August 16 2017
Destination: Two Jack Campground, Banff (Night 2)
We both woke up early because we were on a schedule, but I also didn’t sleep that great because I was so excited to see Jenn! The campground was super noisy so we were awake and on the road by 8:30am, leaving our tents up because for the first time we would be returning to a site for a second night. We were to meet Jenn at the Canmore Nordic Centre, and from there I’d go with her in her vehicle to a trail, and Christine would find a relaxing way to spend her day in the sun. She was really looking forward to having some solo time – and definitely happy she didn’t have to hike 16km with me!
At the Nordic Centre, we grabbed showers at last – for $1 (for me – my sister needed an extra dollar’s worth.) I also grabbed a slice of lemon poppyseed loaf, which is a major favourite for me. It was stale but I still enjoyed it. We watched people come and go and not for the first time realized how many worlds play out in unison that we never knew about until we entered them.
We waited in the parking lot for Jenn and I was so excited to see her. She looked just like I remembered, which is such a comforting feeling. She had brought a little inflatable boat with a pump so Christine could float around in a lake, which she loves to do! After a lesson on how to make it work, we parted ways and Jenn and I headed off to Mount Sparrowhawk. There were three tarns we wanted to see (mountain lakes formed in cirques, leftover from glaciers).
The hike was incredibly rocky, which normally I don’t like because rocks can be slippery, but this was scree, which was gritty, and I never felt at risk of falling. I also noted the major difference between mountain hikes and what I’m used to at home in Ontario. Mountain hikes have a very clear peak and dénouement: you hike up and up while you’re fresh, you peak, enjoy the peak, and return down. In Ontario, there’s no such consistency. Actually, it often feels like you go uphill the entire way, beginning and end! I really love the mountain world, there is so much to see and experience, but of course home has its own charm.
Two of the expected three tarns had dried up, so that was really sad. We stopped at one, admired it, and kept going hoping the last one would be incredible. We weren’t even sure if we were there, though, because it was just sad and muddy. Someone or someones had put together a beautiful rock table with rock chairs – it must have taken forever! And on the rock table were lots of beautiful stones collected from all over the area and assembled there for people to enjoy and leave for the next hikers. There were gems and fossils, too. We had lunch there and enjoyed a nice break, catching up.
We decided to hike back to the second tarn, the one that actually had water in it. It was super windy approaching it, but when we got lower than the rock walls and closer to the water, the wind died down quite a bit. I decided I had to take my boots off and put my feet in the water. It was, as you’d expect, incredibly cold! My feet went numb really quickly, which made scrambling back up to where Jenn was sitting an extra challenge. There was almost a little bench carved into the rock where we sat for easily an hour, enjoying one another’s company. We got pretty chilly, though, and had to move on!
Going back down was a lot easier – we moved along at a hop! We saw a marmot (I think that’s what it was?) and we followed it for ages – it seemed very photogenic. We also saw pekas, and tonnes of birds. No bears, thankfully. Moving from the treeless mountain cirque back into the woods was something of a sad moment for me. I so loved the different experience and wish I had the opportunity to be out there more.
There was a bench about half of the way down, and Jenn and I stopped there to have some more time to talk. I think we both missed the nights of Outward Bound and West Coast Trail where we had lots of time during the day as well as nights in the room/tent together to talk about our experiences and our fears and triumphs. It felt a little tragic to only get one day together, but we spent it doing what we both love the most, and not every friendship has that.
It was almost dark by the time we got back to the truck. We saw a guy with a bear cage in his truck and a sonar thing in his hand. Jenn asked him if he was after a bear and he said he was – seen right in the area we’d just left! We spent a bit more time together before heading back into civilization. We grabbed Wendy’s fries because we were absolutely ravenous. It was dark when Jenn delivered me back to Two Jack – Christine was already in bed; she’d had a fun and quiet day to herself. She spent a lot of time at the beach, though it was too cold in the mountains to go swimming, and she’d gotten some groceries as well.
I called it a night at that point. I was absolutely exhausted from the hike, the early morning, and the emotional whirlwind of having my friend back for such a short but amazing stretch of time. I ended up having to go to the bathroom and walked right through somebody’s campsite to get there because I had no idea how to navigate in the dark. This was our first two nights in the same campground (Jasper had been two nights in the same park but not the same spot) and it was so nice to be able to go directly into a tent that was already put up with my pillow in place and my pyjamas ready to be donned.