Friday 7th June 2019
On Wednesday evening, our last in Canmore, we took our washing to the local laundromat and then we treated ourselves to a really nice Italian meal. One great thing across North America is the proliferation of laundromats; something we don’t have in most of Europe. It makes getting the washing done so easy for the traveller.
Whilst waiting for the laundry we took a stroll along the Bow River footpath and a large female elk was in the river paddling along. We were so delighted, she made our total of Canadian mammal-spotting to eleven species: bison, black bear, moose, elk, deer, rabbit, squirrel, ground squirrel, chipmunk, prairie dog, beaver and fox. We managed to creep fairly close to the elk to take some photos (not too close, cow elk can be vicious in the calving season). She looked up and saw us, as well as a guy on the other side of the river (he was quietly sitting watching her too). She gave us a haughty stare then turned around and paddled quite slowly back up the river. Great experience!
Yesterday we drove on to Banff where we spent the day and last night.
On the way we stopped at the park station and paid our park fee before driving up to Lake Minnewanka, beautiful scenery all the way. First Nation people called this place Minn-waki, but by the early twentieth century the name had been altered to Minnewanka. Reckon the early settlers there must have been Brits!
On the road to Minnewanka we stopped at Lake Johnson and then at a place called Bankhead. Bankhead was once a thriving mining community which got submerged under water when the construction of a dam turned Lake Johnson into a reservoir. It is fascinating to see photos of this fairly large town that is now reclaimed totally by nature and forested glens; Bankhead is now only seen by scuba divers.
A big difference for us is that now we have crowds of tourists sightseeing alongside us. In Ontario. Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta east of Calgary, we had all of the sensational scenery more or less to ourselves. At Lake Minnewanka the car park filled up swiftly and there was a queue for the loo! Later on in the day we went up to the Banff Gondola, thinking that we might ride up to the
top of the mountain for the view. We had to fight to park, only to find that they wanted $66.50 each from us, just to go up and back once! That would be about €88 (£78) for us both. We didn’t bother! That is a really over-inflated price for riding a rather old-looking four-man gondola. When we get to Lake Louise, however, we shall pay whatever the price is to go on a chair lift because it passes over grizzly-bear terrain and we might be lucky to see some bears (depending on the weather).
Banff is a lovely town, Alpine architecture as in European ski resorts and plenty of boutiques, restaurants and bars. We stayed in a really nice hotel for the night.
This morning we awoke to find that it was snowing steadily. Snow in June! It all looked very pretty at tree-level but we couldn’t see the mountains. It made driving today a bit dodgy in places and of course we couldn’t enjoy the views. The snow turned to rain later in the afternoon but more snow is forecast for tonight and we have the possibility of thunder storms tomorrow. Long-term, however, after the weekend, sunshine
should return to the mountains. Our idea was to spend the day in Lake Louise, but it was snowing so heavily by the time we got there we didn’t even stop; 10 cm of snow already by lunchtime. We shall go back there when the weather improves. We are now in a nice little town called Golden, in the Yoho National Park, next door to Banff National Park on the British Columbia side of the Great Divide (going over the top it was definitely dodgy driving). Although we are in British Columbia, they still keep Alberta time here, referred to as “Mountain Time”. This is good because we night be hopping back and forth over the Divide over the next few days. Once we get further into B.C. the clocks will go back an hour.
We had two itineraries in mind. One was to make Jasper a side trip and return to Lake Louise to re-connect with the Trans-Canada Highway to go via Golden and Yoho down to Kamloops in British Columbia and onwards towards Vancouver. The second option was to make Golden a side trip and go up to Jasper then onwards to Mount Robson (the highest point
in Canada) and then down to Kamloops and onward to Vancouver. We are so
glad we chose the latter option. People were stuck in the snow between Lake Louise and Jasper today! We shall get to Jasper when the weather improves!
Two highlights of the Yoho National Park are the Takakkaw Falls and the Emerald Lake. Both roads were closed due to snowfall and fallen branches from trees today, so again, two “specials” which hopefully we shall see in a few days’ time!
Golden sits in the Kicking Horse Valley and we are told that it is surrounded by dramatic mountain peaks on all sides. Well, it has stopped raining but we still cannot see the mountains, the sky is completely white. Hopefully it will be brighter tomorrow so that we can explore the area here around Golden and some of the trails along the beautiful Kicking Horse River. In anticipation of getting to hike along some of the trails, we purchased some bear spray whilst in Banff. One has to sign for the spray gun, with ID and address details. A bear spray gun is a weapon which we hope we never have to try to use.
Sadly, on the news yesterday, there was a report about the death of a young grizzly bear in the Banff National Park in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The bear was killed just off the Trans-Canada Highway by a large truck. The truck driver reported it immediately and was really distraught about the death of the bear. He was a young male weighing 134 kilograms (when fully mature grizzlies can weigh up to 350 kilos). The thought of such a magnificent creature dying on the highway made a sad start to the day. The Park Authorities, although saddened by the death of one of this endangered species, said they were glad that the bear wasn’t a mother leaving cubs behind.
Although today was challenging weather, we are still really enjoying our time here in the mountains. Being adaptable and flexible with plans is what is important when travelling, which is why we rarely pre-book and take each day as it comes. ¡Hasta Mañana!
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