Submitted by Debbie Caban, on behalf of the 2018 Taylor Hikers
“Beep, beep, beep!” It is the 4:30 a.m. alarm and the Taylor Group hikers are off to the races once again. Coffee brewed, sandwiches packed, hiking poles grabbed, and breakfast snacks eaten in the car as they drive to secure a highly coveted parking space at Banff’s National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Some may think this is an unusual start to a vacation day but after 29 years of hiking together, the members of this club do almost anything to enjoy another trek with each other.
This summer’s journey was the third international trip for the predominantly Bedford troupe. The lucky number of 13 hikers, nine from Bedford and four others, travelled to Canada’s original national park. They celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2014 with a trip to the Austrian Alps and two years ago they hiked in the Dolomites, also known as the Italian Alps.
Bedford resident Jane Taylor created the club when she asked a few friends to join her on a weekend escape to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. This year’s Bedford participants were Taylor, Lisa Baylis, Dotty Blake, Debbie Caban, Morgan Cleveland, Mary Criscione, Birgit DeWeerd, Carol Long, and Connie Matheson. Also joining in the fun were Barb Attardo (Winchester), Barb Chase (Concord), Jane Teepe (Natick), and Shirley Kersey (Palm Coast Florida). A cutout of veteran member Denise Barnett was included in many of the Banff photos since she was attempting the challenging trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, this summer.
The themes for Banff were jaw dropping vistas, multiple experiences, bears, and logistics. Banff, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is considered one of the finest hiking locations in the world. The spectacular unique beauty of the glacial lakes makes every step worthwhile. The unusual light green hue of the lake water seems to change several times each day as the sun rises and falls with occasional fog adding to the mysterious atmosphere.
Members enjoyed the incredible scenery on foot, riding bicycles, and on ski lifts. Due to various interests and ailments, there were two or three activity options available each day. The groups reconvened each evening with fantastic accounts of their adventures, occasionally attempting to create the best story of the day.
Bears are mentioned in almost all information regarding Banff National Park. Many trails are closed to hiking groups of less than four people. Single hikers or smaller groups are encouraged to hike with others since bears are less likely to approach people in larger groups. Some trails are temporarily closed if the park rangers observe a bear regularly inhabiting a hiking area. Two people did join our group since they could have been fined if they had hiked individually. We did see a black bear but, luckily, it was not while we were hiking on a trail. The bear crossed the street between our cars as we drove from Moraine Lake. We were kindly admonished by the ranger to “keep moving please” as we snapped photos.
The logistics of parking near many of the trail heads requires an early starting time. Banff, the third oldest national park in the world, is extremely popular due to the accessibility of the major sites within the park. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Bow River, and Lake Minnewanka can all be visited and enjoyed by car thus parking is an issue.
Despite some early grumbling, the before sun rise launching became a routine. The trails were uncrowded and the early morning views were spectacular. Some of the most hiked trails in the park are the Plain of Six Glaciers trail to Victoria Glacier and the trail to the Lake Agnes Teahouse. Both begin at Lake Louise. The teahouse crew, who encounter overwhelming crowds by late morning, were surprised to see the Taylor hikers waiting for them to open the door for the first tea of the day. The tea supplied enough energy to power the women over Little and Big Beehive. Both provide fantastic views of the famous glacial Lake Louise.
Just as fantastic but not as well known, Moraine Lake was a perfect spot for a group photo and the starting location for amazing hikes. The Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass hike leads through the Valley of the Ten Peaks and beside Mt. Temple (3453 m), the highest point in the park.
The ‘Z’ formation of the switchbacks to Sentinel Pass inspired the comment of the day by the newest Taylor hiker, Barb Attardo: “I thought you said we were going to look at the ‘Z’ not actually climb it.” An additional reward was to observe rock climbers scaling the 200m Grand Sentinel spire with our binoculars.
It is impossible for a group of 13 to quietly make their way through a week of vacationing. We stayed at the Lake Louise Hostel and shared kitchen and meeting space with other groups and individuals. Conversations flowed amongst residents in various languages. Shared coffee etiquette almost created an international incident but laughter quickly prevailed. We also were filmed doing a very amateur rendition of the dancing Rockettes on the observation deck of Sulphur Mountain. One very young hiker named Nora, whom we nicknamed The Explorer, will also remember the archway of hiking poles that we held up as her Dad piggy backed her through the canopy.
There were numerous other highlights during the 7 day trip. We hiked the Iceline in adjacent Yoho National Park where the 254m Takakkaw Falls sprays visitors with one of Canada’s tallest waterfalls. Some members hiked in the natural flowers of the Sunshine Meadows. A group biked on Banff’s Legacy Trail to Lake Minnewanka and saw bighorn sheep walking along the cliffs. Some also hiked the Columbia Ice fields in nearby Jasper National Park, along glaciers and the plateau between Mt. Columbia (3747m) and Mt. Athabasca (3491m).
Most of the members traveled to Calgary at the end of the week to return to Boston. A few others met family and stayed another week or two. Whatever the situation, the Taylor hikers were loaded with stories for family and friends regarding their memorable 29th anniversary trip to Banff.