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We have visited Ontario Canada, before; Being from Michigan it is a short drive to enter Canada from Detroit or Port Huron. Further north we have entered Canada at Sault Ste Marie in the Upper Peninsula. But this was our first time to visit the lovely province of Alberta. Both Alberta and British Columbia boast some beautiful national parks which are surrounded by the majestic Canadian Rockies. 

Dick and Carol Stewart and Gary and Maryellen Mencimer had been in Calgary for the Stampede and said it was fun. They kept leaving messages for us to get up there and join them. Since we wanted to avoid the crowds of the Stampede, we didn't catch up with them until they were in Banff. One note: they were both stopped at the border crossing and both of their motorhomes were searched completely. The customs people delayed them for one hour while they searched through every single drawer, cupboard, closet and so on. None of us carry guns, but I think the Canadians were looking for hand guns or other weapons. The Stewarts and Mencimers think that they were stopped because they are from Texas. We crossed with the motorhome at a very small entry point at Waterton Lakes, and were not stopped. But later after coming down to Washington, we drove the car up towards the Canadian town of Trail and although that was again a very small crossing, were detained and searched. Maybe it was the pickup with Texas plates. It is best to leave the guns somewhere else if you intend to enter Canada. 

There are four national parks in this part of Canada and they are close to each other. Each has it's own special features and beauty. Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, and Jasper are the parks. Lake Louise is part of Banff although 30 miles apart. 

 BANFF

The TunnelMountainTrailer Park  in Banff is not what it sounds like. There are many pull through sites with full hook-up in this large campground. It is wooded and pleasant. When we arrived there were elk everywhere. It was such a treat to see them. No matter where one walks in this campground, we see big mountains. I couldn't get over how much of a resort Banff is. It is called a national park, but to us it was like a resort town.
If you have never been to Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, you will be surprised at their pass program. First of all the entrance for Banff is on Highway 1. That is the Trans Canada route. It seemed that anyone traveling that route whether planning to stay in the parks or not has to pay, but there is a through lane for folks who are not going to stay at the park. We hadn't done our homework and when we stopped to pay the fee, we were confused. The rate to visit the national parks is five dollars a day per person. So when the gal at the gate asked how many days we were staying and we were thinking of Banff only, we answered "three days" and she charged us $30. The campground was $22 per night so it seemed that the stay would be expensive. (These amounts are Canadian dollars.) When we read the park brochure we learned that we qualified for the senior rate (good discount) and if we bought an annual rate at the senior rate the cost was only $53 instead of $70 ($35 each) and we could up grade our daily pass to get the annual pass. When Ron went to do that at the campground kiosk, she gave him a coupon book for $10 off two nights camping (which we had already paid for) so the difference we had to pay for the annual rate was only $13. They won't ask you if you are a senior; you have to volunteer it. We never had to show our pass upon entering a campground or anything but the park rangers periodically set up check points on some of the roads off the main highway. If you are there you had best have a pass. 

The dollar in Canada (called the "Looney") has been slipping a lot lately, so we were pleased that our money went so far. That $22 per night campground rate translated into about $15 per night (American) and for a full hook up, pull through site, in a beautiful place that was okay. Ron found that even fuel after calculating the difference in volume and price was not out of line with American prices. Once we got used to using metrics, and calculating the exchange to the U.S. dollar, we got along just fine. Friends had told us to be sure and hike the Johnston Canyon trail. We had arrived at the campground late in the morning and our friends were gone for the day, so we took off for the canyon hike. Driving the scenic road (1A) to the trail head we saw two Rocky Mountain Sheep. They were so close we could have touched them. The brochure described the hike as "a paved trail and exciting catwalks lead into this canyon and to two thundering waterfalls." What they didn't say is that the hike would be crowded (we should have known; there were three tour busses parked in the parking lot). The other thing the brochure didn't say is that at the beginning of the trail there would be an ice cream booth. There was also a lodge and restaurant there. I couldn't get over that. It was a beautiful hike though.

That same day after our hike, we went downtown Banff. What a zoo that was. After we finally found a parking place we joined the crowds on the sidewalks. The parking situation is pretty good for such a touristy town, but compounding the situation are the many 24-26 foot Class C motorhomes (rental units) used as cars. They take up a lot of parking spots. We found the information center and got some brochures and maps. As long as we were downtown we drove to the lovely Cascade Gardens which surround the parks administration building. The first thing we noticed was the huge cattle guard in the driveway. The elk roam everywhere in town and all around. They like to eat new plants so the cattle guard is used to keep them out. The garden is fenced all around except for the gate area. After the crowds on the streets, the garden was a relaxing change. It was serene and peaceful. The little water falls and sounds and smells were enchanting. It was so romantic that it motivated Ron to sit on a bench, motion for me to join him, and he asked me to marry him. It caught me completely by surprise. Of course we are already married, but it was fun that he was so motivated by the gardens. 

The Banff Springs Hotel is best viewed from across the Bow river on the way up to the campground. It is typical of so many of the early 1900 resort hotels we see in the U.S. national parks. They were built at a time when the rich had lots of money to spend on lavish vacations. Carol and I went one day to take the "daily tour," but when we got there we were told that the tour person was off sick. We were given a self guided tour sheet, but all we did was keep getting lost. 

There are mineral springs in Banff. In fact that is why it was set aside as a national park. Railroad workers discovered the springs and information on that and the original springs are located near town at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. We saw a great film on the discovery and history since then. At the Upper Hot Springs Pool one can soak in the refreshing out door pool. Ron went with the others and said it was nice. 

We barely touched the surface of the things to see and do in the immediate vicinity of the town of Banff before we went on to Lake Louise. 

LAKE LOUISE
After spending three four days in Banff we moved the motorhome to the Lake Louise Trailer Park so we would be closer to the activities in that area. The campground there only had electric hookups but they were big sites. Lake Louise and all of the lakes in the area are a color of blue that is hard to describe. Glacial waters feed into these lakes and there is a lot of ground up rocks (called flour) floating in the water. That gives the water a cloudy look, but the color is a bright green blue. It really is a magnificent sight, but as Ron says, we nearly had to stand in line to see the lake. Lake Louise was jam packed with people. The village itself was very small and the parking area around the lake was jam packed full. It took a while to find a parking space. 

As soon as we were situated in the campground, we jumped in the pick up and drove to Lake Louise because we wanted to hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. The trail began at Lake Louise and at 3.6 K one way (about 4 miles round trip and steep) we were surprised how many were on the trail, but it wasn't nearly as crowded as the Johnston Canyon trail. No wonder; this hike was not for the faint hearted because it was quite steep.  Half way up we got a spectacular view of Lake Louise. It was a tough hike and when we  got to the tea house we found we still had 65 more steps to do. The tea house is a log cabin built near a waterfall and has been serving lunches, pastries and teas for years. There is no

electricity, no running water, but we had a terrific lunch. Our tuna sandwich was made with home made thick brown bread and the strawberry tea was just one of several dozen varieties and was served in a pretty tea pot. In fact, everything came on real plates not paper. I was impressed with that since they don't have hot and cold running water. I asked the waitress (a college age girl) if she and the other workers stay at the tea house. There is a loft above the tea house and a bunk house behind and that is where all the help stay. She went on to explain that they get two days off each week and hike down the hill and back each of their days off. I groaned at that thought. That is the only chance they have to shower, do laundry and make phone calls. The tea house gets its supplies by pack animals and helicopter. 

The Stewarts and Mencimers were heading north to Jasper National Park along the Icefields parkway. We decided that we would stay back and not go any further north except to drive to the Glacier visitor


1)On the glacier                    2)The tow of the glacier
center and the Athabasca Glacier. We got up early, packed a lunch and took off before they did. They had to get their motorhomes ready to roll; we just jumped in our car. We stopped at every overlook on the trip and were amazed at the amount of snow on the mountains late in July. Our first stop was the Bow summit. We hiked a short but steep trail to the overlook and I cannot describe all the colors of the wild flowers which covered every inch of the ground surrounding the walkway. Oh and the beautiful fragrance of the pines and flowers, the sounds of the birds- - - well it was just spectacular. Words cannot describe the sights along the 78 miles from Lake Louise to the Glacier. When we got to the Icefield Center we were amazed at the number of people, busses, RVs and cars in the huge parking lot, but it was easy to get to the exhibits in the center. The big thing to do there is take the snow bus that rides on the glacier. We decided to hike to it instead. The Mencimers and Stewarts caught up with us just as we were finishing lunch so they went into the center and we went to the glacier. Signs all around warned that we might be comfortable at the center, but we would be very cold on the glacier. It was suggested that we have coats, hats, gloves and so on before we started up the trail. The trail wasn't very long (although steep) and we had sweat shirts on and like the sign said, we were comfortable. We ignored the sign and started the climb. Half way up it got terribly cold and we weren't on the glacier yet. We went back down and got our coats and hats. Even then, when we were actually on the toe of the glacier, the wind was brisk and very, very cold. I have always wanted to touch a glacier, now I can say I did and it was neat. But I think I would rather view it from afar. 

Believe it or not, the Columbia Ice field is 325 square kilometers and up to 350 meters thick. If everyone in North America (over 285 million people) was given 1 square meter to stand on we could all fit on the glacier and have room for more. That is amazing!!!  But we would be cold. 

Another treat near Lake Louise was our drive into Yoho National Park to see the Takakkaw Falls. On our way we stopped at the overlook to see the spiral tunnels the railroad built long ago so the trains could manage the steep grades at Kicking Horse Pass. We were lucky enough to see a train going through. I don't know if I can explain the process with words, but imagine a tunnel which curves and falls in elevation at the same time. The train goes in the tunnel at one point and comes out underneath itself. The long freight train we saw seemed to be in two places at the same time. 
 

I have to mention our last big treat while at Lake Louise. We drove north about 22 miles to the Num Ti Jah Lodge at Bow Lake for one of the best dinners we have ever had. Pat and Woody Wooden had told us about this place and now we get to share it with you. It was gourmet from the minute we sat down. We ordered drinks and an appetizer to start. The deep fried Brie cheese was served on a bed of fresh greens with a raspberry dressing. I ordered a New York steak with a green pepper sauce and Ron ordered coho salmon and prawns. Our rolls were fresh and heavy with grains, just the way we like them, the meats were perfectly prepared and hot and the vegetable  medleys (Ron's was different than mine) were crisp cooked to perfection. Ron's wild rice was tasty and my browned potatoes couldn't be more delicious and perfectly cooked. For dessert we shared a large piece of bumbleberry (mixture of berries) pie ala mode. 

We left Lake Louise and went back to the Tunnel Mountain campground in Banff. We had liked it there so much that we decided we would stay a week and work on the book in the quiet of the campground. We were able to take a good one hour walk each morning by just walking up and down some of the very long rows in the RV part of the campground. We stayed away from town and just enjoyed the wooded setting and the peace up on the hill. 

We had a wonderful time in Canada and even enjoyed our drive back to the states. From Banff we went north on Route 1 until we came to 93 and headed south towards Radium Hot Springs which is part of Kootenay park. At that point we joined up with 95 and stayed with that until found Route 3 near Cranbrook. Although we were near the U.S. Border at Creston we continued west on Route 3 because we wanted to enter the U.S. near Mataline Falls in Washington (WA route 31). From Creston west on three we began a gradual assent through thick forests and saw no sign of houses or towns. It was beautiful and the road was good. But as we reached the summit signs indicated an 8-10% downgrade for 18 K (11.2 miles). Even with the Pak Brake it was a difficult ride for Ron. He explained that besides watching the speed he had to keep the RPMs in a safe range. That was an exciting way to end our travels in Canada this year. 


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