We arrived in Banff on Tuesday afternoon. I met up with locals Leslie and Keith, who kindly offered me a place to stay during my time in town. Keith took me up to an overlook to survey the lay of the land. "Banff is a town in a national park," Keith said. "There are no scars on the mountains, because there's no mining or logging here. The town is as big as it's going to get, because it has a set footprint and it can't develop any further. We have this great law called the 'need to reside clause,' which means you have to work here to live here, which means there are no million-dollar second homes in the hills. Because of tourism, we're stocked with all the dining and retail options of a good-sized city in a town of 8,000. The biking is incredible, but the trails aren't mapped so they're not crowded. We ski tour all winter. We trail run all summer. As long as this is a national park, nothing is going to change. That's not the real world down there."
"So, basically, it's paradise in a bubble," I said.
Keith smiled. "Exactly."
We toured the town on a tandem cruiser. It was my first time on a tandem bike. Before we climbed on, Keith gave me a stern warning - "You can't steer and you can't brake. It's definitely not for control freaks." I quickly realized that literally the only thing I needed to do was spin my legs, and the rest of me could gaze around, snap photos and daydream to my heart's content. Really, that's my kind of riding.
I only have two days to explore this little bubble of paradise before I head back into the real world, in a sense. Keith showed me pictures of a hike he and Leslie did this morning, through a couple inches of fresh snow (it fell last night!) By the time I arrived in town, the weather was sunny and mild, about 15 degrees Celsius with almost no wind, and looking to stay beautiful for at least the next few days. It seems every time I travel through Canada, I hit the ideal weather windows. I have this theory that Canada loves me, at least in the short term. Here's hoping that love affair continues.