mishaps and memories in the mountains

Jul 23, 2012

The weekend had arrived, and with it came the excitement of my first camping trip of the year!  In a typical summer, Ryan and I spend nearly every weekend in the mountains, but the chaos of life had meant that we were unable to do so until mid-July this year.  Needless to say, I was much looking forward to the long awaited getaway. 
After loading up the car on Friday afternoon, we hit the road. It was a long drive to the beautiful Kananaskis region where we'd hoped to spend our weekend.  We drove to one of our favourite campgrounds, and much to our dismay, it was completely full... along with every other campground in the vicinity. We should have known, or at least booked... but contrary to the rest of the world, Ryan and I enjoy spur of the moment trips. We hadn't decided upon our destination until we were already in the car. Now we were homeless, and hungry.  We decided to stay at the campsite to watch the theatre show that plays nightly, after which we'd head for Banff in hopes of finding a site.  The rain began at the beginning of the show, as if on cue.  Halfway through, the trees were swaying furiously, thunder was echoing through the mountains, and the show was cancelled. We were certainly not having the evening that we'd anticipated. Back in the car, we turned on the radio to discover that the highway to Banff was still completely inaccessible due to a mudslide that had occurred earlier in the day. Really?! They couldn't clean it up so that we could have a decent night's sleep? How dare they not consider the fact that I was ragingly hungry and that no campsite meant no campfire to cook my dinner?!  I tried my best to make light of the situation for the sake of my husband who is forced to endure grumpy Krysta far more often than he deserves. I failed.  I was completely bummed out.  What would we do?!  Fortunately, I'm married to an awesome guy who rolls with the punches and found us a wonderful day use area complete with fire pits. It was 9 pm as we (he) built a fire and we roasted our hot dogs. 

Finally.... food! Glorious food!! Though gorgeous, it was rather eerie being in an open yet secluded area at a prime time for spotting bears. I found myself glancing over my shoulder the entire time, eager to finish eating and retreat to the safety of the vehicle. I think that even Ryan was a bit nervous.  We packed it in and headed to the overflow camping area... thank goodness for its existence! We had access to outhouses and a spot to park and pitch a tent. Let me tell you, pitching a tent at 11 pm didn't sound like the greatest idea in the world, so we opted instead to sleep in the car. I can't sleep in cars, and I've never been able to. Given my options, I settled in for what would be a long night.  
It was about 6:30 am when Ryan awoke from his slumber. I'd been awake numerous times throughout the night, trying to readjust to a more comfortable position in our jam-packed car.  He put his glasses on, sat his seat upright, and we were on the road.  We crossed our fingers as we turned on the radio, and much to our relief, we were now good to go to Banff. I'd never been happier when we arrived at a campsite to discover that they had a site for us.  A place to sleep and eat and be the happiest campers in the world!  
It was still early in the morning, so we took advantage of our fire pit and made ourselves breakfast... bacon, eggs, sausage and coffee! Once the mess was cleaned up, we headed out for a day of adventures. Despite extreme fatigue from the sleepless night before, we felt up to the challenge of a hike that was rated as fairly easy.  5 minutes into the steep ascent, we were reminded of how truly out of shape we were. We huffed and puffed and whined the entire way up, as we always do.... we really do enjoy hiking, believe it or not.

 Eventually we made it to the top of the Castle Mountain lookout, and the view was really worth the struggle. 

We felt a short-lived sense of accomplishment before we remembered that we still had to get down. It was a long hike down as we fought swarms of mosquitos and sore muscles, but we made it, and we were proud... tired... but proud!  

We rewarded ourselves by returning to our campsite to cook up a feast.  There is nothing quite like campfire food, even if I was sticking to primarily paleo and healthy choices.

 I made an exception for smores. I'd waited all spring and summer for my favourite ever camping treat. Ryan and I indulged.  It was worth the wait. As the sun began setting and the air cooled off, I sat by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and my feet cozy in Ugg boots. Pure mountain bliss.   After a nearly perfect day, we went to start the car as we'd left the cooler plugged in and didn't want to kill the battery. Apparently, we'd waited too long. The car tried, but to no avail.  This put a bit of a damper on our evening, as we'd left the windows open and needed a boost to roll them up. After a lengthy wait, the campground staff finally came around and brought our poor car back to life.  Hoping to charge up the battery, we decided to go for a quick drive through Banff.  People were wandering the town, dressed up and ready for a big night out. I was in my pyjamas, and far beyond ready to go to sleep.  We returned to our site, and I crawled into the tent. I was looking forward to a good night's sleep following the horribly uncomfortable evening prior.  

We woke up feeling refreshed in the morning. We made breakfast and packed up the site before hitting the road.  Feeling ambitious, we decided to face the challenge that was Tunnel Mountain. It was a far easier hike than the day before, but still rather exhausting... especially with such sore calves... and bums.  Castle Mountain had really defeated our poor bodies. We got to the top rather quickly, took photos and admired the gorgeous views of Banff and the valleys.  What a wonderful world we live in, and such incredible places so close to home. I'll never, ever get tired of the spectacular landscapes. For the first time in our hiking lives, we left the cameras at the bottom. It was a tough decision to pass up the amazing views, but leaving the cameras and lenses meant carrying much less weight. Our own body weight had been hard enough. We headed back down the mountain and continued walking into the town of Banff, where we stopped at Cow's Ice Cream.  I probably hadn't quite earned the treat, but I convinced myself that I did. It was delicious, right until the last chocolately bite.  I savoured it, knowing that the next day I'd be back to my healthy eating self.  It was time to bid farewell to the mountains and make the trek home. On the way, we stopped to pick up a few camping essentials in hopes of returning soon. 
Despite the initial hiccups and mishaps, the weekend had been a great one overall! If only reality didn't get in the way, we would have stayed much longer!  


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