Banff, Canada- A Little Slice of Heaven

For the first time, we have decided to revisit a destination, the Canadian Rockies.  This decision has been years in the making, as we have always looked back and embraced its natural beauty. This place has ALWAYS remained a top 3 for us. This picture was taken July 14th, 2007.

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We are lucky to have our niece Arely join us on this adventure, bringing her into our wanderlust state of mind!  To start, the three of us begin our journey from three corners of the U.S.: Arely arriving to Calgary from the Jersey Shore, Katie from Orlando, and Scott from Seattle, fresh off completing his tour of all 30 MLB stadiums with his dad.

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This is Arely’s first international trip and we are delighted to be the ones to be taking her!

 

The drive to Canmore was full of three eager adventurers and a welcoming sky full of stars that stretched from one side of the road to another, brightening the country we just arrived in.

Our accommodations are a tip worth sharing.  Back home we have been renting our pool house on AirBnb, and also using it to earn points on Home Exchange.  Home Exchange led us to Canmore, where we are staying for FREE, using points earned, with a nice local couple.  This program is worth exploring for those looking for ways to travel and not spend a fortune on hotels, especially during peak season. Our view of the Three Sisters mountain peaks: Beatrice, Bernadette and Bertha. Haha. Just kidding. Those are just the names we gave them. But they are called the Three Sisters.

 

Speaking of peak season, we knew we were arriving to Banff National Park during its busy time, so our plan is to beat the crowds by arriving early, and thank goodness we did.  Our first destination, we arrived at Johnston Canyon at 7:30 am, just in time to grab the last spot in the parking lot.

 

The approximately two mile hike along the Johnston Creek to the upper falls is filled with breathtaking views.  Johnston Creek flows down through canyons that have formed by erosion over thousands of years, cutting through limestone rock and eventually making its way to the Bow River.  The canyons, waterfalls, caves, and pools formed by this transformation make this trek worth the early wake up call.

The town of Banff was settled back in the 1880s, and its uniqueness is highlighted by being one of the few towns currently established within a national park.  We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon of strolling through the picturesque town of Banff, grabbing lunch at the Elk and Oarsman. And this is where Arely discovered Poutine! Poutine lunch and dinner! We didn’t mind it either. The town of Banff is surrounded by several mountains, including the peaks of Rundle Mountain and Mt. Cascade.

Just outside of town, a short drive on Banff Avenue, lead us to Lake Winnewanka and Two Jack Lake.  These lakes are notorious for summer activities, and places to cool off in the icy cold water, about three degrees Celsius.

 

 

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Our evening was capped with a ride up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola.

This summit provides stunning views of the Bow Valley and six mountain ranges!  As we reached the summit, we were pleasantly surprised to be welcomed with live music at the mountain top.

As the sun began to set, we strolled the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to the peak, and embraced the 360 degree view of our first sunset in this magical place.

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The end of this boardwalk stroll lead us to the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station.  This historic station was used in 1957 and is the former science laboratory site.  The value of this station is its altitude (2383 meters), as it allowed astronomers to study the effects of the sun’s rays on the Earth’s environment.

 

After a busy first day, we decide to get up as early as possible, to get to Moraine Lake before the crowds.  Well, apparently a 6:30 am (5 am wakeup) arrival isn’t early enough.  By the way, Arely was such a trooper on all of these early wake ups! When we arrived the parking lot was already full.  Plan B, a trip to the overflow lot, and a bus ride up to one of our favorite places on Earth!

Each day, we are optimistic to find a variety of wildlife, and this morning, we were greeted by a gaggle of elk!

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Upon arrival, a quick hike up to the rockpile, to capture the majestic view of this glacier view slice of paradise.  The azure blue color of the lake is mesmerizing, and creates the most surreal setting for any picture.

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After a few minutes wandering and snapping pictures, we head down to enjoy a paddle on the canoes.  The sights from the water did not disappoint.  Looking up at the glacier filled Ten Peaks that surround Moraine Lake, accompanied by perfect weather, made for a memorable day!

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A quick bite at the lodge deli, and we are off on a 6 kilometer hike on the Consolation Trail.  A little more rise in elevation than our legs were hoping, but the journey there pay dividends when we arrived to another spectacular view of glaciers, and a crystal clear, rocky lake to explore.

On our hike back, we had to hit up Lake Moraine again for some more pictures and of course hammock set up! The hammock was brought and was determined to get used!

 

Next up, whitewater rafting in Horseshoe Canyon, and exploring the mountainside of Lake Louise!

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