Salmon Arm to Banff

Ok, so the stormy night had no lightning. No rain. But you’d be hard pressed to tell Will’s snoring apart from thunder! Anne and I were kept up all night. I think we managed to sneak 2 hours while Will had his face pressed into a pillow (not by my hand … although trust me I was considering it). Eventually we just went to Tim Hortons across the road at 4am and had a tea and just laugh/cried about our predicament. We vowed from here on, Will was getting his own room!

After our 2 hour sleep, Will cheerfully woke us up at 8:00 as we had planned the night before. Anne and I scowling, we got ready at the speed of molasses. Some stale breakfast, a cup of fresh orange juice, and mother nature’s adrenaline, coffee, were wolfed down. Then we hit the mountain road.

Our first stop was the last stop for the Canadian Pacific Railway. We visited the point where the last spike was driven linking the western portion to the one that spanned from the east. The spike was driven on Nov 7, 1885 and connected ocean to ocean. They didn’t show exactly which was the actual last spike … so I just picked one and decided that was the one.

We finally made it to Revelstoke after an hour and a half or so. Right away we headed to Mt. Revelstoke, a national park. When we got to the ticket booth it was Will and I in the front and Anne was in the back. After we said we were going to be in the mountains for a couple of days the nice lady told us that for the two of us, it would be $31. Slightly confused, Will and I looked at each other. I looked back and saw that due to the tinted windows, no one could see Anne. We payed our $31 and I told Anne to keep her head down in a whisper. All was going well until Anne’s cellphone started going off. I then had to pretend to rummage in the back while Anne was thrashing through her bag to turn it off. Suspicion quelled, the lady gave us the ticket and we burned rubber! Thus began the tradition on the rest of the trip – whenever we hit a national park border, the one in the back had to play dead.

Mt. Revelstoke was wonderful! 1600m of crystal clear air, panoramic views, and bear warnings. Something neat that we found out is that the trees at the top are much thinner because it’s a “snow forest”. The trees can’t handle the large amount of snow that falls on Mt. Revelstoke, so they’ve changed to be much thinner versions of their lower altitude relatives. This was the first time we’d seen snow on the trip. It was also very cold! We also saw some birds that we later identified as gray jays from one of the signs on the hike we took. They also have a mini glacier called the “ice box”. There was some ice at the bottom that doesn’t melt year round. None of us really felt any effects of the altitude on our walking or breathing.

When we got to the bottom of the mountain we immediately made our way to McDonalds. So sue us.

Our next stop along the highway was the Skunk Cabbage Trail. I wasn’t a big fan of stopping for this one, but Will is the captain. It turned out to be a nice walk along a boardwalk through a wetland. Seriously, this country has every type of wilderness imaginable. Case in point: our next stop was the Old Cedar forest. An ancient forest with trees that were hundreds of years old. At the premier of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, these trees were already 100 years old. The temperature underneath these trees was also a lot cooler than outside.

The scenery continued to become bolder, more lush, and diverse. Eventually all of the mountains we saw were becoming white capped. Each mountain ran its fingers through the clouds. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then seeing these mountains first hand is worth all the works of the English language. Pictures are really just a shadow of their majesty. The mountains seem to breathe deeply, pulling you in; they’re alive.

I literally took hundreds of pictures of the mountains, the ranges, and the foliage, but I’ll just put the one up there. It’s interesting as well because each mountain is completely unique and really stands out on its own. Once we got into Banff National Park I started to see some pine trees that had turned red and had lost all their leaves. After a while I saw entire forests of trees without leaves! They didn’t appear burnt, so I don’t think it was from a forest fire. The only the thing I can think of is the beetle that I had heard mention of a few months ago. If I’m correct, it is really terrifying to see the forests decimated by the beetles. It may be hard to see but in the picture below, all of the forest on the mountain is red and dead.

We kept on trucking towards Banff and I read through some more of “A Brief History of Time” and listened to some great music. Nirvana, Radiohead, The Beatles, and Tragically Hip. Eventually we reached the border of BC and Alberta and this is also the great divide. All of a sudden the rivers seem to reverse direction because on the BC side the rivers drain into the Pacific Ocean, but on the Albertan side they drain either upwards into the Arctic or into Hudson Bay. Pretty cool how instantaneously this happens. Another surprising feature of Alberta is that there is the sudden appearance of ravens! Edgar Allen Poe ravens! They’re massive creatures and kind of aggressive as well.

We saw the spiral tunnel (not sure if that’s the exact name) where if you’re lucky you can see a train entering a tunnel in the side of a mountain, and moments later coming out of a hole above it. We didn’t see it, but looking at the pictures it looks pretty snakey. At this part Anne also took a really nice picture of me, so I’m going to be devilishly narcissistic and post it. Notice my Canada sweater, as well as the glorious man mountain. A few minutes later we also ran into some elk crossing the road. They’re quite comfortable with cars it seems, they mostly seemed to ignore us. Something that Alberta does that’s pretty good is that they’ve got the same bridges for animals covered with soil and grass that Croatia has on its highways. Prevents road accidents and facilitates migrations. Go Alberta!

We also came across a floating mountain. Probably the coolest mountain there is. Probably. As it became dark the moon was also nicely set against some of the mountains. I really want the second picture on a t-shirt … except with a howling wolf in the foreground.

As night fell we pulled into Banff and noticed that one of our headlights had gone out. Luckily there was still a bit of light so we weren’t in bad shape. We’d have to change it the next morning though. We found a hotel pretty quickly. The first one we stopped at actually. Got two rooms, so that Anne and I could get a chance to sleep finally! It was a cool room because Will’s room was adjoining and we were out in the main area. After we got settled we went and walked around town. Banff is sort of like Disney for mountain villages. But it’s really pretty and does actually seem pretty authentic. All of the stores’ signs are made out of wood. Even big chains have to have a wooden sign. There are lots of typical Canadian tourist shops with some very atypical goods for sale. For instance, a $39,999 fossilized cave bear skeleton, or a $25,000 woolly mammoth tusk. Banff definitely caters for the rich and famous. I could afford a small crystal of bismuth which is really fascinating looking. It’s got a crazy crystal structure and makes these step edges which almost look like mayan ruins. The oxide surface gives it an iridescent look. Very cool. We went to an Irish pub for dinner. It was very fancy and the food was really good. After that we headed back to the hotel and I read for a while before falling asleep with my book. I wanted to spend so many days in Banff!