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.
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.