I'm not the type to make travel plans. I don't really engage in excursions. I just know where I have to go, and whatever happens in transit happens. It's kind of a fatalistic travel philosophy.
I didn't really plan any side trips for this point in the journey. However, a few weeks ago I did notice on my map that there was a hot spring just to the east of Jasper. I hadn't actually planned on going, but when I got to the junction my aching joints and muscles did a pretty good job of convincing me to make the turn. There was a restaurant at the turnoff, where I stopped to look for information about the ride. "17 kilometres," I was told, "straight up. I've never seen anyone go up there on a bicycle before."
It seemed a pretty desolate section of road, and it was a good distance off my intended route. But I've never been the type to be deterred by a little climbing. And hey, there was a hot spring waiting for me at the end. So off I went. They were right - it was pretty well straight up. But it wasn't something I could say was any more difficult than riding up out of Witless Bay. What I wasn't quite prepared for was how isolated it felt. The road was winding, meaning that I couldn't see any real distance ahead or behind me. The trees were right to the edge of the pavement, and in a lot of places hanging right out into the road. A few cars passed, about one every 5 to 10 minutes. I was a little nervous but I kept pumping the pedals thinking to myself that I'd be there in an hour, and that the ride out would be all downhill. Nonetheless, I kept my wheels on the yellow line in case I had to make a sudden evasive maneuver in either direction.
I passed the halfway point and the grade eased a little bit. I started feeling a little more confident, and a slight drizzle blew in to cool me off. I passed the three-quarter mark, and started the final ascent. I rounded a corner and the road stretched out long and wide in front of me. But what was that I saw at the end of that stretch? (You've probably guessed by now). A big jeezly black bear was standing in the middle of the road directly in front of me.
Again, I did not have the presence of mind to dig out my camera and create actual evidence of this encounter. Basically I turned without missing a beat, and within 15 seconds that bear had seen the last of me. My little excursion was a bust - so much for making plans. Whatever happens happens. There's just no way around it. I did at least have an exhilarating ride down.