Saturday, August 29: Banff
There is something about this room. Once again, I was awake for no obvious reason at around 5am, and then I just tossed and turned without sleeping until the alarm went off at 6:20.
Our plan for the day was to do a short hike in the Sunshine Meadows. To save pointless hiking, one can take a bus from the parking lot up to Sunshine Village, and the do more level hiking.
We didn't know what the bus schedule was, and so we happened to arrive there around 9:05. It turns out that the bus leaves every hour on the hour. So we just missed the 9:00 bus, and we had to wait for the 10:00 one. I sort of sacked out on a big soft leather comfy chair while I waited.
Our bus driver was a very outgoing friendly woman with what I thought was an Eastern European accent. When we got to the “village”, I asked her where she was from, and she made me guess. I guessed Czech Republic, but she was from Slovakia (I was close). It must be like US national parks where a lot of foreigners come over to work for the summer.
The village is at 7150 feet. We were hiking the Rock Isle Trail. At first the trail climbs a bit steeply, which was very taxing for Amy, but after that it levels out into more gentle slopes. We saw a number of ground squirrels and late season flowers.
The haze was present but not terrible. That is the views were there, but they weren't great. The skies were overcast, which didn't make for particularly good pictures.
We crossed the continental divide and entered British Columbia. Then we came to a fork in the trail. Our path led to the left, but the right fork looked like it went up a short distance to a ridge. Amy was moving slowly, both due to the altitude, but also because of the number of pictures she was taking, so I decided to go just a short distance up the right trail, see what was over the ridge, and then catch up to Amy and Mike.
This ended up being a larger digression than I had planned. At the top of the “ridge” I saw that it continued up a bit higher. I kept going “just a little bit further”. Then I saw at the top of the hill the “Standish Viewpoint”, so I continued to the top. I found this stretch quite enjoyable as I had come out above the tree-line, and I love the alpine region.
The trail continued on a level a short distance, where there was the top of a chair lift. I hiked to the end and got some views down the valley in that direction.
My short detour ended up being about a kilometer long (2km round trip), so I started hurrying to catch up with Amy and Mike. When I got to Rock Isle Lake, there was a small beach like area, where there were a number of people lounging around. I didn't see Amy or Mike, so I hurried past.
I kept expecting to catch up with them at any moment, but as the time lengthened and I didn't see them, I began to get doubts. It didn't help that I didn't have a map. I was really hoping that it was not the case that they were at the lake and I had missed seeing them, and that rather than hurrying towards them, I was hurrying away from them.
The trail was essentially out and back, so as long as they were in front of me, I would eventually find them. Almost. At the end of the trail there is a small loop around Larix Lake, so I could go down one side and they could be returning on the other side.
I asked some hikers coming back if they had seen Amy and Mike. They said that they hadn't, but it depended on which way they had gone around the lake. From what I remembered of the map and of Amy's plans, I chose the right path (i.e. CCW around the lake), and I chose correctly. On the other hand, I literally caught up with them just as they got to the end, i.e. to Simpson Viewpoint.
We got a bunch of pictures from a viewpoint over a high steep drop-off down this distant valley. They we continued around Larix Lake to return back.
At this point, we realized that once again we had planned poorly for the hike. In particular, it was a longer hike than we had expected, and we hadn't brought any lunch or food with us. Michael was rather hungry, somewhat bored, and not having the best time.
We continued around the lake. Amy told me that she had scratched a message in the ground at the last junction (i.e. “Jim” with an arrow pointing to the right). Of course I hadn't noticed it, particularly as I had been looking up at the trail sign rather than down at the ground.
We continued as a group until we got to the “beach” at Rock Isle Lake. At that point, I started hiking faster with Michael, with Amy traveling behind us at her own pace. Our goal was to get Michael back to the village as quickly as possible, and get him some food.
Around that time, it started spitting rain at us, but not enough to be really bothersome. At one point we crested a ridge, and we were hit with a strong gusty wind. For a moment I thought we were about to experience a downpour, but the rain never did more than spit at us.
As we approached the village, we were walking past a large hill, which had a chair lift going to the top. I began to wonder if that far valley I had seen from Standish was in fact the valley that we had come up in the bus. That turns out to be the case, that is in going to the Standish Viewpoint I had essentially turned 180 degrees.
The bus down goes every hour on the half hour. Before we left Amy, we figured that we would try to go down on the 3:30 bus, as I didn't think we would make the 2:30 one. It turns out that Mike and I barely made the 2:30 one, but without Amy we made reservations for the 3:30 one.
Our next stop was to get food for Michael. He opted for a plate of Nachos, which I helped him eat. Then he got an ice cream. At that point, around 3:00, we saw Amy coming down the trail.
We hung out while Amy got an ice cream, then about 3:20 we went down to catch the bus. The line was already fairly long, and I was somewhat surprised that despite our “reservations”, we were about the last ones on the bus. That is, if we had been 2 or 3 people back, we wouldn't have had a spot on the bus.
But it turns out that they were running two busses each time. So if we had missed that bus, it wouldn't have been a 60 minute wait, it would have been about 5 minutes (i.e. the time it takes to load a bus).
I guess that with the rapid return for nachos, Michael forgave us for our poor planning. He had been somewhat surly during the hike, but he was much friendlier on the bus ride down.
We had reservations for a “Lantern Tour” at the Cave and Basin for 8:00, so we had a few hours to kill and have dinner before the tour. We decided to scope out the Cave and Basin area before dinner. On the way there, we saw that our favorite garage in Banff was “full”, which didn't surprise us as it was a Saturday.
We arrived at the Cave and Basin. Amy and Mike decided to go along the Marsh Loop, but I wanted to check out the Discovery Boardwalk, then catch up with them at the marsh. This time I caught up with them about 3/4 of the way around, just before the fish viewing area and bird blind.
I saw a woman trying to photograph something, so I looked to see what it was. I saw this creature coming down the stream. At first I thought it was a beaver, but it didn't have the right kind of tail. Eventually we decided that it was a muskrat.
Amy was taking a lot time looking at things and taking pictures, so I started back with Mike. Shortly after we started back, it started raining. Mike and I hurried to the car. I tried to drive over and pickup Amy to save her time and walking, but for a variety of reasons, I ended up saving her not much at all.
We drove back to the downtown, and now our favorite garage had space, so we parked there. We only had two umbrellas, so Amy and Mike each got one, and I wore my rain jacket. We went through the rail to the Old Spaghetti factory, but they had a 45-60 minute wait. We figured that if we were seated at that time, we wouldn't have enough time to order, get served, and eat, before we needed to be back the Cave and Basin.
Amy and Mike didn't want to wander around in the rain, so we ended up eating at the mall food court. So this ended up being one of the cheapest dinners of the trip.
We finished eating and didn't want to do anything else, so we drove to the Cave and Basin, getting there a bit early around 7:35.
The Lantern Tour was having a number of “actors” telling us about their role in the history of the place, along with a private tour to the cavern. The tunnel was man-made, but it led to a natural cavern where the geothermal water was flowing. The cavern isn't that big, so there was a lot of stuff about the history of the place (Canada's first national park), and then a 10-minute movie about Canada's parks in general.
After that, we drove around to the upper springs, where there is a pool like at Miete. We went in there with rental suits. Overall, we liked Miete better. The Banff one only had one pool (around 100 degrees), and it was rather crowded.
In the end, it is just a warm shallow pool.
Michael was hungry when we pried him out, and most places were closed. Eventually we ended up stopping at McD's in Canmore.
Similar to our visit to Miete, we got back to our room around 11:30. I just had time to type up rough notes, and then we hit the sack at midnight. (I typed the above on the following night.)
My fingers continue to improve. I have more range of motion than the previous night, with less pain. They are still swollen, though, with slightly limited range of motion, and there is still pain if I exceed the limits. Overall, I don't notice the injury most of the time.
We lucked out with the weather today. It would have been really miserable if the rain had come earlier when we were out in the meadows.
After the Cave and Basin, we noticed that the rain had cleared most of the smoke from the air. It was some of the clearest air we had seen on the trip. Unfortunately, it happened late in the evening, just before the sun went down, so we couldn't really enjoy the clear air.
I wonder what tomorrow will bring with respect to the smoke/haze? Will it be gone, or will it return during the night.