Saskatchewan Tractor Tyre Spring
The last thing I anticipated is to have a tractor tyre as one of the highlights of the trip. On Sunday one of the few cars I encountered was a young woman who showed concern. It was a concern I didn't share, I had enough water for the 100 km or so to the next water point. However she didn't believe me and half an hour later her father turned up in his pickup. Blaine Walburger had a ranch just down the road, he arrived bearing cold iced tea and iced water plus two bananas, but his greatest gift was the tractor tyre.
"Ten miles up the road you will cross a creek, look to your left and you will see an old tractor tyre. It holds fresh clear springwater, best water in the area, stop there."
I am now in the southern Badlands, just 30 km from northern Montana. The wind blows hot and dry, the temperature in the high thirties. I have left Manyberries and the gravel grind to the next town is 100km. In that context fresh clear cool water is looking pretty good. The tyre appears in a grassy basin, a deer disappears through a gap. The setting is silent and peaceful just the gurgle of the spring continuously running into the huge tractor tyre. It is bigger than a bath and works better, the water has no contest with the tepid plastic bottles on my bike. In spite of my protest about the 30 unfinished kilometres, the tent is already up.
Thank you Blaine Walburger, the iced tea was sucked in a single gulp, the bananas similarly, but the night in the setting beside the tractor tyre spring was a special gift.
I left Waterton National Park with some regrets. The first was leaving friends behind after they had hosted me so well, the second was leaving the mountains after 4,500 kilometres, I was sure the prairies would be a trudge to just ride through nothingness. How wrong. The remoteness opened up peace and space. Cars became a rarity, people waved, some even stopped to talk. The huge dome of blue above, the thin slice of prairie below, the lines of the road meeting at infinity ahead. The wildlife continued, ground squirrels bouncing along the verge, deer appearing from nowhere, antelope with their unique all-four-legs-once springing, a coyote looking back at me after slinking across the road.
A day earlier I had stopped at Etzikom Museum. Lynn the currator photocopied maps for my new on-the-fly routing. I was now following the Red Coat Trail, built for the Mounties to control lawlessness in the west. By the time I reached Manyberries classic old pub later that evening Lyn had also arranged a meal and a bed. Thank you Lyn.
There a few holes in the blog since Exshaw. We had been joined there by Vince and Kay from NZ, great friends, and riders from both Africa and the NZ tour. Wayne and Trish had a full agenda, including tickets to the Chuck Wagon racing at Calgary Stampede, followed by a spectacular show after.
I returned to Banff to ride the start of the Canadian Great Divide Trail with Vince and Wayne, bike unburdened. This was a test for continuing the ride on this trail with the load (failed reroute required). Wayne had added a new trail to the days agenda, the High Rockies trail. This Trail was new and raw, steep sharp drops and climbs and big boulders. We ended at Engadine Lodge where I spent a night in a Mongolian yurt, awaking to minus two degrees and frozen water bottles. From there I rode alone over the 7200ft Highwood Pass then down towards Waterton.
Trish had arranged another cycling friend to meet me at the first camp at Green Ford, bringing a picnic supper. Janice had completed a trans-Canada ride in 2004 so we had a lot in common. Her friend Lindsay, had NZ roots and NZ wine to complement the dinner. More great people with gifts along the way.
Three days riding later I was reunited with, Wayne, Trish, Vince and Kay in Waterton NP. More magic mountain scenery, and the final split with the friends. Thanks to Glen and Susan who shared their campsite in the packed campground, and Jim and Jeanette who hosted us at their cabin.
From Waterton it was east into Badlands, which brings us up to date.
The iconic Banff Springs Hotel
About to test the trails behind Banff Springs Hotel -with Vince and Wayne
Big climb out of the Rockies from Engadine Lodge
My neighbour at Maycroft Camps - thanks to the two Foscil fossicking students who supplied water
Farewell to friends and wonderful hosts at Waterton
Then into Badlands
Only 30km from Montana
Another State Border crossed
Tractor Tyre Camp