Saturday, July 15, 2023
Stats: 186 miles driven, 4.5 mile walked, Jasper to Lake Louise to Banff
This morning held out hope that today might be less smokey. We were up at 6, checked out of the hotel, filled with gas, and in line at “our” coffee shop at 7am when they opened. Gregg just got a flat white. I got the vegetable omelet breakfast sandwich on whole grain bread and chai. We skipped the pastries today as we were eating in the car.
Soon out of the town of Jasper, we saw two gorgeous deer by the side of the road. I saw small antlers on one.
A bit further along, we saw a herd of elk grazing. These were the same group of females we saw last night crossing the road with their young. We didn’t see any young-uns this morning. The mommas probably had them bedded down while they met for breakfast.
As we passed the icefields from yesterday, we could see more of the thick white mountain tops which the smoke obscured yesterday. Isn’t it curious how beauty can be right in front of us, yet for one reason or another, we can’t see it even though we try.
Soon after the Columbia Icefields, we left Jasper National Park and entered Banff National Park. Immediately the typography changed. Really?! There was more green foliage under the trees and the mountains appeared to be more solid rock. Unfortunately, the further south we’ve gone, the more dense the smoke.
We saw a black bear cross the road but missed a photo as he scurried across and down into a ravine.
Yesterday, waiting to get onto a return bus from the Sky Walk, the loading coordinator was making small talk during our wait. She suggested stopping at Bow Lake on the way to Lake Louise. Gregg remembered and we stopped. We’re very happy we did!
We walked down a short path to see the lake. The smoke had cleared a bit and the mountains reflecting on the water was a delightful sight! The past few days, each time we’ve passed lakes, we knew we were missing the beauty of reflections.
Not far after that stop, the smoke became dense again.
At Lake Louise, we found the ski lodge and took the lift up the mountain. It was a lovely ride; I chose the chair over the enclosed gondola as Gregg didn’t care. The light breeze was refreshing. No wildlife was spotted other than a few squirrels. And we heard birds singing.
At the top (actually, there is another lift that goes higher in the winter) we walked to the overlook platform to see Lake Louise and the mountains in front of us. Sadly, we have to take their word for it, the smoke is so dense, we can’t even see the outlines of the mountains.
The ride back down the mountain was refreshing. We could hear birds singing again, then music playing as we got closer to the lodge. Gregg cracked me up with his dry humor, “Nothing says nature like country music.”
I am so curious about the pine trees. Some of them seem laden with small pinecone at the tops, whereas there aren’t as many below. Are those branches just too precarious for squirrels to pick from?
Next, the shuttle into the park. But wait, the next bus doesn’t run for an hour. So, back to the car for cheese, crackers, trail mix and drinks. The mountains we can barely see are fading and the smell of smoke is in the air. I feel badly for people with breathing issues.
You know it is bad when you go to take a picture and your camera suggests you clean your lense.
We went to get on the bus and they said we needed to go get our tickets printed out. Come to find out, the time we purchased was for the shuttle. Oops! Thankfully there was room on the 1:10 shuttle. We booked the 2:40 shuttle back. They said it takes half an hour to walk around the lake.
Well, maybe I misunderstood. There is an out and back trail on one side of Lake Louise which took us half an hour to walk one way at a decent clip. We made it back in time for our shuttle and really didn’t wish for more time there.
This is a different valley and the smoke was not as bad there, although still present. There was a light breeze which meant the water had ripples and was not good for reflections.
And then there were THE CROWDS. It felt like Disney World near the huge resort hotel which is having an addition built. Nothing says nature like crowds and heavy equipment.
We did hear a loud sound, similar to thunder but different. At first my mind thought of a huge a/c unit starting up. We wonder if there was a “calving” and/or rock avalanche somewhere in the mountains. Curious!
I’m glad we went yet have no need to return. The Jasper area is still the preferred place to be in our opinions.
Arriving back at the ski lodge where we parked, the smoke lifted enough for us to see outlines of some of the mountains we missed seeing on the ski lift.
Banff, where we are staying the next two nights, is about 45 minutes south. I’m exhausted.
But wait! The adventures weren’t over. Banff is a small ski town, probably similar to Breckenridge, with LOTS of people, pedestrian-only streets, and FEW parking spots. Public parking is $5/hour 8am-8pm. Ouch! There is a free lot on the outskirts of town. We’ll move the car in the morning.
Our hotel doesn’t have a parking lot. Didn’t think to check on that. We finally found an open spot, $20 for the rest of the evening. You do what you have to do.
Walking a few blocks to the hotel (on the corner of two pedestrian streets,) we got in line behind several people. The lady in front of us began chatting. She’d been in line for 25 minutes and the line hadn’t moved at all. Evidently there were two employees working, one at the front desk and the other preparing rooms. Mind you, it was 5:00pm. Nobody was convinced we’d get a room so we were talking about contingency plans.
Thankfully, we and two other couples ahead of us were finally given room keys. The third woman was on the phone with her credit card, cancelling some charges. Didn’t sound good.
The room is small but nice. Two twin beds, a “fireplace” on the wall, and our own bathroom! Yay! Two minutes after we were in the room, a man walked in. What?! He looked around and said OK? OK. and left. We assume he was just checking to make sure the room was ready.
I overheard the two couples chatting outside our door about the air conditioning. The website says they have a/c. There is a thermostat on the wall, but we couldn’t get it to come on. So Gregg opened the window. There’s a nice breeze, as long as it isn’t too loud down below.
We returned to the car and got our bags as well as our dirty clothes bag. The air cleared and we could see beautiful peaks above the buildings! We’ll see how long it lasts. You just never know with smoke. It wouldn’t be terrible to have a slower day tomorrow after church (Gregg already scoped it out and it is close to where we parked.)
There are some (paved) hiking/biking trails within walking distance so we may explore them on foot. We didn’t bring our bear spray, so I’m not sure I want to walk very far into the forest.
We are currently sitting in a VERY CLEAN, large coin laundromat, waiting for two washers to complete their cycles. After we are finished here, we may “need” to try out one of the ice cream places in town. We’ve seen at least two. Then again, we may decide to just drop into bed. My eyes need toothpicks and it is only 7pm here.
One more full day in Canada.
Thanks for traveling with us!
PS – on our way back to the hotel, we passed Canadian Ice Cream. It was packed inside and I counted over 30 people standing in line outside. We’re thinking THAT is the place to go. Tomorrow.