One of the two characteristic limestone peaks over the town of Banff

When I mention that I’m staying in Calgary to someone who knows the place, the next question is usually “Have you got up to the mountains?” Motivated chiefly by the shame that would accompany the “no” after having spent an entire summer here, I made a last-ditch effort on my last weekend in town to see the mountains for real. I hopped the early Greyhound up to Banff intending to spend the day, but not entirely sure how. The hike recommended to me was 6km from town and purportedly arduous, so I rented a bike. After a cruise on the trans-Canada highway, I set up the mountain.

It turned out to be one of the most challenging hikes I’ve taken, with a 900m climb in first hour and a half, and steep, loose scree on the decent. The landscape near the peak had a stark, alien beauty that gave me pause. But overall, I would say that hiking alone, while appealing as a sort of raw, personal challenge, is not very fun.

Bike on the wildlife fence

I got a tip from another biker and on the way back found a trail back to town that mostly avoided the highway. It required scaling this fence with the bike, which I was rather proud I could do having just been trashed by 14 km hike. It also took me by this great view across the lake to the limestone peaks above Banff.

After a break back in town, I still had many hours before the 9:00pm return bus and a mountain bike, so I hit some bike trails. I realized before long that I wasn’t up for much climbing, but there were some easy trails near town that were flat and fast. Somehow mountain-biking alone is fun, or at least on this occassion seemed as fun as going in a group.

Still having time, I tooled around town for a while, had dinner, and played tourist. Banff is an interesting aberration of a town existing inside a national park. The population of 60,000 or so is supported essentially by tourism. The avenues and multiple indoor malls filled with chain stores throb with throngs of Asian, European, and domestic (would-be-)outdoors-enthusiasts. [Insert favorite tourist-trap commentary here.] I caught the bus back and then biked home from the bus station around midnight, tired as hell.

Downtown Banff  

Comments are closed.