Tuesday morning, July 22, I met Sarah in the common kitchen as we both clomped around in our hiking boots making lunches and breakfasts. We hiked together to Cascade Ampitheatre and First Peak that day with another woman named Kelly.
Wednesday, July 23, we planned to hike again. She was keen to head to Sunshine Meadows, so we walked down the stairs from the hostel to the end of town in an attempt to hitch to the Sunshine Village area. I tried handing out a flower; she put her thumb in the air. A green pick up slowed down and offered us a ride. We threw our bags in the pickup, and rearranged his handyman tools to put the seats up in front. Moments later the old man said again, "Where are you going? I can't hear too well." Ha! He was heading for Canmore, and that was the wrong direction. So he drove us to the freeway intersection and we got out. We continued to wave and thumb for nearly 40 minutes but no body picked us up. They smiled, they laughed, they waved, but no rides. Turns out we were on the wrong end of town for ease of pick up, but alas. We walked back to town the 6 km on the pavement in chilly winds.
We took tea and fine pastries at Peter Poole's Wildflour bakery (he's the dude that gave us a lift back to town Tuesday!). There the sun came out and we made a plan for the day's hiking adventure. We would head to Sulphur Mountain. As we headed across the Bow River the tents of the Wednesday Farmer's market caught our eye, so we stalled and poked around. I sampled ample meads and Sarah and I both gawked at wildlife photos(--She's got a great eye and introduced me to National Geographic's Your Shot!) We also saw a twisted potato: a russet spiral cut on a Stacy style "apple torture device" and then deep fried. Yummer.
We walked up the hill towards the base, and waited for the bus to take us uphill to the gondola. What a gong show! I have never seen so many people at a trail head. Crowds! Cars! Tourists! Cameras! All of them paying over $35 for a ride up the gondola. We hiked the 6.5 km switchbacks, instead. Few folks hiked with us, but one couple from BC was chatty and kind. On a steeper section while waiting for his wife, the pastor offered us all Worther's butterscotch hard candy's. What a treat.
We hit the summit at 3 pm and at lunch at a picnic table on the "quiet side" as chipmunks tried to steal food that fell. Obviously they can't read the Parks Canada sign that says, feeding wildlife is against the law. We dove through the crowded side of gondola summit seekers and snack shop suckers to seek beta from a blonde at the gift shop about the south summit route. Then, we headed to the QUIET SIDE. Seriously, the sign said that. A clear track through the moist and lush forest brought us to a rocky outcrop. We lingered for photos, silence, and bird watching. How cool to be high above the Sunshine Valley and watch the murder of ravens below us, soar in the sky.
We continued to climb a narrow and gnarly traverse across a steep slick rock face.
This challenged my fear of edges, again. Sarah was helpful and we made it across, dropped some elevation to round the next outcrop, and booted up a dirt col to the summit. From here we lingered in the late day light, loving the silence, the rocks, and the joys of a summit. We napped in the sun, took heaps of photos. Ravens and chipmunks entertained us. A happy place.
It was 7 pm before we left the summit and made our way to the gondola station for ice cream. We down climbed a chimney shoot, passed packs, and boot scooted our way down a faster route. We even coached a couple through some of those crux moves. But the snack bar was closed! We checked back with the blonde and thanked her for the summit tips. She said, "go home. get a free ride down and get some dinner." Did we look that haggard? But the light! We hiked out further on the 300+ wooden stairs and board walk to Mt. Sanson, named for the naturalist who surveyed much of this area, and the Cosmic Ray station from which he did many of his observations. What a contrast to our quick side hike--infrastructure, people, and garbage cans every ten feet. At the top, a young French speaking girl was adding her name in Sharpie marker to the hundreds of others who had defaced the railings and 1903 stone work with their names. Ugh.
It was 8:30 when reached the bottom by gondola stopping to see our cheesy sun glasses, duck-faced photograph they tried to sell us. Imagine the job of that photographer up top who every minute says sweetly, "lean in. okay. BIG SMILES."
The next bus to town was a half hour from then so we started following folks in the parking lot. One couple refused to give us a ride. The next couple said, "Are you looking for something?" as we wandered around. "Yes," Sarah answered, "a ride." They obliged. They were from Austin and I explained to Sarah how Austin was the Seattle of the South, but the driver corrected me with a smile to say that Seattle was the Austin of the PNW. We laughed.
Sarah and I almost stumbled into the Banff Ave Brewery with hunger. The couple in the next booth recognized us from lunch up top and asked "How does that work?" when we explained that we were solo travelers in the hostels who just "met up and hiked." The Saskatoon berry blonde ale was so tasty!
As I got money out of my wallet to pay for dinner, my phone said it was raining. Sure enough, rain and night time. So we huddled in the door way of the next door chocolate shop and put on our jackets. To kill time waiting for the bus, we popped into the gift shop across the way. No more than ten seconds later there was a large flash of lightning and the power went out. IN. THE. WHOLE. TOWN. So we put on our headlamps and headed out, chased down the bus, getting some funny looks. What's so funny about prepared hikers looking a little light headed at the end of a GREAT day?!