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Exploring Banff on Day 1

semi-overcast 57 °F


After reading my last blog I realized that I failed to mention the beautiful scenery we encountered during that disastrous travel day. Distinct geography differences define the Canadian provinces. Traveling west from Ontario on a previous trip we noticed at the time that crossing the Provincial line into (oops! forgot Manitoba) the land immediately became flat with vast wheatfields and croplands extending as far as the eye could see. It continued on across Sasketchewan & Alberta and down into North & South Dakota. On this trip we observed that at the Alberta-British Columbia line the Rocky Mountains begin and continue westward. They are majestic and awe-inspiring beyond description. Throughout the day as the sun moves the scene changes as shadows form creating more beauty in the mountains. The streams and rivers are glacial-fed and are ice-blue in color.

Our campground is in Cochrane, AB, a relatively short & easy drive to Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway. In planning for this trip 4 months ago I tried to find a campsite in or near Banff. All had been booked, probably a year ahead. Fortunately, I found Bull Run Campground in Cochrane on the Bow River and made reservations in May. It happens that this weekend is Canada's August Civic Holiday and literally thousands of vacationers are in the area. Cochrane is a town of about 40K claiming to be the 2nd largest in Alberta behind Calgary, the Capitol, about 25 miles to the east. Alberta is energy rich in coal & natural gas deposits and with its 'Oil Sands' to the north. A major pipeline begins on the Bow River and becomes the infamous Keystone Pipeline as it crosses the US border in North Dakota.

Upon arriving in Banff we went to the famed Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel to make dinner reservations for Monday eve. It is one of the old Canadian Pacific Hotels dating back to the late 1800's for Canadian Pacific rail passengers of the time. It has a wonderful splendor and charm with views of the mountains. We also made lunch reservations at the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel with a window table overlooking the mountains, glacier, and ice-blue lake.
While in Banff we visited Bow Falls, Cascade Gardens with its beautiful floral displays and walked around the downtown. The 8 X 8 block area is filled with shops and restaurants with an Alpine theme. Summer and Winter tourism is their life-blood. A visit to the Cave & Basin National Historic Site proved to be interesting and it gave us a historical view of Banff. It seems that 3 prospectors were looking for gold in this wilderness region in the 1880's. While exploring they came upon a hole (3'-4' diameter) in the rock mountainside. From it rose steam and a sulfur smell. Descending into the hole they found a large pool of thermally-heated water and realized they had come upon something special. Not long after that discovery the labor crews of the Canadian Pacific Railway were laying the track nearby and learned of the find. A settlement was established with a train station, then hotel and promotion of the health benefits of the Warm Springs of Banff. Thus, became the establishment of Banff. Later, hoteliers hired Swiss guides to promote mountain climbing & skiing. Quite a story with a humble beginning. In a land dispute for rights of the Warm Springs the government ruled the area public domain and created Canada's first National Park. Today, there are about 6 National Parks in the region, all adjacent to one another and linked together.

The lady at the Visitor's Center in Banff advised that to see Lake Louise we needed to be there near 0900 in the morning to find parking. Strange, we thought, but followed her directions to use the Overflow Parking area and to take the free busses to the Lake. That we did and are we glad we did! There were literally thousands of people descending upon Lake Louise yesterday. The Lake had canoe rentals and there must have been 3 dozen canoes on the water. The grand hotel only allowed guests to enter, but we boldly entered, went to the Conciere Desk and asked for dining options for lunch. There are 3 areas in which to dine. We not only enjoyed lunch with the spectacular view but toured the public areas of the hotel, as well. More on our last day in Banff tomorrow.

Posted by dixter 07:57 Archived in USA Tagged lake banff & louise

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