Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Snowy Banff

DSC00465                                                                Banff Ave, Banff, Alberta, Canada

We left Lake Louise late Wednesday morning after Chuck helped Jim diagnose our ongoing tail light problem. We will need a new plug connection for the car when we get back to the states and find an RV parts store, but for now Chuck was able to get them working without having to ram a toothpick in the connection, which was Jim’s temporary solution.

Along the way we went under several wildlife overpasses. Banff and Yoho National Parks have built 7 of these so the animals have a safe way to get across the highway. There are also 42 underpasses along the TransCanada Highway west of Banff for them to cross. They have counted more than 152,000 crossings by 11 species of large animals, including deer, elk, coyotes, wolves, black bears, cougars and grizzly bears. And vehicle-wildlife collisions have been reduced by 80%.


We are staying at the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, a national park campground just a couple miles from downtown Banff. Chuck and Carla are right next door at Tunnel Mountain Village 2. Our campground has full hookups and theirs has electric only, the most important utility given the cold and cloudy weather we’ve been experiencing. We like the way the sites are laid out, which makes it not feel crowded although there are 322 sites. Yes, that is snow. And we were concerned there would be smoke!


After we arrived we went to check out the Banff public library for our internet fix. Just across from the library the weekly Wednesday farmer’s market was taking place. Found some good bread and a cute French bulldog bundled up for the cold.

Randy and Sunarree, you need to get one of these jackets for Beau!


On our first two days we had lows in the upper 20s, highs in the low 30s, with snow flurries off and on, which accumulated throughout the day on Thursday. We did get out for some sightseeing and short hikes, bundling up in hats and gloves, thermal underwear, sweatshirts, down jackets and our rain jackets over that.  And we were still cold!

There is a nice trail right across from the campground with views of some hoodoos and the Bow River Valley.


No takers on the wet red chairs.



This is what it would look like without the clouds and snow.


The snow started coming down pretty hard.


The next day we went to Lake Minnewanka and hiked about a mile along the lake to a bridge to Stewart Canyon, where the Cascade River flows into the lake. You can take a bus from Banff or a shuttle from a Park and Ride lot, but we didn’t have a problem with traffic and crowds with the inclement weather. At least that was a positive!




More red chairs along the trail.


Lake Minnewanka, where Chuck and Carla were hoping to kayak but the weather didn’t cooperate.


Jim and Chuck making their way through the snow.


Bridge over Stewart Canyon.



Cascade River.


Jim wanted Carla and I to see what our snow bangs looked like.


Another view of the lake.


On the way home we stopped in Banff for dinner at Boston Pizza.


There are actually mountains somewhere in the background.


On a nice day this would be full of tourists.


The weather was much the same on Friday, although just a few degrees warmer, so we visited Cave and Basin National Historic Site since it had some indoor exhibits, and we got free entry with our national parks passes. This is considered the birthplace of Banff National Park and the Canadian National Park system.

On November 8, 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway workers went prospecting for gold on their day off. They found no gold, but did discover this hot mineral spring in a cave.


After word about the springs got out, the government encouraged visitors to the Cave and Basin as an ongoing source of revenue to support the new railway.


From Moon Canadian Rockies: “A 2,500-hectare (6,177-acre) reserve was established around the springs on November 25, 1885, and two years later the reserve was expanded and renamed Rocky Mountains Park. It was primarily a business enterprise centered on the unique springs and catering to wealthy patrons of the railway. At the turn of the 20th century, Canada had an abundance of wilderness; it certainly didn’t need a park to preserve it. The only goal of Rocky Mountains Park was to generate income for the government and the Canadian Pacific Railway.”


Hotels and restaurants followed, and gave rise to the town of Banff, which soon became Canada’s best known tourist resort. Besides tourism, logging and coal mining took place in the reserve. More from Moon: “As attitudes began to change, the government set up the Dominion Parks Branch, whose first commissioner, J. B. Harkin, believed that land set aside for parks should be used for recreation and education. Gradually, resource industries were phased out. Harkins’s work culminated in the National Parks Act of 1930, which in turn led Rocky Mountains Park to be renamed Banff National Park. The park’s present boundaries, encompassing 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles), were established in 1964.”

There are some really interesting microbial mats in the pool. We were looking for the Banff Springs snail that is only found here, but it’s the size of a kernel of popcorn so we had no luck finding one.



In between buildings is an outdoor gallery with photos taken by Banff National Park employees.


This was our favorite.


Inside one building we watched a multi-screen film about Canada’s national parks, and another exhibit building houses displays about Canada’s First World War internment operations. 8,579 men labelled “enemy aliens” were interned between 1914 and 1920.  Four camps were in Canada’s western national parks, Banff, Jasper, Revelstoke and Yoho, and the internees did a variety of jobs in the parks, like building roads. We had no idea.

There are also a few trails, so we took off in the snow to the Marsh loop that eventually goes along the Bow River.




On the way home we stopped at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for a cup of coffee to warm us up and to see where the other half stays. It was really snowing and visibility did not make for good photos but it is quite an impressive structure.

We’re still managing to have fun despite the weather, and the library has good WiFi and a great sense of humor.  Check out this sign posted in their ladies room.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Couple Days at Lake Louise

While planning our trip to the Canadian Rockies we reserved a week in Jasper and a week in Banff National Parks. Since it was 180 miles to Banff from Jasper, I thought it would be nice to spend a couple days somewhere in between along the way, maybe in one of the campgrounds off the Icefields Parkway, at Lake Louise or take a short detour to Yoho National Park. Since we were traveling with Chuck and Carla, we discussed the options and decided to stop at Lake Louise, as we wanted to visit it anyway and it would save us a 35 mile day trip from Banff.

But first, more of the amazing scenery from the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) on the way to Lake Louise. I couldn’t stop taking photos out the window.

Jasper National Park, Canada1

Although there was a good chance of rain, it was fairly clear until we stopped for lunch at a viewpoint along Bow Lake, just 10 miles before Lake Louise. Still scenic despite the rain.


There is one campground at Lake Louise suitable for RVs, but without advance reservations all 189 sites were reserved. Luckily Banff National Park has an overflow lot just a few miles outside of Lake Louise Village where overnight RV parking is allowed for $10.80 CAD. It’s just a huge gravel lot with a bathroom and trash dumpster but is a popular place. At least we knew our neighbors on one side.


Chuck and Carla got a new neighbor the next day, one of these Wicked Campers, which we’ve seen all over this area. We love the wild artwork and the sayings on them.


This is our favorite.


It turned out to be a great location because we didn’t realize that adjacent to the RV parking lot, which is free for day use, there is also parking for the school bus shuttles that leave every 15 minutes for either Lake Louise, Lake Louise Village, or Moraine Lake.


After disconnecting the car and getting settled while it was still raining and only 45 degrees, we decided to head to Lake Louise Village to get some info and WiFi at the visitor center and wander the shops, then drive over to the lake for a quick glimpse.




Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.


We were a bit surprised by the number of people there but the park brochure suggests visiting the lake before 8 AM or after 7 PM to avoid the crowds.


A little break in the clouds on the way home.



Chuck and Carla and I wanted to hike the trail to the the Lake Agnes Tea House, so the next morning we boarded the shuttle around 10:30 for Lake Louise. It was a bit early and cold for Jim, being in the mid 40s, so he opted for a day to himself. He won’t admit it but I know he likes it when we are traveling with friends so he can send me off for the day without worrying about me.  Smile

It was slightly clearer than the previous evening.


Carla insisted on taking my picture in front of the lake.


The trail passed right in front of the Fairmont.


Lake Louise from a different angle.


The trail is a fairly steep climb most of the way, and although the trees blocked our views, the lake appeared even more turquoise from above.


This Steller’s jay was our only wildlife sighting.


We passed Mirror Lake along the way, which was more like a small pond at this time of year.


Chuck and Carla making their way up into the clouds.


Waterfall along the trail.


It was a long line for lunch at our destination, Lake Agnes Tea House, about 2.5 miles and 1,400’ of uphill from the shuttle stop. I started to take a side trail to Little Beehive and an overlook, but I was the only one on the trail, it was dark and wooded, and Chuck had the bear spray, so I decided to turn back and join them in line.


At an elevation of 7,000’ this is the highest tea house in Canada.


Lunch was good, $9 CAD for a cup of tomato barley vegetable soup and home made wheat bread. None of us had tea, which was $7 CAD for a small pot. Supplies are brought in by helicopter once a year, on horseback occasionally, and packed in daily by employees. Because of the fire ban they request that people take their paper trash back down with them. Since we were able to get a table inside we were served on real place settings and were not even given napkins, so we didn’t have anything to take back with us.


The tea house overlooks Lake Agnes.



Looking down over the Fairmont and across the valley to the ski slopes..


While we were almost half way back down I got a text notification on my phone. It was Jim saying he was wandering around the Fairmont and the lake, and if we were close to being done with our hike he would wait on us so we didn’t have to take the bus back. What a nice surprise.

One last look at Lake Louise on the way back.


It was a fun hike despite the cold temperatures, off and on drizzle, and non-stop people heading up and down the trail. After the tea house the trail continues on the longer Six Glaciers trail, which I would love to do another time in better weather.

Jim’s photos of Lake Louise and the Fairmont from a different perspective.


He said the interior was not that impressive.


After we found Jim and the car, we drove on about 8 miles or so to Lake Moraine, another pretty and very popular spot. Traffic was crazy trying to get a parking place and Jim was wishing he hadn’t texted me at that point.


Glad we got to see it anyway.


We thought we might witness this young woman fall into the frigid water, but her friend was able to get multiple pictures of her doing crazy poses on the log without an accident.



We were surprised the park service lets people climb around in this rocky area.


Similar to Lake Louise, there is a lodge and numerous popular trails around the Moraine Lake area, but given the crowds and traffic I would advise taking the shuttle unless you actually get a room there.

Next, the weather deteriorates even more as we move on to Banff.