Pam and Sean/Muck's Banff wedding

The schedule had been for breakfast at 9:00. Cathy and Craig weren’t terribly happy about that (it is early, after all, especially after being out drinking most of the night), but were up and running before Alex and I. We barely pulled ourselves out of bed in time. Jen, of course, slept right through breakfast.

Melissa’s is a Banff (Bamf!) landmark, and right across the street from the Banff Park Lodge. It’s a small restaurant, but had been in Banff (Bamf!) for ages. The owners, as a result, also own some of the other local properties. Melissa’s also hosts an annual road race.

Packed full of food, we returned to the hotel to figure out our day’s activities. Last night, Mike and Craig declared that they were going to hike Sulphur Mountain. Having already done that this year, Alex and I were content to do differently. Based on a suggestion, we headed off in search of Johnston Canyon.

Johnston Canyon is a little, out of the way hike about 20 minutes west of Banff, along Highway 1A (note, it’s NOT off the Trans Canada). I love driving down Highway 1A, as it’s not only a nice trip, but the road is all twisty and windy. In a small car, say a Mini, it’s a lot of fun.

When you’re driving around in most national parks, you’ll periodically see cars parked at the side of the road, for no apparent reason. Take the opportunity to slow down and look around. Chances are, there’s a good wildlife opportunity. In our case, it was a bull elk, grazing not 10 metres away from the highway. Although he didn’t cooperate (staying behind bushes), I did manage to snap a couple of interesting pictures before we headed on.

Elk, Banff National Park, Alberta, 16 October 2004

The parking lot at the foot of the Johnston Canyon hiking trail was nearly empty. Despite being almost 11:00, it seemed few were out for the morning hike. Being a bit chilly (the temperature was reading about 4 degree Celsius in the car), we made sure we were adequately bundled up before heading off.

The Canyon trail is quite interesting. Unlike most of the trails that I’ve been on, especially within Banff National Park, this one was paved. It wasn’t smooth pavement, to be sure (so don’t think that a regular wheelchair would make the journey easily … though you could probably take one quite some distance before you hit the stairs), but it was easier than compacted gravel.

Once you get into the canyon, the pavement stops and starts. In places where there is no pavement, there are extensive steel and concrete catwalks that run along the canyon walls. Never in my life would have I expected to see such a thing. There is one thing about building walkways and bridges over creeks and rivers, but to build a catwalk system into the depths of the canyon, sinking pylons into the canyons walls and floor, just so people could go look was just incredulous. It seems, to me at least, to be completely AGAINST the policies of Parks Canada, which I had always viewed as “minimal impact”.

In fact, there was even a work crew there adding a new catwalk section.

Rants about the impact on the environment aside, the Canyon is gorgeous. Despite clouds pretty much having obscured the sky, and some of the higher hills around the canyon, the inside seemed immune to the lack of sunshine. After a couple of turns in the canyon, it was clear why Parks Canada was installing the catwalk — there is no better way to see such beauty. The water there is clear; it looks almost like thick, turbulent air. If there is no glare from the sky, you can see every feature to the bottom, and sometimes it’s hard to tell that water’s even there.

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, 16 October 2004

Johnston Canyon is home to several waterfalls of various heights. There are two of particular note: the Lower and Upper falls. The Lower Falls features a large, deep bowl carved out of the rocky walls. Erosion over the eons has also carved out a small tunnel on the east side of Johnston Creek, though which you can see the falls much more closely. The Upper Falls, which marked the turning point for us on our hike, is the highest in the Canyon. There are higher ones in the Banff/Yoho/Jasper park system (Takakkaw Falls, but these you can get really close to, thanks to a catwalk that extends right out over the creek, facing the falls.

As we began our trek back to the car, it began to snow. It’s October in the mountains, which means winter. Last year, Calgary got its first snowfall on 29 October. I don’t know if it’s snowing there now, but it’s certainly snowing here in Banff (Bamf!). The snow wasn’t the soft, fluffy stuff, either. It was those hard little pellets that bounce off your face. They sting a bit.

There was barely anything on the ground by the time we got to the car, but on the drive back it was clear that the snow would be staying around a while. So was that elk we saw earlier, except now he was just lying down at the side of the road, about 8 metres from where he’d been eating, out in clear view. He was staring at something — presumably his harem — but we couldn’t figure out what it was.

Arriving back in Banff (Bamf!), we went out in search of three things: food, fudge, and a navel ring (for Alex, not me). Food was at Bruno’s, because you simply can’t get better sweet potato fries anywhere else. We split a hamburger. As for fudge, we were thwarted at Rocky Mountain, which had mysteriously closed. We had to default to the Fudgery, which we think we’re going to stop patroning. Their slices are too large, and often quite dry. The ring was from the rock and gem store.

Showered, shaved, dressed, we left for the wedding ceremony at about 15:45. There were two possible locations for the wedding, one at the gazebo next to the Bow River, and inside the Whyte Museum in the event of inclement weather. Given that it was snowing fairly hard, and below the magic temperature threshold of 14 degrees, we were to be inside.

Incidentally, there was no irony lost that it should snow on Pam’s wedding day. Pam, who like her father (Uncle David), does not like the cold. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. To say simple say that would be to imply that Florida had only a few minor rain showers this year. Pam throws on fleece sweaters in the middle of summer when the sun goes down.

The ceremony was in a small room at the back of the museum, about 30 feet by 30 feet, part of which was taken up with a stairwell. Most of the guests were crammed into the room, waiting to see what would happen. A small podium on the west side, next to the window, would be the focus of attention. We gathered ourselves around it.

Before long, a man in his 40s spoke up. I thought it was the justice of the peace. It turned out to be Rod, Sean’s brother. It was then explained that Rod and Darren (Pam’s brother) were sharing the duties of officiating the wedding. (The story goes that they managed to squeak in through changes in Alberta’s officiating process. They had the ability to marry only Pam and Sean, and only today. Talk about specificity.)

Rod was an eloquent speaker, and had little difficulty with his part of the ceremony. Darren, not being quite the public speaker, had a bit of a waver in the voice, and stumbled at a couple of parts. For the record, so did Sean and Pam as they recited their vows. The vows, incidentally, contained the typical requirements: love, devotion, commitment through thick ‘n thin, and so forth. They also contained a couple of unique items: Sean had to keep Pam warm, and Pam had to make sure to find healthy chocolate milk for Sean.

With the ceremony over, the photographs began immediately. The photographer, who had been running around during the ceremony, now took control. First in order was a group photograph of the 90-odd people in attendance. It took a bit of organization, trying to fit everyone into the photo so that all could be seen. It wasn’t an easy shot, especially considering the small size of the room, but she managed to get all the guests into the shot. With that, the next round of photos with friends started. The family, which included Alex and I, retreated to a room downstairs to sip champagne and eat chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for our turn.

Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, 16 October 2004

The family photos were done in two rounds: Tisdales and Wades. The photographer had us all line up very specifically, and posed us all for the scene. It was quite interesting, and I dared not move, lest ruin the picture. It didn’t take long, and the photos were over for us. The Wade clan came next, and the pictures were over.

Calling upon Darren and Ginny for a moment, Alex and I had our picture taken on one of the several rooms of the museum, against a backdrop reminiscent of the cliffs you see along the Trans Canada highway, just east of the east entrance to the Banff (Bamf!) townsite.

With that, we headed back to the hotel in the still-falling snow. After a quick stop at the hotel room (Alex wanted to change, and I wanted to ditch some of things I was carrying), we headed up to the Glacier Salon, site of the reception party. Although officially to start at 17:30, we were a little early. That ended up being a bit fortuitous, since Mike needed an experiment couple to practice on for the photos. Mike was taking pictures of every person who came to the reception.

The photos were at the fireplace that dominated half of the north wall. (The other half was a frosted glass wall, cut and etched to represent the surrounding mountains. It barely went up a quarter of the height of the massive vaulted ceiling.) Windows ran down the length of the east wall, to a dance area at the southern end. The bar also ran along the south wall, but jutting well into the room (separating the dance floor from everything else). The west wall was windowed (with blinds) and had the doors to the rest of the hotel.

Nana and her kids, Banff Park Lodge, Alberta, 16 October 2004

Ten tables filled the room, one head table and nine guest tables. Each had eight seats. Cathy, Craig, Alex, and I were relegated to table #9 — the last one. It was probably the single safest move to make.

Guests were arriving, mingling, drinking, eating hors d’ouevres, and generally being merry. Not long after, Sean and Pam arrived, having had their photos taken at the Gazebo. I can only imagine how cold Pam must’ve been. With that, we were directed to our tables for the meal to begin.

Cathy, Mom, and Me, Banff Park Lodge, Alberta, 16 October 2004

The rules came out almost immediately. Like with most of the other weddings I’d been to in recent years, clinking of glasses was poo-poo’d. Instead, each table was given an envelope. In the envelope was a question about Pam or Sean, that had to be answered by the table. The table then had to present the answers (up to five options) to either Pam or Sean (whomever the question wasn’t about) to guess correctly. If they were stumped, they had to kiss. Otherwise, the table had to kiss. There were two wildcards.

As consolation for being the last table, we got the wildcard for Pam. Cathy and I immediately dived into a wealth of childhood trivia that we could use to stump Sean. The problem was that we had too much stuff, most of which was vague even for us. Everyone else at the table (who knew Pam, anyway) plugged away at the question, desperate to not have to kiss amongst ourselves. We finally came across one…

The story went like this: Many years ago, Pam had gone travelling in Europe. She had misjudged her budgetary needs, and ended up having to call home for help. What country was she in when this happened? The answers we gave were England, Germany, France, Italy, and the kicker: It never happened. Now I had to check with Darren because I wanted to make sure that we had the right country. Problem? Well, it was option #5 — it never happened. Leave it to my family to embellish. This is why we put on the fifth option. As it turns out, this stumped Sean, too. We were quite happy to have found a good one.

Dinner was wonderful — filet mignon or chicken, depending on which you wanted. (I have to say that the chicken was really tasty, although I had gone for the beef.) A cream of asparagus soup started us off, followed by a salad that I can’t quite describe. Dessert was a deadly-rich slice of chocolate cake…

…along with some entertainment. Sean wasn’t about to make it through this reception alive, not if his family had anything to say about it. Which, of coure, they did. So they launched into a skit, putting Sean on a mock trial, where his family (led by his father as judge) set about to embarrass Sean, and flog him senseless with pool toys. A little jerky at times, it had the desired effect, and proved that in fact, the Tisdales weren’t the weirdest family in attendance.

Pam and Sean’s friends then conducted the Albertan equivalent to the Newfie induction ceremony. (To become an honourary Newfoundlander, you have to drink a shot of screech and kiss a cod.) To be an Albertan, it seems, you have to down a bloody caesar (celery was apparently optional), wear a red clown nose and proclaim that “I vote PC”, whack a rubber rat with a baseball bat while chanting “rat-free province”, and kiss a pack of raw beef (covered in cellophane, of course). I wouldn’t have gotten past the caesar (I hate tomato juice).

Dancing began shortly thereafter. Alex had asked if I would dance with her this time (having completely stood her up at Jon and Pearl’s wedding), and was determined to do so. Sadly, the one song that I thought would be good — “What a Wonderful World”, by Louis Armstrong. Sadly, Alex wasn’t in the room at the time. So I requested something more appropriate (so I thought): “Lost Together” by Blue Rodeo.

Due to song planning, “Lost Together” came up at a non-dancing time (namely, the cake-cutting). It also didn’t help that Alex wouldn’t have danced to it, anyway. That left me feeling quite hollow, having finally worked up the gumption to do something about it. I hate, loathe, and despite dancing, and have done so since I was a kid. I have no idea why. So needless to say, it takes quite a lot of effort to ask someone to dance.

Alex and I, Banff Park Lodge, Alberta, 16 October 2004

We ended up leaving early, before almost everyone else in my family, at 23:45. (The party went on until almost 3:00.) I felt bad for leaving early. This is my family. Leaving so soon just seemed … wrong. But I wasn’t feeling particularly great — the whole dancing issue had hit me harder than I thought (the only song we’d danced to was “Home for a Rest”, and it far from compensated). Going to bed, I honestly wondered what others would think. I worried what they’d say. Something didn’t seem right. But I didn’t want to mention it — just in case I was imagining things.