On our final day in Banff we hiked up the Larch Valley to see the famous Larch Pines that turn brilliant yellow in autumn. At the start of the trail Stephen and I encountered an older gentlemen in full hiking gear and we struck up a conversation. Gary is a 76-year-old retired car salesman and a local. He loves to hike and was delighted to be back on this trail after a two-year hiatus while caring for his late wife. He gave us some history of the area and then we parted ways as his pace was slower and he did not want to hold us up. An hour later we reached the valley floor and marveled at the pines that were just barely showing a tinge of yellow. Stephen and I both commented that the yellow glow in fall would be amazing. (Maybe a return trip is necessary.)
Just as we were ready to make our descent, we spied Gary coming around the bend and he encouraged us to hike another mile to the base of Sentinel Pass. He promised the scenery would be worth the effort so for a second time we said goodbye and carried on.
Gary was right, the scenery was wonderful as we passed by glacier fed lakes and then climbed above tree line. In the mountain before us we could see a Z pattern and it slowly dawned on us that this was the trail to the top of Sentinel Pass.
It was a LONG way to the top and if we squinted we could see tiny humans at the peak. Stephen and I looked at each other and said “WE ARE NOT CLIMBING TO THE TOP…NO WAY!” Once again Gary showed up and encouraged us to traverse to the top. Fortunately we had a good excuse. “Um, we didn’t plan for a long hike and both our water bottles are empty.” I was relieved that we could gracefully back out of this difficult hike. Gary then opened his backpack and declared “I brought an extra water bottle and it would be helpful if you could relieve me of the additional weight.” He promised that the view was superb and the climb only appeared difficult. With our water bottles refilled, we said goodbye to Gary for a third time and promised to see him at the top. It took both physical energy and mental fortitude to keep us on the trail….we put one foot in front of the other and slowly climbed toward the peak. As we made our final steps the 360-degree view was stunning. It was a relief to sit at the top and simply rest.
Gary commented earlier in the day that this may be his last time climbing this mountain so I was happy to see him arrive just a few minutes after us. I had my camera ready and was able to document his arrival. For all of us it was a memorable day. Our short three-mile hike turned into eight miles but we’d never trade the experience or the opportunity to meet Gary and learn of his hiking expertise and persuasion skills.
Our trip to Jasper was rainy and shrouded in smoke from the western fires. We didn’t have much time to hike but the wildlife viewing was abundant. I spotted two bears from the safety of our car. No bear spray needed!
We are arrived at our house-sit in Alberta earlier this week and the Vistabule is stored in the garage for a few weeks. More about this experience next time.