Hey folks, hope you’re enjoying the weather wherever you may be.
This weekend was sunny in Edmonton, Calgary and Banff from what I understand. I headed down to Calgary with my girlfriend Megan to see some friends, go for a hike and generally just to get out of the city. Now usually we would hit the slopes near Banff, but since the weather is getting warmer we decided to do a kick ass hike. I figured we would have the day so we could hike Johnson canyon just outside Banff. I did it back when I was a kid and it was fun then, but this time I wanted to check out the Ink Pots because I hear they are very cool. I checked the net and it ended up being about a 12 km round trip. I didn’t really remember how the trail was so I phoned the park office for some info. They said it was still pretty slippery with some snow but for the most part it would be pretty good to hike this weekend. She did mention that if we wanted to, we could rent some ice cleats for around 5 bucks. Being a rugged Albertan, I decided to forgo this expense. And being a curler I also figured a bit of ice would be no problem, no matter how slippery or steep it may be.
For anyone who has not been to the canyon it’s awesome. It’s very accessible with lots to look at. The trail follows the west wall of the canyon at various depths in the canyon. There is a gift shop and place to get ice cream at the trailhead as well as cabins that I’m sure you can rent for periods of time. The options for the hike are to the lower falls, the upper falls and then onto the Ink Pots. Distances are roughly, one kilometer from the trailhead to the lower falls, the upper falls are about 2.5-3 kms past that and the inkpots are another 3.5 kms past that. If you’re traveling with a group or people who don’t really hike, the upper falls are a good destination for you. For those who want to spend more time and get away from the crowds it’s recommended to take the extra leap and head to the Ink Pots.
We ended up getting a later start than I thought we would and started out around quarter to four. As a group we decided to not go to the ink pots. This was a little bit of a let down, but after we did the hike I found it was all I really needed to do. We encountered a few groups of people but for the most part it was pretty much just us on the trail. My friends Ryan and Dominika mentioned that when they did the hike last summer the trail was packed with people, their kids, dogs, and strollers and was not as fun as this trip. There were a few very slipper sections but we managed to get through them unscathed on account of the railing separating the trail from the canyon. We all decided after little deliberation that if you want to beat the crowds the best time to see the canyon was in the spring.
We got to the lower falls and snapped a few pictures; there is a little bridge that takes you to the other side. On the other side is a cool little cut out in the rock where you can go through to a look out and see the falls close up. There were five of us and another family in there, had it been any busier you would have had to wait to take a look or abandoned it all together. I’m glad we got to take a look.
After that it was onto the upper falls, this was a bit of a long haul with a mix of terrain, views and temperatures. The weather report said it was supposed to be about 17 degrees and had a chance of thunder showers. We got lucky and didn’t get rained on until we were on our way back to town. The section between the upper and lower falls was my favorite, you really get away from the walkways and start to wind through the forest, and in a few places there are no railings at all. When we got to the upper falls there is an opportunity to view from both the top and the bottom. After we checked it out from the bottom we headed back. It was already late in the day, and it didn’t help that we were talking about dinner the whole time either!
I was content with this first hike of the season. It was about the right length and I got some good photos. For this hike I recommend you go early in the season to beat the crowds. I wore a t-shirt and was fine, but I did have a good fleece packed, if the weather changed. Wear some decent shoes because it’s a lot of up and down hills. Bring a camera, there are some killer views. Pack a snack and at least a liter of water. If you want to take a look at the Ink Pots, everywhere I looked said it’s a half day hike. If you’re only going to the upper falls you need a few hours. Make sure you go with a group, its better!
On a side note…
On the way home from Calgary I stopped in at bass pro shops. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – this place is intense. Everything you can imagine of seeing on the side of the road or in a magazine is there and it’s stuffed. The sheer amount of things that have been killed and stuffed is mind boggling! Picked up a new Redington Red Fly 2 reel for my fly rod and purchased some chest waders as well. Megan and I ended up checking out some of the rest of the mall as well. Picked up a book called “the Fly Tying-Bible” which has 100 of the deadliest trout and salmon patterns ever so keep an eye out for that!