10/15/2003: Day 7: A day in and near Banff, Alberta, Canada
As the sun tries to rise above the Canadian Rockies, seen through the mini-blinds on 2 sides of our room, I sat in bed staring at the (gas log) fireplace in our room. Karen excitedly read aloud from a local culinary guide. We are in Banff, Alberta, Canada. There is a fresh layer of snow on the cars outside, but the streets are merely damp. Clouds sail just above the trees, and cover the mountains and conceal the sun.
Some notes: Gas (petrol) up here is between USD $2.05 and $2.35 /gallon.
In the morning we sampled 2 local coffee houses and did a bit of wandering around Banff. As we wandered around town, the clouds gradually lifted up their skirts and exposed the lush green slopes of the surrounding mountains. They boasted a set of hoodoos near town, so we drove around and hiked up to see them. It’s a sad set compared to the South Dakota badlands or Bryce Canyon, or just about any other set of hoodoos we’ve come across.
Then we drove up to Lake Louise for lunch. All of Karen’s choice restaurants had just closed for the season! Fortunately, a guy involved in boarding up the Deer Lodge (right by the lake) told us to go to the hostel.
We first took the time to go look at the lake. It’s nice, but we’ve been spoiled by all of the other vistas we’ve been driving through. It was also too cold for us to stand and admire for long, even with all of our thermal layers on. The lake was liquid, but any puddles were ice. The centerpiece mountain was white almost down to the water. Winter is here.
Once we finally found the International Youth Hostel, the atmosphere was nice and the food excellent. Service was quite slow. We had come during that unfortunate lull between the local hunters having lunch and the touring hikers coming back for tea. It took about 2 hours before we were done, so we decided not to drive on up to Jasper, but rather to return to Banff, rest up, and do the glaciers tomorrow. It turned out to be a lot of driving to see not much. I did get a shot of the game bridges across the Maple Leaf highway, though.
We went for a night-time walk around the (closed) Cave and Basin hot springs park, and saw the Banff "falls" by twilight. The falls are a middling size set of rapids with a few meters drop overall.
The castle above the river was quite enchanting from across the river, the hundreds of windows twinkling in the twilight. It’s name changes regularly with ownership, but it has a history going back to the original shack used by railroad workers when they ran the rails up here in the 1880’s. We were too pooped to actually visit it.