Setting up shop at the White Bark Café right on Banff Avenue, Dani ordered something coffee-like and I settled into a comfy chair in the lobby of the connected hotel to edit some photos and get a little writing done. She went straight to e-mails as I had a chance to look over the time-lapse images from the campsite on the Athabasca River the night before, elated to find that the Northern Lights had in fact been captured by my camera. I spoke briefly with some other photographers who were editing images in the lobby seats, discussing the wild fire’s impact on the visibility and sky, and how clear Jasper was further north. After an hour or two of working Dani and I closed our laptops and went in search of a grocery store for a few key gluten-free items we needed for dinner. By this point town was full of sunshine and quite warm, making me regret the jeans I was wearing. We toured through a few grocers until we found what we needed, then decided we’d find somewhere picturesque to have lunch.
About ten minutes out of town we arrived at the parking lot for Two Jack Lake just past the notable Two Jack Campground. Curious as to what parking was available we drove straight down the hill to the lakeside lot and found an empty spot that backed up directly to the water. I put the Jeep between two other SUVs and we got to work setting up our cooking station, the same Coleman grill we’ve been using all along atop a collapsible table. She had a toasted cheese sandwich with cucumber and tomato, and I made a bowl of spicy white queso rice with chicken sausage. Despite the gorgeous scenery there were occasionally massive gusts of wind, and we unexpectedly were joined by a Park Warden who arrived to issue a ticket to a family for operating an engine on their inflatable dinghy in the lake. The father got argumentative with the (armed) Warden and basically refused her ticket, so she issued him a court date and the whole thing turned messy quickly to the point where another Warden showed up. In the guys defense, it was a battery powered engine, not a gas one, but apparently they still frown on that.
Having had enough of the scene, we packed up our lunch and cooking station and began a short drive around nearby Lake Minnewanka as a massive storm cloud blew in and soaked the world around us in torrential rain. We scrapped the remainder of our scenic drive, opting instead to return to the campsite and put a tarp up over our tent as an extra measure of protection against precipitation. Honestly I’ve been quite disappointed in REI’s Quarter-dome 2 for its moisture management during colder and more wet nights. We’ve had to use towels to mop up vast amounts of precipitation off the rain fly on multiple occasions, and even had to throw it in the drier on a delicate tumble dry at one of the Airbnb’s to make sure it was usable the night instead of soaking wet. I had an 8x10 tarp in the Jeep that was easily died between trees around our tent at the Tunnel Mountain campsite, and I’m now a little more reassured that it will stay dry in case of unexpected downpour.
With the sky still looming with darkness overhead and thunder threatening another storm, we decided that it was a great time to do laundry, and headed into town with two full bags of clothes and towels. I did some more writing in the Laundromat as the watched the new(er) JFK movie Jackie on her laptop, and within an hour we were folding our clothes and headed back to the campsite to cook dinner. I played the role of Dani’s sous chef as we made a ground-turkey taco dinner, and after the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, we retired to the tent in hopes of a few hours of sleep before enacting an ambitious plan to drive an hour north and photograph dawn at Lake Louise. Having spent the last years chasing dawn's colors and other epic early-morning photo opportunities, these plans are always great in theory, but don't always work out... so I’ll just say I have my fingers crossed we actually make it up there in time for the 06h20 sunrise.