Banff was the first big town we had been in since Vancouver, and I was finally able to find a store that sold the necessary cables to get things off my camera! ...though everything was basically twice the price it should have been. They were selling the official Canon charger for $100, which was absolutely ridiculous, but they also had a no-name generic charger which also fit other batteries for $50, so we went with that. Bummer to have to get replacements at all because that's still a very pretty penny... but c'est la vie. I still have no idea where I could have possibly left all my stuff :(
We met up with Mike's sister Vera, who was just about to start a new job at Sunshine Village. We were able to spend two nights with her and then help her move into her new home, and in the meantime we spent one night at the Hostelling International hostel where she was temporarily camped, and one night sleeping in Trucko -- because in Banff, even shared hostel rooms are expensive! Evvvvverything was expensive. Except for gas, gas was super cheap.
It was expensive, but it was nice to have a hot shower again. And a warm kitchen. And to have Vera cook for us :D The first night she made us pasta with a smorgasbord of vegetables... and for breakfast we got french toast. So tasty!
We decided to hike Johnston Canyon on Vera's last day before work. The trail leads through a canyon to two waterfalls that Johnston Creek flows through: the path to the lower falls is almost all on manmade catwalks built into the limestone cliffs, and the upper falls are farther on following a cleared trail. Round trip, it's only 6 or 7 kilometers, with very little elevation gain, and since it's maintained so well it is a popular hike for families.
The hike isn't strenuous per se, but with the packed snow and ice patches on sometimes hilly stretches, it's a good idea to have footwear that grips the snow well. Parks even sells little rubber crampons for your shoes for $25, but we had hiking boots and weren't worried. Surprisingly enough, Vera's less sturdy boots fared better than our hiking boots -- our boots had softer rubber with a general purpose tread designed for rock surfaces, while hers were hard rubber with very small cleat-like treads. But with most of the walk having railings, it was easy enough to get by -- and fun to slide down on the way back!
One thing we did see on the way back, which I did not take a picture of (lucky you), is the fact that we found a big, fresh, stinking pile of poop on the trail. Human poop. How do we know? Because someone tried to wipe. With a receipt. And they left it there. Seriously. Seriously?!? This was a busy trail, we passed a good number of people on the way up as well as the way down. Not only did someone think it would be okay to poop in the middle of a popular, scenic walkway, but they actually didn't have a problem with dropping trousers right there, in the open, where probably a few hundred people passed just that day alone, to take a deuce???
We know it was fresh because it definitely wasn't there when we were headed up, there was like a half hour window for the poop to appear. We probably even saw the person who did it.
I still kick myself for not taking a picture of it and showing the ranger. I bet you that receipt was probably paid with a credit card and the perp's name could have been discovered. But I didn't want to touch it to find out.
Keep your poop private people! Do it in the loo, or bury it (off trail!), or pack it out!
Panorama and Radium
When Vera started working, we hit the road again. Sunshine was seeing a particularly busy weekend what with Family Day taking place, and it was the most expensive hill we had come across to date. Knowing that Panorama was close by, and much cheaper, we pointed Trucko in that direction and left.
We stopped along the way to spend some time at Radium Hot Springs, a government operated hot spring which only costs $6.30 CAD to enter, sweet deal! They have full facilities there with showers, change rooms, lockers, and even a cafe (which was closed the day we went). They're also open late, so it's possible to head there after a day on the mountain, if you're not too tired for the drive. Unlike public open hot springs, these springs flow into man made pools. They even have a pool with swimming lanes, which the more tepid waters flow into. It's a pretty luxurious place for only a few dollars, we easily spent a few hours there.
Panorama itself was fantastic -- I finally found the trifecta I had been waiting for: good weather, runs I enjoyed, AND good snow! Well, good enough snow. Spring conditions had started to arrive on the mountains, but this was pretty good. Mike had been here before, when he visited Vera as she worked at this mountain the previous year, but this was my first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
After Panorama, we decided to make Fernie our last Canadian stop. We had heard from multiple people that we needed to include this small town in our schedule, but when we got there it was so warm that the snow was all mush. We decided to wait it out and see what happened, and hoping for snow the next day, feasted on a meal at Kelsey's (using a gift card from my Uncle Bob from some year past, thanks Bob!) before tucking into our sleeping bags in the parking lot.
The next morning still wasn't looking great temperature-wise, plus Mike's foot had started acting up. He had developed a hole in his boots sometime last year, and snow and water would get in and keep his feet wet all the time. This led to a terrible case of athlete's foot last year, and it looked like it might be returning. So we took a rest day, got Mike to the doctor's and got some antibiotics, and spent some time checking out the town.
Fernie is actually a pretty charming place. There are public art and historical exhibits that only people with enough enthusiasm and genuine love for their town could produce -- if there was a real life inspiration for Leslie Knope, it very well could have been from Fernie. There's a free museum which details Fernie's history as a mining town turned into a ski town, which is now its main attraction. The library has some of the best wifi we'd come across. And possibly the best bagels I have ever consumed in my entire LIFE were had at Big Bang Bagels. [They are so unbelievably soft, please please please try them if you are in the area!!]
We decided that Mike's foot was a no-go for at least a few days, so we ended up having to pass on boarding at Fernie. Another time! We were sad to skip this one.
But for now, we stocked up on a bit of Canada, and made our way to the border.
Fyi if you were wondering what the banner image for this post is, that's a little sculpture of Trucko that Vera made from her Babybel cheese wheel :D