Monday, August 18, 2014

The Canadian Rockies Part 2: Banff National Park

     Leaving Jasper we headed south once again on Canadian Hwy 93.  About 65 miles south of Jasper you enter Banff National Park.  These parks border each other.  The majesty of the scenery continues as you travel the Icefields Parkway.   Our destination was Lake Louise, about 140 miles south of Jasper.   We wound up and down thru several mountain valleys during our journey.  Amazingly we still averaged 12.3 mpg towing!  Once, when we took a break along the road we discovered a family of Mountain Goats visiting a salt lick on the cliffs above the road.  This did take some stalking. 
      We had reservations at the Lake Louise ‘Hard Sided RV’ park.   There is also a ‘Soft Sided RV/Tent’ park which is surrounded by an electric wire barrier to help deter the resident bear population.  We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the campground.  The daily visitor passes for Canadian National Parks (in addition to camping fees) are pretty steep.  We had already paid $98 for 7 days visitor passes at Jasper, but the attendant at Banff credited us this amount towards a Yearly Pass so we only paid another $15 for the yearly pass.  Unfortunately, due to the increasingly dry weather campfires were not allowed during our stay. 


     The Lake Louise area is probably the most visited area in all of Canada.  The village of Lake Louise is the highest community in elevation in the country and the lake lies still another 700 feet higher.  Parking is limited and fills up quickly, but you can catch the shuttle bus at the village for $5.  We were able to visit and hike along the lake on our 2nd day when we got up at 7:30 a.m. to ensure we got a parking space.   There are also lake cruises, fishing charters, and helicopter tours available.  I was hoping for clearer weather, but it had rained the night before so there were still some lingering clouds in the mountains. 

     There is a very nice trail that extends the length of the lake on the north side and provides for some amazing views and photography.  I had worn my MSU Spartan wind shirt for the day and was surprisingly greeted on the trail with a hearty “GO GREEN GO WHITE” by another retired couple from Michigan.  Spartan fans are everywhere!

      I cannot even describe the color this lake displays.  It seems to change as the sun rises and the light changes.  It is a blend of blue, green, and steel gray.  Potentilla, Lupine, and Fireweed grow along the trail as well.  The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located on the east shore and is the main entrance/exit point to the lake.  This structure is very old as well as a very pricey 5 Star Resort.  The word ‘Chateau’ is a bit understated as this resort is as big as any you will find in Las Vegas.  Hang on to your wallet cause the seasonal rate for a room ranges from $878-$1238 per night!  Although this resort has several fine restaurants we decided this would NOT be our restaurant review for the area.  Yes, I’m loving my RV lifestyle right about now. 


      The village of Banff is located about 45 minutes south of Lake Louise, providing for a day trip.
.   I found the environmentally modified highway overpasses very cool as they are designed to allow the wildlife to pass over the road untroubled.  This project has been a huge success. 

     The village of Banff has it all, and if it doesn’t…..they will import it.  This reminded me very much of Aspen, CO.  It is much larger than either Jasper or Lake Louise.  This village can be described in one word:  UPSCALE.   The surrounding peaks make for a breathtaking backdrop to the main street. 

      There are countless resorts, lodges, inns and other places to stay ranging quite a bit in price.  Of course the centerpiece of town is the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel with seasonal rates a bit cheaper than Lake Louise, ranging from $489-$689!  Although this community is famous for its elk we did not see any during our visit.  The town, however, is littered with numerous piles of evidence left behind. 

     We had our breakfast at McDonalds for its free Wi-Fi and cause I think the sausage Canada uses for its biscuits is phenomally tasty!  After a trip to the visitor center for a map and a SHORT jaunt around town to satisfy my wife’s ‘shopping jones’ we headed out on the side roads to see a bit of the local vistas.  Unfortunately, it had rained much of the morning so the low clouds often obstructed our views.   We returned to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway which offers access to many of the local sights. 
     We only spent 5 days in Banff, but could have easily stayed longer.  I think Barb and I are both starting to miss the USA….and Verizon, lower gas prices, etc.  We’ll take a couple of days now visiting Waterton Lakes before we cross the border back into Montana.  We have about 10 days of adventures planned there before we begin the inevitable trek east.  We have been out of the ‘Lower 48’ for 90 days now.  
An interesting side note:  we discovered during this trip that our cat Bodhi has learned how to unzip the pet food and snacks bag as well as trip the correct switch to roll down the rear truck windows.  We also diagnosed that our dog Dharma’s occasional bouts with diarrhea and intestinal issues are due to her eating all the cat’s food when we are away.   In other news of the world…….both the cat and dog are still alive.  Mommy and Daddy had no comments permissible for publication. 


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