Banff Trip Part 4: Weather or Not

15 08 2019

Wednesday was to be an easy hiking day: a trip to Johnston Canyon (3.4 miles, 400 ft. elevation change), followed by lunch on the bus and an afternoon exploring the town of Banff.  Although the weeks previous to this had been rainy, so far we had been blessed with beautifully cool sunny weather.  Today that would change.

Johnston Creek in Banff National Park has gouged deep canyons through the limestone rock as it flows to the Bow River below.  Sheer walls, waterfalls, and tunnels make this a magnet for herds of tourists who take the easy hike on catwalks attached to the sheer canyon walls. 

one can duck through the tunnel for a close-up and misty view of the falls

How these catwalks were built continues to astound me: human ingenuity at work. Of course, everything changes in the winter, when folks hike right up the frozen creek and climb the frozen waterfalls!

Despite the crowds, Johnston Canyon was not to be missed. And then it started to mist, on again off again.  But no worries: we were prepared, feeling quite smart as we pulled on our ponchos and enjoyed the cool lushness of the area.  

Although this was an “at your own pace” hike, we walked part of the way with Cindy, one of our guides, who pointed out an American dipper, an aquatic songbird busily working the edges of the creek for insects and other stream-dwelling prey.   She also told us about conservation attempts for the Black Swift: Johnston Canyon is the only known nesting site in Alberta for these birds whose population is in decline.  Off-trail hiking to these sites is strongly discouraged with caution tape and enormous fines for those who can’t follow the rules.  Cindy also showed us fossilized coral in the canyon walls, evidence of the ocean that once covered this land.

before the falls, before the rain

Back on the bus, we ate our bag lunches and Rob the bus driver dropped us off at the Banff Springs Hotel.  Cindy gave us a guided tour of this “Castle of the Rockies,” a destination in and of itself, if only one has bagfuls of disposable income.  But it was nice to dream.

After the hotel, we took a walking path by the river to the downtown area, but it wasn’t long before the skies opened up to a deluge.  And it wasn’t much longer before we discovered that our oh-so-smart ponchos were not waterproof at all, with the tape over the seams having come apart. 

we would have stayed drier in the river!

There were several museums that I would have liked to have gone to, but our soggy selves were much more interested in just finding a dry overhang to shake off what we could.  Fortunately, the downpour didn’t last for long. 

the wednesday market, with Mt. Rundle in the background

I was able to walk through the Wednesday market and then we spent the rest of the time wandering through the numerous gift shops in a downtown that reminded me not pleasantly of Gatlinburg, Tn.  Although the scenery surrounding the town was spectacular, this afternoon’s exploration of the town of Banff was kind of like going to the doctor for a vaccination:  you know you need to do it, but you’d rather be somewhere else.  Like on the hike to the Yoho Pass, where we’d be tomorrow.


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