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Published: June 10th 2013
The Banff Centre serves a great buffet breakfast, which we shared with other conference attendees. Then Wayne went off to his sessions, and I walked to town for some window shopping. I also went to the Cascade Gardens, but only pansies were planted yet. It's hard to remember how late the spring comes here.
At noon I took advantage of an aerobics class, "Anything Goes," with weights, bands, and the Bosu (half ball). It was good to work other parts of the body after so much leg work with all of our hiking. The class was really fun and well taught. Unfortunately, there are no classes on the weekend, so this will be my only one.
After a strange lunch thrown together from various bits we have accumulated, I walked out to the view of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel across the Bow River. It is one of the first of the Canadian Pacific hotels and rises like a castle amid the evergreens. Then I continued up Tunnel Mountain, about an hour's hike, for a view of the town. I didn't want to carry the iPad, so no photos!
We ate out at the Bear Street Tavern with
Ron, Ann, Sara, and Sugartha - great pizzas and fish tacos. Then all went prowling for wildlife on the Vermillion Lakes Road (just a loon and some jumping fish) and the golf course. We had better luck on the golf course, following a coyote running through the woods beside the road, and, finally, seeing a group of elk feasting on the short grass.
The next day, Saturday, we drove north to Lake Louise, taking the scenic route, 1a, which is slow but let us see more elk and a black bear (actually black this time) along the way. We wondered whether we had the energy to set out for the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, about a 3-4 hour round trip, finally deciding we would at least set out on it and turn around if we felt tired. The first two km were very easy and flat, then it did a gradual climb, and the last 2 km were quite challenging with much snow on some steeper sections. Especially challenging coming down and trying not to do any "skiing." We were glad we had our hiking boots on, as people with sneakers were getting pretty wet. nothing seemed
to phase one man who was wearing Hawaiian board shorts and flip-flops!
The weather was threatening, but we encountered only a few sprinkles, and the view of the turquoise lake remained gorgeous. Even if you are not a hiker, it's worth a visit to see the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the shore with the mountains all around. We had been here twice before but had not seen this much snow, piled in huge ridges on the mountain tops, just waiting to fall. There is still avalanche danger in June!
We came up behind a family with two young girls who had been offered a monetary reward to spot mountain goats. Sure enough, the older one saw two on the cliffs above us, little dirty white shapes that looked like animal crackers against the black rock. We shared our binoculars, the least we could do after they'd done the hard work!
We gained energy once we got started, so we did push on the tea house where we shared a PB&J, turning down the Spanish rice soup which was loaded with (Wayne's) dreaded olives. It tasted great, of course, and we ate at a tiny table on
the balcony of the hut. It is odd to find a place as inaccessible as this serving food. Horses regularly bring up perishables, and once a year other supplies are helicoptered in. Much appreciated by all the hikers.
I know that feeding wildlife is verboten, but about halfway back on the trail I couldn't resist testing whether a little ground squirrel (looks like a chipmunk) would go after an almond that I tossed on the ground. Well, he didn't hesitate a moment, dashed over and scooped that right up and sat savoring all that free fatty energy. Apparently I was not the first.
We drove back to Banff and had a wonderful Greek dinner at the Balkan Restaurant. Excellent grilled pita bread and hummus, and my salad of chicken, figs, pecans and feta was one of the best I've ever tasted. Wayne had the lamb shank, which was good, but a little heavy with rice pilaf and potatoes.
Not having any particular plans for the evening, and with the weather getting damp, we went to Star Trek into Darkness just for fun.
Sunday's forecast was not good, so we looked for short hikes and settled on
Johnston Canyon Lower Falls. Sure enough it was wet, but with boots and umbrellas, we did OK. The gorge is very impressive, and most of the half-mile hike is on catwalks. The falls have carved out a smooth basin, and above it is a tunnel you can walk through to stand in the spray, not that we weren't wet enough already.
Back toward Banff we swung by the Hoodoos, eroded stone formations that look something like people standing guard over the Bow River. The weather was looking up, so we went back to the hotel, left the car, and walked to town for a little lunch and shopping. Lunch at a food court was nothing to brag about, but the ice cream at Cows was pretty wonderful, with favors like fluff 'n udder, chocolate cheesecake, and gooey mooey.
The Cave & Basin is a half-mile walk from town and worth a visit. It is the site of, still visible, hot mineral pools discovered by three railroad workers in the 1880s, which started the tourist industry and also inspired Canada's first national park. You can't swim in the hot springs here, but you can just up the road at
Upper Hot Springs. Speaking of swimming, before dinner I enjoyed a dip in the Banff Centre pool, with its glass ceiling letting in the occasional sunshine.
We had a good meal at Bumpers, thanks to a salad bar, although like most places in the area it seemed over-priced. For a final attempt at wildlife watching, we drove out to Lake Minnewanka and were rewarded with a siting of a grizzly bear who didn't stick around for a picture, near Two Jack Campground. Watch out campers!
I guess we will end here as we get ready for bed on our last night in Banff. We will be sad to fly home to the heat and humidity(?) after this fresh mountain air and matchless scenery! I hope you may experience it, too, someday.
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