As we rode through the valley's numerous features, I got what I call throttled. The Blackfoot referred to this area as Aksaysim, translated as steep banks. I learned harshly how accurate their description is, as my legs shook and wobbled from the workout.
Justin and Tracey rode ahead of me, showing me just how badass they were in this gnarly terrain. Riding into the sun, it felt like we were in a movie. But I was having moments of self-doubt, pedalling slowly, wiping the sweat from my brow. Is my photo backpack too heavy? Did I drink enough water? How hot is it outside, anyway? I have an electric freaking bike, why am I so depleted? Justin and Tracey being the pros they are, saw I was struggling and we stopped for a break. Sitting down, I avoided the nearby cactus and it hits me: this is the spirit of raw adventure. Just when I felt as though I was ready to throw in the towel, daydreaming about calling a helicopter to take me out of here, instead, my energy returned and I get a feeling like a punch of jet fuel. In pushing myself to the limit I gain an insight into myself and it renews my usually sunny outlook. A rattlesnake slithers by and I replenish myself with water and food.
OK, I'm feeling grounded again. Back to reality. My focus turns to my muscles, my breath, the rhythmic inhalation and exhalation. Keep the mind and body steady, Dax - the day isn’t over.
We then rode to the far south end of Lethbridge where you’ll find Six-Mile Coulee, a place that's become a playground for mountain bikers. We rode into a feature aptly called The Playground - the perfect place to photograph mountain bikers getting stoke on this other-worldly terrain. It dawns on me that I'd spent four years at university here, yet I had no clue this intense topography even existed.
The first day was significantly mind-blowing and challenging, and I could totally understand the addictive pulse of adventure as we explored the coulees. This day couldn't have been embraced with anything but an adventure mindset, as we rode 30 km through an intricate array of trails and features, including the famed Six-Mile Coulee, all accessible for mountain biking, hiking and trail running.
If you need to rent a bike while you're here, visit Alpenland. It's the only place in the city that rents mountain bikes and e-bikes to explore the trails through the city and valley.
Nature at Your Back: Exploring the Helen Schuler Nature Centre