Canmore, the better Banff

In every country, there is a place that everyone, literally everyone, recommends you to visit. Actually, recommend is too weak of a word for the obtrusiveness: “You have to go there!” Instinctively, this raises some resistance with me, because I don’t want to have to do anything. And many of such places are wildly overrated. It leads to tourists driving across the country for hours, only to visit Neuschwanstein or Bran Castle, although there are hundreds of other castles scattered across Germany or Romania that are equally interesting. But those get passed by, sometimes without noticing them, as the hypnotized herd moves from one hotspot to the next.

In Canada, this dubious role falls to the small town of Banff in Alberta. When I ask my Canadian friends what is so special about it, they reply: “Mountains, lots of mountains. And a lake!” Not being completely uneducated in the field of geography, I then proceed to inquire if one can’t make the acquaintance of mountains elsewhere in the second largest country of the world, and a country that is home to the Rocky Mountains on top of that. Bewildered, they reply: “But everybody goes to Banff.” And that’s exactly the reason why I won’t go there.

Granted, I am not very creative either. I simply go to Canmore. Coming from Calgary, that’s about 25 km before Banff. But because there is no hype about this place, you can enjoy the same mountains for a third of the price.

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first view in CanmoreBerge Wald Licht.JPG

I have just arrived, breathe the fresh air and soak up the mountain view (both all the more relaxing after three months in a large city), when a passerby addresses me: “Canmore, it’s a heap of problems.” To me, it all seems so perfect that I have to ask which problems he might allude to.

“Don’t you see the terrible traffic?”

Ehm, no.

traffic in Canmore 2.JPG

He explains that sometimes, the railway crossing is closed for five minutes and that the cars will then back up, even around the corner. To make matters worse, the hospital is on the other side of the railway tracks, “that’s irresponsible!” Small-town problems.

“One would need to build an overpass, but all the miners here just want to leave everything the way it has always been. I’ve got nothing against the miners, please don’t get me  wrong! After all, they built the town.” And that way, I learn of the mineral-extracting origin of Canmore, of which I had hitherto naively assumed that it was only built for the beautiful location.

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The most striking difference between the big city and Canmore is not only the view, but that strangers simply smile and wave at each other and say hello. Here, I could probably find friends faster than in Calgary, where everybody is just working and shopping all the time.

The most seductive smile is directed at my by a bookstore in the main street, Café Books, but I am already carrying more than enough books with me. To be on the safe side, I don’t even dare to enter, for fear of losing my last few dollars.

Cafe Books front Canmore

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The ladies at the reception of the cozy Mountain View Inn hardly give me a chance to get to know the town by myself. Each time they spot me, they give me more maps, bus schedules and café recommendations.

And every morning, they want to know where I will be hiking that day. “Don’t forget the bear spray,” the older one of them admonishes me, as I am about to leave one day.

“Oh. Where can I get this bear spray?”, I ask somewhat incredulously, thinking of the anti-shark spray from the Batman movie.

“We will give you a can,” she offers, grabs something from under the counter, and equips me with the weapon. Good that I am not a pacifist.

bear spray.JPG

Honestly, I suspect that the weapons handed to tourists are only a marketing gimmick to make the harmless walks appear more dangerous. Like the life vests on rubber dinghies.

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On the other hand, maybe the bears are real and come all the way into town. Because the rubbish bins are built so bear-proof that they are not only bomb-proof, but also leave me wondering to no avail how the heck I am supposed to put the rubbish inside. I give up.

bear protection rubbish.JPG

Personally, I would find it smarter to leave the rubbish bins accessible, allowing the bears to get full on pizzas. Then, they wouldn’t need to devour humans. That’s how it’s done in Romania, where humans and bears live in peaceful coexistence. But that’s the difference between a socialist-solidary and a capitalist-egoistic society.

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It’s only the end of March, but spring is already raging. The snow on the south-facing hills is melting. The bears are just waking up. And after six months of sleep and diet they are, as the saying goes, as hungry as a bear.

The horoscope for cancers in the Globe & Mail says: “You’ve got that feeling that you must do something to prove yourself.” I understand that as an encouragement to go bear hunting.

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On the bus to Canmore, I spoke with a girl who only went to Banff for one day. She would have a couple of hours to walk around there, before heading back to Calgary. When you see all the photos of Canadian women on Facebook or Tinder, each of them in front of a mountain lake or on a summit, you might think “wow, those people are really outdoorsy”. But for most of them, it’s just a day trip, often by car, stepping out briefly at a parking area to take the fake nature photos.

“I heard that the most beautiful hike in Canada is in Banff,” she explains. Just for that, she flew to Alberta. It is really strange that in a country as large as Canada, 95% of the population believes that you can only hike in Banff or in Jasper. A mere 10 km to the south or the east, they already think it’s a terribly stupid idea. Outdoor spirit this is not.

A friend from Calgary also once wanted to seduce me to Banff, but she only had time for a day trip. “For lunch, there are three options,” my guide began to plan, “there is a burger restaurant, where everybody goes when they are in Banff. Then there is …” I dared to interrupt her and point out that I would go to Banff for the mountains and lakes, the bears and the forests. Especially if I only had one day, I definitely wouldn’t waste two hours of the still scarce daylight in a restaurant. “I’d rather get a Snickers bar from the gas station and spend more time in the mountains,” I explained, but she didn’t understand.

Thus, I went alone. To Canmore instead of Banff. And for a whole week, not just a measly day.

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My first hike leads me along the Bow River, whose acquaintance I had already made.

Bow River (2)Bow River (3)Bow River (4)Bow River (5)Bow River duck

In this kind of nature, I almost want to get lost. Some of the river’s tributaries are still frozen over, granting access to islands or to the opposite shore, although sometimes, it crackles alarmingly as I run across the ice. Alternatively, I cross the river on toppled trees.

Bow River EisBow River Baumstamm

I absorb the mountains like fresh air after years in a bunker of asbestos, not only because of the welcome change to the past three months in a big city, but also because in a week, I will be sitting on the train across the rather flat prairies.

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And thus I walk and walk, always following the river. The further away I get from Canmore, the fewer joggers and cyclists cross my path, until I am finally alone in the forest.

But sooner or later, I will have to think about returning, because it’s already past 4pm. And exactly in that moment, I reach a road with a bus stop. An exemplary bus stop even! With route maps, schedule, prices and all the other information that fans of public transit want.

bus stop Canmore

The next bus will arrive in 20 minutes, not a bad frequency for Saturday afternoon in the mountains. Until then, I will try to get back into town by hitchhiking. After 25 failed attempts, a red BMW stops. The driver welcomes me with the words “usually, I never stop for hitchhikers”, and I thank him profoundly for making an exception. Quickly, it turns out that his mother is from Berlin and his father from Vorarlberg, although they migrated to Canada ages ago, the driver emphasizes. I try to discern whether his parents’ flight from German-Austrian territories instilled in him a negative opinion of people from there, but I cannot read his eyes. Like everybody in Canmore, the driver wears sunglasses at all times. Maybe this town is a nest of spies?

He recommends a certain hike and the Legion, a home for veterans, as the place with the cheapest beer. And then the ride is already over. It’s sad that hitchhiking has been made illegal on some roads in Canada, while not on others. That confuses drivers and they never stop at all. And it would be such a wonderful way to get to know the country and the people.

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From my spacious corner suite at the aptly named Mountain View Inn, I look at the most alluring group of mountains in the valley, the Three Sisters, each time I wake up and each time I fall asleep.

Three Sisters dayThree Sisters night

But these little Matterhorns are all too inaccessible, too steep and too dangerous for a hobby hiker like me, especially now that there is still snow. So, the rule for the Three Sisters is: I can look, but not touch.

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The next morning, on the bus to the Nordic Center, I meet a guy from Whitehorse, a small but capital town in the Yukon. “We are only 30,000 people, but”, he adds with pride, “we have a direct flight to Frankfurt.” He has been to Germany himself for a conference about wood-based construction and to look at a few factories. Industrial espionage, in other words. But now, he works as a wood-construction engineer and is in Canmore for a few months.

He uses his free Sunday to go cross-country skiing where the Olympic Nordic skiing events were held in 1988. In order to still have snow well into spring (it’s early April by now), huge heaps of snow are piled up on mountainsides that are not reached by the sun. Those are covered with sawdust to slow the melting process. The inventory is so enormous that there will still be snow from the previous year left in fall, allowing the skiing season to being in September.

ski cross-country Canmore

To prepare for the next winter, tons of sawdust need to be produced. Building the wooden houses is really only a byproduct.

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From the ski trail, I want to hike to the two Grassi Lakes, but the path leads through a conservation area, where deer is being reforested. I like to break rules, but in this case, Bambi rules, so I have to find a different way.

Luckily, there is a map at the skiing center. With its help and taking a close look at the surrounding mountainscape, I try to memorize in which direction the lakes are. I spot a gap between Ha Ling Peak and Mount Rundle. That’s where I need to go.

Lücke.JPG

The straight line to where I suspect the lakes is a bit steep, but it’s even steeper to the left and the right of it. Also, the map shows a creek, so it can’t be terribly steep.

Yesterday was that premature summer day, so the ice on a lower-lying lake is no longer strong enough for me to walk across. Or is it? No, with increasing age and weight, I am becoming more cautious.

See Eis

Hence, I have to circumnavigate the little Arctic Ocean, without losing sight of the destination. At that time, the question why I insist on climbing to the higher-lying Grassi Lakes when I have another lake right in front of my eyes, as legitimate as it may sound, doesn’t even cross my mind.

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The hillside about to be crested is facing north and thus still full of snow. Even more dangerous than snow, especially at an angle far steeper than 45 degrees, it’s covered in ice. I am pulling myself from tree to tree, rather than my boots finding a grip.

The little stream doesn’t run at ground level, after all, nor as peacefully as I had thought. In reality, it throws itself down a wall of rock with thunderous roars. The same wall that I am trying to ascend, so the water and me are competing for space.

Wasserfall1Wasserfall2

At the mountaintop, the heat of the sun is melting the snow, resulting in tons of water rattling down. As the sun will rise and become warmer in the course of the day, that should get even worse. I just hope that the waterfall won’t widen, because I can’t move to the right either, where there is a wall of ice, as hard as stone and as smooth as the Olympic toboggan track.

Eiswand mit Aussicht

Now I understand why Louise from the Tourist Information had said something about crampons and ice axes. Naturally, I was too stingy for either.

I am battling forward, upward, meter by meter. My hands are scraped by rocks. My breath is panting, probably more for fear than exhaustion. Remember, snow-melt time is bear-wake-up time. And in this terrain, I couldn’t run anywhere.

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Suddenly, the sun disappears. Everything is covered with clouds. First, it becomes foggy, then outright bleak and spooky. Is that already nightfall? I don’t think so, because it was still before noon when I began the climb. Following adventure rule no. 19, I didn’t take a watch.

Nebel1Nebel2Nebel Gipfel.JPG

So, now the waterfall on the left will soon freeze over, and I will be trapped like in the eternal ice of Antarctica, just vertically.

The wind is howling, the trees are creaking, the sky looks as grim as if it regards my little hiking plan as a great affront. The hillside is becoming ever steeper, gravity ever more of a lethal enemy.

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And that’s the end. Sadly.

From my position, I can’t tell how close I am to the lakes, or whether I am even moving in the right direction. But I do see that I can’t continue. The wall above me is now really too steep and too icy. Disappointed, I realize that turning back is the only way to save my life.

Ende Gelände 1Ende Gelände 2

Back to Earth, I slide with little elegance. Good that nobody sees me, except for a squirrel. But if I will receive any donations for this article, I will have to use them for a new pair of pants. At least the descent is pretty rapid, and the injuries limited to a few further scrapes and some bruises.

Without the bloody ice, I would have made it. I believe. Therefore, in summer, I can wholeheartedly recommend the path. Just follow the waterfall!

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The further hike does lead me to a lake, eventually, namely to Quarry Lake, the remnant of an exhausted surface mine.

Quarry lake 1Quarry lake 2

I am just as exhausted as the mine, fall down in the grass and celebrate having survived another folly by smoking a few life-shortening Marlboro cigarettes, which aren’t allowed to be called Marlboro in Canada.

But that’s a story for another time. Now, you want to hear more about the mines. In 1887, the extraction of coal began in Canmore. The main customers were the steam engines, which is why the transcontinental railway was built through this beautiful scenery and why even today, impressively long freight trains thunder past at least once per hour.

Eisenbahn1Eisenbahn2

Unfortunately, steam trains went out of fashion (probably the fault of Greenpeace or other tree-huggers), and on Friday, 13 July 1979, the mine closed. That established the superstition that Fridays which coincide with the thirteenth day of the month bring bad luck. But that’s an erroneous belief. In reality, superstition itself brings bad luck.

coal-mining-final-e1532637077254

The mine’s head engineer, Gerry Stephenson, was an enthusiastic angler and had a better idea than simply filling up the ugly hole. Finally, he would be able to fly-fish at home in Canmore. And thus, the lake was born.

In town, the building of the miners’ union reminds us of that not-very-old history, but to my disappointment, I don’t meet any miners there who could tell me about forgotten gold mines.

Miners Union Canmore.JPG

They are probably all taking advantage of the cheap beer at the Legion.

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Sitting by Quarry Lake, I finally ask myself why I didn’t walk here comfortably in the first place, taking a book to read by the lake, instead of hunting for lakes in alpine and arctic conditions. I don’t understand why I do things like this again and again. After all, I am really not an ambitious person. Higher, faster, farther was never my motivation.

Bigger, more, costlier, however, is the motivation of a couple, to whose argument I have to listen because they carry it out so loudly. They debate how big the new house should be, how close it should be to the lake and how wide the driveway has to be. Some materialists cannot even pause in nature.

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Speaking of houses: This blue lagoon looks beautiful, but it smells horribly. Through a pipeline, the sewage from the built-up areas, devouring ever more nature, is pumped into the ecosystem.

blaue Lagune.JPG

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In the evening, there is snow, even down in the valley. If I had stayed in the mountains longer, there would not have been a happy ending. Tomorrow, I’ll go for a relaxing day.

Schnee1Schnee2

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As I return to the motel, there is a power outage. “Because of some explosion,” as the ladies from the reception explain, inviting me to join them in the tea room around some candles, because “there isn’t any light or internet in your room anyway.” (Many people believe that internet would be necessary to survive.)

When they ask me about my plans for the next day, I have to think of something on the spot: “I guess I am going to walk to Banff.” That’s about 25 km.

They tell me that they once had a guest who ran all the way to Banff and back. Well, by comparison, my plan is rather relaxing then.

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From the motel window, I not only see the temptation of the unassailable Three Sisters, but plenty of rabbits hopping around. I will encounter them every day, everywhere in town.

KaninchenKaninchen (2)

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So, the next morning, I set off early to walk all the way to Banff, to visit a place that everyone expect me desperately wants to see (oh, the things I do for you, the curious reader) and to save the 6 $ for the bus.

On the map, I saw that the Trans Canada Trail leads from Canmore to Banff. Irritatingly though, this trail also leads the hikers astray. Because this long-distance trail, crossing Canada from coast to coast, mostly follows highways or paths right next to highways. I don’t want to be too harsh, but this long-distance trail is the worst and most redundant hiking trail in the world. It is a big deceit, an annoyance, an utter failure.

This is how the Trans Canada Trail looks like in Banff National Park:

Autobahn1Autobahn2Autobahn3Autobahn4

And once on that path, there is no escape. On the right is the highway, on the left there is a high fence for many miles. It felt like running in a corral, except that animals in a zoo are granted more distance from the road. At the few points where there is an opening in the fence, you reach a railway track or would soon need to walk through a river.

Skelett BahnlinieFluss zw Canmore und Banff.JPG

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So, if you are planning to go to Canada for hiking, you better turn around right away and go to Britain or Austria, where hiking trails are really made for hikers.

If you do insist on crossing Canada on foot, look for an electricity route. They are wide enough for a whole army to march through. And you will always have juice for your cell phone.

Stromschneise2Stromtrasse.JPG

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Just once, there is a lookout point, where you are allowed to run around in the grass a bit, after entering through a grille with a bear warning.

The view is great from here, I readily admit that, but the only reason for the rest area is because it’s a parking by the highway. Canada seems to be a country for cars, not for people.

Still, I cherish the break, urgently needed after marching on concrete for hours. Before unpacking the lunch, just to be on the safe side, I take the bear spray from my backpack and read the instructions on the confusingly detailed bear-warning board.

bear warning Banff.JPG

First, it explains the difference between black and grizzly bears. I am advised to pay attention to the shape of the shoulder and the face, as well as the claws. Those measure up to 4 cm in the case of the black bear, whereas those of the grizzly bear measure at least 5 cm. Truly a very helpful piece of advice in the case of an attack! But what about a baby grizzly? In the end, it all doesn’t matter, because the zoological crash course also explains: “Both species are able to climb trees and to swim.”

Then, I am instructed what to do if I wanted to avoid encountering bears: walk in a group, be loud and not unpack any food. I happen to do the opposite of everything, which is just as good, as I really do want to meet a bear.

But what when the bear will show up? Then, I am supposed to differentiate between different moods that the bear might be in. If it makes noise, growls, snaps its jaws and charges at me, then – to my great bewilderment – it is a defensive bear. All of those are allegedly signs of a bluff charge, although the board fails to mention any good reason why the bear should do such a silly thing. In that case, I am supposed to retreat slowly and, if necessary, spray the bear spray into the bear’s face (if the wind is coming from the right direction, which I will still have to determine then, because otherwise the poison knocks me out instead of the predator). If the bear does touch me, I should fall on the ground and pretend to be dead. This position has to be maintained until the bear has left. If the contact has however made the bear aggressive (yes, that could happen too), then the advice is: “Fight the bear with any means!”

If, on the other hand, the bear is calm, watches me and follows me around, then it is an aggressive bear or, as it is called in diplomatic Canadian, a non-defensive bear (political correctness gone mad). In that case, I have to make myself as big as possible (how? by jumping up and down?), cause noise, proceed to a secure location (great idea!) and then fight the bear with anything I can find: bear spray, sticks, rocks. But: “Only use the bear spray if the bear is about 5 meters away from you.” The guidelines make no mention of panic.

I have studied law, but there are far too many ifs and buts, worse than in an IRS regulation. And how stupid do you have to be to lie down on the ground when a bear is coming closer? Especially when you are, as advised, hiking in a group. I would run as fast as I can. A new hiking buddy or a new girlfriend can always be found, particularly when you are a world-famous blogger.

Rucksack Rastplatz.JPG

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The rest area would also be the only place from where I could hitch a ride, but only in the direction which is not in line with the plan for the day. Because you can’t get to the other side of the road, and anyway, there is no shoulder for hitchhikers, nor for hitchhiker-friendly drivers.

This trail is such a dread, I am already beginning to dream of a bear eating me. But only a cute squirrel lies in wait for me.

squirrel

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Looking at all the nature around me, you are surely wondering “Is there really no other way?” But it really isn’t that easy. In winter, I could walk on the frozen river, but too much of the ice has already melted.

The other alternative from Canmore to Banff leads across the massive Mount Rundle massif with its six summits. To the left of it is Canmore, to the right Banff, meaning that you have to cross all summits on the way. That really would be a bit of a stretch for one day.

Mount Rundle sunny.JPG

And today, it’s also rather foggy up there.

Mt Rundle fog.JPG

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Judging by the pain in my legs, I should already be in Banff. But first, I reach a small cemetery in the forest. Or actually a large cemetery with a small occupancy. Just a handful of dead people are enjoying the sight of the mountains.

cemetry with mountain view Banff.JPGcemetery2

A wolf or a coyote is roaming around, hoping to increase the population of the institution. It seems to see a candidate for an imminent demise in me, because it keeps following me closely and curiously.

Kojote1Kojote2Kojote3

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A few more kilometers further, this time on a bike path, again directly next to the road, finally there is Banff, this most eulogized town in Canada. Tourism seems to be booming, because I see hotels to the left and the right, some of them as huge as if they wanted to compete with the mountains in the background.

After marching 25 km, I have earned a can of coke, I would think. But the shops sell only Fjällräven, North Face and Harley Davidson (offering 50% discount on motorbikes). Canmore also lives from tourism, but there, you have at least normal pizza and kebab places – and the bookstore. In Banff, that spot is taken up by jewelers. It is a show-off town, quite fitting for all the people coming here for a day, eating an overpriced burger, taking a snapshot in front of mountain background from the side of the road, feeling like big adventurers.

I never thought that I would one day have to explain this: If you can buy diamond diadems from Cartier in a place, then you are not in the wilderness!

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And there is another difference that I notice. In Canmore, people smile at me, the stranger, and some even say hello. In Banff, nobody does that. Here, people only look at me dismissively because there is a hole in my pants and because I take off my shoes while resting next to the lake.

Banff1Banff2

But because my articles only become interesting through interactions with other people, I chat up a lady walking around the lake. She has just arrived in Banff and therefore hasn’t internalized yet that hobos must be ignored.

Emma has left the cycle of stress and work, in her case at the BBC, because she “didn’t want to do what the masses do”. Thus, she ended up in Banff, Canada’s no. 1 tourism destination with more than 4 million annual visitors, and is now training to be a ski instructor. This is what all the “downshifters” from New Zealand, Ireland and Australia are doing here. Surprising, no shocking, how many of those super individualists are doing exactly the same as their colleagues.

Undiplomatically, I cannot fail to withhold my opinion, whereupon Emma accuses me of emitting “negative vibes” and walks on, probably to yoga or something else that is mighty spiritual or mindful.

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My advice to visitors to the Rocky Mountains: Canmore is the better Banff. The mountains are the same anyway. The weather is also equally unstable in both places. And there is a bus connecting both towns, for only 6 $, so save yourself that trail.

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The next day, I prefer to go hiking in the area around Canmore again. In Cougar Creek, there is, unsurprisingly, a warning of cougars. Damn it, I don’t have the right spray with me. But I am not even reading all the rules and instructions today. Probably, cougars are even more complicated than the already over-regulated bears.

warning cougars.JPG

I follow the path to Mount Lady MacDonald, because that sounds as if there will be a snack stall at the summit. The trail is quite steep, but not tough. A beautiful forest path with great views.

view from Mount Lady MacDonald 1view from Mount Lady MacDonald 2

There are more hikers here than on the other trails. Repeatedly, I pass young people sitting by the wayside, taking a rest. Others are already jogging down from the summit, those are the early risers. Two elderly men stand in the middle of the path, directing my attention to a chubby bird that doesn’t seem to be overly shy. On their phone, they have calls of the female wood grouse to attract the male grouse. But the bird is too smart to be fooled into boinking a smartphone.

Auerhahn.JPG

As we introduce each other, it turns out once again that everybody around here speaks German. László’s parents were Hungarians from territories that are now part of Romania and Serbia, respectively, and he himself was born in Bavaria at the end of World War II. But as Hungarians, his parents “of course” spoke German (Antal Szerb and his remarks about German as a Weltsprache come to mind), which they used to communicate when young László was not supposed to understand. So, he taught himself German with adventure novels by Karl May. Even now, 60 years later, he can recount some of the titles in German: Im Land der SkipetarenDurchs Wilde KurdistanDer Schut. The other gentleman, Chris from England, who also has been living in Canada for decades, is learning German because he loves to listen to Richard Wagner’s operas.

We notice that we could get along, and the two gentlemen are hiking together every week anyway, so they are happy to include me in their little hiking group. Both of them are older than 70, but they are noticeably faster than me. When I reach that age, I also want to be that fit.

Laszlo and Chris.JPG

But the conversation is so interesting that I don’t even notice the effort and the scarcity of oxygen. Both of them have traveled far and are well-informed. László has lived in Iranin Brazil and in Peru, and we talk about the world, about the European Union, about Romania, about right-wing parties in Germany, about universities, the elections in Alberta, about the Baltics, about Cuenca in Ecuador, and before I noticed it, we have reached the old tea house, of which only a wooden platform is left. Instead of McDonald’s, we have some apples, cereal bars and the view.

view from Mount Lady MacDonald 3.JPG

The actual summit is another few hundred meters higher, almost at 3,000 m, but it looks pretty steep and there is a very thin ridge up there. In consideration of the two elderly gentlemen, I unfortunately have to deprive myself – and thus you – of that adventure.

Ok, honestly, that kind of ridge wouldn’t have been for me anyway.

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The path down is of course easier than the ascent, but time also flies because of the animated debates we are having. This time, the subjects are cars, ecological taxes, the Treaty of Trianon, dual education and training, Canadian federalism, British industrial policy, traffic in Tehran, landmines in Bosnia and high-speed trains.

Only as I get back to town, I realize that we had been talking so much that I hardly took any photos of the hike. Well, it shouldn’t matter, you have already seen enough mountains and trees by now.

This encounter once again confirms my theory that traveling is best done alone. If I had been hiking as a couple or a group, I hardly would have spoken with strangers for hours, and I wouldn’t have learned anything new.

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These bicycle repair and air-pump stations are an idea that should be copied worldwide.

Fahrradreparaturset.JPG

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Finally, one of the receptionists at the motel tells me the reason for the number of cute bunnies in Canmore: “Someone had a rabbit farm and went bankrupt. He didn’t have the heart to sell the bunnies,” (I wonder if therein lies the reason for the bankruptcy) “and released them all”.

Kaninchen (3).JPG

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After I have already explored as much as I could on foot, I finally need a car to get into the higher mountains. Renting is too expensive. Stealing could pose legal problems, and to be honest, I don’t even know how to open a car door without a key, let alone start the engine.

So I have to resort to a trick. I invite a friend to visit me in Canmore, allowing him to escape his children for a day. It works. The photographer Edward Allen, already an old friend to regular readers of this blog, comes to Canmore for a day and we go into the mountains south of the town, past the Grassi lakes, which had caused me so much suffering some days ago.

But today, we don’t care about these little puddles. We want to go higher, to bigger lakes, to farther views and into thinner air.

Photo by Edward John AllenPhoto by Edward John AllenHochgebirge1Hochgebirge2Hochgebirge3

In the ice-cold wind and the absolute silence, we both feel reminded of the Himalaya, where none of us has ever been.

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A snow groomer has drawn a trail around one of the lakes, which we follow appreciatively. In this remoteness, I would normally be afraid of bears, but Edward talks non-stop and so loud, that even Bigfoot would take to its heels.

And that way, I finally get some new outdoor photos of myself.

Photo by Edward John AllenPhoto by Edward John Allen

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For food, we finally go to Café Books to support the local literary scene. The whole week, I had been avoiding it, to not get tempted, and now I see that it is indeed a treasure trove. Luckily, I am broke.

The café is in a separate annex for used books, probably to prevent the new books from taking on the flavor of the curry.

Cafe BooksCafe Books survival books

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On the day of departure, I can still afford a taxi for the few kilometers to the Tourist Information, whence the bus to Calgary leaves. The taxi driver is still waiting with me for the bus, “because I don’t have any business that early in the morning anyway”, and we talk for about 15 minutes, during which he invites me to a cup of coffee, which takes up a considerable part of the fare I paid.

I really like small towns.

Andreas in Alberta April 2019 19.jpg

Practical advice:

  • I stayed at the Mountain View Inn, which was cozy, spacious and affordable. If you use Booking through this link, you receive a discount of 15 €, also for all other hotels worldwide.
  • In summer, the cheapest ride from Calgary to Canmore/Banff is the On-It bus (10 $), in winter Banff Express (30 $).
  • In Canmore and in Banff, the local Roam Transit is quite good. Some of the routes go a bit into the mountains, from where you can start your hikes. You don’t really need a car.
  • One bus line regularly commutes between Canmore and Banff (for 6 $) and runs until around 10pm. Because accommodation is much more expensive in Banff, it even pays to stay in Canmore if you want to spend more time in Banff.
  • If, like me, you forget/lose your adapter for European appliances and need a new one, you will be helped professionally at “The Source”, opposite from the “Canadian Tire” in Canmore.
  • If you run out of books during your trip, your heart will jump with joy as soon sa you enter Café Book.

Links:

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About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Canada, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Canmore, the better Banff

  1. That’s enough stuff for a book :-) That was really amusing: “I have to make myself as big as possible” :-D so didn’t have to use the special weapon, the bears spray, lucky them.

    • Actually, after my experience with cats, I think the bear would also notice that I am friendly and kind. Animals often have a good instinct, and on other occasions, bears, coyotes, foxes, boar, moose, all haven’t attacked me.

  2. David Wiebe says:

    Yes! And isn’t Banff where “The Shining” was filmed?

  3. Caren Leong says:

    This is such a joy to read. Thank you. By the way, it’s iPhone, not I-phone, Mr. Luddite! 😬

  4. dany sobeida says:

    1-37. Canadá con todos sus desaciertos es espectacular y bella!
    14. Tu sufrimiento ha valido la pena, gracias por arriesgarte por tus lectores.
    30. Diablos! a ver si entendí bien, esos señores mayores están locos para subir esa cresta a esa edad…oh! por Dios que nervios.
    He disfrutado mucho esta lectura.

    • Muchas gracias, enorita!
      14. Es un trabajo duro, pero alguien debe hacerlo.
      30. Oh no, mis companeros viejos tampoco han subido la cresta loca. El video es de otras personas (quienes tambien son locos).

  5. Snart says:

    Happy Birthday Andreas! Many happy returns and many new stories to tell!

    • Thank you very much!
      At least one reader remembered it without me mentioning it this year. :-)

    • danysobeida says:

      Yo también te felicite por facebook(chat) pero no leíste el mensaje, tu domingo sabático se prolongo? Aprovecho de nuevo Felicidades retroactivas Andreas! que sigas viajando por el mundo y brindando a tus lectores historias emocionantes.

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