Still waiting for fall

It’s mid-September here in Alberta, which means one of two things: it’s either fall, or we’ve had an epic snowstorm. And since we haven’t had the latter, it must mean the former. Or rather, it should…

But it’s not really “fall”. As you might know from previous blog entries about fall, I grew up in southern Ontario, where fall was full of brightly-coloured deciduous trees in all kinds of reds, oranges, and yellows. Out here, we don’t have broad-leafed trees like maples, most of ours are ones like aspen, which doesn’t do much beyond yellow. Well, and the copious amounts of evergreen, which doesn’t get more aptly named. When colour does finally start to appear, Calgarians tend to flee into the mountains for their fill of something other than green.

Which was the plan today: go see what Banff had to offer. And yes, I mean Banff National Park, particularly around the townsite. That’s partly for convenience and also because it’s now out of the tourist season, so there’s actual parking in town. And it seemed like a good excuse to get Mom out there, while I was at it.

I picked her up from The Edward just before 10am. Almost immediately it was clear that Mom’s complaints about not being able to see the mountains from her rooftop weren’t just that the smokey haze has been an issue most of the summer, she literally had not been to the mountains since she arrived here in March. Bad Son, bad!

Fortunately, it was shaping up to be a wonderful late summer day: partly cloudy, 20C on the way in, without a lot of wind. Considering it was a bone-chilling 5C Friday morning (as I discovered on my way to work; it was probably even a bit colder, my hands were ice by the time I biked to the office), I was in shorts and a t-shirt (with a zip-up hoodie tucked away; you do not go into the mountains unprepared) and fairly happy with how things were panning out.

I hadn’t seen Mom in a couple of weeks, largely due to weekend activities of late, and a fence being built. Nor has Mom taken up the habit of randomly dropping by. Alex was working and the kids both had schoolwork to manage, so it was just Mom and I. And, surprisingly, not many others on the road, despite the autumn possibilities. Well, at least until we got to the Banff Park gates, which had a lineup far longer than I’ve seen in many, many years.

We turned up the Minnewanka loop, taking it counter-clockwise. We were on the lookout for any wild animals, and anything that wasn’t green. Because, surprisingly, fall hadn’t arrived in Banff.

Banff usually gets the colours before Calgary. It’s typically colder there, which means spring and summer come late, and autumn comes early. If we see leaves starting to turn in Calgary, it’s a reason to hit the mountains to see things a couple of weeks further along. This is the first time that I’ve seen the reverse – Calgary has more colour than Banff.

There were a few places with bright yellow, the odd orange (and even red) bush. But, not much. Still, Mom was very happy to see the mountains again, and it was really nice to be an informal tour guide, pointing out things that are old hat for me. We stopped briefly at Two Jack Lake to watch kayakers ply the waters and a kite floating in the sky, again just east of the Minnewanka Dam to look north across the lake, then up to Upper Bankhead for a bit of a “what was here 100 years ago”.

I briefly toyed with taking Mom up Norquay to the Banff overlook, but the skies weren’t quite clear enough, so we ventured over to Vermillion Lakes for a peek. Unsurprisingly, it was busy, with lots of bicyclists (and even a skateboarder). There was some limited colour there, but not like I saw last year.

Despite what looked like a long line of people to get into downtown Banff (cars were held up by people wanting pictures at the Banff sign), we found a street parking spot about 20 paces from Banff Avenue. Sticking to what has increasingly become a pattern, we went to Park for lunch, largely as the patios are still out on the street and that meant no stairs for Mom to manage.

It was only slightly brisk, just enough that I briefly considered going back for my hoodie. Instead, we had a lovely lunch, letting Mom people-watch. Following lunch, we did a loop around downtown Banff, then up Tunnel Mountain to pass by the Douglas Fir resort we’d all stayed at for Jen and Rob’s wedding a few years ago. And then we were back on the highway, heading back to Calgary.

But before that, Mom’s desire to get a better view of the Three Sisters sent me on a detour into Canmore, to a no-so-secret location that puts you over the Bow, looking towards the Three Sisters. Then we wound through Canmore, past the new Malcolm hotel, through an entire development that I didn’t even know existed (and was a trailer park until not too long ago).

At the last second, we took the 1A out of Canmore, instead of jumping on the Trans Canada, and took a detour on the north side of the Bow until we got to the Seebe/1X turn off. Although the 1A is a viable alternative to Highway 1, there are some areas I dislike, and I wanted to give Mom a smoother ride back. She was home at 4, barely six hours since leaving.

Today was not a day of accomplishment, though it was not meant to be so, either. While I had hoped for some fall pictures, spending the day with Mom was far more valuable to me than any picture I could have taken.