Banff is beautiful
There can be little doubt that the Banff National Park is the gem of the Canadian Rockies.
This special park sets less than two hours northwest of Calgary via a major highway.
As the Canadian Rockies come into view, their light violet shadows strengthening into darker hues of purple, and then more details and striation shows up.
Suddenly everyone is leaning forward watching the huge rocks as they silently begin to twist and glide past. Like skyscrapers in New York or Columbus, these monuments are larger, and testify to enormous stresses and forces that buckled the planet well before the dinosaurs walked.
Our first stop was Lake Minnewanka, with a cruise down the length. A college-aged tour guide pointed out features on either side, and explained how this man made lake was permitted during the WWII war effort, but not completed until 1948… missed it by 3 years.
The wildlife is abundant, but only two people saw a black bear move up from the shoreline into the shrubs during our cruise. It also started to spit rain in the late afternoon cloud up, but that was about it.
A thin smoky haze barely obscures the mountains… a product of forest fires far far to the west in British Columbia. I hope that they will be under control by the time we get there later this coming week.*** (see my Jasper entry for the result!)
The national park is jammed as this is a three day Canadian holiday. And many of the tourists are a multicultural mix of Japanese, German, Korean, Tie, American, Canadian, New Zeeland, Australia, and more. But the sensitivity to other cultures is present in the dual language signage everywhere. French and English. And informational signs that teach are also in Japanese and German, I believe.
There is a large number of Asian families sharing the park with us. You see them everywhere, more numerous than before. It’s a sign of prosperity and a stronger Yen to our Dollar… or more accurately, to the Canadian dollar. We can get $1.08 for the American dollar if we exchange at a bank. And when changing large amounts of cash, $50 will get you $52.50
The mountains are incredible, and we spend the first day viewing Bow Falls on the Bow River, the Banff Hot Springs Resort, the Hoodoo (mud/sandstone stacks) and touring the city. There are gift shops everywhere, with funny tee shirts, sweat shirts, sunglasses, outfitter gear, refrigerator magnets, posters, mugs, jewelry, artwork, posters… you name it. The prices are a little steep… $20 for any tee shirt of any size…most with smart alec Canadian wildlife sayings… "Tourist Crossing, Does a Bear Sit in the Woods, Fast Food: Tourists, " etc…
I’ve picked up some gifts for my kids and the neighborhood paper boy, plus a few things for myself.
My wife and I went canoeing on the Bow River, running a half hour up stream against the current. The water is royal blue, due to the presence of Glacial Flour, ground up rocks that flow suspended in the water from glaciers above. But the clear, black water of the creek and back water lakes mixes in at the canoe livery in an eerie reversal of proper appearances. Normally, we would think the clean, clear river water would dilute the muddy tributary water, in West Virginia.
By evening, the tour group is on their own to dine out (what a selection of international cuisine!) and gift shops to browse. I spend my evening seeking out the Internet café, where I connect on line and post these updates and pictures. If time allows before the timer runs out, I tweet a little and dash off a note to a co-worker or the boss, asking for technical help attaching a photo or two. I hope that’s working!
After two beautiful days in Banff (named after a town on the Scottish Coast), we drive north along the Icefield parkway, and visit Lake Moraine (home of the ten peaks found on the back of the old Canadian 20 dollar bill!), Lake Louise chateau where we have lunch, and then onto the Colombian Ice fields.
We tour the Athabaskan Glacier, getting to walk ON the glacier, and taste freshly melted ice! The tour guide answers all our questions about the process and concerns with Glacial melting… in another 100 years, it is estimated that this glacier will be gone! Photos from 1884 indicate that we are loosing 30 feet per year off the front. Is this Global Warming or what?
If ever there was evidence for dramatic global climate change, here it is!
As I started to say, every day starts in the mid 60s degrees F and rises into the 80s, but no one minds, as it is a dry heat. Everyone agrees that the weather has been perfect! As we get a cold front sweeping through Monday night, the concern shifts to rain and cool temperatures… but we will be inside a rail viewing car starting tomorrow… departing Jasper at 6:30 a.m. for two days travel westward into the heart of British Columbia, and the wildfires that we see hazy smoke from. (So far we have been enjoying Alberta and the Canadian Rockies, but the picture is about to change.)***
I get frequent questions how things are going back home, and other than Leslie’s marriage, I don’t have much to report… as my Internet time is up before I can surf the web or read our web channel.
More later, if I can get Internet service at the next hotel!