The magic that is Banff National Park comes from its location in the Canadian Rockies. Its north of Glacier National Park in Montana. Like Glacier Park there is a wide variety of wildlife, hiking trails, biking trails and of course glaciers.
Banff is approximately seventy-five miles west of Calgary. Most visitors come between May and Labor Day so arriving this late in the season reduces the volume of foot and vehicle traffic. Banff did not disappoint — we drove straight up to Lake Louise after entering the Park. At the information center the range suggested that we go further north to avoid the afternoon crowds; Lake Louise is the #1 destination in Banff Park and is always crowded.
We took his advice and drove to Yoho National Park for the remainder of the day. Once there we took a couple of hikes — first to Takakkaw Falls:
the second around Emerald Lake:
For the uninitiated virtually all waters in Banff, Yoho, etc. appear to be turquoise. This is because the water source is glaciers. As the glaciers melt the water contains silica. This mineral washes down the streams and rivers that feed the lakes. In the flowing waters look gray due to the silica. Eventually, the heavy silica residue sinks to the bottom of the lake or river. The remaining water then takes on a striking turquoise hue as it reflects the light. Seeing the turquoise waters is unforgettable; the effect inspires a sense of is spirituality that can only be found in nature.
We decided to eat at The Truffled Pig restaurant located in Field — a small resort town near Emerald Lake. Turns out it is the only restaurant for miles with a menu rivaling gourmet restaurants in any big city.
We made it to Lake Louise the next day. The weather was cloudy, but the intermittent drizzle failed to stop our hiking plans. Around the Lake we climbed past the “Beehive”
— on to Lake Agnes with its tea house in the sky which serves pie and sandwiches:
While lunching near the tea house I was accosted by a rabid ground squirrel. As I sat eating a sandwich he jumped on my lap and attempted to steal my lunch. He was our first animal sighting in the park:
The pictures of these treasures far surpasses mere words. Visiting these awe-inspiring beauties provides a welcome retreat from the hub-bub of the outside world albeit for a short span of time.
Later, we drove into the town of Banff to wander and eat some dinner. To the uninitiated Banff, the town, is an expensive tourist trap on par with Aspen or Juneau.
Main Street is inundated with a variety of independent and chain restaurants, expensive jewelry shops and high to low-end novelty shops carrying Canadian souvenirs. Most customers are foreign tourists like me from all over the world: one hears German, Chinese, Japanese, French — its like being at the UN. Every age group is represented: seasonality means Baby Boomers comprise the largest segment.
Since entering Canada I’d been comparison shopping for a specific souvenir. The cost vacillated wildly from place to place. I found it hard to believe that in the “mother of all tourist traps” I’d save $2 per box of Canadian Maple Leaf Cookies. My personal stash at home was dangerously low. This trip enabled me to re-stock.
I’ve coveted Maple Leaf Cookies since childhood. My paternal grandma got me hooked. I had not cared that the cookies of my youth contained artificial maple flavoring. I was eternally hooked even though grandma’s cookies were made in the US of A. Imagine my ecstasy when I discovered “real” Canadian Maple Leaf Cookies were made with “real” maple syrup. This information made every trip to Canada a pilgrimage.
I purchased only six boxes. Regrettably, space is limited in our Prius due to our travel gear, plus my traveling companion was wincing at the number of boxes in my bag. I chose the more reasonable route (this time). I hope this supply can get me through the next six months or more. It should because I won’t open the boxes before getting home. I will then deposit my treasure in the downstairs freezer. Then whenever the urge hits me I will remove cookies, one by one, and eat it still frozen. Oh joy, rapture — yum, yum!
What more was there to do in Canada? Saw big cities — check, visited the eccentric named towns — check, hiked in the famous parks — check and got cookies — double check. Yup, time to head back to America.
As we pulled on Queen Elizabeth II Highway aka Highway 2 my head began to ache. Must be the altitude. Oh,oh, its my lack of a valid passport. The Canadian border guard bypassed protocol to let me in — would I be able to come back? I turned to my partner and nervously laughed. “What if I can’t get back in?” “Don’t worry, I’m sure everything will be ok.” “Yeah, I suppose. But I’ve had some prior dust-ups with Homeland Security. This could be a deal-breaker!” She just smiled. As I drove toward the border small beads of sweat limped down my spine. My pits started to dampen. My stomach turned over several times. Thoughts of a confrontation swelled my brain. “Well, guess we’ll see what happens.”
Trying to set aside the situation, I turned up the radio as Eric Clapton riffed on “Let it Rain”. Looking ahead a large green sign said U.S. Border 50km in bold white letters. I began quietly singing the refrain — let it rain, let it rain, let the sun shine down on me, let it rain…