Geobiking 2012 – Bow River Pathway in Calgary

We dropped our bikes off for their annual spring tune-ups on Easter Monday and they were finally ready for pick-up yesterday (3-week turnaround). We didn’t waste any time planning our first geobiking outing of the year for today! (FYI, geobiking = geocaching by bike.) A few of our geocache hides needed new log sheets, so we selected a route that would include some geocaching maintenance stops – the Bow River Pathway between Edworthy Park and Pearce Estate Park. Coincidentally, this is basically the same route we pedaled for our first geobike ride of 2011.

Protected pathway

There's a certain appeal about unpaved pathways bordered on both sides by high shrubs / small trees...the mystery of not knowing what's around the bend until you take the corner; the option to skip or dance your way along the trail without anyone watching and thinking you're a lunatic; the freedom to imagine that you're taking a walk a hundred years ago.

Today’s ride was longer than the comparable ride last year, as we first rode west to find 4 geocaches (including one of our all-time favourites: Stash n’ Dash). During this approx. 5 km side trip, we either watched or waited for four trains going by.

West end of Edworthy Park

We waited here, on the wrong side of a long train, just 15 meters from a geocache we wanted to find - but on the other side of the tracks. To give an idea of the train's length, we spotted 5 locomotives (2 at the front, 2 around the middle and one at the end). From where we stood to the train bridge over the TransCanada is about 1.5 km and we counted 114 train cars that passed us once the train started moving again. Fortunately, it was a short wait (maybe 10 minutes) and then it took us almost as long to find the geocache!

Our ride was further extended by the closure of the pathway on the north side of the Bow River, which meant retracing our route for a short distance and then riding on the other side of the river.

Trail closure on the Bow River Pathway

Riding the trail on the north side of the Bow River, we spotted the reason for the closure of a section along the south side of the Bow River. An ice flow knocked out a section of fencing and damaged the trail. That section tends to ice up every year and it can be June before it's completely ice free, so it was good to see that City of Calgary Parks employees are already working to re-open the path.

We found quite an assortment of geocaches: regular-sized, small-sized, a Christmas ornament hanging in a tree, a couple of bison tubes, the inevitable utility box. We even awarded a “favorite point” to one – for the location, not the container.

Calgary Soldier's Memorial

We stopped to look for a micro-cache hidden at the Calgary Soldier's Memorial, which recognizes the sacrifice of soldiers from Canadian Army Reserve Regiments based in Calgary who were killed in the First and Second World Wars and in Afghanistan. Among the names are three winners of the Victoria Cross - the Commonwealth's highest award for bravery. It's fitting that this striking memorial is located just off Memorial Drive and right across the Bow River from Mewata Armoury, home to most of Calgary's Army Reserve Regiments.

Between Edworthy Park and Pearce Estate Park there are half-a-dozen bridges across the Bow River. We waited to cross again at one of Calgary’s newest landmarks – the Peace Bridge.

Calgary Peace Bridge

The Peace Bridge finally opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic exactly one month ago today. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, Calgary's newest pedestrian bridge across the Bow River has been dogged by controversy since first approved by city council - critics don't like the location (too close to other pedestrian bridges), the fact that the design work didn't go to a local architect, the fact that it came in way over budget and way past the original construction deadline, the design itself, the fact that it was suddenly named the "Peace Bridge" in what was perceived as a decision to try to quell some of the criticism, etc. But all of that, as the saying goes, is water under the bridge (ha ha!) and today we rode across it for the first time. It's a striking addition to the downtown urban park landscape and is featured on our most recent personal geocoin.

Calgary Peace Bridge

We noted plenty of pedestrians and cyclists already using the new Peace Bridge as we started our inaugural crossing.

Avoiding the lunch time amblers is always a challenge near Prince’s Island Park, but between our bike bells and shout outs we made it through safely. Our first maintenance stop was at GC1R0KK – Wagon Wheels, a nano cache that’s been found 347 times since we placed it three years ago. As you might imagine, we have to stop by quite regularly to replace the little log roll. There are a lot of good hiding places for a nano on that sculpture and we never know how long it’s going to take us to find our own cache! Today we got lucky. Mr. GeoK had it in his hand after 3 or 4 minutes.

Enjoying the sunshine

We stopped to find a small geocache near one of the storm water outlets into the channel separating Prince's Island Park from downtown Calgary. The seemingly content citizens, foraging Canada Geese, green grass and bright yellow bench were all reflected by the still water.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. (CMLC – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the City of Calgary) has been putting a lot of taxpayer dollars into infrastructure as it redevelops the so-called Rivers District – the area east of City Hall and south of the Bow River. So far more than $108 million has been spent on infrastructure improvements, including RiverWalk, a pedestrian/bike path on the banks of the Bow River. This is a beautiful section of the Bow River Pathway, with separate pedestrian and bicycle lanes, some interesting public art, lots of strategically-placed chairs and benches and several platforms overlooking the Bow River. Because of the way pedestrians cross onto and off of their lanes of the pathway, cyclists still have to exercise considerable care and be prepared to brake suddenly. Once the pathway section adjacent for Fort Calgary is complete, this will be a great place to ride and hang out. It might even offer a few choice spots for new geocaches!

We rode without stopping from the bridge over the Elbow River near Fort Calgary to Harvie Passage, another big City project that has replaced an extremely dangerous weir built in 1904 to divert water for agriculture. The river structures that will allow for much safer rafting, tubing, canoeing and kayaking look pretty much finished. Signage and landscaping still need to be completed. We found a unique Brass Cap here and then continued into Pearce Estate Park to put new log sheets into two geocaches we placed in 2008 for publication concurrent with our second WWFM event. The traditional cache has been found almost 200 times while there are fewer than 100 finds for the multi-cache that requires geocachers to walk / bike the trails in Pearce Estate Park to learn all about wetlands in order to work out the coordinates for the container.

Pearce Estate Park

It's been just about a year since we last visited Pearce Estate Park and we were surprised to see several new wooden viewing platforms in the wetlands, along with a couple of bird-watching blinds. Too bad there were no birds around today! But I carefully timed my shot to include Mr. GeoK on his bike, headed to another geocache.

Another 500 meters to the south we found our last cache of the day before turning our bikes around and heading for home.

Statistics and Facts:

  • Total distance ~ 33 km (approx. 20 miles)
  • Caches found ~ 12
  • Caches maintained ~ 3
  • Bikes ~ MEC Chance, an 11-speed hybrid and one sweet ride
  • Camera ~ Canon S90, a reliable and very portable point-and-shoot, perfectly sized for geobiking

Visit this site for more information about Calgary pathways and bikeways, including the 48 km (30 mile) Bow River Pathway connecting Bearspaw Dam in NW Calgary to Fish Creek Park in SW Calgary.

We’d love to hear about your geobiking adventures, so please leave a comment including a link to your geocaching log entry or blog post.

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