Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On The Skeeter Trail in Banff

On the Skeeter Trail
When you go hiking in the national parks of British Columbia and Alberta, bears are hardly the most ferocious beasts you'll encounter--it's the skeeters. Bears graze on berries and tender flowers while you snap a million pictures of them; mosquitoes graze on YOU, leaving only shiny bones and puddles of blood. If you're traveling in a motorhome, as we were, you'll be comforted by the number of mosquito splats on the front of your vehicle--but you'll still be scratching up a storm. Forget the bear spray (40 dollars a can!); spend your money on OFF.

One miserable--but beautiful--trail we took curled along a lake near Banff, BC. There were the usual signs warning hikers not to walk in groups of fewer than four people. If caught alone on a trail where bears are present, you could be fined as much as 25,000 Canadian dollars--or killed (it all depends on who catches you). By the time we happened upon this sign, we were all swatting ourselves with branches to keep the mosquitoes off. I--always a bit smarter than Bert the Austrian Ostrich Trainer--was clothed from neck to ankles; Bert, who was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, was a feast for the skeeters. In the end, his poor legs looked like a little red--itchy--map of the Rocky Mountains. I came away from The Skeeter Trail with three bites on my hands and two on my adorable face. We saw no bears (that adorable little guy up there in the picture was nibbling on flowers somewhere near Whistler).

Gluten-free has its price.
The Fairmont Banff Springs
Banff is a beautiful, spiffy little town. Its two or three streets are wonderfully overrun with tourists. Just a tick outside the town center is The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, famous for being itself. You can read very mixed reviews on hotel rating sites. Some people love it; some hate it. I loved it, but then I just took pictures of it and went back to my motorhome to sleep and eat. You can find gluten-free food in Banff if you're willing to spend half your travel budget on dinner. If you're not traveling with your own kitchen, be prepared for high prices. I was shocked.

The last day we were in Banff, we visited a market where I found several local gluten-free treats. I was surprised to find one very good product from Glowfood. My traveling companions were so envious of my Peaches and Cream Pie until I told them it was raw and gluten-free. "Oh," they sniffed and left me in peace with my treat. It was delicious--not cheap, but incredibly good. It did not taste like baby food, although I think I might have said this to keep the wolves--my traveling companions--off my food. I also tried some gluten-free Glow Food crackers. Mercifully, I gave Bert the Austrian Ostrich Trainer one. "Earthy," he said. "Lots of seeds and stuff," I countered. "Can I have another?" "No." "Why not?" "They're gluten-free." "Can I still have one?" "No." If you like natural food made with love, check out Glow Food. Good stuff.

If you're in Banff, be sure to hike up Sulphur Mountain (5.5 km to top of gondola, plus 0.5 km to Sanson Peak; 655 m elevation gain; 2 hours to the top). Of course I would never want to brag, but I made it in just under an hour. The observation area at the top is well maintained for tourists. If you're not a hiker, you can enjoy the views at the top by taking the gondola.

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing impressions of British Columbia, Alberta and several northwestern states in the US. Join me, buster.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to D is for the Dolomites.

I must be off,
Christopher 

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.