Sunday, August 30: Banff
A noisy obnoxious family came in around 3:30 or 4:00am (Amy thought it was more like 2:30). They were talking quite loudly in the hallway and woke Amy and myself up. They appeared to go into a room on the other side of the hall, where the additional door muffled them a bit. I felt sorry for the people on the rooms to either side of them. I can't believe they were so loud when it was the middle of the night and people were trying to sleep.
After that, I couldn't fall back asleep. Just after 5 I had an idea, and I opened the window. I figured that perhaps I wasn't sleeping because I was too warm (I was already trying to sleep with no sheets on). There was more outside noise, but I could feel some cooler air seeping in. (The room apparently has no heat and no A/C. It actually has both, but at this point they both seem to be turned off.) Around 5:30 I closed the window, and reset the alarm from 6:20 to 7:20. I think by around 6 I managed to start dozing off, until around 7:10 or so.
I'm not quite sure how to characterize today. I could call it a quiet day. I could also call it the rainiest day so far (at least other than when we were driving somewhere). I could also say that birding and/or hiking alone was cursed.
Amy and Mike wanted to go birding. I had no interest in that, so I wanted to hike. So the plan was to have them drop me off at the foot of Tunnel Mountain (a rather small mountain right in Banff). Then I would hike up and down, while Amy and Mike went birding.
The Tunnel Mountain trail is very well maintained and is quite popular, probably because it is not that big, and it is very close to the center of town. The trail basically grinds upward in switchbacks to the top of the mountain. There were lots of people going both up and down the mountain. I noticed one woman going down because she had a sizeable bandage on one shin.
There were some angry looking clouds upwind of the mountain, and a pretty strong gusty wind, neither of which boded well. I started out with a tee-shirt and my fleece shirt. A short way up I took off the fleece and hiked in the tee. Near the top, as the wind was picking up, I put the fleece back on.
It turns out that the other side of the mountain drops off in fairly sheer cliffs, and there are a number of lookouts (with railings) that go up to the edge.
When I got to the top, I found the wind to be extremely gusty, and the weather to be rather foreboding. I ran around taking pictures, and then I started down. Almost immediately I felt the first drops of rain. At first it was just spitting, but then it began to get a bit heavier. With the wind, I was expecting an imminent deluge, so I stopped and put on my rain jacket. It never got worse than wind-driven light rain, however.
To my surprise, there were still a large number of people headed up, despite the weather. A few women had basically shorts and a tee-shirt. I figured that they would be cold and damp at the top. One woman had an umbrella. As she went past I thought, “Good luck with that umbrella in this wind!”
I was most of the way down when I got a text from Amy. She and Mike were waiting for me at the original (lower) parking lot. I called and told her to drive around to the upper lot, which was a bit closer. She arrived about 30 seconds before I did.
After that, we drove to the usual parking garage, which had plenty of space. I have to hand it to Banff, it is a very friendly place. There is a large, *free* parking garage in the center of town. There are trash cans (and recycling cans) everywhere. There are clean public rest rooms near the river, along with water bubblers and a place to fill water bottles. There is even a station for fixing bikes, with a stand, pump, and a variety of wrenches and things (attached with cables). There are bikes paths all over the place.
The garage is interesting. It has sensors which count the cars going in and the cars going out, so it gives you a count of the available spaces or “full”. Interestingly, when we were watching it at one point, it went from 13 (available) to “full” and then back to 13 (as cars went out and in).
Getting back to our story, after parking in the garage, Michael (as expected) wanted lunch. So we set out in the light rain. We went to a place that was too crowded the first time we found it, a lunch place called “Wild Flour”. It was a combination coffee bar and sandwich shop. It was already rather crowded, but at least there wasn't a long line waiting to order.
Michael got a sandwich, while Amy and I got a light lunch (soup, salad, and cookie). Strangely, despite reading the description multiple times, I was surprised when our food arrived without a sandwich.
While we were waiting for our food, I got in line for the restrooms. A woman got into line behind me, and I recognized her. I said to her, “you were climbing Tunnel Mountain this morning!” It was the woman with the bandage on her shin. We chatted for a while, and she explained that she had injured herself with her tennis racquet, requiring 3 stitches three days before their trip. I said that she must have a really mean tennis racquet.
This was probably my favorite lunch of the trip. We had carrot and ginger soup, and I had a kale salad. We both had some bread.
By the time that lunch was finished, the rain was over, and the air was clearer. It was actually partially sunny. We walked over the bridge and visited an Indian museum, where (in Mike and my opinions) Amy took way too many photographs.
Then we walked back to the car and drove to the gondola. I checked out hiking trails at the summit, but it looks like there aren't too many. There is a 1km hike to where a cosmic ray observatory used to be. Otherwise, there is a trail down the gondola side, and a trail over the ridge and down to the Cave and Basin area.
The weather was cooperating, so we decided to repeat the morning. That is, Amy and Mike would go birding, and I would do some hiking. I thought about reprising the Tunnel Mountain hike, but I wasn't sold on the idea. Instead, I decided to have Amy drop me off at the falls viewing area, and I would work my way up stream, across the foot bridge, down the other side, and if Amy and Mike were not yet ready, I had a number of options. This ended up in hindsight to be the right decision.
They dropped me off, and this time I took the tripod with me. I took a few pictures of the falls, but I refrained from most as I had already taken many. When I got to the foot bridge, there were some dramatic clouds over some of the nearby peaks, but I couldn't get both exposed at the same time. So I used the tripod to get multiple shots for an attempt at HDR.
Around this time, I noticed that up the valley (the direction from which the weather was coming) there were lots of dark clouds, and the graying of falling rain. Again, this didn't bode well.
I started down the other side of the river, but very shortly I felt the first rain drops. I tried to figure out where I could wait protected from the rain, and where it would be easy for Amy to get me. I aimed for the park museum right next to the main bridge. But before I got there, it began to rain lightly, so I put the camera away and dug out my rain jacket again.
I got to the museum and hung out under overhand at the museum. Then I wanted to get some better pictures of the mountains, so I walked over to the public rest rooms, which had a nice overhand, and also a nearby parking lot, so it would be easy for Amy to pick me up. I called Amy and told her where I was. While I was waiting, it turned to a real rain. It wasn't a downpour, but it was heavier than a light rain.
In sort of a repeat of this morning, we drove to our favorite garage, and we decided to get an early dinner. Since we were early and didn't have a deadline, we headed over the Old Spaghetti Factory. We got there around 4:30, and this time we didn't have to wait.
Dinner all together took about an hour and a half, so we were correct the previous night that we wouldn't have had enough time. The food was good and cheaper than what we had been paying. One strange thing was that after dinner, when I walked through the door labeled “wash rooms”, I suddenly found myself outside of the restaurant inside the indoor mall. It reminded me of the story of P T Barnum and the Egress. In this case, the restaurant bathrooms were actually the ones in the mall.
The other strange thing, again reminiscent of earlier, Amy noticed a couple at the table next to ours. They had been birding where Amy and Michael had been. So I recognized someone at lunch, and Amy did at dinner.
When we left, the rain was over, the air was clear, and the sun was shining. We wandered around a bit, and then drove home. It killed me that just as the day was ending, the rain was over, the air was clear, the sun was low, and mountains looked wonderful. Just in time for us to do nothing with them.
So we got an early night, which is allowing me to type up today's events, and to write up yesterday's (since I didn't have time then).