Castle Mountain

Today I drove out to Castle mountain. I may not be incorrect in saying it is the most photographed mountain in Banff. It's imposing nature makes one feel small--almost like looking at the stars.

I went tromping through the snow to get a photo of the mountain juxtaposed against the wildlife fence. Unfortunately, I left my snowshoes in the van and sank knee deep trying to get to the perfect spot. A little later and a little wiser, I tromped to another location--with my snowshoes. I forgot how exhausting it is. With the temp at -12C, I was breaking into a sweat. As I was taking pictures of an overpass with Castle Mt in the background, standing at a junction of the highway which is cleared of trees for hundreds of meters, pavement laid down, signs put up, snow piled up from clearing, and fencing strung out for miles to keep wildlife at bay, I realized that at that point in time, I was a part of this. The road brought me there. The fencing helped me not to hit wildlife. Signs helped me know what/what not to do, and piled up snow meant I didn't have to drive in deep snow to get there.

Still, I couldn't figure out whether it was good or bad that I was there...

2021

Another year has passed and Banff has suffered an economic setback from Covid-19. Hotels are struggling and some businesses are on the verge of closing for good. Is this a bad thing? On the one hand, many are out of work, others are struggling financially, and the economic landscape is changing. But if you were to ask the landscape what it thought, it might breathe a little sigh of relief. For at least one year man hasn't kept up his unrelenting advance in occupying Banff. Of course, this will be all but over in a few months, and I imagine the spring back in visitors will be strong, from people desperate to get away from their confinement. Then it will be back to the status quo.

The push and pull between man and nature will continue, and the advocates on both sides will keep fighting. There is no clear answer. I'm human too, and while enjoying Banff, I make an impact on it just by being there and insisting that roads be kept up, businesses stay opened, and garbage bins be emptied. I do not agree with the nature advocate who insists on restricting man's access in Banff while selfishly continuing to enjoy it. Nor do I agree with the tourism industry and parks who would like to see the number of visitors increase year after year. But perhaps infrastructure can be reduced to give the visitor more of a natural experience, and maybe Parks can reduce the amount of international marketing which brings visitors from around the world, even while allowing unfettered access to all areas in Banff.

Sulfur Mountain

A nice day starts with a hike up Sulfur Mountain--an intermediate 5 km hike up switchbacks, which ends up at a visitors center. Warming up with hot chocolate before descending on the gondola, which used to be free in the off season, could be followed by a dip in the hot springs at the base of the climb. It wouldn't be nearly as nice without the convenience of the heated visitors center and the gondola ride down. It's hard to imagine doing without these things. Would I climb Sulfur mountain if it was just a bare mountain top? Probably not as much.

But the gondola and visitors center have an impact. Trees need to be trimmed, power lines maintained, boardwalks de-iced, and supplies brought up while waste brought down. This is what Banff has become.

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Bridges

Whenever I see a bridge I think about the effort that went into making it. A bridge that supports vehicles takes a long time to build, and it probably takes a long time to engineer and plan for. Even small bridges cost millions of dollars to make, which indicates that they take a lot of human effort and that we value them a lot.

I like wandering under a bridge to get a sense of what I'm using when I'm on a bridge. There's actually a lot of aspects to a bridge--much more than the flat surface we use when crossing over one. I appreciate the effort man has given to bridges. I use them most days. But I also realize bridges are here because we are here.

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The Industrial Area

It was a while after moving here that I drove through the industrial area. It's something most people don't think about when heading to Banff. But it takes a lot to keep things running, and having it all in one place isn't a bad idea. It's kind of funny thinking about something like an "industrial area" inside a national park though. It would seem to me that "industry" and "national park" aren't compatible, but in order to manage the millions of visitors every year, you can't have one without the other.

As I was walking through and taking photos, I began to appreciate the effort that goes into keeping Banff running. Without roads, it would be difficult to travel through the park. Without electricity, the town would not exist. And buses make moving large amounts of people more efficient. I could personally do without dog grooming services, but there are many that would find this service essential. But being in the middle of all of this industry, surrounded by mountains, I wonder what really is essential, and what we could do without. I realized that there is no one qualified to come up with that answer.

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