Cuban Connections and Epic Hikes

Cycling in Cuba was amazing. We had 2.5 glorious months of cycling, learning Spanish and meeting amazing people – both from Cuba and around the world.
We’ve had a chance to visit with three of the couples we met while cycling in Cuba. Reconnecting has been incredible because we share a love for Cuba and now we have been able to share our friends’ lives back home. I’ve already shared our awesome adventures with Thom and Karen on Bainbridge Island. And we’ll dedicate another post to Lise and John, our good friends in Invermere. 

In Banff we were able to go for an epic hike with Linda and Ralph, our friends from Calgary. When they last saw Jasper we were still treating his foot for what we thought was shingles but what turned out to be a beach parasite. They were so happy to see him all better and full of energy. 

Linda and Jasper had lovely chats on the shaded rocking swing in the rooftop garden of the Casa Particular we shared in Cuba and were particularly thrilled to catch up with each other.
Being tourists, we invited Linda and Ralph to hike up to the gondola with us. They politely but firmly told us there were much more spectacular and less busy hikes and would pick us up from our campground and take us to a trailhead with a hike we’d all love. 

The next morning, they arrived in their minivan with Mike and Jocelyn, a father-daughter dream team of world travelling cyclists from Florida who would be staying at their AirBnB. We picked a hike from Lake Annette – close to Lake Louise – with an option of a connection with Sentinel Pass. 

The hike was incredible. Anna Sierra and Jasper scampered along at the front of the pack telling Linda all their stories and quizzing her with their collection of homemade riddles – the kind where you’re stuck in a room and need to escape by doing things like breaking a mirror into three pieces, using those pieces to make a whole puzzle, then climbing through the (w)hole and using a whisk to whisk yourself home. They are quite clever, but require a lot of mental power and sometimes a lot of hints to solve. 
Linda remembered encouraging her sons along on hiking trails when they were younger and was game for hours of riddles.
Soon we were crossing a glacial river and arriving at a quiet, stunning lake lined by larch trees. I loved chatting with Jocelyn and hearing about her many long distance bike trips with her dad. She started bike tripping when she was in 5th grade by training for a 15 mile ride with a series of Saturday morning 5 mile rides! Her dad came along as a chaperone and got hooked on bike travel. Now they’re well on their way to circling the planet. So inspiring! 
While we hiked past evergreens and through ferns, I asked Jocelyn about saddle sores. I’d been having some issues for the last couple of months and wondered if there was some magical trick to eliminating them besides hygiene, dry bike shorts and rest. It’s a discussion I’ve wanted to have with another woman who rides a whole lot, but you need to get to know each other before you can launch into saddle sores! She assured me that I wasn’t missing anything. Although she uses a Brooks saddle and doesn’t wear padded shorts as they get pretty sweaty. 
As our trip leader, Linda mediated the decision making discussions at each point as we were choosing to continue on the trail or turn back. The trickiest decision came when we were looking up at Sentinel Pass and seeing snow on the trail. There was some loose rock at the top of the path and the snow looked like it would definitely be cold and possibly slippery for those of us hiking in sandals. 

While we waited to ask a couple we spotted hiking down the pass towards us about the trail conditions, we got to watch sun warmed snow on the mountains far on the other side of the valley turn into mini avalanches. Jocelyn (from Florida), Anna and Jasper and I had never seen (or heard) anything like it and could have sat all afternoon watching the snow fall in waterfalls and listening to its delayed thunder. Derek’s hiked in Nepal and so had already seen avalanches.
After some discussion (and consultation with the hikers), we decided to split into two groups. Linda and Mike would circle back to the trailhead, fetch the van and meet us at Renald Lake. The rest of us would climb up and over the pass, led by Ralph the Intrepid.

All was well until the last 500 metres when the trail disappeared beneath the snow and we were climbing up loose rock, trying to find the trail and reach the top. At first the kids were eager trail blazers, but after dislodging several loose rocks that seemed like that might tumble down on me, Jocelyn and Ralph, they lost some of their nerve. 

Gingerly, with lots of communication about safer and more unstable routes and any small rocks that actually fell, we all made it up to the top safely.
The view from the top was spectacular. We shared a few handfuls of granola and some maple cookies and were soon ready to descend into a valley bordered by ten gorgeous peaks – Ralph told us it was a view featured on the $10 bill. The hike down to meet Linda and Mike was lovely and we celebrated an amazing day together with a big dinner at the hostel.
It was a glorious day in a beautiful place with incredibly beautiful people. A real memory maker!



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