No, she was enjoying this can-you-top-this trip and to be honest, we had been very lucky with the weather, with the wind not blowing at just the right time for all those reflection photos, with the bear circling the Sequoia. But doing it in Canada seemed a bit strange since the ex had been, well you know, Canadian. That trip to Banff had been short too but sweet. We had arrived the day after a big snow storm. It had been crystal clear and we hiked up to Wenkchemna Pass in knee high snow, a dusting of the white stuff making the Valley of the Ten Peaks look like something out of a fairy tale. There was no snow this time, and in fact, the weather was turning sour after a nice first day. The only way we could have topped my first time in the park would have been to do some backpacking, something prohibitively expensive in Banff NP. No, we would just move on. Believe it or not, you can't do it all even in a six month trip. Even if you do not run out of money, you run out of time.
Before leaving, we stopped by Moraine Lake. We had done a great hike above Lake Louise the day before and I was saving the best for last. If the weather had been great, I'm sure we would have paid for another day and went up to the pass I had hiked to some 15 years earlier. It might not have been quite as pretty without the snow but now that I was sitting next to my wife with Moraine Lake as our backdrop, I realized that it wasn't just the backpacking that had made this trip better, it was that instead of falling out of love on the trip, I was falling even deeper in love with a girl who refused to believe that even a great past can't be topped.
We drove out of Banff and skedaddled back to the good old USA, but we had no regrets. We still had a few parks to conquer, a couple of pretty major ones on the experience Richter scale, but I had a pretty good feeling about our chances. With a wife like the one by my side, I was figuring on slaying at least a couple of them.
If defeat can be sweet, this must have been it. I was sitting next to the great love of my life, with Moraine Lake as our backdrop. We were having our photo taken by an Asian couple who we were reciprocating our taking theirs just moments earlier. I normally just use my tripod to get such shots but the wind was howling and there was no way I was trusting my Rebel to a $30 tripod. That very wind would in a few short moments blow us right out of Banff National Park. We had had enough; it was time to head home.
We had arrived in the famed jewel of the Canadian National Park system just two days prior with no set plan. This was on the heels of nearly five months of positively slaying every US National Park in our paths. Slaying probably sounds like a strange choice of words but that's just what it had been. I had done a similar trip in 1994 with my then long time girlfriend who just happened to be Canadian. It had been my first real prolonged exposure to hiking at the age of 36 and I had fallen in love with it. Unfortunately, the girlfriend in question and I were falling out of love and though the trip had been amazing, there was no escaping it was very much the end of us as a couple.
This return trip was about showing all these great parks to my wife. I knew it was going to be tough to top that first trip west but my wife was determined to make sure that did in fact happen. Park after park, we hiked more, stayed longer, did things I'd not done before. But what separated this trip from the 1994 outing, was we backpacked extensively allowing us to get some of the best photos I had ever taken by being in such incredible places at dusk and dawn. We went from one park to the next and when a park of particular fond memory would be on the horizon I would almost fear going back, of being disappointed. But park after park, they fell and my wife seemed to relish the challenge. I saw a competitive streak in her I'd not really noticed before. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Thanks for your very useful and informative replies.
We are wondering if we will be able to see the fall colors in early October during our 5 days trip to Banff and Jesper and then from Jesper to Kamploops and Whitsler. We will be arriving in Banff on 2nd October.
Banff is a year round destination and very family friendly at any time.
Find a hotel in Banff or Canmore for nights one and two. Use that hotel as a base to explore the area. Stop in at the visitors center in Banff, they have lots of great advice. Some things to do: Take the gondala up Sulfur Mtn and do some walking up there, there is a lot to see so you could spend a couple of hours and have a snack at the chalet. Enjoy the hot springs in the evening and check out a informal spot to eat, There are plenty of excellent restaurants in both Banff and Canmore. Drive up to Mount Norquay and take the trail to Stony Squaw mtn from the parking lot (a bit rough in spots). Even if you decide not to walk the trail the drive up is really nice so be sure you do it. Visit Johnson's canyon on hwy 1A for a spectacular family friendly walk, on the way to Lake Louise. Hwy 1A is nicest from Banf to Eisenhower junction, so switch to the main highway from the Junction to Lake Louise.
In lake Louise you can walk up to the little Bee Hive and Lake Agnes (a bit rough) for a great view of the lake or just take the trail around the lake if you don't feel like climbing. Visit moraine lake as well. Have tea at the chateau Lake Louise as well if you get the chance.
Lake Louise would be a good place for you to stay your third night.
Day 4 get an early start and head up the icefields parkway to Jasper for your fourth night. Be prepared to spend all day getting there with visits to Peyto Lake viewpoint and the columbia icefields. After a night in Jasper head back down the parkway to Mount Edith Caval and Athabasca Falls. See the Northern part of the Parkway from a different direction as you make your way south to Saskatchewan river crossing. Turn East and travel through the beautiful David Thompson area to Red Deer for your last night. The following day you have a short jaunt to the airport in Calgary and you are off.
Fondest memory: Probably one of my favorite memories is taking the gondola in Jasper and hiking with my young son in a kid carrier on the top of the mountain. My wife had our infant daughter in a front mount child carrier and we spent hours at the top of the mountain just rambling and exploring.
I know the temptation is hard but.........
So many tourists each year feed the wildlife. The wildlife is found hanging around rest areas and parking lots, looking for the occassional handout. A lot of the animals are young ones. They lose there fear of humans and put there life in danger unknowingly. Their diet DOES NOT consist of sunflower seeds, sandwhiches, potatoe chips, chocolate.....
All this does is messess up their digestive system. Because they are attracted to the rest areas on the roads, many get killed every year in the Rocky Mountains...
Take your quick picture then please leave them alone.
Here is a topographical map of the Lake Louise Area. This was take from the map in one of my other tips. I do not know how this will look when viewed in VT. Hopefully it will look okay.
The map shows some of the local hiking trails. If you know any orienterring, then this map can be very useful. Some of the trails are described on the back of the map.
Gem Trek Publishing produces these maps. They are plastic coated for use in the rain.
The Blackfoot Indians were divided into three main groups: the Northern Blackfoot, the Blood, and the Piegan. All three spoke a language which was a part of the Algonquian family.
Before being forced onto reservations they occupied a large area stretching from the North Saskatchewan River in Canada to the Missouri River in the U.S.
The Blackfeet were nomadic hunter-gatherers and subsisted mainly on buffalo, large mammals, and gathered a lot of vegetable foods. Deer and smaller game were caught with snares. Fish, although abundant, were only eaten in times of dire necessity and after the disappearance of the buffalo.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ^^^ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I come before you, one of your many children.
I am weak and small. I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset;
my ears sharp so I may hear your voice.
Make me wise, so I may learn the things you have taught my people, the lessons you have hidden under every rock and leaf.
I seek strength, not to be superior to my brothers, but to be able to fight my greatest enemy -- myself.
Make me ever ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes, so whenever life fades, like the fading sunset, my spirit will come to you without shame."
Chief Yellow Lark, a Blackfoot Indian
This large animal of the deer family is second only to the moose in terms of sheer bulk. They can weigh up to 350 kg. and stand as high as 240 cm. and 140 cm. at the shoulder.
Elk have a dark brown coat and a white rump. Actually, their other name 'Wapiti' comes from the Shawnee language and literally translates to 'white rump'.
Their antlers can become very large, growing back, almost paralleling the line of the back. The antlers begin with a single tine, off which numerous smaller tines fork. These immense antlers can weigh up to 14 kg (31 lbs.) and can stretch to 1.5 m (5 ft.).
They aren't fussy with their diets eating a variety of grasses, flowers, and herbs. They get all they need from their environment so do not try to feed them...getting too close is dangerous!
Elk are found throughout the Rockies and are one of the most popular animals in Banff National Park. They often wander the streets and back yards of the town residents. Lately the wardens have begun to evict them from the townsites back into the wild. Many visitors to Banff are injured by elk because they get too close to them. These large animals are very powerful and their front hooves very sharp!!...most especially the female hinds (not cows) when they are protecting their calves!! Do not try to venture too close and try to remember that: Wild is WILD!!!
It is not unusual to see elk in the park.
They were so plentiful that many were killed
trying to cross the TransCanada Highway!
I cannot stand the sight of road kill.
I always blame the recklessness of the driver ... although I know sometimes it can't be avoided.
I was so happy, and relieved (as I am sure the elk were too!!) when they erected chain-link fences along the highway to keep the wildlife off the road.
Anyway...if you do manage to get close to the elk...
DO NOT FEED them!!!...or any other wildlife for that matter!!!
They are much better off living a natural life (and a healthier one too!!!) if they are eating only what Mother Nature has provided for them.
Mother Knows Best!!!
....and memories with you.
One request for those of you hiking and camping the mountain parks --- a request well-stated over 70 years ago by a Piegan chief and recorded by Walter McClintock while visiting the chief's camp in the hills north of Waterton Park (this area is close to where I was born so is very special to me too).
"I am glad in my heart that you have come to stay in my camp. We pitch our tipis in this grove of cottonwoods every summer, to gather sarvis berries for our use, when the snows are deep. You will find many kinds of berries on all sides. You can eat them now, or gather and dry them for your winter supply, just as we do. I ask, however, that you will be careful not to injure the trees, or break the branches of the berry bushes. I make this request because I am looking ahead for my tribe. I am anxious to preserve these big trees and berry bushes for our children.....
We always speak of large trees as 'The Old Time Trees' and the small ones as 'Young People's Trees'."
This is a request which I trust we will always respect as we wander through the cathedral of nature we must consider as our home.
Despite their northerly latitudes, the Canadian Rockies have climate and weather patterns which compare quite closely with similar mountain areas hundreds of miles to the south. In fact, mean temperatures and annual precipitation in Banff relate almost to the degree and inch with those of West Yellowstone, Montana, and Colorado.
Generally, temperatures become moderate by April, snows begin to melt, and by May the lower valleys are usually bare.
In late May and June, however, weather conditions can be very unstable --- a time of year referred by some locals as "the monsoon season" and the reason I never plan a hiking trip during these months!
July and August are the brightest months weather-wise, with daytime temperatures rising into the 20's C. even at higher elevations.
As with ALL mountain areas, sudden storms and periods of wet weather must be reckoned with.
Be prepared for sudden changes by bringing appropriate clothing...for cold and hot temps. I remember one year when I hiked in Glacier Park in Montana and got sun-stroke, yet after reaching Lake Louise the next day, I was freezing to death from the snow storm that came up in the middle of a hike there!! And this was in August!!!
Temperatures are cool throughout the summer, sometimes even to freezing in the higher valleys. September usually sees the first snowstorms drifting down from the peaks, and, a snowfall of a third of a metre or more is not unusual. These initial storms are short-lived, however, and the latter weeks of September (my favourite month after July) and often into October, exhibits a beautiful Indian Summer.
This lake should be called "Maxiwanka" -- it's an inland fjord that is 22 km long and there's nothing mini about it. Minnewanka in Stoney Indian means "water of the spirits" and according to Indian legend is haunted by fish people. There is evidence of aboriginal habitation here approx 11,000 years ago.
Originally, the area was a much smaller body of water, which was dammed to create hydro power for the Banff area, to create the huge lake you see today. There are opportunities to picnic or to take an informative boat tour of the lake, as well as hiking.
There is a trail on the north shore of the lake, which is very easy, and you can go for as long as you want, up to 3 days, to the Ghost Lakes, which are approx 30 min. from Calgary on Highway 1A. There are campgrounds along the way. Other opportunities include an interpretive trail of the former town of Bankhead, which flourished from the nearby coal mines in the early 1900's . C-level Cirque --a reference to the level of the coal seam that was mined here, is a picturesque hike that is easy to moderate in intensity, and gives you beautiful views of the lake. This hike starts from the Upper Bankhead picnic area. Boat tours are offered from mid May to October, and gives you a chance to learn of the geological formation of the lake, as well as local history, while you cruise the Lake to Devil's Gap, where the foothills end and the mountains begin.
Location: As you head off the Trans Canada going west on the first Banff exit, you will turn to the right onto Lake Minnewanka Road and follow the signs.
Castle Mountain stands in stark beauty along the Trans Canada, about 15 minues from the Banff Townsite. It is made up of older rock than some of the surrounding mountains, and it's unique look is because there are alternate layers of soft, easily eroded rock, and hard rock, resistant to erosion.
There is also a little-known fact about Castle Mountain -- it used to be the site of a World War I interment camp, where most of the internees were displaced civilians from Europe who were there due to war hysteria. Conditions were bleak and grim there, not like the cushy WWII camp in Kananaskis. The internees built a roadway between Banff and Lake Louise and helped develop Banff National Park. The camp was dismantled in 1917. There is a memorial and some old remnants of the camp, but it is not visible from the roadway.
Fondest memory: Castle Lookout is a decent hike that you can do early in the season, on the southwest side of the mountain. Half of the hike is on a boring dirt road, but in early summer, you'll end up amongst meadows of wildflowers when the road turns into a narrow, dirt path.
This is a former fire lookout site, and when you reach the end of the trail, you'll have a beautiful view of the Bow Valley, with Storm Mountain looming in the South.
Directions: Castle Mountain can be a drive-by, viewed from the Trans Canada heading west towards Lake Louise, and you won't have trouble recognizing it's distinct shape. For the hike, head west on the Trans Canada until you reach Castle Junction (signed). Follow the road, and when you reach Castle Mountain Chalets, turn left onto Highway 1A. Drive for approx 5km, and there will be a signed parking lot.
Johnston Canyon is named after a prospector who once found Gold here. This gentle hike, mostly on catwalks, carries you past picturesque waterfalls and twisting cascades for 5.8 km all the way up to the Inkpots --a series of small pools colored by mineral deposits.
Johnston Canyon is probably one of the most crowded sites in Banff, and I highly recommend coming here after 5:00 pm during the summer (it stays light here until about 10:00 pm, so no worries), or in shoulder season, which is usually late May or late October. However, the falls will probably be at their best in late June, early July, due to the spring meltwater in the mountains.
Fondest memory: This is a place for the whole family -- I have seen toddlers -- please be very careful with your children, you don't want them falling into the water -- to senior citizens enjoying the gently graded path. The pathway is much more scenic and enjoyable than when I was a child, as they have added catwalks to take full advantage of various viewpoints.
Location: Drive past Banff going west on the Trans Canada and turn off at the Bow Valley Parkway (1A). Johnston Canyon is located approx 17.5 km from this junction.
Favorite thing: This is Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Tea Room. There was still ice on the Lake in late June. The ice was gone two days after we were there. The last ascent is steep but by this time your legs can deal with anything .
Pyramid Lake Road, 5 km from Jasper, Jasper, Alberta, T0E 1E0, Canada
Good for: Business
Friend's of mine were visiting Alberta so we decided to splurge and share a room at the Fairmont...more
This is a fantastic place to stay if you are on a budget. The rooms are well equip with everything...more