- Foreign environments abolish routine and wreck havoc on my body, primarily in the departments of digestion and sleep
- Korean liquor and I is a duo that just doesn't do
Makku, while delicious paired with my Birthday Cake cookie from Element, rendered the same nausea-filled response as soju and Jinro's larger format makgeolli. Later that evening, several hours after consumption of the 355 ml can, I suffered a horrible, pulsating headache to the right side of the head. It would resonate from the temple to the back side of the head, then back to the temple. Acidity was felt in the throat, with a looming sensation of vomiting. The sleepy polar bear was kind enough to place a plastic bag by the floor, should I require it.
At the late hour of 2 AM, I accidentally clogged the toilet. Concierge services, which were supposed to be available 24/7, were unresponsive. Instead of sending a member of the facilities team to remediate the situation, a plunger was merely provided for self-sufficiency. Thankfully, I am no stranger to unclogging toilets. The sleepy polar bear groggily awoke to retrieve the plunger, while I rolled up my sleeves to reinstate flushing capabilities to our unit.
While I reached for my acquisitions from Barrow, the sleepy polar bear had ventured to the lobby for an AYCE breakfast buffet. Spectacularly flavourful was the Iced Americano - notably the best cup consumed during our short-lived stay. The Oat Bran Muffin was another pleasant surprise. Retailed at just $3.50, I was surprised to find impressive height and heartiness in the baked concoction. The combination served to supply fuel for the upcoming agenda items.
"Oh no, we gotta go. We're late!" I hastily responded before dashing out the automatic sliding doors. Moreover, yumcha? the thought of greasy Chinese food had me grimacing in contemplation.
A long-haired attendant poked her head out, asking if we intended to visit Banff National Park.
"We are looking to hike to Ink Pots." I called out from the passenger seat. "Do we still need to pay to hike even if we are not visiting the park?"
She clarified that we would be entering the park grounds in order to hike the Johnston Canyon trail, and that admission would be required if we did not already have a Parks Pass.
We had planned a quick stopover at the Banff Visitor Centre for bear spray. Nearing city centre, log cabins were spotted along the perimeter. Some were occupied by locals, while others rent-able travel accommodations with snowboards leaned against its walls.
"Let it go, let it gooooooo" My eyes glimmered as I commenced the renowned OST track in a hushed voice to the sleepy polar bear, who failed to comprehend the reference altogether.
We turned to face him and his toque-topped treads. "That's when it starts, but you should have enough light until just past five. You guys have enough time."
Nodding in response, we started to navigate away from the lookout decks, where hiking enthusiasts and obvious tourists had clustered. Shortly into the trail, several observations were made: Not only were there were fewer hikers, but the fenced railing disappeared entirely. Waterside views had also vanished, and in its stead came a steep, winding path amongst lean, lofty evergreens.
I dashed past wails of fatigued lower limbs to survey the course ahead. Each turn on the path grew more exhausting than the last, for beyond meandering paths was a constant uphill climb. Unlike the first half of the hike, this route was devoid of benches and areas of respite.
My gaze met that of an older hiker as we crossed paths. The exchange of salutations drew attention to his bearded smile, the similar-looking crampons on his boots, and, most importantly, the hiking poles in his hands. In that moment, provisions for additional supports were mentally noted.
With each successive step, I could feel fatigue. The gradually permeating wobbliness in my legs reminded me that I was near depletion of my fuel reserve. Energy bars had not been acquired for the trip, and neither had safety blankets. Briefly glancing at my phone, I discovered the utter loss of reception. Upon quick evaluation of the available resources and my own waning energy levels, I made the tough decision to turn back.
Retracing my steps, I assured myself that this was the correct decision. "Exhaustion can be dangerous. What if I roll my ankle? Who will carry me back down?" I continued, "Without signal and illumination, we would be stranded without water, food, or heat."
Admittedly, I was disappointed in myself for failing to finish the entire hike. On the contrary, I was quite impressed with the sleepy polar bear, given our distinct differences in energy levels, determination, and overall hiking experience. Once aware of my own fatigue, I adopted the conservative approach of turning back; however, the sleepy polar bear had surprisingly agreed to continue with me even when the climb evidently exceeded regular energy reserve.
- Crampons are not optional: The economic boot accessories are mandatory for winter hikes on compacted snow, with a solid 70% of all hikers sporting the add-ons.
- Heed the notes and warnings on the Banff National Parks website and plan accordingly:
i) Noise levels along the trail - higher noise levels (tourist trails) equate to lower chance of bear exposure
ii) Climate conditions - winter commonly constitutes hibernation periods, though aren't entirely devoid of the carnivoran mammal.
2. Trail conditions are updated regularly, indicating the type of footwear needed for safe hiking
3. The "Easy" and "Moderate" difficulty levels are accurate.
a) The Johnston Canyon Lower Falls and Upper Falls hikes are "Easy" and tourist-friendly, despite their elevation. A fenced railing is present throughout and nicely maintained.
b) The section between Johnston Canyon Upper Falls and Ink Pots is catered more towards hiking enthusiasts; hiking poles are recommended to combat the constant uphill trek.
- Winter is a wonderful time to visit given the sturdiness of compacted snow, stellar sight of snowcapped mountains in the distance, and breathtaking views of the frozen Falls. (That said, Ink Pots may be a worthy hike to undertake in the spring and fall months from Moose Meadows given the comparatively prominent presence of lush greenery.)
- West Coasters are not kidding when they warn of steep climbs with dramatic elevation. Pre- and post-hike stretching of hamstrings and calves are recommended to prevent injury and aid in recovery.