Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bow Valley - Castle Mountain by bike

"Acch," says John as we all stare at his knees, "Ah dough'n laak taahts." 

John is from Manchester, England and he arrived at the Castle Mountain hostel (halfway between Lake Louise and Banff) about the same time Michelle and I did.

While Michelle and I spent the day slowly peddling a crispy fall's 30km along the Bow Valley Parkway's curvy and scenic roadway, John cycled about 120 kilometres from Radium Hot Springs on just a breakfast and chocolate-chip cookies. He's on a silver Marin bike with just a couple of red Ortliebs on the back. He doesn't like tights ("taahts"), but he does have a bottle of white wine which he is glad to share it with Michellle, myself, and Tony the hostel manager.

Tony--an avid cyclist who'd run the hostel for the past eight years--is in a generous mood. a group of 28 Christian men have taken tover the hostel for the past couple of days for fun, fellowsip, and junk food. They left behind a couple of meat-covered Domino's pizzas, Costco-sized muffins, and cake--but no booze.

Tony offers all hostel visitors some pizza but doesn't get many takers. Michelle's a vegetarian and is preparing a mushroom-and-snow pea pasta for the two of us, John only wants two pieces, and a new visitor from Bowen Island (who I naturally take for a vegetarian) cryptically says she is "Inuit and freegan," but doesn't grab at the beefy pizza.

"Eskimo Girl" (as Michelle and I come to call her) will be circling Canada and the U.S. by car to investigate eco-retreat business opportunities. She talks glowingly of swimming with dolphins, and reverently describes a moment when a sea lion nudged her foot.

Having come from a week's worth of "human-animal contact in the wild is bad" messages in Jasper and Banff National Parks, I ask her how she reconciles the destruction such encounters can lead to, with human-dolphin "encounters"? She says that she' been a micro-biologist, then a Parks Canada employee; and considers the Parks as "sacrificial" areas so humans can learn about animals.

I'm not sure if she's out-smarted me or if she's full of shit, but the conversation's gotten a little too West-Coast-woo-woo for me and reminds me that we'll be back in Vancouver in a few days. I grab a cloth and start washing dishes while Michelle tag-teams the conversation. It turns out "Eskimo Girl" isn't actually Inuit at all, but said so to mess with our heads.

The hostel is warm and cozy, thanks to Tony's fire and a loan of sheepskin slippers. Everyone settles into a mellow mood and I promise Tony and John that they can try out the fully-loaded Dahon folding bikes tomorrow, if they're nice. View photos.