Monday, August 22, 2016

Oh Canada!

I'm afraid this blog may be succumbing to the grad school curse. (This is real affliction that affects blogs when their owners start putting their writing energy elsewhere. It sounds slightly better than just saying I gave up.) I can't guarantee I'll keep recording things as they happen on a weekly basis, but I do promise to make exceptions for really cool things like our recent trip to Canada. As many of you know, I spent the last week in Banff National Park in Alberta with family. I have a million photos, but I'm culling it to a reasonable number.

For those concerned, Carolyn and Aileen are only pretending to stumble on the thin and rocky precipice that was the last quarter mile of this hike. 
Our longest hike on the trip was from Lake Louise to the Plain of Six Glaciers. My guidebook said it would take 90 minutes each way, but the guide was clearly meant for more motivated hikers than we were because it took us pretty much all day. The hike provided beautiful views of the lake for the first mile or so before snaking up the mountain. After a couple of miles we were rewarded with food and beverage at a rustic tea house. There's no electricity and all the ingredients are brought in periodically by horses, and then everything's baked on a wooden stove. In addition to a great tea selection, they had some excellent apple cake. I would definitely recommend it, should you find yourself on this particular mountain in the Canadian Rockies. After our little tea break, we continued on to where the six glaciers were visible (see photo above). We heard and saw a big ice fall as some came crashing off the glacier. A beautiful site, and I hope those glaciers survive the century.

I like this photo because it looks like Sam has a dog on his head. 
In the photo above you can see the Fairmont Lake Louise in the background of the lake. It was very cold and dipping our feet in was plenty. There's a polar bear swim every year where everyone jumps in (I think in honor of Canada Day?). Had it occurred while we were there, I don't think I would have participated. At 39 degrees year round, this glacial lake makes Barton Springs feel like bath water.

Banff from above
We were staying in the town of Banff within the park. National parks in the U.S. (at least the ones I've been to) don't have towns within them, so this was a new experience. There are actually a ton of shops and restaurants (some of them quite good). There are also a lot of sights to see quite near Banff. From our rental house, we could walk to the trailheads of several hikes, including up Tunnel Mountain. That's the one visible in the center. It looks quite shrimpy there, but it did take about an hour to climb up. Banff is also home to a wonderful hot spring and gondola that you can take up Sulphur Mountain. The gondola takes you to an observation deck where the above photo was taken. For those playing Pokemon Go, there's also apparently a Pokemon gym up at the top of Sulphur Mountain.

Vermillion Lakes, on the outskirts of Banff. 
Downtown Banff on our morning walk to the bakery. My mom's shirt matched the flowers perfectly 

Our home for the week. It has an indoor lap pool, which seems important to mention. 

Moraine Lake 
The above photo shows the glacially fed Moraine Lake. It's an even more brilliant blue than this photo can really show. You can also see from the clouds on the mountain that this was our one rainy day, which meant we skipped our original plan of canoeing the lake. We still took a lovely hike here though. I definitely recommend this song while looking at photos of this lake.

Two of my favorite hikers in Johnston Canyon.
Our final hike was apparently one of the most popular in the park. You can hike into Johnston Canyon along metal walkways attached to the side of the canyon. Leads to some great views of the Bow River and some waterfalls (none of which are seen in the photos I'm posting, actually). It's nicely paved which makes it more of a walk than a hike, especially since you're dodging strollers at times.

Ground squirrel at Consolation Lake
We didn't see a ton of wildlife while we were there, which in the case of grizzly bears was perhaps for the best. We did see one elk in town and a couple of pika. The one thing we saw in abundance was ground squirrels. There's apparently a $25,000 fine (Canadian dollars, but still!) for feeding the animals, but clearly some people ignore those because (as evidenced by the photo above, courtesy of Aileen), these guys were not shy. 

Castle Mountain. We did not attempt to climb this. 
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. In addition to hiking, we went horseback riding, enjoyed high tea at the chateau-like Fairmont Banff Springs, soaked up the mild weather, and caught up on our Canadian Olympic coverage. Already looking forward to the next family vacation!