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Cochrane to Crowsnest Highway

August 31 - September 2, 2007

In my quest to find more dual-sport worthy roads in southern Alberta, I decided to ride a stretch of the Forestry Trunk Road (Hwy 940) between Highwood House (near the southern end of Peter Lougheed Provincial Park) and Coleman (on the Crowsnest Highway). It was also going to be a break-in ride for my new Ohlins shocks.

Day 1 - Friday, August 31

I left Edmonton around 9:30am on Friday bound for Anderwerks Motorrad Spezialist, an independent BMW shop located in north Calgary. I had ordered a set of Ohlins shocks for my R1200GS earlier in the year. I had hoped to obtain and install them before riding the bike up to Edmonton for the summer, but they hadn't arrived in time. Well, they finally arrived at my home in Camas and I brought them up to Edmonton on one of my monthly trips home. Unfortunately, my apartment building in Edmonton frowns on anyone working on their vehicles, so I decided to ride to Anderwerks to have the Ohlins installed; and it was time for a new front Michelin Anakee tire as well.

I arrived at Anderwerks in the early afternoon, and by about 5:00pm the GS was sporting the new shocks and front tire (Thanks Dave!). I decided to head west to spend the night in Cochrane so I could get an early start in the morning. Soon after I arrived in Cochrane, it began raining. So it was a quick fast-food dinner at DQ, and early to bed.

Day 2 - Saturday, September 1

The next morning, I woke up to see that it was still raining. I went downstairs and ate a quick (and free) continental breakfast in the hotel, and met a group of Harley riders that were heading down to Wyoming. Back in the room, I finished packing and decided I better wear my rain pants. Good thing - it rained for the first 1-1/2 hours of the ride.

I left Cochrane heading south on Hwy 22, and then took Hwy 1 west. At Hwy 40, I turned south and started enjoying the views as the road winds its way through the foothills of the Rockies. As the rain kept coming down, I was beginning to wonder what shape I would find the Forestry Trunk Road in; but the rain stopped shortly before reaching Highwood House.

Highwood House is just a small combination gas stop/convenience store at the junction of Hwys 40, 940, and 541. I stopped to fill the tank on the GS, stock up on some water, and inquire whether to expect any mud on Hwy 940 going south. The lady taking my money told me that they hadn't had a lot of rain towards the south, and that Hwy 940 (the Forestry Trunk Road) should be in good shape - shouldn't see any mud but expect a lot of washboard sections of road.

The Forestry Trunk Road is all gravel and hard-packed dirt. Heading south from Highwood House, the road is damp but in good shape. The dampness just keeps the dust down, and provides great traction. It's the kind of road that the GS is built for, and it's easy to find yourself going 75 to 80 mph, yet if only feels like about 40. The road winds up and down through the forested foothills of the Rockies, and it's beautiful riding country.

Hwy 940 (Forestry Trunk Road)

I stop now and then for pictures, and to try and dial in the Ohlins shocks. The Ohlins seem to be working well. I don't notice a lot of difference over the stock shocks at slower speeds, but at higher speeds the Ohlins really make a difference.

There's plenty of little spur roads, and I explore a few of these as they provide a little more variety in terrain - and they're fun to ride.

A Spur Road from Hwy 940

 Towards the end of Hwy 940, I stopped on a little side road for a rest. Although the skies had been overcast, it hadn't rained since I'd been on the gravel and dirt so I took off my rain pants. I drank some water, and watched a few vehicles drive by - most of them trucks with ATV's on the back heading out for the weekend.

Rest Stop on Hwy 940

From here, it was only a little ways until reaching the town of Coleman and the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3). I gassed up the bike in Coleman, and found a small diner (Vito's) to eat lunch (baked lasagna).

It was just early afternoon, so I decided to look at my map and try to find some more dirt roads to ride. I spotted a road on the map (Elk River Forest Service Road) that looked interesting, so I headed west over Crowsnest Pass and into British Columbia, then took Hwy 43 north to Elkford. Along the way, I passed the Elk Valley Coal Mining facilities near Sparwood.

The Elk River Forest Service Road (FSR) takes off north from Elkford, and is another very fun dirt road. Much of it parallels the Elk River, which must have some good fishing based on the number of anglers I see.

Elk River Forest Service Road

Again, there's plenty of side and spur roads and I go exploring down a few of these. Many of them lead to small cottages, so I'd be able to ride a couple of miles down them and then turn around to return to the Elk River FSR.

Side Trails from the Elk River FSR

As I headed north on the Elk River FSR, I'd occasionally hit a section of road that was pretty muddy. It had obviously rained quite a bit more here than on Hwy 940. The muddy sections weren't really that long though, so I kept traveling north.

Eventually though the road turned muddier, and muddier; and soon I was in some really thick mud - not good with the Anakee tires. I was slip, sliding around but couldn't afford to stop because I wasn't sure if I could get enough traction to start up again. I probably went about 2 miles in some really thick mud before I finally found an area where I could turn around. Of course then I had to ride back through the thick mud for 2 more miles - more slipping and sliding. I had a lot of close calls, but luckily never went down.

By now it was about 6:00pm, so I headed back to Coleman and found a hotel (the Stop Inn) for the night. I enjoyed a great dinner (Vienna Schnitzel) at Popiel's Restaurant across the street from the hotel.

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