“Fannie honey, Richard, welcome home,” Bunny said with her refined Texas accent walking up our driveway, “how was your trip?”
Looking in the direction of her voice I stared at Bunny for a moment.
“Wow Bunny, you dyed your hair red,” I said shaking my head with disbelief. “What made you change your hair color?”
“George and I checked out the competition while we were in Seattle, one of the stylists up at Habitude convinced me to go red. What do you think?”
“It looks great,” I said smiling, “if you add a little curl, you and Clarissa would be mistaken for sisters. What does George think?”
“He’s still getting used to it,” she said shaking her head, her now red pony tail out of sync. “Once the roots show, I’ll change it back.”
Richard, staring at Bunny’s new do, dropped the tackle box on the ground. Richard fumbled picking up the box. “Fannie’s right, you do look like you could be Clarissa’s twin sister. Has she or Devon seen you yet?”
“Yes, we experienced a small case of mistaken identity,” Bunny said laughing. “Devon thought I was Clarissa from behind and carrying on with George. Let’s just say we’re all laughing about it now.”
“I’ll bet,” I said laughing, “I’m sorry we missed it. But we had such a great time. You and George need to go up to Alberta, just wait until the end of June.”
“We booked our trip in Banff National Park not even thinking about the fact it’s in the Rockies and Bow Lake would still be frozen with two feet of snow on top.”
“Guess that would put a damper on any ideas of fishing,” Bunny said smiling.
“Bunny, get this, on they way to Banff, we took a break in the town of Radium before entering Kootenay National Park. We stopped at a mini-mart for gas and sandwiches. I used the restroom while we were waiting for our order,” I said.
Richard laughed before I even continued.
A white Excel Xcerlator hand drier reflected my image back onto the mirror over the sink. After shaking the excess water from my hands I activated the dryer. The skin on my hand folded back onto itself like I rode in a G force simulator.
With me still laughing leaving the ladies room, Richard asked, “What’s so funny?” while he paid for our sandwiches.
I said, “The hand drier in the Ladies Restroom could shoot a chicken out of a cannon.”
Laughter erupted from the small crowd in front of the counter. The ladies behind the sandwich counter frowned at me in unison.
At least they didn’t salute me with the bird.
We followed the fork in the road up to Radium hot springs. A small snow flurry fell into the steam rising from the outdoor pools. Dozen of people milled around the hot pool. Cars and buses fill the parking lot across the street. We drove through a small tunnel carved through the rock heading farther into Kootenay. On the other side of the tunnel, Richard stopped the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150, as two bighorn sheep walked across the road in front of us.
The clouds socked in the tops of the mountains and a light snow fell. A foot of snow blanketed the ground surrounding the road. Beyond the sign for the continental divide and the border between British Columbia and Alberta, three cars parked off to the side of the road. The snow stopped. Richard pulled the Love Wagon over to the side of the road behind the last car in an area with exposed gravel.
A bull elk walked up the window on the passenger side of the car and licked it.
“Well you don’t see that every day,” I said laughing.
“Can you get a picture?”
“Of the drool?”
“No,” Richard said laughing, “when the elk walks away, roll down your window and snap a picture. No one wants to look at a picture of elk drool.”
Icy flakes fell the farther we ventured into Banff National Park. The snow thinning on the ground. Turning onto highway 93 we followed the signs to Lake Louise and the Columbia Ice Fields.
Richard turned left at the sign for Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake, two feet of snow covered the ground and the lake. We drove down a long driveway, passed the day parking lot and public restrooms and continued toward the red roof we could see over the trees.
River rock wrapped the base of the log lodge. Antlers hung over the entrance dividing the two sections of the lodge. Smoke rose from one of the chimneys and the Canadian flag hung from a pole on the highest roof peak no wind to stir it.
Richard opened the door to the lodge and welcoming heat poured from the building.
“I don’t think we’re going to be fishing up here this trip,” Richard said walking into the main hall.
“If it’s fishing you’re looking for,” said the woman behind the counter, “you’ll need to head toward Canmore. The Bow River is running down there.”
“Thanks, we’ll have to check it out,” I said.
“You’re room’s on the second floor, there’s no television or phone in the room. Dinner is available in the Dining room. We’ll be having a program at 8 p.m. in the Great Room. If you have any questions, just let me know.”
Walking up a log staircase, our room faced the snow bound lake. The sun filtered by the clouds illuminated three men snowshoeing across the lake toward the lodge.
“Since we can’t fish, what do you want to do?” I asked looking away from the window.
“Why don’t we enjoy this evening, then drive down to Canmore tomorrow and see what’s available down there.”
Heavy snow poured from the sky. Richard borrowed a broom from the lodge and cleaned off the Love Wagon before we headed toward Canmore.
“Richard, do you think that beaver is still alive at Grotto Pond?” I asked.
“If he is, I’m sure he’ll be happy to steal your bait again,” Richard said laughing.
“I don’t mind, I just love seeing him. Let’s face it you don’t see anything more exciting than a coyote or an occasional sea otter at home.”
When we arrived in Canmore, due west of Calgary, the sky turned black and the snow turned to torrential rain.
Richard pulled into our favorite parking space in front of Wapiti Sports. Judd, a black lab, greeted us when we walked in. Richard snuck him a treat. Ten other patrons shopped in various parts of the store.
“Welcome folks, what can we help you with?” asked the woman behind the counter with an Irish accent.
“We’ve come to find out about the fishing and to get some licenses,” Richard said.
“Well your timing is perfect. They just stocked all the ponds around town yesterday,” she said, “and Nick here was just telling us a story about someone catching the big one at Grotto Pond. Eh, Nick.”
Nick, the big boss, nodded and said, “We have no idea how the fish got into Grotto Pond since the pond freezes solid. We think it might have gotten carried over the train tracks by the flooding.”
Once Nick told us about the fish I opened my mouth, I could not stop myself, and to my utter horror spoke the following words in a shop filled 90 percent with men, “I love Grotto Pond, that’s where we always see my beaver.”
The sound of Judd sniffing Richard’s pocket filled the silent void followed by laughter.
The weather being what it was, we bought coffees and drove around town. Canmore doubled in size in the three years since we last visited. Some of our favorite places disappeared, but Canmore emerged into an upscale tourist destination, no longer the favorite watering hole we knew.
“Richard, why don’t we see if the Lady Macdonald has any rooms available,” I said, “then we don’t have to commute from Num-Ti-Jah.”
“You don’t have to ask me twice,” Richard said, “Tammy makes the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten.”
Richard turned onto Bow Valley Trail. On the corner stood a large gray house with white trim, multiple dormer windows and welcoming red French doors graced the entrance. The sign read, “Vacancy”. We grabbed the last available room.
“Are you hungry,” I asked, “we should grab some lunch before we go back to Num-Ti-Jah.”
“Where do you want to eat?” Richard asked.
“We’ve never tried the Famous Chinese Restaurant.”
“You’re on,” Richard said turning onto Railway Avenue and heading toward 10th Street.
Richard parked the Love Wagon in front of the two story restaurant with rust-colored stained rails and natural stained wood siding. The hostess walked a family out of the restaurant thanking them for their business before returning inside.
“She looks very friendly,” Richard said nodding toward the front porch of the restaurant.
The hostess opened the door and escorted another family to their car. We walked into the open door. A family of four enjoyed the last of their meal at a large table near the lobby.
The hostess walked back in and locked the front door. She jumped when she saw us. She looked at us then the clock behind Richard’s shoulder. It read 1:45 p.m. Frustration ran across her face then disappeared.
She grabbed two menus from the stack next to the counter, lead us to the table and said, “Order fast. Cook leave in 15 minutes”.
She stood at the end of our table with pen and order pad in hand tapping her foot on the floor. Richard and I looked at each other. We ordered.
She walked with determination toward the swinging door which lead to the kitchen, pause a moment, straightened her shoulders and walked in.
We could hear a male voice yelling in a Chinese dialect. She yelled back. A deafening silence followed. The hostess walked out of the kitchen carrying a tea pot to our table, looked at us with a stern expression and nodded. We looked at each other.
Ten minutes later the hostess walked back into the kitchen, after another impassioned barrage, she walked out with three steaming plates of food. Garlic, fish sauce, fresh cilantro and onion mingled in the air.
Her face beaming, she placed the three exquisite platters before us. We could live on the smell alone for a week. She stepped back and opened her mouth to speak when we heard a loud crash in the kitchen followed by yelling and a door slamming. She ran to the kitchen.
We want to know if that is what made them famous?
The next afternoon we drove out to Grotto Pond. Broken clouds scooted across the sky. Hundreds a fingerlings danced near the shore. Adrenaline filled my veins. Richard put a night crawler on my hook. I released the spinner and cast the line across the water. Taking command of the handle I reeled in the line as fast as I could.
Richard laughed so hard he gasped for breath.
“Fannie, slow down, the fish are not bionic.”
I slowed to a crawl and the fish overshot the bait, lost interest and swam away.
“Now you’re manic,” Richard said shaking his head, “you know the saying, slow and steady wins the race, be that.”
I laughed so hard, I couldn’t fish anymore and waited for my favorite beaver to come by for a visit.
The sun touched the mountain peak behind us. Richard ditched the live bait and changed his hook for an Aglia. Insects filled the air. Fish danced at the water’s edge. Ten minutes later I watched a muskrat walked down the hill, enter the pond and swim passed us.
The beaver must have met a cruel end.
When the muskrat climbed out of the pond, Richard cast his line. Before it hit the water a fingerling jumped and caught it. He released the fish and cast again. This time a school of fish followed it to the shore swimming over each other trying to get the hook.
I traded my hook for an Aglia and did not catch a fish until after I hooked Richard on the chest of his fishing vest.
The next morning we arrived at Wapiti Sports as they opened and cleaned them out of Aglias.
After I explained our adventure, the woman behind the counter said, “You only need to catch him once, dear”.
Smiling I said, “I wanted to make sure he knew he was a keeper”.
“Where are you going today?” she asked.
“Spray Lake Reservoir,” Richard said.
Using my new Aglia a large trout followed it to the surface and jump for it. Still fishing in manic mode I played keep away.
Not the best strategy when trying to catch a fish.
A frigid wind kicked up. We leaned into it without fear of falling over. Richard did not get a single bite. I cast one last time. The wind caught my line and sent it off twenty feet to my left. A trout grabbed the line and ran.
“Richard, Richard,” I yelled over the wind, “I’ve got a fish on.”
The rain fell sideways as fish swam farther out into the lake. I pulled with all my might and lean backwards propped up by the wind. The rod broke in half. Not wanting to loose the fish I reeled in as fast as I could. The line snapped. I fell backwards into a muddy puddle with a splash.
We buried my broken rod that evening with full honors in the Lady McDonald’s dumpster.
When we returned to the B and B, the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies and cocoa filled the air. Before turning in for the night, Terry let us know that if anyone wanted more cookies, she filled a jar and we could help ourselves.
Richard snuck out of bed three times for the cookies. He was not alone.
The next morning we drove back to our favorite spot, Grotto Pond. With an empty parking lot we enjoyed a rare moment to ourselves. The wind blew which meant no bugs.
Richard spotted activity on the far end of the pond in a sheltered copse near the wooden footbridge. The wind died and bugs filled the air. We walked over the foot bridge and found a few hundred trout.
Sharing Richard’s custom rod, which stood three feet taller than me, I caught the snags on the bottom, the rocks on the far side and the trees in the copse. Richard cast the line with precision over the fish and they would swim over the top of each other to get the lure. He enjoyed a 94% catch per cast ratio.
I stuck my tongue out at him then cheered.
Back at the Lady MacDonald that night we ended the long weekend by talking until well past one in the morning. During which Richard completed three cookie reconnaissance missions. Instead of cocoa he consumed the coffee carafe with his bedtime cookies.
Unable to sleep more than one hour in a row, he cleaned our room, packed our suitcases and stacked them by the door.
Even the bags under our eyes packed their own bags the next day.
On our way out the door, Terry presented us a bag filled with chocolate chip cookies. They perished before reaching Harvie Heights.