April 20, 2019
Banff, Alberta, Canada
Visiting Banff National Park has been on my bucket list for the last decade. I could not believe that today was the day when I would cross that off. I, furthermore, could not believe that I was currently on a trip where Banff wasn’t even my destination; it was a pitstop.
Ethan and I took left our Airbnb as early as we could, considering my substantial travel days leading up to this one. We packed snacks and water, and lured Ralphie back into the truck before heading into Banff for the day. This was another instance I had to surrender my control to chance and “just wing it”, since I had no way of telling, in my preparation for this day weeks ago, how much physically or mentally I’d be up for as far has hiking goes once today arrived.
It took an hour to drive from Cochrane into the small town of Banff. There, we checked into the visitor’s center to ask a local’s opinion on how our limited time could be best spent. He advised us to investigate Sulphur Mountain. We chose to trust him. How can one NOT trust a dirty-hipster type with dreads, dressed in full Patagonia, who works as a park ranger in Banff, Canada?
I have no idea what Ralphie’s problem was during this venture, but he went apeshit over every single human that passed us on the trail. Being in one of the top tourist destinations of Canada: there were a lot of humans. I guess being trapped the car for a week straight will do some crazy things do any living being. His behavior added to our stress and fatigue. It messed with my aerobic abilities, which are rather necessary for climbing a damn mountain.
Sulphur has a three or so mile incline, and after the first mile and a half, in April, the path is made of some serious ice. If Ethan and I were smart people, we would’ve brought crampons; but, we are busy, traveling people, and can only do our best to remember what we can. I decided not to count how many times we both fell and/or lost our footing on the way up. Ice is only a novelty for a short while before it morphs into a mere nuisance. Seems like it could be done without.
We had a much harder time of this hike than we should have due to the ice and our dog, who was consequently trying to pull us up the mountain made of said ice. We took side-steps for the better part of the incline, which hurt parts of our bodies that typically aren’t affected when walking. I’m happy to admit, though, that giving up and turning around never crossed our minds. It took us an unbelievable three hours to hike three-ish upward miles. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a slow pace during a hike in our lives.
Without a doubt, the views at the top were completely worth it, despite how excruciatingly freezing it was. Since we’d done the hike with Ralphie, we couldn’t spend our recovery time warming up in the lodge, like mostly everyone else got to do. We bore the temperatures as long as we could while we energized our bodies with protein bars and beef jerky, then began our descent.
The hike down was so much quicker than the hike up. Now, instead of Ralphie impairing our trek, his pulling down the mountain was helpful, albeit dangerous. The slippery path, if I’m honest, was actually horrifying. I wound up on the ground a humiliating amount. Once, Ethan and I fell at the exact same time and chose to just lay in the snow, beside each other, regrouping, before regaining our legs.
At the base of Sulphur, there was a Starbucks within another visitor’s center and a fire going on outside. We sat by the fire, drying our soaked feet for an hour, relaxing and finding the strength to proceed with the day.
I am a trooper, an adventurist. It’s my aim to be someone who doesn’t know her own limits because I want so badly to have none. But, even I could acknowledge that there was no chance of me hiking another trail after the one we just did. Not happening. Instead, to get our fill of the beauty surrounding us, we found a frozen lake where some others were gathered to take pictures. I, in no way, feel like we missed out on anything today by only technically hiking one trail.
Earlier, when we were seeking advice from the visitor’s center, it was suggested that we try The Grizzly Paw. It was a dope restaurant and brewery ran out of a massive cabin location overlooking the mountains. I was so happy to be sitting down to a meal and drinks with my husband in a place so rich in natural beauty. I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
As my first real meal since I began the route to Alaska, it was the best burger I’ve eaten in my life. I almost cried.
Liv – Authentically