgepole Pine and Spruce, with lots of Hawthorn trees waiting to tear into unsuspecting passers-by. Whitetail deer, redwing blackbirds, beavers, muskrats, Pronghorn Antelope, squirrels and cougars are some of the beasts that you may run into along the way.
The history of the area is rich with the stories of the First Nations, the original stewards of the land, the beginnings of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, bootlegging, and massacre. Farming and ranching now play a large role in the area, with friendly herds of cattle taking advantage of the rich grasslands. Fort Walsh National Historic Site is worth checking out as well.
Route Development: Aligning the schedules of a paramedic, a firefighter and an office worker was almost as difficult as the aggressive bikepacking route we had planned in the Canadian Rockies. Despite the forecast of constant rain and possible snow in the mountains, we knew we had to make a trip happen this four-day weekend or it might be another year before our calendars were in sync again. Guided by the Environment Canada forecast we looked east, away from the mountains and National Parks, to Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, an area that straddles the borders of Alberta and Saskatchewan. It looked dry, so we threw together a rough plan, with lots of flexibility due to the unknowns, and headed out. It took a few different maps, a bit of exploration in Google Earth, and the kind folks at the visitors info center in Elkwater for advice, but we cobbled together a route. Two hours into the ride we knew we made the right decision. This route was designed and ridden by Ian Dingle (headwind neutralizer), Patrick McCabe (bit of a delicate flower) and Lyndon Cousins (could really use a sandwich). The Audible was selected as a runner up winner in theROUT3 Contest.
To see more photos in their photo gallery – visit http://www.bikepacking.com/routes/bikepacking-cypress-hills/
- Reesor Overlook for views of the surrounding prairie
- The “No pedal challenge” on Gap Road (Seeing how far you can go without pedalling in a downhill tailwind.)
- Being lit up by a Pronghorn Antelope
- Fly Fishing in Battle Creek
- The incredible stars of the Dark Sky Preserve
- Camp Cookhouse in Elkwater
- Lodgepole Grill for Black Bridge Beer and Hutterite Saskatoon pie and ice cream in the Center Block
- Wildflower meadows jammed full of butterflies
- Stampeding free range cattle that we frightened while roaring down a hill