Heading out we are a little unsure if the weather will be ok but being a little cooler is probably good for walking anyway.
We cross the railway line and I say to the others “I’m surprised they get us to walk across this”. I mean we’re crossing with cars, buses and trucks, and a train goes by that’s seriously long. It’s not like this is a back country town. They have millions of tourists. But after we’ve crossed we see a subway all blocked in the beautiful rock that makes up the Rockies that allows us to go underneath. Duh!
The walk starts off gorgeous. A stroll through trees and by a swift river. We’re on alert after our little get to know ‘wild animals’ session yesterday and Ren and I are managing to keep the chatter up and remind ourselves of the guidelines. If the bear is defensive be cool and calm and not threatening, and he will probably lumber off. If he’s predatory be loud and big and make it seem not worth tackling you. If he comes at you anyway, lie down and play dead like a plank. Got it.
The waters almost white and Ren wonders if it’s glacial.
We decided to do the steep climb first, rather than coming down it at the end given how steep the stairs are. We take a rest half way to allow people with mountain bikes to come down. I’m kind’ve thinking the stairs ARE the steep climb but once we reach the top we see a steep line of stairs cut into the rock and negotiate these ok. As we round the corner we see a dusty track heading up an even steeper slab and as we round this corner see it’s more like a rock face on a slight lean still going up and up, seemingly into the sky.
I’m reminded of climbing Mt Pirongia with Chee and Annie two or three years ago. ‘Beginners track’ I think they said. We set off through beautiful native bush on a warmish morning and it got steeper and steeper until we come face to face with a hill, so steep they had chains hanging down. It had started to rain by then and I remember looking at the chains and wondering what they use these for, and then, which way do we go? As my mind was trying to comprehend this, I looked at Annie and said, “ummm, do we climb the chains?” Thinking THAT would be CRAZY!!!! “Yep”, she said merrily as if this was quite a normal thing to do when you go for a bush walk. I think Chee and Annie were as surprised as we were and I might add this was not the only set of chains we negotiated that day. Up and down sometimes sheer faces. Now Chee and Annie wouldn’t have been fazed by seeing chains, rather more wondering how they were going to push a fatso and wobbler up them. I remember I stood there for a few seconds digesting this. I had never climbed chains before given I’d never tried to join the army or police force or do some crazy physical challenge, but I actually enjoyed this part and having good upper body strength from bagging rocks, I was pretty good at it. Though Chee and Annie may have a different view….haha!
Well this didn’t have chains and it was dry and not quite so steep, but the cliff edge was a little disconcerting and not particularly liking heights I was kind’ve wishing they did have chains or something to hang on to. I had to concentrate on the metre ahead of me. I checked Gilbert was happy. “We can go back”, I called. “Nah. I’ll be ok”, he answered throwing his stick ahead of him as climbed on all fours. “Are you sure Dad?” Ren said watching him. “Yeah, I’m better on all fours, he answered. If I stand I might lose my balance, and then it’s all over.” Nodding towards the slippery slope on our side. I was a little unsure myself. Don’t look back, don’t look up and definitely don’t look over the side. Ren ahead of us snapped a pic and snap chatted it with #FUCK! on it. I was thinking the same thing. “When I see that lady at the information centre, I yelled out I might tell her this is not really a ‘Walk in the Park’, and she clearly hasn’t done it”. I was also rather worried about the rest of this walk.
We staggered to the top of the first bit and the view was amazing. Ren had been taking and sending photos off, but I was just concentrating on getting up there so didn’t really appreciate it till there. Another couple of rough patches but by and large the six kilometres was beautiful. We could view the Athabasca River that flows from the Columbia Ice field and where the three rivers converge as they head out to three oceans. Cutting through the Rocky Mountains before plunging down the Athabasca Falls. The place was busy but not thronged and mostly you had the track to yourself as people passed running, mountain biking or walking like us. Seeing some large droppings at one point had us looking left to right I can tell you. Elk or grisly? It was a good blow out and I felt like we deserved our Mojito at the end.
The white water is the river and the beautiful blue is I think Lake Annette. Looked like an expensive resort down there on the lake and I watched a wedding with Gilbert’s new binoculars at the lake edge.
Ren had been talking about Poutine since we arrived and she was super keen for us to try this typically Canadian dish, that was apparently especially delicious after a night on the town. We decided today was the day. So after a wander around town we headed towards a place that advertised it but on our way were drawn into a play being performed street side for children, with a humorous nod to the adults as well as to help us be more informed about the nature of the area. It was hilarious and laugh out loud funny, and the kids who took part loved it. We left after clapping loudly with big smiles.
Poutine is made up of a plate of deep fried chips, with hot gravy poured over it and a layer of cheese curds over the top. I could imagine this might be pretty gross, but Ren assured me it was amazzzzing! She got two between the three of us in case we weren’t impressed and it was everything I expected. “Well, that was pretty average” Gilbert said. “At least we’ve tried it and never have to eat it again I reiterated”. “But isn’t it amazzzzing!” Ren kept asking. “No Ren it’s not amazzzzing and I can’t think of a single time I might ever want to eat that again to be honest with you.” We lumbered home but were waylaid by a couple of children on the sidewalk across the road who called out. “Do you want a tattoo?” He was about four and she maybe six. “No thank you”, I smiled but we stopped and looked back a couple of feet further on. “That was mean”, I said to Ren. “How much is it”, I asked as we crossed the road. The little girl looked a bit flummoxed at the question and said “nothing”. OK so how do we get this tattoo we asked as the boy showed us tattoo written in French and in English on the other side, indicating we could speak in either language. “Do you speak French?”,Ren asked. “Oui” she replied. She explained how we say what we want and she can draw it, and clarified by saying she could draw anything with great assurance. “I’ll have a do g please”,I said picking a colour. She drew a dog stick figure on my hand. “I’ll have a Purple Heart please”, Ren said. And Gilbert opted for a horse while her little brother looked on. I noticed the horse got hooves added to his stick legs. The children had drawn all over themselves and each other likely. “It will just wash off” she said matter of factly. “Merci beaucoup”, I said. “Au Revoir”, she called waving as we left. She’s probably saying to her brother….”shit we could’ve charged them money for that!”
We had crackers and cheese and salmon for an evening snack, but neither of us felt like eating a single thing and were still full at breakfast. Ren cruised back out to meet a friend, as only Ren can have a friend in every corner of the world, and sneaked in after 1am. Yes, I was watching the clock.