Weekend Gravel Road Camping Adventure – Kootenays, Whiteswan Provincial Park and Forestry Trunk Road Kananaskis

Settler’s Road and the Forestry Trunk Road into Kananaskis

Kilometres: approx 930
Temps: vary from 14 at night to 30 celcius during riding days
Time Two Days Riding – One Night Camping

Day 1

Things have been so busy this summer this is the first chance to squeeze in a multi-day ride. Thought I’d try some new areas that I haven’t ventured to but nothing too far from home.

Lovely weather during the days. The ride out to the Kootenays was largely uneventful. Although, it is a bit harrowing being loaded up on the KLR and pushing along at 100 kph and dealing with the meatheads on the highway. The aggressive driving and poor decision-making not surprisingly leads to a lot of highway deaths.

Settler’s Road is an escape from the insanity of the returning, and leaving, weekend traffic. To be honest, it’s not a particularly great ride. There’s nothing to see and no real reason to stop. It does get you from A to B without dealing with traffic but it’s not a ride I would do again. It takes you from Macleod Meadows in the Kootenays over behind the mountain ranges and plops you out right at a gas station in Canal Flats. Not a soul around on the entire journey – traffic and people free which was nice.

A quick fill up in Canal Flats and I bombed up the White River Road that leads to Whiteswan Lake and Lussier Hot Springs. Didn’t stop at the hot springs (nowhere to take off all my riding gear and store it) but it was quite busy. The road is well-maintained offers some nice views and the lake is stunningly beautiful. The irony is that the lake and recreation areas are a byproduct of the logging industry – read: logging came first and camping and such second. Such a shame to see the logging clear cut in such a pristine lake ecosystem. Some great camping spots and I snagged one in a little quiet area past the lake (the others were full – even on Sunday).

The weather remained nice until late in the evening then a biblical rainstorm tracked through in the night. This was coupled with logging trucks that run 24 hours per day. Shame it really ruins what is a nice recreation area. Next time I’ll try and snag one of the sites nearer the lake and away from the noise of the road.

Still it was a nice getaway for a day and it’s fun to be out in nature and away from the city.

Day 2

The weather reports suggested a severe weather warning later in the day and riding on some of these roads would be a bit dicey if the weather were to get soggy. So I returned home through the Kootenays and Crowsnest Pass to Fernie. There is lots of waterfowl around Whiteswan Lake and I even snuck on a black bear heading out on the road – they are always too quick for a photo.

The KLR doesn’t like to ride highway speeds and burns a bit of oil so I stopped along the way for a quart to top things up to be safe. Had a good chat with a fella from Calgary who just happens to know some people that were involved in an outdoor program here at the university – small world.

Went up and over the forestry road from Coleman into the Highwood and Kananaskis Valley. The KLR really does not inspire confidence in 2-3 inch gravel. It wanders and searches for purchase of grip on the ground and is kind of like the motorcycle equivalent of snake wrangling – making sure that you have a hold on things and that it doesn’t turn and bite you. The new TKC 80 tires are indeed a great tire for both gravel and street riding. The KLR suspension is nothing short of brutal – soft, spongy and ineffective. Over the winter I may try installing a better rear shock to help with the wallowing and excessive tire wear. It’s a good cheap dually bike but that is what you get from the riding experience – exactly what you have paid for. The weather deteriorated and the Forestry Road can be a mess when wet. Thrice I was able to narrowly sneak under the brunt of the nastiness and avoid the rain showers.

Zipped through the Highwood Pass at over 8000 feet (never gets old) and booked it for home.

Gravel road and dual-sport riding is certainly a different way of touring. It requires a much heightened level of attention to what you are doing, more preparation for routes and conditions, and is hit or miss on scenery. A few high points and a generally enjoyable riding weekend. I’d like to continue to do this type of riding but need a ‘mate’ to go with for anything more challenging or risky to have some backup.

Kootenay River, BC - From Settler's Road

Kootenay River, BC – From Settler’s Road

Whiteswan Lake - White River, BC

Whiteswan Lake – White River, BC

Forestry Trunk Road - Highwood House, Alberta

Forestry Trunk Road – Highwood House, Alberta

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