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.