Tag Archives: banff

Useless Factoid 2 (Reboot365-3)

One of the things I chat about on the ghost walk in Banff (just got in from doing one this evening) is where I might like to haunt should I come back (the Harmon Residence in Banff – a house I LOVED as a kid and which haunts my dreams to this day…)

 

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Hey! Come back here with Walter!!!!!

 

And that made me wonder about other people coming back somewhere, after… or wanting to come back as something… which is how I stumbled on this gem.

Did you know that Walter Morrison, inventor of the Frisbee, had his cremated ashes baked into a Frisbee after he died? One would hope he is well identified so someone doesn’t accidentally send him sailing off a cliff or out to sea…

 

Oh, the Merman!! (44/365)

He’s still there at the Banff Indian Trading Post!!!!! Just got home after leading a Ghost Walk in Banff, which followed a full day of writing and editing. Half fish, half human, this little dude haunts my childhood memories and today when I popped in to say hello he transported me back across the decades to the first time I saw him so long ago…

No doubt he will now follow me into the world of dreams…

We Know Better Now (42/365)

A very long, very busy day again – so today I’ve gone into the archives for a couple of quick photos in the ‘hm, good thing we don’t do this any more’ department.

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Back in the day, feeding wildlife was a thing… I think I even read recently  (can’t think now where) that long ago people came to Banff to feed the bears! That seems like an eminently stupid thing to do, but then, when I look at us (that’s me and my brother, Peter) feeding the bighorn sheep, that wasn’t too smart either.

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There’s a dramatic painting by Charles M. Russell, c. 1904 called Big Horn Sheep… It’s the males that have the full-on horn curl going on. 

 

 

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This Big Horn buck is mounted and hung at Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria. I’m not sure of the stats regarding trophy hunting and how popular it is then versus now, but I can’t say I understand why anyone would hunt just for sport. I’m not opposed for hunting for meat as long as one does so in season and following proper game management protocols but as a source of decorations? Um. No. 

And, yes, probably somewhat less dangerous but also not a good idea is the chipmunk-feeding craze we enjoyed as kids. I loved the feel of their tiny, delicate claws every so gently scratching the palm of my hand as they would take an offered peanut. They were pretty brazen (I think this one was on the top of Sulphur Mountain) and would sit back on their haunches, cheeks bulging and enjoy their feast.

 

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These days I have quite a different relationship with the little monsters. They know when climbers are busy belaying and can’t chase them off, so they blithely crawl all over our packs, chew holes in food bags, and generally make a menace of themselves while we are distracted.

They are still cute, yes, but I have a lot less patience with them now and have no patience whatsoever with people who feed them and make the problem worse.

 

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There’s a dramatic painting by Charles M. Russell, c. 1904 called Big Horn Sheep… It’s the males that have the full-on horn curl going on. 

 

And that, as they say, is all she wrote…

Anybody else want to confess they used to feed the animals? As in, a long time ago before we knew better? I think there’s a statute of limitations on such misdemeanors (though today, there’s also a hefty fine). If you are a current offender, perhaps best you keep your head down and stay quiet.

 

Sad News in the Bow Valley (38/365)

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Yesterday while Fabio and Joe were climbing Tonka (a multi-pitch route on Tunnel Mountain), I was in Banff working on a couple of articles and putting together material for Ghost Walks. At one point as I was at the car dropping off a costume I’d procured from the Thrift Shop, an ambulance tore up the road with lights and sirens going. Not long after, a Parks Canada vehicle also raced up the road. Both vehicles turned up Tunnel Mountain Road. I’d driven down that road a bit earlier after having dropped off Fabio and Joe.

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Of course, my mind jumped to the worst case scenario. Rock fall? A miscommunication? Had something gone wrong? Were they ok? I texted to see how they were doing and … no response. That was a long 15 minutes before I finally had a reply saying they were fine and had just reached the top of a pitch where they could do things like answer texts. But, from their perch high above the Bow Valley, they were watching a helicopter and emergency vehicles in action. Something was going on but they weren’t close enough to know exactly what.

We heard today that another climber a little farther along on Tunnel Mountain had been in an accident. Sadly, the climber didn’t survive.

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Sadness (Two in boat), by Nicholas Roerich, 1939

My heart goes out to the family and friends of the accident victim. It’s always a sickening shock to the system when one hears of someone being badly hurt or killed in a climbing accident.

This evening as I turn in for the night I see the stark black silhouette of the mountain peaks outside my window. They are beautiful, to be sure, but unforgiving. Stay safe out there, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Time to Reflect – in Banff (36/365)

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I spent much of the day today hiking from end to end of Banff (and back), reflecting. Ostensibly, I was figuring out exactly where I need to go when I lead my first ghost walk, planning where to tell which story… But there was lots more going on than just deciding when to mention the various apparitions. Wandering around the streets and alleys, peering into back yards, reading all the plaques (they weren’t there when I lived there, way back when), catching glimpses of the familiar, being shaken by all that has changed… I kept alternating between regret and sadness that we ever left and delight to be back and looking at my old hometown with fresh eyes.

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All day today the world kept shifting between the intense colours of early summer and the black and white filter of powerful childhood memories. 

When I was a kid sometimes the guys (they were mostly men back then) would let me ride my horse at the back of the string of horses when they were brought down from the Banff Springs Hotel to the barn near the rec grounds. I pretended like I was actually important and had a proper job to do, though I was really just following along. I loved the way the tourists would point and say, “Look how small she is!” as I sat astride my much-too-big-for me horse, Ace.

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Ace in front of Cascade Mountain. About 1970. 

As a family, we travelled a lot when I was young and until recently I was hard pressed to say what place I considered to be ‘home.’ Now that I am back in the mountains, though, I feel like I have come home, in geographic terms at least. Walking around in Banff, I think that’s perhaps the closest I will ever come to identifying with a specific place in such a way that I feel that’s where I come from. It’s a very strange feeling because I don’t even live in Banff (and probably never will again) – I live down the road in Canmore. But Canmore feels like the place I live at the moment that’s very similar geologically speaking to a place I once called home. And that is different to actually being back at home.

Oh, it’s confusing. I keep finding myself time-slipping, taken back almost five decades to the first summer we spent in Banff in a cabin not much different to one of these:

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Banff Beaver Cabins on Beaver Street

Back in the day, accommodations for visitors were in short supply (actually, that hasn’t changed much). Enterprising locals built cabins behind their homes and rented them out. When we first arrived in 1969, we lived in just such a cabin for the first summer until we moved into a small house on Grizzly Street a couple of blocks over.

My most vivid memory of that first summer was being awakened at dawn by banging noises behind the cabin. No, it wasn’t a ghost… it was a female grizzly and her two cubs raiding our garbage cans. Mom, my brother and I watched through the window until they had taken what they wanted and ambled off.

Those were the days before animal-proof garbage cans and, actually, before feeding the wildlife was strictly verboten. Somewhere, I have photos of us feeding crackers to elk outside the back door of the Grizzly Street house. On my next trip to the coast, I’ll dig through the boxes of old photos and find a few to post…

For now, though, my memories from long ago and the new impressions from today are doing a strange dance, not quite in synch but not quite not in synch either. Do you know what I mean?

I am too tired to think any more about this tonight (and, my jaw still hurts so I just want to go to bed), but I’ll leave you with a question or two: How far away from ‘home’ do you live? In our ever more mobile world, what does home mean?

Ghosts! (35/365)

 

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Helpful tour guides will lead Ghost Walks in both Canmore and Banff this summer. I’m going to be one of them… For more information, visit the Theatre Canmore website

Whether you are a skeptic or a believer, you have to admit ghost stories are a lot of fun (and, just a wee bit scary!) This evening I learned things about the sleepy town of Canmore that I never knew before… and was reminded of other stories I had vaguely heard of but didn’t know a lot about.

 

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The Banff Springs Hotel (in the background) is said to be one of Canada’s most haunted places… That’s me climbing on the other side of the valley on Tunnel Mountain. 

 

Spending part of my childhood in Banff, I had heard some of the stories relating to the iconic Banff Springs Hotel. The one about the bride who fell down the stairs (possibly after setting her dress on fire by getting too close to some candles) is one that stuck with me.  But during this evening’s training session, I heard about a whole lot of other mysterious happenings in the Bow Valley.

 

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The Ghost in the Lantern, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Some are said to be benevolent, some spiteful, while others are tricksters through and through. Whatever their flavour, ghosts have intrigued writers and artists since we first began to tell stories and I’m quite looking forward to sharing some ghostly tales over the summer.

 

 

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Hamlet Sees the Ghost of His Father, by Eugene Delacroix, 1843 – Shakespeare included quite a few apparitions in his work… 

 

The idea that those we love might not really disappear after they die is one that is certainly appealing. And, there’s no question things happen in the world that science can’t quite explain (yet…) Whether or not apparitions are ‘real,’ sharing stories of our past and the people who have lived in this valley before us is a cool a way to connect with our history and to honour the memories of those who have gone before us. Who knows, perhaps some of those ghosts will join us as we wander the streets of our mountain towns…

 

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The Spirit of the Dead Watches, by Paul Gaugin, 1892

Have you ever had a paranormal experience? If you have a great ghost story to share, I’d love to hear it!

 

 

Memory Lane… (28/365)

Sometimes it seems that my life is a series of different digressions, fascinating side roads that are way more interesting than the whatever the main road was supposed to have been.

Those side roads are braided, looping back and around themselves like Celtic knots, leading to familiar corners rounded and re-encountered when least expected.

At the moment I’m exploring a theatre cul de sac where the familiar and the new are sending me back to the very beginning of my acting career. 

 

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Wow! Look what I found online in the archives of the Banff Centre! That’s Dad (holy smokes he looks so young!) in about 1970 teaching a student… (reference #A 05 01 09, no photographer listed). 

 

Back in 1969 when we first came to Canada from Australia we moved to Banff in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Dad was the first Artist in Residence at the Banff School of Fine Arts (now known as the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity).  I was all of 8 and determined to perform my way onto the stage. I took ballet classes and enrolled in an acting class for kids. I landed a small part in a play. The director of that play and my teacher was a dynamo called Shirley Tooke.

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The Banff School of Fine Arts (c 1970)

I’ve thought about Shirley many times over the years. She was the first person I had ever met who took theatre seriously. And, more to the point, she took me seriously, even though I had pigtails and could barely see over a table I was so short.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into Shirley at the 40th Anniversary gala event hosted by Pine Tree Players the other night. Turns out Shirley has been working her magic, directing plays, mentoring actors, and making theatre happen here in the Bow Valley for decades! Everyone in the room had a connection to Shirley, a story about how instrumental she has been in terms of nurturing and developing all things theatrical around here!

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I remember going to this production of the opera, Hansel and Gretel back in 1970. We were so lucky to be able to attend performances – ballet, modern dance, opera, music (I saw Oscar Peterson live), authors (Farley Mowat comes to mind), and theatre… And, of course, art shows. I never thought much about it at the time, but how lucky were we as kids to have access to so much art in our back yard? 

It was pretty cool to see my first acting mentor from so many years ago. Though she remembered my parents (she and my dad would have crossed paths at the Banff Centre), of course Shirley didn’t remember the earnest little kid with the big dreams. But that little kid never forgot her! I’m so happy we ran into each other again and I was able to say a long overdue thank-you for the kindness, support, and enthusiasm she offered so generously.

I wish I’d had my wits about me and had someone snap a photo of us together, but I confess I was so flabbergasted it never crossed my mind to do so!