That morning, we woke up to the sounds of MJ and Bill fishing for Trout in what is a tiny blue blob without a name on google maps.
MJ and Bill were a couple who had picked us up the evening before. They found us on the roadside, exhausted from the 6 hour hike we’d just completed and asked us if we wanted to come eat some fish and sleep somewhere that we wouldn’t get kicked out. Tired, hungry and always in search of adventure, of course we said yes. After what must have been an hour of bushwhacking, we arrived at the spot the guy who worked at the fishing shop had told them about. We hadn’t ended up catching any fish that night, but the wine and cheese MJ and Bill shared with us more than made up for that.
The only thing that we had to get done on August the 2nd was meeting up with Adrian’s friend Adam. We knew that Adam was somewhere in Banff and we knew his phone number, but nothing else. We did not know where within the 6,641square kilometres of park he resided and we did not know where we were going to find a phone to call him with. Logic said that maybe we should get a move on trying to accomplish the difficult task of locating Adam, but nobody was ready to give up on the fish.
We spent the morning making probably the best batch of camp coffee ever and picking up trash while we waited for the fish to bite. Before long, Bill caught one, and while MJ was busy gutting and cooking that one, Adrian picked up one of the rods and pulled a fish out as well. He cleaned and gutted it himself… a traumatizing experience to say the least, but then we wrapped it in foil with garlic and orange juice. It came out delicious.
After that, we were satisfied, so we put our backpacks back on and headed for the road, taking a different route and discovering a 5 minute trail that was just a little bit easier than the hour bushwhack from the day before. We felt like idiots, but awesome idiots.
We ended up back at Horseshoe Lake, where Adrian and MJ (the braver halves of both couples) did some cliff jumping and then we parted ways. While we were there, we borrowed a few phones, only to discover that Adam’s phone was either out of service or out of battery.
By the time we hit the road, it was about 1pm, but we weren’t worried. For some reason we thought that the town of Banff was only about an hour’s drive. According to google maps, it’s actually just over 3 hours. We got rides from this super cool geologist girl, two sets of travelling couples, and the guy who used to be the resident DJ for the only club in Jasper.
At one point, we got dropped off right next to a big patch of wild raspberries. At another point we stopped at the Columbia Ice Fields Discovery Center, where we were not enticed by the excellent posters into paying a lot of money for essentially a bus ride through what must have once been incredible nature stuff. But while we were there, Adrian was sneaky enough to find us some wifi, with which we discovered that Adam’s phone was very much dead. He was probably going to be in the town of Banff that night, so we made vague plans to meet him there.
We made it to Banff shortly before sunset and discovered that it was a full-on tourist mecca, suspiciously reminiscent of Whistler. We cooked spaghetti on a bench and felt a lot more out of place than we’d expected to. Feeling a little glum, we parked ourselves outside a starbucks to wait for the pub crawl that Adam was going on to begin. And that’s where we met Forest.
Forest first approached us, asking about our tails. (You guys all know about the tails, right?) We explained to him that we’d made them and out from nowhere, he pulled an enormous digeridoo made from the stem of a yucca plant. He got us to sit cross legged on the side walk and played inches from the tops of our heads. It was incredible. We could feel the vibrations throughout our bodies. We went from thorough bored to awestruck without even leaving the square of sidewalk.
Suddenly, we were sharing the bar of fancy chocolate we’d found on a street in Jasper the day before and our life stories with this strange man. Our conversation was fractured, though, by the breaks Forest took to play his digeridoo for passing children and other curious onlookers. Many people were skeptical, but I nodded at them over Forest’s shoulder. We watched, amazed, as people handed him 5’s and 10’s and 20’s without him even asking.
As the sun went down, the crowd slowly changed. The turning point was probably when Forest played for two young boys in a doorway with particularly good acoustics and they offered us all shots of Sailor Jerry’s in return. The time we’d arranged to meet Adam had come and gone, but there was no way we could have left. We were having so much fun.
Off we went, following Forest down the street. I held his coffee while he played for more drunk people. The children and families were long gone. We went into a liquor store looking for more Sailor Jerry’s, but settled for a mickey of Fireball when they didn’t have small bottles of the first choice. Forest had this great trick of pretending to be a huge fan of whatever sports team someone was wearing the paraphernalia of, and he swore that it was going to get us a discount on the liquor. It worked… sort of. The guy knocked 15 cents off the price after we stood in his tiny shop making jokes for a solid 5 minutes. Forest paid for the whole thing with only the tips we’d seen him collect.
We made our way into the bar district, sharing the Fireball and telling all the people who asked us where to find cocaine not to do drugs. We figured that if we were going to see Adam, it would just happen. And then it did! We were kneeling down to pet a dog who was lying with some backpackers around a streetlight when we heard from above us, “Adrian?”
Adam had literally just been saying that we were probably somewhere on the street when he’d looked down and seen us. We introduced him to Forest and hung out in a stairwell while Forest continued his antics.
Adrian had sent Adam a message months ago saying that we might come visit him at some point on our travels, but as per usual, we hadn’t confirmed that until last minute. The amazing part about this meetup was that Adam had told his coworkers that he had to meet us in Banff as an excuse to get out of town just hours before we had contacted him and made the lie a reality.
After we parted ways with Adam, we met back up with Forest. The atmosphere of the street had changed dramatically. It was a lot more violent and chaotic. Everything was loud.
I met a girl named Cassie with bright pink hair who, out of nowhere, invited us to stay on the floor of her hotel room at the Banff Centre. She gave us her phone number and with the peace of mind that comes from a safe place to sleep, we felt free to party until we couldn’t any more.
Following Forest some more, we ended up in one the busiest McDonalds I’ve ever been to. Forest bought us all ice cream and made the lady working there get me a new one after he declared the swirl ‘too crooked’. She dumped it back in the machine, but I’d already taken a lick off the top. (Just fyi, in case you often eat ice cream at McDonalds… they do that.) There were people everywhere and suddenly, I was being handed chicken wings and fries and shots in every direction. I felt crazy and I was loving it. Adrian had run into another person he knew and was hanging out with him while I ran around asking random people why they came to Banff.
At about 3am, we said goodbye to Forest, deciding it was time to try and find the girl’s hotel. We texted her off someone’s phone and set off into the night, looking for the place based on the directions “turn left at the cemetery”, which unsurprisingly turned out to be less than helpful.
We were climbing over fences near the river when I spotted a guy who Forest had shouted something weird at earlier and asked him for directions. He thought for a minute, then said he’d just take us there since it was too complicated. We thanked him profusely, but somehow he seemed totally cool with guiding two drunk strangers up a hill in the middle of the night. He wasn’t even going our way and had been working for 12 hours. Amazing dude.
We hurried up the trail to the Banff Centre and ran around lost for a while until we found Cassie, our drunk person guardian angel sitting outside one of the buildings. We were all so tired that we didn’t talk much, but she took us in and gave us a really awesome pillow. We closed our eyes and that concluded what will from here on out be known as August 2nd.
A backpacker’s days are often full of chaos and wonder, but none so far have been as wild as that one. So I thought it deserved a blog post. That’s all. Thanks, as always, to everyone who made that day possible: MJ, Bill, the people who’s phones we borrowed, the geologist girl, the couple from Holland, the couple from Alberta, the ex-DJ, Forest, Adam, his lovely girlfriend, Cassie, and everyone random on the street.