Dearest eloise i know we're supposed to ...

Trip Start Jun 29, 1999
Trip End Dec 04, 1999

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Saturday, September 4, 1999

"Dearest Eloise, I know we're supposed to marry,
but I've been living with an iguana and my child she will carry.
I'm happy in my surroundings with my friends all made of fur,
so don't come lookin' cuz I won't be thur."
- Gary Young

Last Sunday was another day spent in front of the television "monitoring culture." A gaggle of "classic" movies were on that I just had to watch - Spaceballs, Big Trouble In Little China, Mr.Nanny, and Cool Hand Luke. I also watched an episode of VIP which was great. Although I enjoyed my couch-sitting in Calgary I started feeling like quite the lazy slug by Sunday evening. Let's have a round of applause for Tara Higgins for treating me so well!

Monday, August 30th
When I finally overcame the immense gravitational field surrounding Tara's couch I hit the road southward. I made a stop at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Historic Site. This cliff located west of Lethbridge has been used by Plains Indians for over 5500 years as a place for slaughtering buffalo. The interpretive site here is excellent but small. After learning all about killing buffalo I pressed further south to Waterton Lakes National Park. This small park is located on the Alberta/BC/Montana border. I probably never would have gone here but a friend of mine insisted that I should go. And I'm glad I did. In this part of Alberta there are no foothills before reaching the mountains. You follow Hwy#6 along a tongue of prairie right into Waterton Valley which is lined with mountains towering over a kilometre above you. It's an amazing sight. When I arrived in the late afternoon it was hot and hazy and 26 degrees (it's important that you note the temperature). I camped in the town of Waterton and then took a nice scenic drive up to Red Rock Canyon where a did a couple of short interpretive hikes. After this I headed back to have some dinner. Just as I was cleaning up a thunderstorm rolled into the valley and refused to leave. The mountains held this storm in the valley all evening (for the next 24 hours actually). By the time I went to bed at 10pm the temperature had dropped to 5 degrees.

Tuesday, August 31st
When I awoke it was still raining and the temperature was around the freezing mark. Then it started to hail. The wind was blowing straight north which means the length of ice cold Upper Waterton Lake. This cold, cold moisture hung around town all day. The hail soon ended and the rain resumed. I can't mention enough the strength of the wind, apparently the day was a record-setter for the park. I cancelled my plans to do the Crypt Lake hike and decided to do some stuff from the warmth and safety of my car. I headed back out to the prairie portion of the park to check out the bison paddock. The park keeps a herd of about 20 bison for the visitors to observe. In this part of the park the sun was out and there was an incredible rainbow over the paddock area. It was kind of cool. I then headed back into mountains on the scenic drive to Cameron Lake. On the drive I encountered rain then sleet then a full on blizzard by the time I reached the lake. It was neat to see snow in August but the novelty faded after about 5 minutes. When I got back to town the rain was beginning to let up and the sun finally came out. The wind didn't stop. With the sun out the temperature had jumped to 10 degrees (from 0) so I was a little happier. I walked up to The Prince of Wales hotel (think "The Shining") which towers over the town on a high bluff at the north end of the lake. It was here that the wind was the strongest. You couldn't walk straight because whenever you lifted your leg the wind blew it whereever it wished. I looked like a bad Monty Python skit. The hotel was very nice (i.e. ritzy). I then took a short hike up the Bear's Hump. This hike was protected from the wind until you reached the top. At the top of the Bear's Hump you're about 300 metres above the town and it was pretty fucking windy up here as well. Once I got back down the rain started again and the temperature dropped to the freezing mark immediately. It was fucking cold. I went into Pizza of Waterton for dinner. The pizza was very good but pricey. I just felt lucky to not have that wind in my face for an hour. When night started to fall the wind finally let up and it actually got warmer. I was nice and snug in my tent. It was however the first time I've ever worn a toque to bed in August.

Wednesday, September 1st
The sun was out, the wind had stopped, and it was significantly warmer. I did a short 6km hike up to Lower Bertha Falls which was quite nice. After that I packed up and headed to Banff. The drive up through the foothills and into Kananaskis Country was wild but the higher up in the mountains I got the cooler it got. I made it into Banff around 4pm and got a campsite at the Tunnel Mtn campground just outside of the town of Banff. I had to shoo away some urbanized elk before I set up. I did a quick tour of the town (my first impression: phony pre-fabricated charm) and had some dinner and went to bed. This was the coldest night yet.

Thursday, September 2nd
It was awfully cold in the morning but at least it was sunny. I headed up along the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise so I, along with about a million Japanese people, could take a picture of the lake. If you can't get enough of stereotypical Japanese tourists, Banff National Park is your place. I then headed north along the Icefields Parkway to see all the sights. The beauty of this place put all superlatives to shame. I've seen a lot of great things so far on my trip but this is the show-stopper. I stopped at Bow Summit and Crowfoot Glacier to take some pictures. The previous evening this part of the park got a couple inches of snow to add to the charm of it all. I also noticed that I had seen 4 of those new Honda S2000's on the road. These cars aren't even on the market yet in Canada. It turns out that they were making promotional films and pictures. The only reason I mention this is to give the sports car guys like Parato and Glen a hard-on.

This actually got me to thinking. I got caught on camera by the Honda guys and I also made an appearance in the background of a promotional Japanese travel video in Lake Louise, as well I have probably appeared in the view of hundreds of vacation pictures during my trip thus far. If I were to, say, try and shoot the Prime Minister or something equally as infamous a lot of people would have an excellent souvenir for themselves. I thought of this because there's a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald in the background when somebody was taking a picture of John Wayne when he toured a navy vessel during the late 50s.

By noon the temperature had warmed to the point where I felt a good hike was in order. I decided to try Helen Lake because it's supposed to be good and 99% bear free! The hike was better than advertised. You got stunning views of Crowfoot Mtn, Dolomite Mtn, and the Bow Valley and you get above the treeline and walk through some nice alpine meadows (which were now snow covered but it didn't stop the marmots from frolicking). Until I reached Banff I had found that most of the hikes I had done were quite lonesome. Along this path I met quite a few people and found out that I move pretty fast. I blew by three people on horseback who had at least a 15 minute headstart on me. By the time I made the 6km to Helen Lake I had risen 600 metres and the wind blowing down off Cirque Peak was chilly. After a quick snack at the top I headed for home. Once back at camp I had dinner and a shower and pretty much packed it in for the night.

Friday, September 3rd
It was another cold night but I think I'm getting used to it now. I decided after yesterday's exertion I needed a good McDonald's breakfast. That Sausage and Egg McMuffin really hit the spot and I was ready for another hike. I first did a quick trip around the Lake Minnewanka Loop which was good but hardly worth the time. I then headed up to Lake Moraine. Now you maybe be saying to yourself, "Lake Moraine, that sounds familiar." Well, open your wallet and take out a 20 dollar bill and look at the picture on it (no, not the one of the Queen, the other side). That's Lake Moraine. Those of you now looking at the backs of two tens can stop reading now. The peaks in the picture are part of the 10 Peaks range. I was hoping to hike up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass to get an even better look at "The Valley of The 10 Peaks" but I needed help. There is a bear warning for the area so you needed a group of 6 people in order to hike. I waited at the trailhead for 30 minutes before I got a couple from Vermont (willfully unemployed like myself) and a family of 4 from Philadelphia (I'm pretty sure there are no Canadians in Banff). The couple were strong hikers who liked my fast pace but the family kept us waiting. Soon another group overtook us so we mixed and matched the best hikers to form two similarly skilled groups. It turned out that the guys we hiked up with wanted to climb Eiffel Peak so once we caught up to another group of 6 we bid them adieu. Once we got above the treeline the three of us pressed onward up to Sentinel Pass. It's a tough hike. In 5.8km you climb 725 metres and most of it in two very steep spots. The view from the pass is worht it though. You can sit at the shoulder of Mount Temple and look back at the 10 Peaks or forward at Paradise Valley and some more mountains of which names I forget. This hike was even better than the day before. We waited at the top for about 40 minutes and in that time quite a few hikers had gathered there of which I was the only Canadian. There were quite a few Americans, a couple of girls from New Zealand and two people from Switzerland. Nine of us left together and the trip down was significantly easier. After dinner and a shower I'm pretty much toast again but I've soldieron to deliver you this report.

The past few days I've found a couple of things that have really amused me, not quite as much as the French words coq and coque but I've been laughing to myself all the same. Th first one is the word 'butte.' I know you're supposed to pronounse the u as long but I can't help myself. I've been through Twin Butt, Big Butt, and Eagle Butt so far and I hoping to find Big Purple Butt in honour of George Bell. The second thing is a store here in Banff called "The Fudgery." I'm not even sure why I laugh at it but it never fails to elicit a chuckle out of it.

Tomorrow I'll be heading up to the top of Sunshine Ski Resort to see the view before I head up the Icefields Parkway again on my way to Rocky Mountain House and then Edmonton.

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