Mountain biking without the mountain.
That just sounds lazy. And wrong. But for most of us, that’s all we’re ever going to be able to either access regularly or be able to physically do.
The term ‘mountain bike’ is almost a misnomer for most bikes that pretend to be. To do the real thing, you need some serious hardware with shocks that can take the pounding. My so called mountain bike by contrast has no shocks. Knobby tires. But no shocks. But its got 2 wheels and sometimes that’s enough.
It’s no secret I love Waskesiu. It’s an absolute gem. I always try to get there twice a year. But to hike. The hiking is great in Prince Albert National Park. Whether solo or with my family I am always able to find a lonely trail where it’s just me or us and the forest. I still find that fact amazing. Waskesiu townsite can seem so busy a times yet there is enough forest playground for everyone to seem like they have it to themselves.
And yet I never made the connection until this year about biking. How could I have missed it?
The forecast looked outstanding. No bettter time like the present. A quick check to find a place to crash and a call to the school to say the boys weren’t coming in today and we bolted north. A day of travel but we managed to knock off a couple of hikes that night – did I mention the weather was dialed in?
Saturday was biking day and we started off much like we typically do. A little too intense. When your youngest son is 4 the km start to add up quicker than you think! But that never stops me or us. The secret is to always keep it interesting. What is around the next corner? Sometimes I don’t know myself. And for bike trails, this was definitely true.
The Red Deer Trail
I guess my excuse is that until this year my boys were mostly riding bikes with training wheels and it just didn’t occur to me. This year was my lucky year. And I discovered it almost by accident. We took up our bikes and just went about exploring.
We started in the Red Loop heading south of town – the trail has Red, Yellow and Blue Loops of varying difficulty as part of the same trail. Some of the trail was closed so we had to use the highway path for some of it (#263). The little ones were tiring out a bit from the hills (and the fact their wheels are like 8″ diameter) so I scouted ahead. The Red Loop once you got back on the trail east of the highway started to get tougher. My oldest son Ty (aged 9) agreed to go with me, everyone else turned back. After about 15 minutes I could tell Ty’s heart wasn’t in it and he just didn’t have his legs yet so we bailed and caught up with the others.
Quick stop for more water then back into town for an easier time on the Yellow Loop part of the trail. Much easier on the little ones. Still a nice long ride but enough to make them work hard and feel they accomplished something. Ty and I then took off to work the Blue Loop portion.
It was a ton of fun and we had the trail to ourselves but it became clear that the Blue Loop is better run counterclockwise. Lots of uphill climbing made it a good workout but not the optimal way to ride it. As an added bonus I noticed that a second run of wild raspberries has sprung up here and there due to mid September heat we were experiencing – 32 degrees at this time of the year is unheard of. We vowed to return and do it up right. I had no idea it would be the same day!
After some beach time, a nice supper and a sweet evening hike on our favourite trail Treebeard (and a boatload of wild raspberries) I gave Ty the look and he knew that meant it was time to go retry Blue Loop. He was totally down so we sped back to get our bikes to head off – it was close to sun down.
Counterclockwise down Blue Loop was heaven. We just couldn’t have had any more fun if we tried. Ty is a kid. I felt like a kid. Much of the ride was like a roller coaster on your bike, zipping through a forest just showing its fall colours on some narrow trails, with nothing but the wind in our hair (metaphorically speaking for me). I took the lead for most of the trip to ensure there was no danger ahead and that I could warn Ty. As our confidence grew so did our daring and speed we were taking the trail at. Ty wanted to take the lead and he’s a solid kid so game on. After a few more hills our boldness caught up with us a bit on the last turn out of the forest down a steep slope where a long S curve caught us by surprise. I knew right away we had too much speed (right after I had told Ty to “‘crank that sucka”) and was helpless watching Ty do a ‘garage sale’. He felt it too but brakes were useless at that speed on that slope and on a curve and the long skid started then turned into an ejection. Big wipeout. A few tears and a bump on the forehead but otherwise just a good scare and a good story for his friends. Even with a helmut a ‘raspberry’ is still possible to get so never let your guard down!
Despite the drama, we collected ourselves and headed down the trail to do some more riding. Ty is a tough nut and sucked it up like a champion and wasn’t about to let something slow him down. He was tearing down the trails again in no time with a big smile on his face. After some coaching on how to tell the story to his mom we arrived home triumphantly as trail hounds.
Not only had I found (rediscovered?) a new favourite past time in biking I now had a partner in crime in Ty to explore the new terrain with. Something shared is always more special for me. Especially with my son.
And Waskesiu is as special as they come. I just had found a new part of it. A part of it I can’t wait to return to.
Here is a clip of some riding Ty and I did on the Blue Loop.
Some Information For Those of You I Know Want to Check It Out
Prince Albert National Park – http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/sk/princealbert/index.aspx
Prince Albert National Park brochures and maps http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/sk/princealbert/visit/brochures.aspx
Waskesiu - http://www.waskesiu.org/
There are bike rentals in the building right beside the Park Office in the Townsite.
Here is what some seriously fun trail riding looks like.
Here’s a peak what riding down Kicking Horse Mountain looks like – not for the weak.