May 21 – Cool as a Cucumber

“Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken.”

Matthew 24:29

Interesting notes on this. Bill Nye the Science Guy was actually booed off stage while giving a lecture in the Bible Belt because he pointed out that the Moon does not produce light but rather simple reflects the light of the Sun. Blasphemer! Also, in these pre-science days people actually thought that the Earth was surrounded by some kind of veil or bubble and that God anchored lights on it as a gift to man. Of course, now we know that stars are very far away and in fact most of the ones we can see burnt out long ago and their light is just reaching us now and thus could not possibly fall on us. One would not expect iron-age sheep herders to know any of this but you would think that Jesus would know this. 

I am spending the entire week in Banff. It has been less than 24 hours and already I have had a few adventures worth noting. But first a quick side note:

My last blog automatically posted on Facebook for some reason. I had a bit of a freak out but not because I am ashamed of the content. I will continue to say things of both a mundane and outrageous nature with no reservations. My whole thing is that I want people to have to actively seek out my opinions. When something is posted on Facebook the exposure is much too passive. I finally settled on the idea that if you do not feel comfortable sharing your actions and thoughts with the world then you just shouldn’t do those things to begin with. Take pride in your faults.

Anyway, I had some business to attend to before leaving so I finally got to Banff at 5pm. I checked into the Rocky Mountain Resort and then headed to the edge of town for an evening hike. I did a route called “Philosophers Knoll.” As you can imagine there was much quiet pondering and gazing to be had. The back side of the loop goes along a river (don’t ask me which one…I really need to start carrying a map). I did a little shoulder check, as I do every once and a while just to make sure that I’m not being stocked by a Cougar. The coast was clear behind me but as soon as I righted my line of sight I noticed something to my left. Across the river I saw a family of Grizzly Bears, a mother and her two cubs. I was completely enthralled. I crouched down so that I could observe without myself being seen. The mother was sniffing out a Beaver dam and then she disappeared inside. I assumed she was trying to fish out dinner but then her enormous head emerged from the water. She was swimming across the river and her two cubs followed. My thoughts quickly went from: Oh wow, she’s a good swimmer, to: Holy fuck she’s coming right at me! Before I knew it she was halfway across the river. I stood up to make my presence known and as soon as I did I’m pretty sure her eyes widened and she make that oof! oof! sound before pulling a sharp 180. She quickly swam for her starting point and one of the cubs jumped on her back in the water for a piggy back ride. It was actually quite comical. When she got out of the water she turned and looked directly back at me. I made a motion of submission and started walking down the path. Every few steps I would look back at her and still her gaze was locked on me. I’ll admit that at one point I almost Winnie the Poohed myself but I am happy with the way the situation played out. It was a magical experience.

Today I was anxious to get back at it. I figured I would start with a grind in the morning and then another light walk this evening. I chose the Mount Edith loop for my first excursion. It is a 12km loop that ascends 1100m. It should take around 2 hours but that’s if the way is clear and you know where you’re going. The first climb was perfect. The route finding was easy enough and I felt strong. When I got onto the ridge I ran into some difficulties. I had to cross at least a dozen snow fields that not only covered the trail but made for an insanely strenuous haul. Also, it was evident from the tracks that there had been a Cougar on the trail recently. After that and some sketchy scrambling I finally made it to the col. This is where the trail disappeared again and for good. The was no sign of it whatsoever down the back side of the mountain. I had a decision to make: Back track, which would be a guaranteed  out, or take a risk and head down into the unknown. I chose the later because I was far too exhausted to back track through those snow fields and I knew I could ski down the back slope. This is exactly what I did. I cannot even describe how fun it is to ski in running shoes. I descended probably 500m in only a few minutes. I had some instructions scribbled on a piece of paper in my pocket and a vague idea of the route in my head but once you’re actually out there everything seems different. I completely missed the pickup trail (if there even was one) and was now committed to finding my own way. There was no was way I was trekking back up to the summit. I headed for the far mountain, hoping to run into a river that I could follow out. Eventually I found myself in very thick woods, constantly puncturing through the snow. Panic loomed in the background but I was too tired to let any of it in. Thankfully I ran into a thin orienteering trail and chose to follow it to it’s point of origin. I figured it would have to meet up with a main trail somewhere (I just hoped it would happen in the next 50k or so). It finally did take me to El Dorado, perhaps 5km later, but it was the toughest trek of my life. The entire trail was covered in about 3 feet of that crunchy spring snow that gives way about ever 3-4 steps. I was constantly pulling myself out of the entry points. I tried my best to follow the massive Bear tracks ahead of me, as they were packed down slightly more, but let’s be honest, how reassuring is that? These prints were bigger than my head. Since I was in the thick brush and Bears were evidently close by I did my best to sing as I trekked. Unfortunately I was much too out of breath for that to continue very long. When my gamble finally did pay off I ran the rest of the way out to complete my 4 hour misadventure.

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