At this time of year, when I leave the air conditioning of my apartment, step into the relentless Paraguayan summer heat and look down at my shirt 3.2 seconds later to find it soaked with sweat, my mind quickly wanders to fantasies of Canadian winter. Now, after a recent day hike, those fantasies will take me directly to the frosted treetops and ice-walls of Johnston Canyon.
To escape our daughter and truly experience the Rockies during winter, Dani and I dumped our daughter with her wonderful grandparents and headed to Banff National Park. It had recently snowed, and our total lack of mountain-experience was clear even before we realized it ourselves: we drove the Corolla instead of taking the Tacoma with four-wheel drive to “save on gas”. Rookie mistake!
After taking the exit to the canyon, Dani and I became increasingly concerned at the state of the unplowed roads. We saw no other vehicles, but we decided that the ruts in the snow were adequate to press ahead. There was no point in turning around after driving for almost two hours to get here. As we plunged further down the unplowed backroad that led to the Johnston Canyon trailhead, we changed our minds. I searched for a place where I could turn around without getting stuck in powder that was about a foot-deep outside of the safety of our road-ruts. No such option presented itself.
As we noticed that we had no cell-service, our tension mounted. As our wheels slid and spun with every slight turn, I had increasingly morbid nightmares of slowly freezing to death on the side of the road while waiting vainly for aid. Hyperbole of course…
However, as we finally turned into the trailhead parking, we both breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Maybe this would be worth it after all!
Our apocalyptic visions of a vehicular disaster quickly faded as we suited up and hiked into a scene that felt straight out of a winter-postcard.
The fresh snowfall that made our drive into the canyon so difficult made the trek itself magical. The snow-frosted the trees and blanketed the path. The muted silence of winter reigned as we struggled and panted through knee-deep snow towards the waterfall. Johnston Canyon is one of the busiest attractions in the Canadian Rockies but, on the trek in at least, we had the trail to ourselves. I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors during the Canadian winter, but I’ve never seen winter quite so picturesque!
I’ll let a few photos speak for themselves rather than pattering on vainly in a futile attempt to describe the indescribable, but, suffice it to say that, when I stand sweating uncontrollably in the Paraguayan heat, I’ll be dreaming of the snowy wonderland that is Johnston Canyon.