The Banff travel guides promised abundant wildlife. The roadside signs warned to not approach the caribou, bear or sheep. We saw one sheep, one goat, and a handful of elk during our visit to the Canadian Rockies. Oh, and we found bear poop on a trail and it nearly scared the poop out of us!
I will not say I wasn’t disappointed. I wanted to see wildlife frolicking, but it wasn’t a realistic expectation. Mid-July is not the best time to see wildlife posed and ready for tourists to snap pictures for publication in National Geographic. Forget the angry wildlife, we were blessed with staggering views of jagged mountain peaks, iridescent lakes, and wildflowers so delicate it was hard not touch to confirm it was real. Honestly, I’d rather not have a bear encounter, but that is just me. We have hundreds of photos in our Banff and Jasper photo galleries. In part II we share our adventures in Jasper.
Banff National Park
“Banff the 10 Premier Hikes” by Kathy and Craig Copeland and Moon Handbooks “Canadian Rockies” by Andrew Hempstead were our go to guide books. Thank you for your wisdom and advice! It was much appreciated. The internet is jammed with details but you won’t have access to the internet 98% of the time and who knows if the person posting the information really know what they are talking about. Take us, for example, we are no experts! Buy these books! You won’t regret it.
Moraine Lake and Larch Valley
Our first day of hiking was in Larch Valley and by Moraine Lake. We arrived early and beat the windshield tourists to the parking lot. We enjoyed almost the entire hike by ourselves and discovered a tourist circus engulfing Moraine Lake when we returned several hours later.
Drinks on the patio by Lake Louise
“Act like you own the place” Chuck said as we walked past the sign that read “Registered Guests Only” in search of a restroom. We found the restroom and decided to stay for drinks on the patio of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Seriously, would you leave?
Enter your Tour Guide “Charles!”
Footnote: We’ve watched HOURS of Rick Steves.
Sunshine Meadows: Rock Isle, Grizzly and Larix Lakes
On the second day, we took the 15-minute special bus ride from the Sunshine Meadows Ski resort to the trailhead for the hike to Rock Isle, Grizzly and Larix Lakes. The meadow flowers were beautiful, the lakes provided a perfect backdrop and we crossed the continental divide. I polled my travel companions for one word to describe the meadow. Their responses: green, tranquil, peaceful. Our only wildlife sighting were a pair of ground monkeys (aka a ground squirrel) who nearly ran us off the path. After seeing us they stopped and posed for a few pictures.
Charles is back!
On the third day, we hiked along the edge of Lake Minnewanka until we found a sign advising: hike in groups of 4 with bear spray or risk a $25,000 fine. “The mama bears bring their babies to this area to enjoy buffalo berries, a single bear will eat 200,000 buffalo berries a day.” It took us about 3 minutes to decide to return to Banff to purchase our bear spray.
After returning to Banff we revised our plans. We wanted to hike the Johnston Canyon hike, but it was closed because of a rock slide and now Lake Minnewanka was out, not because of bear, we now had bear spray, but because it was 10 miles and it was well past 11. So we consulted the guide books and made a new plan. Dreamweaver also helped.
Kootenay National Park
An impromptu trip turned into an action packed, colorful adventure in Kootenay National Park fraught with butterflies, bears and paint pots.
Charles found Claude.
(I make no excuses for the camera work in this video!)
The trail from Marble Canyon to the Paint Pots.
The trial boarders the Vermilion River. (OMG is that river not breath taking?)
The Paint Pots were actually very cool. This is one of those situations where the picture just doesn’t do it justice.
The paint pots were eclipsed by the FRESH bear poop we found on the trail back to the car. A disclaimer: I asked “Should we bring our newly purchased bear spray with us?” The men in the group dismissed my suggestion. It was a very scary hike back to car after almost stepping in steaming bear poop!
It was an emotionally exhausting day. To recover we ate Twizzlers, looked for eagles nesting by the lake and took some amazing pictures.
Lake Agnes and the Tea House
On day 4, we left Disney Land (also known as the Lake Lousie trailhead) and headed straight up on an unrelenting series of switchbacks with a brief break at Mirror Lake to allow the mouth breathers to catch up. The Tea House was lovely, the tea was delicious and the scones were amazing. The people working their were very friendly and did a great job given how busy the place was. We returned to Disney Land to find a parade of yellow ponchos and a group of tourists taking a “crazy photo.” (We couldn’t help ourselves and got involved in the crazy photo.)
Yoho National Park
On Day 5 of our adventure the Johnston Canyon trail remained closed, so a trip to Yoho National Park was planned. While on the road to Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Jeff saw a “black land spider running side-ways” into the woods. We were a bit concerned and asked how much Red Bull he’d consumed. Jeff wasn’t kidding and maintained he’d seen a spider walking sideways. We continued to watch him for additional signs of Red Bull insomnia.
(No that is not us! We did not go canoeing but it was an option.)
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
It was raining and nasty, so we left Banff National Park and drove to Golden, Britsh Columba. It sits at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia rivers. (The confluence was a new word for us!) We had lunch at the Eagle’s Eye after taking a gondola ride 8 miles to the resort base. It rains a lot btw, so plan accordingly if you are going to Banff. When we arrived at the Eagle’s Eye it was raining so hard you couldn’t hardly see two feet in front of you. When we’d finished lunch it was a BEAUTIFUL.
Charles made an appearance at the Eagle’s Eye.