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Category: Canada (2005, world trip)
20051118_P_0185
Massive icicles
20051118_P_0187
You're sooo strong!

Today we attempted another walk. We headed up the Bow Valley Parkway to the Johnston Canyon to walk up to the Lower and Upper falls. The path leads along the shore of the river and, for the most part, gently winds up to the falls. In the winter though, Parks Canada do not clear the walking trails so as with the Old Fort Loop in Jasper this one was a bit on the slippy side. In some places there was a thin layer of snow but in many there was also simply a layer of ice.

The canyon was beautiful. Down below the river was still running but the banks were iced up and snowy so the running water was a crystal clear trail nibbling away at the frozen edges as it ran by. Icicles hung down in frozen sheets, at some points looking as if a really cold blast had blown through freezing the spray instantly as it went.

We slithered and slipped our way to the Lower Falls, spectacular today because of their icy setting. A small tunnel has been carved through the rock so that you can get a close up view of the falls. It may have been a natural tunnel and it seemed to continue on the other side of the falls. You could also see evidence of how the falls are now further up river than they used to be. The rock wall above the tunnel was very smooth compared to the rocks around it and was streaked with beige and green colours as if there were the traces of minerals that had been left by the water on its way down.

Steps started to lead up to the Upper Falls. These were icier than the path so far and after slithering up a couple I refused to go further, sensing what would happen if I did. The last few walks we have had I have managed not to fall, unusual for me as I always manage to trip or slip on something. We turned back to head for the car park and along the way the sun came out and lit up the icicles so they were even more beautiful.

Then trouble hit. We got to a slope which had been pretty icy going down; now going up it was even more icy. Stef made it to the top but I lost my footing not once but twice and then lost my temper before I made it up the slope! I have some pretty interesting bruises and bumps to show for the experience. What made it more annoying was seeing other people just strolling up as if there was little ice on the ground. They must have superglue on their shoes or in built crampon spikes.

Having walked for less than we expected we had time to kill in the afternoon and went to the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. It is really a museum founded by and dedicated to a local couple, Peter and Catharine Whyte. She was from a well to do American family and was destined to marry a Rockefeller. He was a local from Banff who thrived on the outdoor lifestyle. They met at art college and secretly got engaged. They had a low key wedding with “only” three hundred guests.

The museum houses many of their pieces of art as well as explaining about their life and lifestyle in Banff. Their painting style did not do much for either Stef or myself but they did have some superb black and white photos. Some of them are early ones taken by Peter and Catharine but they also had an exhibit of more recent photos taken by a family member who is a professional guide/photographer. In one of the galleries they were experimenting with Collaborative Landscape Art. Basically it is a big sheet of white paper, divided down into squares. Anyone who visits is free to draw in a square but what they do must fit with what is on the other squares. We added our bits, but as neither of us can really draw it will be interesting to see if they are still there when the painting is published on the museum’s website (www.whyte.org).

They seem to have been influential people in the local community with a bit of an open house policy for people to drop by. With long associations with the local Indian people they also had bits about the local Indians in the museum including a fabulous full blown feather head dress that was worn by the chief. We both left with the feeling that they had had a privileged lifestyle as Catharine’s wealth left them free to follow their desire for painting and to travel the world without worrying about money.