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January 30, 2008
From journal The Breathtaking Beauty of Banff National Park
April 30, 2003
Leaving Radium Hot Springs on the Banff-Radium Highway, I saw bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, and a host of other large and small mammals. Heading east, I came to the spot that marks not only the line between British Columbia and Alberta, but marks the great Continental Divide.
Crossing the Continental Divide is always a thrill for me, as I think of all the waters of North America flowing either West to the Pacific Ocean or East to the Atlantic Ocean. Displays at the picnic area describe this phenomenon, which may be seen in action as the creek separates mid-flow.
Where the Banff-Radium Highway intersected with Hwy 1, also known as the Tran-Canada Highway, I drove south through the Bow Valley. Although every mile brought new vistas, I continued on to the town of Banff, which sits on the banks of the Bow River.
In the fall of 1883, when three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains, little did they know that they were opening up a world class destination. From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and the world's third.
Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is far bigger than I realized! The town of Banff has a fine history museum, worth a few hours of time. Another way to get an overview of the town of Banff is to ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain in a glass-enclosed, four-passenger gondola car and enjoy a 360-degree view of Banff and area. At the top are indoor and outdoor observation decks, a self-serve restaurant and interpretive boardwalk trails along the summit ridge. A gift shop and cafe are located in the lower terminal.
After several hours in Banff, I headed north on Hwy 1 to Lake Louise. I could have taken the slower but even more scenic Bow Valley Highway, but time did not allow for this side trip. I drove through the little town of Lake Louise, then through to the fork where the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) branches off toward Jasper.
I turned left and continued up the hill to the lake. What an amazing sight! As the waters melt from the Victoria Glacier, they flow into the lake bed with a luminescent turquise color. Snow was still on the ground in June, and I had to walk carefully, as I was wearing sandals!
Cruising back to Fairmont in the evening, I arrived just as the sun was setting in the west. What a glorious ending to a perfect day.
From journal Cruising the Canadian Rockies
I left my home on Puget Sound in Washington State early in the morning, cruised into a glorious sunrise and crossed the Cascade Mountains. Arriving in Coeur dAlene mid afternoon, I was delighted to have a long evening at Arrow Point Resort.
From Coeur dAlene to Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia, I followed Highway 95 through the rolling grain fields of the Okanogan country and into the mountains, following the Kooteney River. I crossed the border at Eastport, which becomes Kingsgate on the Canadian side.
Several hours later I arrived at Fairmont Hot Springs, my home for a week of day trips around Banff National Park. Set at the headwaters of the Columbia River, Fairmont Hot Springs offers something special year round. The main attraction are the springs themselves, consisting of several naturally warm pools.
After a pleasant night at Fairmont, I drove to Radium Hot Springs, a small town with a big hot spring. Here one can bathe in the "sacred waters of the mountains" just as indigenous peoples did long ago. You may even visit an ancient bathing pool. The waters here have traveled deep into the earth, returning to the surface hot and loaded with restorative natural minerals. The hot springs are naturally heated in the earth to about 103 degrees F. Swimsuits, towels, and lockers are available to rent, and a cafe is open all summer. Lifeguards are always on duty.
Continued in Part Two: Cruising Through Banff National Park
January 20, 2003
From journal Banff
September 6, 2002
I have to admit that riding into camp knowing that coffee was on the stove and supper was being prepared was an added bonus. If we had been hiking not only would we be exhausted by hiking up the trails but we would have had to make camp and exist on freeze dried trail food, not roast beef, onion soup, bbq chicken, pie, etc. The other benefit of riding vs hiking is that bears don't consider a person on horseback as a potential dinner. When you are on a trail ride you bunk down at night in a canvas tent with a wooden floor secure in the knowledge that there is an electic fence between you and the bears.
On horseback you can ride up past the treeline in less than 2 days and see vistas that would take days and days and days to hike to.
The best part though is that you do not need to be an expert outdoors person or rider to enjoy the experience. Trailriding can be enjoyed by almost anyone. The outfitters take care of you and the horses - all you need to do is have a good time and enjoy the ride.
From journal The Rockies by Horseback
October 25, 2000
This morning I awoke in our tent in the pre-dawn darkness to the sound of a bullfrog--a very large bullfrog. I was too sleepy to realize two important facts: First, that there are no bullfrogs in this part of the Rockies; and second, that even if there were bullfrogs, it was too damned cold for one to be making such a racket. But he was clear, loud, and assertive.
When I staggered out of the tent, my husband informed me that the bullfrog had been so loud that one of our human neighbors had yelled at it to shut up. It was only after we'd drunk our first cup of coffee, and after the sun had really come up, that a visiting park warden informed us that it hadn't been a bullfrog at all. It was the bugling cry of a lonesome, horny male elk.
The male elk spend all summer bulking up and growing magnificent sets of antlers for one purpose -- to attract females during the September matrimonial olympics. I don't know what happens to the poor guys who don't quite measure up. I suppose they get through the winter somehow with renewed determination to grow the biggest, most impressive sets of antlers the following summer so it can be their turn to enjoy a little female companionship.
The park official also informed us that the town of Banff had done some 'hazing' of the resident elk herd. I guess the free lawn fertilization and mowing services aren't worth the problems that occur when one startled human meets one startled elk. The town made a great effort to tick the elk off by firing rubber pellets at them and letting off lots of firecrackers. It seems to have worked; we didn't see a single elk in town.
Elk are intimidated by anything larger than they are. The park wardens use this to advantage when they to clear the schoolyards of wandering elk. All they do is circulate around the playground with a large, red pom-pom attached to the end of a hockey stick. The elk perceive this as being some animal who is larger than they are, so they leave without a fuss. Calves are born in the spring, then, it's the turn of the females to get grouchy and hormonal.
HINTS FOR WATCHING ELK: September in Banff and Jasper brings out solitary male elk, sleek from a summer's browsing and with magnificent antlers fully developed. Watch in wooded or grassy areas by the side of the road. Look for females congregating together in groups, some with their young. Keep your camera's zoom or telephoto at the ready, and DON'T GET TOO CLOSE. Listen for the trumpeting cry of the males in the pre-dawn hours.
Banff: Tunnel Mountain Campground, September 5, 2000
From journal The Canadian Rockies by Car