Day 13 - Saturday
The day off! A healthy lie in, nourishing breakfast and quick chat with my roommate James about who's coming and when we're heading out, and then we're off to conquer Sulphur Mountain (2451m according to Wikipedia, other sources vary). There's only three of us: myself, James, and Laurelle. This means we're able to set a reasonable pace and engage in stimulating banter (focussing mostly on us two guys giving Laurelle some survival coaching; discussing the danger of encountering highly evolved cougars, that take to preying on the passengers in the gondolas, thanks to their extra long and strong claws, which allow them to latch onto the cable to drop into the cars, and also fell a pine with one swoop; the difficulty in determining the altitude of sea level; and other topics that are just untranslatable into the language of this blog, or any sensible language at all).
On the way up we pass Bow Falls, a rapid on the Bow river that peaks my kayaking interests and sends me on a bit of a rant. Then we hit the actual trail up, meandering more or less alongside the gondolas that run up the mountain. The trail is so deceptive, that it completely befuddles James, who leads us up a very steep creek by mistake. You can see for yourself how hard to follow the trail is:
Near the top we deplore how unworthy the people taking the gondolas are and contemplate coming back with a sign saying 'You lazy buggers!' to set up under the cable (the sign may have used stronger vocabulary). We do however take advantage of the facilities at the top station in the form of ice cream, so shame on us (hypocrites!). But not before we attack the summit itself, which is done by walking along a series of wooden platforms and stairs, probably built to protect the mountain from the traffic that the gondola enables. Despite the civilised nature of this, the surroundings are stunning, and Laurelle has the opportunity to test the panorama feature of her new camera (she's graciously given me her photos, some of which are already in the Picasa album).
Part of the view, notice Tunnel Mountain and the Banff Centre
After having our ice cream we almost unanimously decide to hike back down, once again shunning the gondola, and almost all of us have fun walking down. On the way we meet the next group of intrepid opera hikers, but can't stop for a chat, as we have a sweepstake bet on how long it'll take us to get down. We met another participant of our program, but as she was a gondolier, she shall not be named (she did have a valid excuse though).
Once we get back down, we go to the hot springs at the foot of the mountain. They're not as big or impressive as some others I've been to, but they're certainly warm and relaxing, and offer a great way to unwind after the hike.
The hot springs
We then go back to the Centre by taxi, and this is my first North American cab experience. It is certainly different from what I'm used to, but James (who's from New Zealand, but lives in New York, so is indisputably an expert on taxis) says that this guy was bad even by his standards. In any case, he gets us home safely and we can enjoy our dinner content in the knowledge that we've done something worthwhile today.
After dinner we find out that some of the others are planning to watch a film tonight, and although I've seen Slumdog Millionaire before, I might just join them. In any case, I'll sleep well tonight, that much is certain.