“I saw it. You take your time because you really take in each moment like you ingest as much of the elements of everything you come into contact with.”
– My brother, accurately observing me during our 6-hour hike
I love that I get to dynamically interact with these natural elements using my body. If you can tell the wealthy range of textures you come into contact with via the images and videos, imagine touching and smelling them. Imagine hearing the sounds of the rocks or branch or pile of dry leaves or cracked ice & snow when you step, run, crawl, or hold on to them. Imagine tasting the air or the soil that got in your bottle, which you only realize when you’re drinking forest-flavoured-water, because you dropped your stuff while sliding. Think of being able to effortlessly hear and feel your every breath every step of the way. Think about the thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations we go through when we encounter difficult paths and overcome them while our senses are invigorated.
It makes me feel so alive. ❤️
And I’m grateful for having had the privilege of being able to do it out here.
If you ever find yourself graced with the presence and majesty of the mountains, caves, rocks, canyons, soil, forests, and trees that have existed on this earth long before we had – older than our species or dinosaurs or anything else that we may not even be able to fathom – by all means: take a moment.
Imagine the wisdom they hold.
I learned quite a bit during this trip though I’m still a noob.
I’ve always loved nature trips. I did a little bit of that when I went mountain trekking with my parents as a child in Indonesia. I remember my mother telling me to walk sideways because the path was so narrow and the edge was very steep. Then we came across a family of Orangutans, which stressed my parents out. I had a blast.
I had a blast out here too except this time around, it was me that was getting stressed out during magical but potentially tragic moments. It comes with the package. But it’s a great and fun way to teach ourselves and each other about boundaries, problem-solving, thinking creatively, resourcefulness, resilience, teamwork, leadership, cultivating thrivability, environmental awareness, sustainability, our strengths & weaknesses through experiential learning… the benefits are endless.
Getting engaged in the outdoors wasn’t really much of a value that I was raised with. For years, including all throughout my adolescence, I cherished those memories of the time we went mountain trekking in Indonesia. As time went on, I gradually forgot about the mountains though I took up scuba diving as a young adult but again, for some reason, I didn’t take it up for years. I think there was just such an absence of valuing these things in my system that it didn’t even occur to make space for it in my priorities. Also, immigrating to Canada was such a culture shock that it was difficult to be able to effectively communicate with people well enough for me to keep the ball rolling. Sure this is an English-speaking country but there are all these social and cultural nuances, sensibilities, stigmas, etc that we need to learn to work with when we’re adjusting. These can be huge (social, cultural, and/or generational) barriers in achieving our goals. I see it happen as much as I encounter it myself.
On the outside, we’ve got similar, if not the same, objectives. But beneath the surface, what goes on inside all of us, how we process, what memories or emotions or the kind of headspace and thoughts it may bring forth may very well vary. In this current global pandemic when most of us have switched to different lifestyles, schedules, a higher than usual turnaround, not being able to solidify a lot of plans or commitments, and working remotely: I’m sure you know the strugs of miscommunications and misconstrusions.
I didn’t anticipate falling in love.
I had forgotten it for so long but I’m ecstatic to have remembered.
My injuries don’t heal as fast anymore. My recovery time is longer now. I have to be mindful of what I consume so I can keep the engine running in ways I need and want it to.
I don’t mind aging like the mountains though. We tend to be more comfortable with ourselves the older we get as we learn how to love ourselves better… but I really mind that my body isn’t as resilient nor strong anymore.
Although that feeling of pure and innocent wonder is back.
I had previously started hiking out here in Ontario but little did I know that these terrains are… well, some of them are decent I suppose. But it’s mostly flat, barely any elevation, rarely steep nor visually/physically textured/varied, there’s phone signal almost everywhere so I only really needed basic equipment (ice cleats, hiking shoes, dry bag, water bottles, protein bars, bear mace). With most things we take up, we come into new gadgets that we have to learn to make extensions of ourselves which in turn also takes up our energy – like when we’re learning how to drive.
It took me a while to notice that driving can take up a significant amount of my own personal energy. It’s weird ’cause you’re just sitting there but I forgot about the psychological strain that we go through. When we drive, we make the car an extension of who we are so we have to mentally occupy the space the car occupies. We have to start “feeling it out” as to which spaces you can fit in, how much to turn etc. I love driving though. It makes me feel like I’m controlling a Transformers robot. Suffice to say, I try and re-try things in an attempt to tune in to that part of myself.
I finally tried caving (been meaning to – canceled a trip to The Mammoth Cave in 2019 due to weather), cold water diving (Canada is home to some great cold water diving but I need more practice… if I do decide to pursue this… still debating but it’s nice to have the option), and some rugged hiking.
I had 13 full days and was only “inactive” (was still going out, walking around) for 3 days, which was not enough. I don’t live here so I went hard until I was almost completely out of juice. My thighs were yelling at me on my last hike. A good pace for me would’ve been 1 rest day per 2 active days and 2 rest days per 3-4 active days. 5+ consecutive active days of vigorous activities would be pushing it for me. I also found out that my dormant light asthma is back and since Calgary is low on humidity: my eczema was acting up too (more on that on Part 2). The only time my back hurt was after driving for 4+ hours as well as when I did the cold water dive (90 pounds worth of equipment I had on me while I went up down some stairs as well as a ramp). As for my eating: I tried to regulate it as much as I tend to get annoyed with the fact that our bodies aren’t self-sustaining (sometimes breaks are an unwelcomed nuisance of a necessity). I force-feed myself for times when I don’t have an appetite and I’m about to tackle a day of activities. I would try to have a proper breakfast but, because of Covid, things were open later and closed earlier so sometimes breakfast was blueberry muffin and coffee or tea. When I was in Calgary, I had a kitchen so I would actually have the proper eggs, veggies, and fruits. Throughout the day was consistent snacking (protein bars, beef jerkies, apples, bananas, oranges) and lots of water. I didn’t use electrolytes during this trip but I would recommend it. Dinner was usually a full meal… or leftovers from yesterday’s breakfast… or charcuterie and veggies… cheesecake with some red wine lol. I ate crap on occasion like when you’ve had your proper dinner and you just wanna veg out (times like these you need weed and chips or gummy bears). I didn’t bring my vitamins (I take about the same amount of supplements as my grandmother). I wasn’t able to troubleshoot as well as I can because I was constantly out & about but if my schedule and resources were more stable, my diet would’ve been slightly better: I would hold on to the constant snacking bits but I would make my own protein/energy bite things on top of what I previously listed. I would mostly have full meals for breakfast and dinner. I will also probably attempt to quit smoking cigarettes 1,000 more times.
Having said that: if this trip was big about the food, I would have temporarily thrown all my diet regulations out the window. If I happen to find something I really like, I would integrate it into my flow and modify it as needed in accordance to my own preferences.
Everyone’s different so suss out how you feel and go to your doctor too. Remember that everything has a price: Sports and exercise are great but these are also sources of injuries and mileage on our bodies.
Pace yourself sensibly.
I’m going to be writing about some equipment I learned about, stuff I would recommend, and how I came about this knowledge (hint: I was not properly equipped just as I didn’t anticipate the ruggedness of the terrains). Please do note that I am new at this so I’m sure there’s still plenty I have yet to learn. I’ve been meaning to take workshops and courses but they’re all canceled at the moment thanks to Covid.
I’m in my mid 30’s but since I’m reviving things I love, that I’ve unwittingly repressed, I feel like a beginner again ❤️
My intention is that the information will be more ingestible for people who hold no knowledge whatsoever about these things since the learning curves are still fresh on me. It’s still not a fully integrated part of my system and we tend to be starkly aware of the details of the gradations, during transitory periods.
We are all students of Life.
As always, if there’s something you spot that’s like, “Hmm that’s incorrect” or you think something could be better or if you just think that you may have some two cents you can contribute for myself or this blog (thanks!) and for whoever may be reading this, please comment or contact me.
Also, yes, we were all wearing masks on each and every tour. I would distance myself well over 2m/6ft to take off my mask or pull down my neck warmer when I really needed some air.
And so, without further ado…
Calgary & Banff + surrounding parks
I got Covid tested 72 hours before my flight. They don’t require it for interprovincial travel but I was pretty rattled from last year’s trip (got stalled from my connecting flight). I arrived on Wednesday night, February 3rd.
I initially intended to just see my brothers (Vancouver) but, because of the pandemic, I can’t travel outside the country so I decided to finally explore the wonders of Canada. It’s just that every time I get the schedule and fiscal budget, I always end up going somewhere warm because getting in the water is always on my agenda. “I live here. It’s much easier to go there vs another country” is what I’ve always thought. As it turns out, this mentality was a very big oversight on my behalf. If you’ve never seen the Rockies, especially if you live in this country: make it a point to go.
I rented a car because I intended on driving from Calgary to Vancouver (family + more mountains + diving). I just opted for the smallest and cheapest. I’m alone and I don’t even have checked-in luggage. I didn’t need anything bigger… or so I thought.
“Well, that’s it. It’s a Kia Rio. It’s so small. So tiny.” said the lady on the counter of the car rental. She said it with a bit of a warning tone. I shrugged, “Yeah, well it’s just me. I just want winter tires. Can you install winter tires on this?”
“No. The only cars with winter tires are the SUV’s and not all of them will have it. This has M+S (all season).”
“And is that OK? Will that do in the passageways?”
“By law, M+S is the minimum requirement to drive in the passageways… but that’s it. This car is so small.”
Whatever. I’ve driven in crazy conditions before, I thought.
My estimated driving time all throughout this trip was 40 hours. I loved it: for hours it was just me, my music, the road, the mountains, the heavens…
… along with big cargo trucks that won’t stop nor slow down nor speed up for anyone in the snow and ice…
Of the 40 hours I drove, I was stressed out for… I’d say about 4-5 hours total.
Like I was already a little stressed here because of the random ice that you don’t see, and only feel when you drive over it… then this big frickin’ truck comes along near a bend on a snow space-reduced 2-lane road and meanwhile there I am with a tiny car. Ack!
I checked in my AirBnB, got some dinner, took a shower, and called it a night.
Two of the tours I booked were canceled so I had nothing until the 5th and 6th. The 4th and 7th were empty. So on my first full day, which is the 4th, I got some toiletries, essentials, etc in the morning and decided to pick a trail by myself in the afternoon.
It was already around 2pm once I decided on a trail. It was about a 2-hour drive and on the first hour, I realized that if I go any further, I would only have half an hour of a hike before it starts getting dark and I need to head back. So I just kinda decided on a trail that I passed by. I ended up about an hour away from Canmore.
I just looked it up and apparently, I ended up in “Goat Creek” which is a total of a 37km hike… right, I’m sure I didn’t even get to a quarter of it because I only spent about an hour. I don’t know how much elevation I reached but its peak is supposedly 1351m/4430ft… hmm, perhaps I’ll come back for this one too.
By the way: AllTrails = great app.
There were other people but not too many. Because of Covid and winter hikes not being as popular as warm weather hikes, most of the trails had less than 10 people at any given time. It was great! 😊 👌
Shortly after I recorded this, I stepped on a chunk of snow that rolled sideways. I fell and sprained my left ankle. A good chunk of the trip was hiking and I sprain my ankle on my first day, “Nooooo!!!” 😭
I freaked out and went to the pharmacy right away. I got stuff I needed and treated it at home.
After which, I checked out the city for some street art.
(in the mix are some murals I found during the day)
It didn’t feel like an urban space, in this regard, at all. It was so clean and they barely have any sketchy alleyways.
The guide at Johnston Canyon did mention that Calgary is one of the top cleanest cities in the world. It’s weird. I’m not used to cities being this spotless. It’s pretty but it lacked grime that I tend to value in urban jungles.
The next day, I put on all sorts of heating adhesives on my ankle before putting on my socks. After the socks, came the bandage. I loosened my left winter boot to make room for the first aid things on my foot.
Yes, I used my winter boots, with cleats, for hiking throughout the entire time (in Ontario and out West). You may be able to get away with it too, depending on your boots. I have the Uggs Adirondack III, which worked well, for the most part. I just found out that it’s actually partially sold and marketed as a winter hiking boot. And though there’s one specifically for hiking, my version performed fairly well. It definitely kept me warm and dry. Water barely got in and the only time my feet were wet was when snow got in. I’ve chatted with other people about gaiters, so that might be something worth looking into.
Flexibility is not the best though. For basic hiking with terrains that aren’t as rough: it’ll do. But for terrains where you have to do all kinds of things to keep going: I would invest in something more suitable. Sometimes you have to wedge your feet in small cracks and be able to use that as support while you ascend. I just went off the trail and crawled/climbed during these instances since these boots weren’t made to cater to that.
I also hiked in my parka, which I would not recommend at all. It kept me warm but its length and bulkiness – overall make – doesn’t make for a good hiking/trekking coat. It got in the way of dexterity, especially with my thighs and legs.
Proper coats have qualities that wouldn’t make you sweat as much (you’re nothing but perspiration underneath). I just didn’t wanna shell out on a new coat or additional stuff that I might only use once. But if you’re gonna make this your thing, then you should mos def look into investing in these. However, when I take up something new, it takes several sessions/practice to learn my preferences and what I’ll work with best so I wait until… I learn the hard way, pretty much lol. There are all kinds of guidelines out there but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. I like being able to discern my own preferences with the ergonomics.
I would not recommend Moose Knuckles nor Canada Goose. I’m not hating. I used to have Moose Knuckles but I found it way too bulky, even in urban settings, so I gave it up for my current ones (warm but less puffy).
As for knee support: I didn’t have them here except for the tour-provided ones when we went caving. I learned that we can use our knees to get around. It was OK when I was hiking since it was mostly soil I had my knees on but every now and then there were rocks. I just incurred a little bruising but I would definitely get knee pads for next time.
I didn’t have walking sticks. Again, for Ontario hikes, it’s unnecessary but the mountains and terrains out in Alberta and BC are really rugged so I’d recommend it. It would’ve been really helpful on parts that were nothing but rocks, ice, and snow right by steep edges. Fun! (half sarcasm/sincerity)
Oh and get snow pants, thermal underwear, and waterproof gloves. I only had the cloth gloves and didn’t get waterproof ones until I got to Vancouver. I wore thermal underwear underneath my jeans.
I mostly had the mix cotton/polyester/spandex (synthetic) thermals. I’ve been hearing some good things about Merino Wool, which I’ve tried before. I wasn’t too impressed: it’s costly and I tried it out under -10°C/14°F and it didn’t help at all but I wasn’t hiking (intermittently sweating and cooling). Merino Wool is supposed to be an excellent base layer for this but I haven’t tried it in enough of a variety of conditions to be able to give sound advice.
I’d suggest getting a pair of Merino and Merino blend to try out though. If it’s not working out after many attempts, then start looking into variations from the general design like how I needed a micromask type thing.
I didn’t actually realize how intense some of the activities were up until I was narrating it to a friend (and my asthma attacks). When you’re there, you just kinda do it.
Although come to think of it, I’ve never actually worn snow pants before.
Johnston Canyon (Hiking)
Our meeting point was about a good drive away from where I stayed. I had to be there at 8:15 so I left around 6:15. Sunrise is around 7:30. For a good 30-45 minutes, it was nothing but pitch black in a blizzard. Headlights didn’t do shit. I was stressed out… but I also kinda had fun. It was an interesting experience.
I noticed that most mountains (when it’s not snowing/a snowy area) would have more soil/trees that are exposed around the base. The forest is joined by a little snow around the middle of the slopes then there would be more snow, if not all snow, at the peak.
Right around sunrise, I had come into a bend in the road, which was situated on a mountain that I had seen from far away. From there, I was able to see that this mountain, was mostly covered in soil and trees, with bits of snow high up near the clouds… but what I didn’t realize was that this particular mountain was much taller than it had originally revealed itself – and the summit was covered with clouds.
I witnessed its true height as I drove closer to the bend: the sun rose, shining a light on the clouds which moved westward (to my left, at the time) that gently unveiled the snowed-in summit like a moving gradient, feathery cotton which previously disguised itself as part of the peak.
All of this happened within a span of about a minute. I was in awe… but I had to snap myself out of it. I was driving with the very same elements which fascinated me that, under different contexts (ice/snow on the road) if we fail to take care, could be fatal. I really wish I could share that moment but I wasn’t able to capture it so here’s the closest thing I have.
The tour company offered me their crampons, “If you have your own then just use those. We just have the crappy ones.”
“They’re studded, not spiked.”
“Like the ones I have (lol). I only have studded ones.”
“Oh, well the path is just filled with snow like this. No slippery ice or anything.”
“Alright, cool. I’ll just stick with mine since it’s the same thing as the ones you provide.”
Walking on thick snow can be tricky so it’s nice that tour companies provide ice cleats (or “crampons”), even though I have my own. It’s fairly new since I haven’t started hiking in the winter until late 2020. If it weren’t for Covid, I would never have hiked in the winter. Cabin Fever got me active. I didn’t even know what cleats were up until I couldn’t get up a steep and iced portion of a path so I looked up how to get around it. I got a studded one and that worked great for Ontario hiking but if you come out West: get the heavy-duty spiked ones.
I didn’t realize there was an elevation gain of 2066ft/630m for the canyon. I was struggling to catch my breath during points when the trail got very steep with some portions being 15-20 minutes nonstop ascend. Up until then, I didn’t realize you can still slip with powdery snow.
“In the summer, it’s still amazing but the ice isn’t there. It’s just water flowing on the rocks.”
“Yeah, I would never have checked this place out during the winter if it weren’t for Covid.”
I didn’t anticipate loving winter hikes either. I couldn’t get enough of it.
After which, I drove through Banff to the Gondola ride.
The Gondola on Sulphur Mountain (Gondola & Hiking)
The Gondola was on Sulphur Mountain (upper terminal elevation: 2281m/7486ft, trail/stairs peak that you can hike/walk from terminal: 2481m/8041ft – about 200m elevation gain). I didn’t get the nice views because of the mist but it was still pretty fucking cool. And yes, you can tell that the air is thinner, the higher up you go, which is why mountain trekkers/mountaineers sometimes come with supplemental oxygen… but I didn’t get that far up so I didn’t use any and I can’t recommend or comment on that, at this point.
When I went home and took off my boots, I found out that my left foot – from the bottom of the calf to the middle toenail – was bruised in all sorts of colours. I thought about canceling the next day but I decided to give it some therapy instead. I grabbed an empty wine bottle and rolled it under my foot. I put on heating cream and went to bed.
The next day, the black bits of the bruising turned purple (yay!). I put on heating cream again, let it dry a bit, placed heating patches, put my socks on, wrapped it, and went off.
Rat’s Nest Cave (Hiking & Caving)
The tour guide asked me what prompted me to sign up. “I’ve always wanted to check it out. Also, I’ve been making more of an effort to try outdoorsy things.”
He suggested a few things around the area for skiing, snowboarding, and skating… all of which I haven’t taken up yet. I checked out lessons for snowboarding but schedules didn’t work – there are significantly fewer spots due to Covid cancelations. “Outdoorsy things just weren’t a part of my upbringing. It might be a culture or social reality thing.”
“Oh. Where are you from?”
“I’ve been living here for 20 years but I was born and raised in Manila. Were you born/raised here?”
“I was born in South Korea but I was 3 when we moved. It’s a similar story: it wasn’t part of my upbringing either. I’m working with the university (MRU) in researching about newcomers (immigrants and refugees) with regards to these things.”
He explained that his research had to do with helping with social and cultural assimilation and/or integration as well as reaching out to make avenues for access. He understood when I mentioned that, socially and culturally speaking: it’s just not in the usual headspace/scope of wavelength plus all these gears and gadgets can be really expensive. Also, if you’re coming from a developing country, there’s the factor of conversion rate/cost of living/priorities kinda deal so these tend to be an upper-class thing in developing countries and/or communities… and this is veering a bit but I had a friend who was half Iranian/Italian, born and raised here, who noted that her parents were adamant on sending her to camp because it’s “a North American thing”. They wanted their kids to assimilate whereas I came here when I was 16. The only activities I was involved in when we left were Taekwondo and the mandatory C.A.T. in Filipino schools.
I’ve never snowboarded, ski’d, wakeboarded etc. though it’s definitely on my list (up until I decide it’s not my thing after trying it a couple times). As an adult, I’m at liberty.
Also, as an adult, I have a better idea of what I’m doing it for (fun + self-expansion + spiritual). It comes with certain internal blocks since we build mental and emotional walls to survive this world but I can articulate myself better so it’s really good for working with people.
“It’s good you’re taking it up! I would encourage anyone to do that. It’s never too late.” said the tour guide.
It was about an hour from the bottom of Grotto Mountain to the cave. Our elevation was just about 200m/650ft but the summit of the mountain itself was 2706m/8877ft, which is hike/trek-able (goals).
The snow was dense enough that we didn’t completely sink but, on average, our feet sank about a quarter of a metre/1ft for each step. I remember going through a very steep and very slippery path. My studded ice cleats were not doing a good job (get the heavy-duty ones, kids). I didn’t have walking sticks but one of our mates lent me one of his because I kept slipping on powdery snow. The guide was also teaching me some tricks and tips on how to properly ground yourself and/or suss out so-and-so part of the snow if it’s stable enough for you to walk on. It was just so thick that it probably went up to our thighs if we were to step on the actual ground.
I slipped on one of the slopes then decided to walk sideways with my hands on higher ground/wall.
I only had cloth gloves too… not even waterproof. I got up and just stood there covered in snowflakes as it started to gently snow. I was cold and hot – nothing but sweat underneath that evaporates and chills you. My respiratory entrances and its surrounding parts, wet underneath my neck warmer, the rest of my face numb, my eyelashes decorated with ice, my legs aching as I felt the cold, the warmth, my wet hands with the texture of snow, soil, and parts of a tree’s roots, which touched the sleeves of my w̶h̶i̶t̶e̶ sweater that used to be white.
Then… I looked to my right, and saw the peaceful landscape that surrounded me despite my own chaos.
That’s when I realized that I was in love.
And I’m a Capricorn (mountain goat) so this makes sense.
I snapped myself back down to earth as we continued on our way to the cave… though the love stays with me.
“Caving is awesome. But it’s bigger in Europe than in North America. The caves here just aren’t as accessible like you have to go through long hikes. This is a short one. Some of the caves are only accessible via multiple-day hikes whereas there are plenty accessible ones in Europe.”
Good to know.
The cave itself has a self-regulating temperature of 5°C/41°F so we didn’t need our coats. And since we’re doing a lot of crawling and sliding in tight spots, we couldn’t bring many items. We didn’t do any squeezes on this 4.5-hour path but the 6-hour one that I originally booked, which was canceled, would’ve included it (I managed to find a little show on Rat’s Nest tight passage squeeze). There was a clearing with a little cover set up right by the cave entrance. This is where we took off our winter coats to gear up for caving.
The temperature at the bottom of the mountain was -17°C/1.4°F. At the height we were in, temperatures dropped well down to -20°C/-4°F. It was totally manageable but taking off your coats and not moving: awful.
First, we took off our coats then we put on our caving suit. I velcroed it everywhere and then pointed to the guide that the part on his waist wasn’t done (buddy check habits), “It’s intentional. Warm up your hands then we’ll proceed with the next steps.” We all breathed on our hands while we grabbed our warmers.
He then showed us how to put on and secure our harnesses, which had cold metal clamps, which we were mostly able to set up with gloves but there were some parts when we really needed our fingers’ dexterity so we were glove-less at some points. The way we did it was: set this part up, warm your hands for a minute or two, set this up, warm your hands again, and so on until it’s complete.
I can’t comment much on the equipment as it was my first time doing this and it seemed pretty basic enough. Though if I had to get my own caving suit, I would probably look for a more tactical one with pockets. As for the harness, it seemed basic enough but, again, I wouldn’t know enough to comment.
Getting to the cave entrance was also quite challenging especially given my winter boots. I had to take off my cleats so I had significantly less traction. My Uggs were against rocks and ice. There was a lot of using my knees to propel myself up and gramps helped me up a bit (it was the guide, myself, a teenager, her very healthy and capable 60+ grandpa).
I have no words for what was inside the cave. I brought my sports cam but the battery just died because of the cold so no photos from me but here are some photos from my caving mates.
We came across another group that was caving in the dark. We just heard their voices and were surprised.
“They’re caving in the dark,” explained the tour guide.
“Oh, I guess you have to really know the cave first before you do that,” I added
“But why do they do it?”
“Because they like it. A group of us (guides) sometimes do that for fun. Let’s do it now.”
We turned our lights off for several minutes.
“I still don’t get it. Why would you do this?”
“Yes, but do you mind articulating why? I’m just trying to get a sense of it, you know, as someone who would not comprehend these things because it’s a world I’m not familiar with.”
“Your awareness of your senses is enhanced.”
OK I can see the appeal now but, should I ever get there, I’ve got a long way to go.
On the very bottom (55m/180ft underground), was a body of water, which the guide’s boss (a scuba diver) would dive in every now and then. I asked if it was dive-able but they’re still scoping it.
The work never ends… but it would be pretty sweet if Canmore ends up having cave scuba diving… but imagine gearing up for it with your caving equipment and then you gotta prep the stuff you’re bringing in the cave (that you’re not wearing/activating before you get in the water) while you crawl, slide, and squeeze?
Yeah, if this happens, I’m doing it in warm weather.
Lake Louise (Hiking)
I didn’t book any tours on my last full day in Alberta. Johnston Canyon was spectacular but the trail was so well-marked and guided on its own that I felt like I could’ve done it by myself. When I was with my group (4 total), there was only one other group in the whole park with us. They had a group of 6. So all throughout the entire time, there was only a total of 10 people in the entire park. I kept fantasizing about being alone with my music, singing along, talking to myself, taking my time when I wanted to, hurrying up when I wanted to, maybe smoke a small joint on peaks…there were many spots there that I wish I could’ve stayed in longer. You can’t always with winter hikes though because if you stop moving for a certain amount of time, then you’ll start to feel the cold. You have to keep moving.
So I decided to move along Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, and Marble Canyon by myself on my last day.
I wanted to go up the woods but the tour guide from the cave warned me about avalanches, “Yeah it’s better in the summer. A lot of the trails here are avalanche areas. It doesn’t always occur but every 2 years or so we tend to get the random couple who went out there without any proper training or equipment on how to deal with avalanches… and well, you know.”
I still went to an avalanche area on the bottom but not deep in the woods. There was no other way (just like when we still all had to drive through avalanche areas in the passageways). Suss it out. There was a mountain I snowshoed later on (Part 3) where I backed out from the avalanche area because there was no phone signal, there was a blizzard, you couldn’t see shit in the mist, and we were about 3280ft/1000m high (near the peak – the summit was 3900ft/1200m). Some people still went though… but they looked like they were properly equipped. I personally will not go to these spaces unless I have the proper gear and training.
Emerald Lake (sighseeing)
There weren’t any winter trails on this one. When it’s warm, it’s good for sightseeing and chillin’ at the cabin lodge bar/restaurant.
I took a bunch of photos, had a glass of red as I checked my media, and left.
Marble Canyon (Hiking)
The parking lot was nearly empty when I came. It was around 4pm too so it was getting dark (sunset is around 5:30). The trail itself should’ve only taken half an hour, out & back, but I took my time and a crow followed me the entire time.
I wasn’t getting creeped out then but when I went to wipe the snow out of my car, it followed me to wherever side of the car I was in – that creeped me out. There were 2 other cars in the parking lot like wtf why is following me? I fell in love with the woods but I was raised in cities; I’m so much more comfortable dealing with the random creepo in some alleyway over this. I was totally freaking out so I got in the car real quick and drove off.
There was an abandoned Gas Station (Fort Chiniki, near Canmore) that I kept driving by. I finally checked it out on my last day.
I went home and packed up. I was just gonna go straight to Vancouver from Calgary but, as I had found out, one of my colleagues lives and works remotely in a small town in BC.
“What? Where are you?”
Good stuff. At least I don’t have to drive 12 hours in one day… just 8 hours to her place.
When she found out how I got there, she said, “Hatchbacks and anything smaller than a sedan usually just topple over and fly right off the roads. And your car, those things just get squished.”
Now I know why the lady at the car rental was giving me death looks and warnings.
Most of the cars I saw on the road were All/4-Wheelers (cargo trucks, SUV’s, Jeeps, pick-up trucks) and sedans. It was very rare to see anything smaller than a sedan, like my hatchback… and a SmartCar at one point 🤔 lol
The SmartCar was going much slower than I was. I was very weirded out and I wondered if the big 18 wheeler truck drivers might’ve also been just as weirded out by my hatchback. Trucks don’t care, by the way. Well, that’s not true but it sure seemed like it when I first merged on the mountain passageways. Out in Toronto, trucks would slow down so I expected the drivers to work with me but they didn’t. They just keep going so I waited at the end of the merging lane before I went in. My friend told me that they can’t really stop because if they did, it could make things worse. Like, 2 people down or 1? That big truck occupies a lot of space so if they stop, will their cargo move around and fuck more up? I’ve never thought of it that way but it makes sense (bye-bye Kia Rio with Gelene in it).
Despite the slippery, winding passageways – some of which had no barriers on the edge – with unpredictable chances of blizzards, rain, and snowstorms – and the fact that I had a puny little hatchback with all-season tires, I always looked forward to driving here.
Next up, Part 2: Peachland and Penticton, BC