Have you ever heard a raven caw? I do not recommend it. It sort of goes “err-RAAAAAAAW!” in a nasal, inverse-bird noise seemingly issued from the upper layers of hell. It is as though raven was once made fun-of by a song-bird and has spent the rest of time making fun of the song-bird through comical imitation. I say all of this because our wake-up in Banff was the sound of two ravens braying back and forth to one another horrifically, shattering our ear-drums and evincing unceasing, sleep-deprivation chuckles from me. Quoth Zack in regards to the raven noises: “Oh god. Someone has set loose monkeys into the park.”
The ravens, at least, got us up early. We closed up our camp, packed the Blazer once more, and set off for the city of Banff for breakfast and walking around. Our ludicrous driving patterns in previous days afforded us ample relaxation time for the last western leg of the trip, and so we breakfasted and walked about the city, redolent and also reeking terribly from body odour and campfire.
We left and decided to head to Lake Louise. As you drive through the numerous national parks in the area, you pass through toll booths where you can buy park passes. Or, more practically, you can drive on through, as you’re technically on the highway. On previous trips, an uncle had bought a pass which he later rued with hatred, as it was never once checked in the parks. We parked before Lake Louise along the road, confident the same scenario would play out. Then we saw the other cars: each in the long line had their pass prominently taped to the windshield. Deciding to play the harried, forgetful tourists, we shoved a bazillion papers and books on the dash, as well as a firefighter emblem, and prayed for the best, then nonchalantly went about our day.
Lake Louise is histrionically gorgeous. Nestled in between numerous mountains, it’s a crystal-clear glacier-fed lake, surrounded by forests and an obnoxiously luxurious and historical hotel. I have little to discuss in regard to this part of the trip, because we didn’t really do anything. We sat and we stared, trying to generate flashbulb memories, to record the exact colour of that water, the exact way the clouds fluffily lazed over the peaks. I have a few dozen shots all literally from an identical vantage and angle. Occasionally we would dip down to feel the water, or take another picture, but Lake Louise is all about absorption of natural beauty and little else. We idly and not-so-idly discussed getting jobs at the nearby hotel to be near Lake Louise on a semi-permanent basis.
The rest of the drive passed seemingly without incident, and we stopped for gas and treats in Golden, a city about an hour-and-a-half outside of Revelstoke, our destination. In the intervening minutes, two cars careened into one another on the mountain pass and cut off all traffic in both directions. If we had only foregone the timbits, we might have made it onto the highway. As such, we were stranded for two hours in the surprisingly hot sun, shading ourselves under the front grills of parked cars.
We were on a little turn-off before a set of lights heading to the highway, and the main high-way was where most of the traffic bottle-necked: essentially, we would be able to sneak past much of the backlogged traffic. After hours of waiting, we began to see cars move, and in those seconds I saw my cousins and me move faster than we had ever done before. Zack bounded for the car and leapt in the trunk, and the rest of us dumped our shit everywhere and slammed into the seats, careening onto the highway and jumping several hundred cars parked on the highway and at the stop.
Revelstoke, the sleepy mountain burg where Shannon lives, was our western terminus for the trip. We arrived in town in a hail of hooting and stereo-blasting, as Shannon toured us through the downtown core (read: two streets). As we passed, we saw someone performing in the hysterically quaint town-square gazebo. Shannon nearly slammed on the brakes to get out there, as he would serve as the first focal point of our night.
We dropped off our bags, showered, and headed for downtown. The performer, I believe, was Kenny Halliday, though for our purposes, he was Rod Jovi. He made his fame seemingly travelling around small-towns and the cheesier big ones (Atlantic City and Reno are my bets), performing Rod Steward and Bon Jovi covers, and appearing as though he were some clone created from the reconstituted genetic material of both of those men. Before we arrived, the assembled crowd was seemingly the town’s entire middle-aged and elderly population, assembled quietly and politely into lawn chairs. They held their hands folded in their laps and watched without applause or much blinking. Knowing to cater to the young and boorish, Rod Jovi repeatedly approached us as he performed, singing directly to and with us as the show wore on.
We later made it to the town bars, and were introduced to the various town luminaries who all knew Shannon. Here’s where I can wax on about something: travelling with family as an adult. When you’re alone or with friends while travelling or in new places, you can be a lot more careful and successful with image management: you can blast the strangers you meet with every bit of charm you can summon—you can appear wittier, or more pleasant than you regularly are. They don’t know you, so for all they can tell, this is sort of what you’re like.
In teacher’s college, I was confusingly popular and well-liked, for reasons I can’t even begin to understand. I was helpful and made jokes, and this was really the first impression people developed, and it sort of stuck. Michael makes comment: oh, it is funny, because he is funny! I was Michael, and while not everyone liked Michael, no one particularly found him offensive. Similarly on the Eurotrip, when I was alone or with just Donny who I had only met a while before, I could achieve this: I was very nearly smooth in my conversation. With your family around? This is not so much possible.
This is not to say that they’re a downer, but rather that family, especially with family around your own age, can see through the bullshit. Family has seen you through the awkward parts of your teen years, through the times you have been drunk at weddings, and through the times when you were a bratty child (…sadly, these are not imaginary broad generalizations, but depressing true examples). You can throw up the classy, rapier-witted cad smokescreen as much as you like, but it won’t take traction when cousins are around.
That said, travelling with family affords a different kind of comfort. For one, if you don’t know anyone and don’t feel like talking to numerous strangers, you can always drag a cousin into a conversation. Family also just doesn’t require that much effort: in-jokes are already long there, a general amiability is the baseline, and they can see through the BS anyway, so why try it? They’re still going to be your family when the trip is done, whether you command the conversation and pummel them with your jokes and conversation and violent pleasantness or not.
We rose the next day, ready for an unprecedented amount of taking-it-easy. We were on the road, and sitting within ten square feet of one another, for four solid days, driving at insane speeds and blasting across the country. We had earned, we thought, a little rec time.
The mountains around Revelstoke similarly harbour a lake, in which there is an island. We drove down, caught a ferry across, and marvelled at our altitude. The mountain peaks seemed so close, the snow that had managed not to melt was approachable—we seemed to be travelling through cloud cover. The ferry docked, and we began to travel the meandering mountain roads, eventually turning off onto a logging road more pothole than driving surface (especially fun for Brianna, who rode in the far less comfortable trunk, recently stripped of its beddings).
We arrived at a hiking trail that led down to a series of hot springs. Now, I am surprisingly capable at hiking, although mostly only for the uphill: I keep low, aim my momentum into climbing, and just keep going. With downhill, my momentum seeks to tumble my bulk ass-over-tea-kettle down the slope and into the brush, and I become nervous and frustrated. Thankfully, we would have a chance to wash off the fear sweat.
The Halfway Hotsprings are divided: some are natural beds, the rocks shifted around by industrious hippies seeking perfected temperatures, while others have constructed hot-tubs around them made of wood and metal. As we hiked, the large contingent of naked foreign flower children sought out the man-made hot-tubs, which I found curiously hypocritical, though probably practical: if you absolutely feel the need to go bare-ass and at one with nature and all that woo-woo stuff, you probably don’t want to slice your crotch open on river rocks.
The natural springs we went to were obscenely relaxing, and soon we seized the Goldilocksian just-right pool. Nearby, a river coursed directly past us, and following Zack’s recommendations I scrambled atop a fallen log and felt the movement of the rapids. It was one of those pristine, untouchable nature’s power moments: I stared down at the rushing water as it blasted past, keeping my foot in the icy flow, and all of my thoughts seemed to rush away.
When we eventually got up to change under our towels and hike back up, a pleasant, five-piece Bradyish family happily claimed our vacated spots. Their apple-cheeked ebullience was interrupted when we smelled giant wafts of hash smoke: a burly, grungy hippie with white-guy dreads halfway down his back had lumbered to the beach. He smoked up, stripped down, and stumbled right up to the family, wedging his wide, unseemly buttocks beside the tiniest, most adorable child. Wide-eyed, the family had their children turn away.
He stared at us as we changed (though, Zack justifiably maintains, he was probably so out of his gourd he was staring at nothing), but the day could not be ruined. Nothing can mar this sort of memory for you, the recollection of water and mountain, of family and travel. Nothing can stain it, not even unwashed hippie wang.