Posted by: bkivey | 24 September 2015

Canada Vacation Pt. 5

18 September 2015

Got up reasonably early because I wanted time to see Banff National Park, and there was laundry to be done. The hotel had a laundry, but both of the washers were broken. A quick search found a laundromat 3 km away, so I headed over. I’d bought a roll of quarters for laundry, but found that the machines only accepted dollars. No problem; I had enough. After the wash was done I went back to the hotel and put everything in the dryers, then headed to Denny’s a short distance away for breakfast.

Denny’s sends a bit of a mixed message. The menu cover proclaims that Denny’s is Canada’s diner, but when you open the menu, the very first breakfast dish is the All-America Slam. I ordered it.

I’ve mentioned that the home stadium for the CFL Calgary Stampeders was behind the hotel, and I saw from the paper there was a game that evening. I thought it would be cool to see a CFL game, and there were tickets left I could afford. Seeing a game was definitely on the nice-to-do list rather than the have-to-do list, so I refrained from buying a ticket. If I was back in time, fine, if not, no loss.

After recovering the laundry, I set the GPS for Banff National Park, and was informed it was a little over an hour away. On the way out of town, I was happy to find the ski jumps from the 1988 Olympics:

Olympic ski jump

Adjacent to this is the bobsled/luge track:

Olympic bobsled track sign

Bobsled track

I didn’t see any Jamaicans.

Although Alberta is one of the prairie provinces, the rolling hills reminded me more of central Oregon than Kansas, although Alberta gets more precipitation. I discovered that the Rockies in this part of Canada don’t really have foothills; they pretty much rise straight up out of the landscape. I also found that the Canadian tendency toward lower speed limits extends to limited-access roads. The speed limit on this part of the Trans-Canada Highway is 110 km/hr, or about 65 mph. Not exactly crawling, but Canada is 5000 miles across. Apparently the government wants you to enjoy the scenery.

The first town after entering the mountains is Canmore. When God was handing out scenery, Canmore camped in line:

Canmore panorama

The 360º panorama gives a hint of things to come.

Next is the Park entrance, where you can buy a pass.

Entrance to Banff National Park

Day passes for individuals were C$9.80, and I bought passes for Saturday and Sunday.  There’s a bypass to avoid the toll booths, and I never saw any access restrictions, or rangers patrolling. I wondered what was to keep people from accessing the park without paying. I’d find out on Saturday.

A little further up the road is the town of Banff:

Banff Alberta

It’s pretty much like every other town in a tourist attraction: lot’s of ways to separate people from their money.  Even the alleys in Banff offer views:

Banff alley

There’s a tourist information facility run by Parks Canada, and I picked up a brochure to plan my activities. Given the time constraints of the day, I figured I’d tour the Bow Valley Parkway, then see Lake Morraine and Lake Louise. The weather was problematical, but you take what Nature has to offer.

The scenery quickly turns from amazing to spectacular:

Fault-block mountains

The mountain in center-left is one of the finest examples of a fault-block mountain I’ve seen. The placards describe what you’re seeing; but it boils down to kilometers-thick sections of the Earth’s crust thrust up and then overlapped atop each other. Then the whole assembly was moved kilometers west from their original location. The forces involved are mind-boggling.

On to the Bow Valley Parkway:

Bow Valley Prkwy sign

That’s actually the sign at the northern end of the Parkway.

Scenery abounds around every turn. There’s the Castle Cliffs:

Castle Cliffs

Castle Cliffs sign

Directly across from Castle Cliffs is Storm Mt.:

Storm Mt panorama

The mountain itself:

Storm Mt

Storm Mt placard

A WWI internment camp:

Internment camp site

The American internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII is somewhat well known, and Canada did the same thing with European-Canadians during WWI. The statue in the background is of a Ukrainian entitled ‘Why?’. There were bouquets at the base.

While here I heard a train on the tracks that follow the Bow River through the valley, and thought ‘How cool would a photo of a train in this setting look?’ Answer: cool. I didn’t hurry; after all, this was another bonus. When I got to the road, I saw the train was moving right along: I paced it at 100 km/hr. The speed limit on the Parkway is 60 km/hr, and I’d obviously have to go faster than the train if I was going to get ahead. I pushed the car to 120 km/hr, which was as fast as I cared to drive on that road. I did get ahead, and found a likely spot, but I could hear the train when I stopped.  There were only a few seconds to set up the shot.

Canadian Pacific loco

There were better shots available, but not in the time I had to work with. Still, a bonus.

Back on the Parkway, and past the Village of Lake Louise and on to Lake Morraine. The lake is off the road and up the side of a mountain. Signs advise that parking is limited. You get an idea just how limited when you see cars parked on the side of the road half a klick from the lake.

Lake Morraine is in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. There’s an overlook at the lake shore, and an enormous pile of rocks called ‘The Rockpile’. A trail goes to the the top of the rockpile, and involves some serious grades and steps. At the top, there’s a view:

Lake Morrraine

At one time this view was on the back of the Canadian $20 bill.

A look down onto the trail:

Trail from top of rockpile

A placard details some of the wildlife making it’s home here:

Life on the rockpile placard

And there were a couple of Least Squirrels foraging about.

Least Squirrel

This area is heavily traveled, but the squirrels were busy. As far as they were concerned, it was Winter, and the humans were an intrusion on their efforts to lay by for the season.

Back down the mountain to Lake Louise. I saw a gentleman in Toyota’s version of the Land Rover. He had three spare wheelsets and two shovels strapped to the back, and an aluminum bridge strapped to to the top. If there was anywhere he couldn’t go, I didn’t want to know about it. He was French-Canadian, so I asked him in my abominable French if he was driving around the world: it ‘s the sort of rig you’d have to do that. He said he was just driving through Canada, but that Canada was big.

Lake Louise is well set-up for the tourist trade: there’s ample parking. And if you’ve ever seen a photo of Banff Park, you’ve probably seen some version of Lake Louise. It is impressive:


Lake Louise 2

And it’s the scene that captured me as a child, and motivated me to visit Banff Park. In a sense it’s sort of a gateway scene. It gets you interested in the Park, but is not the most impressive feature. There’s a hotel directly behind this scene on the lake:

Lake Louise Lodge

Mid-September is late in the tourist season, but the Japanese were out in force:

Tourists Lake Louise

The walkway was a minefield of family portraits and selfies.

And that was it for Banff on the day. I drove back to Calgary, arriving at 1900. I had to take care of some business, so wasn’t able to attend the game. I went to the Best Western bar, and discovered that unlike the NFL, the CFL televises games in the local market even if they don’t sell out. A bit weird watching a game on TV that was taking place only a few hundred meters away.

Hey, nothing went wrong today.!



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