Mixed weather and a delay
June 12-14, 2023
Day 5 of the trip brought some well-needed rest after four days of mostly riding. I did a bit of laundry, had breakfast at the hostel (a mistake), and went for a hike along the river and around Tunnel Mountain, whose flank the hostel is situated on. Weather was mostly sunny with some clouds moving in and out.
Not a lot of pictures and no video as I left all the electronics in the room with Griffith and just enjoyed myself, at one point finding a small shallow branch off the Bow River and dunking myself in the cold waters. (You really don’t want to dive into the main channel no matter how good a swimmer you think you are.) I continued along the river past town, then walked back and explored a bit. The town was everything I imagined based on my observations riding through, only somehow worse. I made my way past what seemed like hundreds of t-shirt and souvenir shops all selling the same generic merchandise, and a bunch of “standard” brand name places that you can find in any mall. Eventually I found the supermarket and picked up some food to have in the hostel for breakfast and snacks, so I can skip the cafeteria stuff. The hostel includes a bus pass, so I took the bus back.
Many of the people in the hostel this time of year seem to be Australians who are staying briefly while they find other jobs and doing odd jobs around the facility in exchange for a place to sleep. I’ve noticed this elsewhere as well, but it’s most apparent here: the Canadian tourist experience is built up largely on willing indentured servants (aka, “students on a break year”) who work for room and board, while actual Canadians are (in many cases literally) left out in the cold because they need an actual living wage. I know many cheap tourist traps would not be able to survive if they had to pay actual wages to people who want more than a party vacation, but I’m not sure that losing half the businesses in towns like this would be a bad thing.
Day 6 had me hiking in a different direction around Tunnel Mountain. Some of the trails are closed this time of year as it’s calving season for the local elk and there have been dangerous encounters on our side of Tunnel Mountain. So I walked along the road to the upper summit trailhead and decided to hike up. Weather remained pleasant, but seemed threatening the whole way. It never did rain, but being on an exposed mountainside during a sudden storm is never a great idea. Eventually, I ended up at the peak with a group of (mostly) Irish people. Drank my water, cooled down, and took a few photos. I’ve been up here before, but it’s been many years and from this perspective, you can really see how the town has changed.
I hiked back down in even more threatening weather, then continued past my starting point to the lower trailhead on the south edge of town. I wandered into town again, found a local food market in one of the town parks, had a couple of tacos, and wandered back to the hostel slowly.
By the time I got back a couple of things were clear:
- The weather was getting worse, and fast! Temperatures dropped very quickly in the afternoon.
- The next day — my planned travel day — would be pretty awful for the full length of the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and I didn’t want to be riding in that.
So, I changed things up a bit. The Jasper hostel and this one are owned/operated by the same people and I was able to swap nights pretty easily, though it means moving to a different room. I’ll have one less night in Jasper unless I decide to extend my trip.
Day 7 was rain, rain and more rain. In Banff we were spared the slushy mix that was on the Parkway north. But there wasn’t much to do, so I took the bus into town, then another bus to the Banff Gondola. I generally avoid these, but thought I might get some interesting photos in/through the clouds, so I tried. No such luck though, as the summit was completely socked in with no view whatsoever. Got a few from my Gondola, which I had to myself.
Weather tomorrow is expected to remain cool, but dry. The storm should completely dissipate any remaining wildfire haze, so it should be nice for travel. I had an early dinner in town before taking the bus back, and plan to get an early start.