Chuck and Carla pulled out Monday morning to make their way back to Iowa. It was great fun having someone to commiserate with about the weather and we really enjoyed hanging out with them for a couple weeks. And before they left Chuck was nice enough to try and help Jim diagnose another electrical issue we’ve been having with the Lazy Daze. They were not successful so we’ll have to find someone to check it out when we’re back in the states.
We still had two days left in the park, which turned out to be the best weather of our entire week in Banff. After they left we noticed the clouds were parting so we took another walk to the Bow River overlook.
Tunnel Mountain, which has no tunnel through it.
Although hazy, this zoomed shot of the Fairmont Banff Springs gives you an idea of how big it is.
Since the trails were wet and muddy we decided to go downtown and use the library’s WiFi, then take a walk along the river to Bow Falls. The temperatures were in the mid to upper 40s, so somewhat of an improvement.
Busy Banff, which looks much better when you can see the mountains.
The first floor of the gray building contains Nester’s, a very nice little grocery store. There is also an IGA in town.
The scenery here is exceptional when it’s clear.
I think I know that guy.
There’s a trail along the Bow River going in either direction from town.
Going south, the trail crosses a pedestrian bridge over the river.
We followed the trail to Bow Falls, just below the towering Fairmont Banff Springs hotel.
Rates begin at $649/night.
The river below the falls.
The Fairmont’s golf course.
We then took a drive up to the Mount Norquay ski area. The steep switchbacks climb to an overlook of town.
On the way up.
We hadn’t driven very far when we saw this big horn sheep meandering up the road.
Then a little farther along we came across this guy munching on some greenery.
And just past the elk was a deer standing on the side of the road. Had it been a bear it would have been the perfect trifecta.
More red chairs at the overlook with great views of Banff and the surrounding mountains.
Our last day in the park was mostly cloudy, but at least it was in the upper 40s. Who would have thought upper 40s would sound good to us! After a stop at the library and perusing the shops for a t-shirt, we decided to walk north from town along the other side of the Bow River trail.
We had to wait on a train.
The trail intersects the Fenland trail, which took us to Vermillion Lakes.
This is an iconic shot of Mount Rundle, which would look much better on a sunny day.
With some blue sky peeking out of the clouds after we got back to the campground, I just had to take one last walk over to the Bow River overlook.
View from the campground.
By the time I got to the overlook it was raining, but at least there was a rainbow on the way back.
Despite the weather I’m still glad we decided to visit the Canadian Rockies. The drive along Icefields Parkway is truly spectacular with the proximity of the glaciers and the surreal blue-green waters of the lakes and rivers. For me, just that drive alone was worth coming for, but Jim may feel differently.
Here are some final thoughts about our trip to Canada: Crossing the border turned out to be a non-issue, although we had heard stories of people whose RVs were searched. Other than being asked several times if we had any guns in the RV, it was quick and easy to enter Canada. And coming back into the US was even easier.
We would recommend both Whistler’s Campground in Jasper, and Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court in Banff. The elk in Whistler’s definitely made up for all of the potholes in the roads. Whistler’s will be closed during 2019 for a big remodel, with new roads, 17 new bath houses with showers, and possibly WiFi, though that is a rumor I heard from one of the staff. Although we didn’t see wildlife in Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, we liked the pull-through sites and the layout of the campground better. Chuck and Carla stayed in Tunnel Mountain Village 2, where the sites are just lined up along the roads, which we didn’t care for. I would recommend getting sites with electric hook-ups since the tree cover and clouds would have made it really tough to keep our batteries charged without a lot of generator time. And the hours you are allowed to run them are pretty limited. At the Lake Louise overflow parking we were in an open lot, so our solar panels kept us charged even though it was cloudy.
We were impressed by the highways in Canada, with most being in excellent condition except for a few places where construction was taking place. Not being sure what to expect, and thinking of some of the roads we’ve traveled in the Colorado Rockies, we were pleasantly surprised by the roads through the Canadian Rockies. There are no high mountain passes or steep, narrow, winding roads, so any size vehicle can easily drive them.
Gas is expensive in Canada, and we paid anywhere from $1.30 to $2.00 CAD per liter, the most expensive being along Icefields Parkway, where there was no other competition. That translated to about $3.50 to $5.00 per gallon with the favorable exchange rate, not much different from prices we’ve seen before in California.
We also liked the Canadian money. On our first night in Canada we stopped by an ATM and took out $100 CAD (which only cost us $79 USD). Other than change for the laundromat and lunch at the Lake Agnes Tea House which took cash only, every other place we did business with took credit cards. With our Capitol One Visa that has no international transaction fee, we ended up getting the best exchange rate by charging everything.
Canada no longer has pennies, just nickels, dimes, quarters, one dollar coins called Loonies (because there is a loon on one side), and two dollar coins called Toonies, which are easy to identify. Their coins are lighter in weight than ours.
The bills are made of plastic and start at $5 and go up to $100. With the various colors it’s easy to tell the denominations apart. And they have some really interesting holograms and translucent windows on them, which make it almost impossible to counterfeit.
It seems that crowds are to be expected no matter when you visit Banff and Jasper, but at least in September there were very few children. Lots of tour buses and foreigners in rental RVs, though. If we were early risers we could have avoided the crowds by getting out on the trails early in the morning, and had it been warmer we might have just done that. Although we had unseasonably cold and wet weather, September is probably still the best time to go, with kids back in school and no bugs. During the time we were there the average highs should have been in the low 60s, which would have been just about perfect, but it was not to be. Maybe next time…