Hailstorm at Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is a very popular trail in Banff National Park but despite the crowds, it was the first major trail I came across on the Bow Valley Parkway, and considering there were a few spots left in the parking lot, I thought that this might be my one chance to give this trail a shot with a bit of tranquility.

The popularity of this trail can be attributed to its relative proximity to the town of Banff, its unique setting, and its accessibility.  There are not many places where you stroll along a paved walkway over a torrent making its way between sheer cliffs.

Despite signs asking people to do the contrary, it's very evident that a lot of people give in to the begging chipmunks and feed them an assortment of treats.  Some of the chipmunks along the trail were fat, and when I say fat, I mean fat!  Maybe 2.5x as wide as your regular chipmunk!

This is definitely not a backcountry trail. The trail begins as a paved walkway for the first 1.1 km  to the Lower Falls, where Johnston Creek plunges 10 metres into a pothole below.

If you're curious, you can huddle down and walk through a short tunnel to get a closer and wetter look at the falls. It's a great way to cool off on a hot day!

The trail becomes a bit more rugged as you head another 1.6 km towards the Upper Falls where the water breaks into a number of streams as it drops more than 30 metres.

After viewing the falls from above and below, you have the option to turn around or continue to the Ink Pots.  Now most of the time, I'd be tempted to hike the extra 3 km but the trail books warned of potential disappointment so I decided against it this time around, and instead started heading back while taking in the sights and sounds.  The sky was clear, the temperature was just right, and the trail wasn't too crowded.  Ahhh, a perfect day in the park. But as I hit the Lower Falls, it started to cloud over and the wind picked up.  Next thing you know, it's raining and things aren't that pleasant any more.  Time to hurry on back to the car but then there's thunder and lightning and I'm on a steel and concrete walkway over a mountain stream.  And the wind is starting to pick up even more.  Hey grandmas, no more nice and polite Mike!  Time to get out of the way!  Mike's not ready to die just yet!  I finally reach the end of the walkway, just to see trees crashing in front of me!  And here comes the hail!  Oh my, time to just gun it!

Luckily, I didn't check out the Ink Pots and made it to the car safely, where I watched trees swaying out of control.  Those trees were a little too close for comfort so despite the heavy rain and hail, it was time to head onto the Parkway where it was perhaps a little safer but then again, I had to drive around several fallen trees on the road before reaching Lake Louise, where the power was out, along with the rest of the surrounding area including Banff and Golden.

They say that the weather can change in a whim in the mountains, and just witnessed it!

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