If you ask a Calgarian their favourite part of living in Calgary, I can confidently…
On Thursday, I left work and sped down Highway 22 towards the mountains, the glorious mountains. There are always people who remind you how lucky we are to live so close to them, but even those people forget sometimes. I love the moment when you pass Mt. Baldy on your left and Yamnuska on your right, because now you are in the mountains. I met up with Kate, my sister, at the IGA in Banff to buy a few camping necessities. We were going up to Two Jack Lake to pitch a tent for a few nights, and wanted to be prepared. We drove across the highway and passed Cascade Mountain. The road took us over the dam at the foot of Lake Minnewanka, towards Two Jack Lake. We found our campsite and began to set up, which went very efficiently, if I do say so myself. The tent was pitched, the chairs were out, and the water for pasta was on the stove within minutes. We spent the evening under the stars, eating our veggies and pasta, drinking our tea, chatting about life, and enjoying the smells and sounds of nature. I love camping.
We woke up on Friday morning, a little colder than expected. Oh yeah: we’re in the mountains. We cooked up some tea and enjoyed the overnight oats we prepared yesterday. It was decided that today we would go for a nice mountain walk. Neither of us have hiked up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, so we set off towards Lake Louise with a dream. We arrived and immediately all the calm we felt from waking up to birds whistling, breathing in refreshing forest air, and driving passed majestic AF mountains, disappeared. The parking lot at Lake Louise was a horror show. People were bumper to bumper, honking horns, ignoring signal lights, and pulling in front of each other. Somehow, in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the world, people became uglier than normal. It was here, in this terribly busy parking lot, that Kate and I succumbed to the ugliness. We became different people— traffic people. The kind of people who roll their eyes at each other’s suggestions and sigh angrily at things the other says. We quickly realized what people – nay, monsters – we had become and decided to get the hell out of there.
Instead of a hike to Lake Agnes, we spent the afternoon at Two Jack Lake. The sun was out, the breeze was cold— er— fresh, and we wanted to enjoy the weather. We laughed at what a Canadian stereotype we were, sitting on the grass, basking in the sun, wearing nothing but swimsuits and goosebumps. Meanwhile, all the other lake-goers walked around us, bundled up in multiple autumn layers.
This evening we would build a fire. We donned our flannel shirts and head to the communal woodpile. Here we collected the finest pieces of kindling and the perfect logs for our fire. I began with a tipi of small logs. I crammed in a few pieces of paper from an old map of the USA Kate had in her car— we used Alabama and Arkansas first. The fire ignited and I used my dinghy foot pump as a bellows. Soon the flames were flying. We sat in the heat of the fire all evening, reading our books.
On Saturday, we decided to try a hike again. Instead of attempting Lake Agnes, we stayed near Lake Minnewanka, and did the C-Level Cirque. This is a moderate hike, with almost 500m in elevation gain over only 7.8km of hiking. The beginning of the trail was steep, so very steep. The incredible incline and the knobby tree roots sticking out of the path made Kate and I walk about as gracefully as a pair of drunk camels. We took a few breaks, but then got our second wind and made it to the very top. What a view. From here, we could see the entire valley. Mt. Rundle in the distance, with Banff in its shadow, the highway snaking along the river, and the endless Alberta sky. It was a great spot for lunch.
It began to rain when we arrived back at camp. It was only drizzling, so our plan to build a fire and cook hot dogs for dinner was still a go. We hopped in the car and drove into Banff to buy some marshmallows, and it began to pour. We arrived downtown, found a parking spot, and thought about what we should do. The rain was sporadic. It would absolutely pour for a few minutes, all hope of a campfire would be lost, and we would be just about to give up when the sun would come out, we would see blue sky, and begin to feel warm, only for the next rain-filled cloud to dump all over us again. What do you do on an evening like this, when the weather is so unpredictable? Sit at a covered table on the Grizzly House patio and spend three hours eating a four course fondue meal. If you like cheese, meat, and chocolate, this is the place for you.
The rain continued as we pulled into our campsite. We had a bit of fire envy as we passed some of the other sites with their fire pits covered by tarps. How lovely though, to sit in a tent, all cozied up in a sleeping bag, listening to the pitter patter of the rain, reading my book. Thanks for camping with me in the mountains, Kate! And thanks for having us, Banff!