Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jasper to Banff, AB, August 3-5, 2011

Jim was up bright and early and ready to get going ahead of the crowd. We need to stop by the sanidump on our way out. This campground has 718 sites! Luckily the dump has 8 stations. While Jim was taking care of that and filling the water tank I spoke to a young man next to us. He was from Taiwan and vacationing in Vancouver, Jasper and Banff. He had rented an RV. He told us he actually had lived in Beaumont, Texas for about 1-2 years going to Lamar University. Jim mentioned that he had also attended Lamar University and lived in Beaumont. Small world!
After leaving the park we went back into Jasper to fill the RV with diesel. On the way we saw an entire herd of elk on the side of the highway. I wanted to stop to take pics but I remembered Jim was following in the RV and I didn’t want a repeat of the “turkey” story so I kept on going trying to snap a pic from the car. We got to the station but it was full of other rv’s so we opted for another station we passed earlier. We got into that one easily and got out and back to a little turnout on the Icefields Parkway to hook up the car. Now we off!
The drive to Banff was spectacular!!! The scenery just kept getting more amazing as we went. We stopped at several turnouts to take some photos. We also managed to stop at the Icefields Center. We did not go into the center just took photos from the parking lot. We actually saw large tour buses driving onto the glacier. I don’t know how they do that..but there was one after the other. We got back on the road and kept on going. We stopped at one really large turnout…everyone else was stopping there too. One man and his wife in a fifth-wheel just stopped and started putting out his slides and setting up camp. Don’t know what he was doing. Anyway, the mountains were magnificient and the lake in front of them was the most beautiful shade of deep blue. I was taking pics when a French girl came up and offered to take a pic of me and Jim if I would take a pic of her and her friend. We’ve met lots of people who took our pic and we theirs on this trip.
We finally got to Banff and exited the highway only to get behind some cyclists. We couldn’t pass because the road was narrow and hilly with curves. We just followed behind. Before we finally got to our turn into the campground one of the leaders in the cyclist group fell back and stayed in front of us weaving along the lane and going as slow as possible. Jim though she was doing it on purpose and it sure looked that way. It wasn’t long before we got to our turn into the Tunnel Mountain Trailer campground. We were given a site with hookups which wasn’t the best but they said make do…take both sites if necessary. The campground looks like they have plenty of better sites for us but we stayed where they put us. Jim says he feels like a mountain goat getting in the rig because the steps open to just a small bit of ground before dropping off. It’s only two nights so we’ll stay.
We went into Banff and walked to the visitor center to pick up maps and get some recommendations on what we should do. We set off walking down the main road to the Bow River bridge then along the river to the Bow Falls. We walked up lots of steps and steep trails and more steps to finally arrive at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It looks like a castle on a hill. We just went to the bar and had a beer then walked back into town. Along the way we saw a large deer with antlers eating brush next to the river. He just stood there while people were taking photos. I guess he’s accustomed to people. Along our walk back to the car we stopped into an ice cream parlor and got some cones. They were the most expensive ice cream cones ever! One small scoop in a cone for $4.95 each! We found the car, finished our cones and found the local Safeway to do some shopping. Tomorrow we will drive to Lake Louise! I’m sure it will be breathtakingly beautiful too.
We did finally get up this morning after a nice sleep. It’s warmer here than we’re used to but still cool enough for comfort. We drove directly to Lake Louise and stopped at the visitor’s center for advice. After getting a map of the area we walked around the little shopping area and visited the Post Office to see if we could get on wifi without a password. We needed to pay for 15 minutes so we opted to just go on to the lake. It wasn’t a very long drive to Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel which is on the shoreline of the lake. It looks like something from Walt Disney…majestic mountains in the background with a beautiful blue lake sitting below. It was crowded with people which seemed to be mostly Chinese or Japanese all with cameras and posing for a million photos. We found a couple to take our photo so we took theirs too. On our walk around the lake I saw a poor man trying to take his own photo with the lake and mountains in the background. Of course, I offered and he was so appreciative.
The first thing I heard when we got out of the car was bagpipes. As soon as we made it to the lake and the hotel we saw a drum and bagpipe band playing. It was a perfect accompaniment to the visual beauty. We didn’t walk all the way around the lake (I don’t think you can) but turned back and went into the hotel to have a look. Very regal looking…I imagine they charge a pretty penny or shilling for a room. I took a photo of the view from the cafĂ©. What a way to wake up in the morning.
We left Lake Louise and headed to Moraine Lake. We had to take another longer road to that lake. It was very narrow and steep and twisty. Beautiful sights along the way…views of surrounding mountain peaks. Pretty soon we got to a place where cars were parked along the right side of the road. As we went further we found they had no room in the small parking lot at the lake and people were walking up the main road. We tried to drive slowly through the parking lot hoping someone would leave and let us in but no such luck. We decided we’d have to miss Moraine Lake. I’m sure it was also beautiful.
We drove back to the Village and had lunch at the Family restaurant. I had a Caesar salad with grilled teriyaki chicken and a nice piece of garlic butter Texas toast. It hit the spot. We had seen all we could at Lake Louise and decided to drive the scenic Highway 1A route back to Banff. There were warnings all around about bears and wolves and “watch for the wildlife” but it took a little while before we saw our bear. Actually it was, I think, a mama bear, older baby bear and new baby bear…all grizzly. They were eating berries and grass on the side of the road. I tried to get a good photo but they were on Jim’s side of the road and they were mostly hidden by grasses and shrubs. We were recommended to stop by Johnston Canyon to see the falls. Before we reached that area we started seeing cars parked on both sides of the road…”what now?” They were parked to see the falls. We tried the parking lot and had no trouble finding a space. We walked to the canyon and read about the trail. There were actually two trails…1/2 mile to midway up the canyon and the lower falls and 1-1/2 mile to top of the canyon and the upper falls. We opted for the shorter walk. Most of the walk was on catwalks hung on the side of the canyon. It was just big enough for a single line of people going up and a single line of people going down. Sometimes one way had to wait to let people by. It was worth the walk and I’m sure the upper falls were even better but we’d walked enough today and were satisfied with what we saw. There was even a little cave in the wall which I went through which put me right at the falls. I didn’t stay to get really wet but it was fun going through the tunnel cave.
After we got back on the road to Banff we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife but never saw anything else.
Before going back to the campground we took a side trip to Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. It too was surrounded by mountains and was a beautiful blue color and crystal clear. We took the loop road back and passed by Johnson Lake and stopped to take some photos. We did see lots of stone sheep along the road.
Now back in the motorhome we are preparing to leave tomorrow and head to the USA!!! We are stopping in St. Mary, Montana, to visit Glacier National Park. I’m sure the drive tomorrow will be as spectacular as all the others have been.

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