It’s been close to 25+ years since Ron and I spent any time together in Banff National Park. We spent a lot of time reminiscing and grasping at straws about previous trips. Alas some of the details seem a bit vague.
Something things haven’t changed we noted as we hiked, biked and drove around. Other things have radically changed.
Banff National Park is the flagship, so to speak, of Parks Canada. It is a testament to the vision of the leaders of the country that back in 1885 they created the park. This area, originally explored with the assistance of the Indigenous that called this area home, must have been overwhelming with the size and intensity. It was treasured for its riches by the first people to inhabit it and luckily it still is.
Today that is still the best part of the park. The part that man can’t change. Once you get 5 mins off the beaten trail it’s still pristine and beautiful, solitary and solemn. But on the Main Street or the top stops it’s crowded and finding the vista requires some ingenuity. Sometimes it actually involves chatting with strangers to get the red chair photo.
The last time we hiked Johnson’s Canyon there were no green safety rails. There were people but not hordes of them. The path is now paved to the top falls but if you know where to look you can see the old one.
There were still a significant amount of people at the top falls along with strollers and canes. There were also the first three idiots we’ve seen abusing the privilege of this park. I’d heard a report that the free passes were drawing people who wouldn’t normally visit and that there were issues. These guys had jumped over the safety rail and were jumping over the rocks from one side of the falls to the other.
We chose to keep going to the ink pots. We’d been to the paint pots together but decided we hadn’t done the ink pots. It was only another three kilometres and we had fresh legs really so up we went.
The trail reverted to the usual mountain type terrain with rocks and roots and trees mingled with packed gravel and loose stones. We were surprised by how significantly hot it was in the trees. The effort was worth it though when we reached our destination although signs did prohibit us from swimming in them like Ron did when he was a teenager and there were no signs.
Typical of our style we pushed on after some downtime for our snack. Back seemed as scenic and a pretty easy climb but we did log 12 kms. We had an excellent little chat at the parking lot, where little has changed, with a Parks Canada man about red chair locations.
So off to Norquay we went as apparently it’s one of the least visited locations plus it has an awesome vista of Banff Valley. The smoke rather obscured it but it was still worth the trip up. The spot was called on the map the green space but as you can see in the photo it’s a titch dry there.
Our trip up and down the steep mountain road, Ron’s favourite kind, and unused by tour buses netted us something that the masses don’t always see. There was a significant size herd of elk grazing. Yearlings and cows on one side and then deep in the bush on the other side was the bull. He had a huge rack and turned at just the right spot so we could see it full on.
After a late but quick lunch we headed out on the bikes to do another trail that was in Ron’s memory banks. We went up one side of the creek that runs out past the Banff Springs Hotel and down the other side. We went clockwise but counter-clockwise would have been significantly easier. It was a good challenge and we arrived back, safe and sound.
We did a little Banff memory bank your on our way back in. First stop was the Banff Springs Hotel. They’ve spent a swack load of money expanding it but one can still see and recognize the original structure.
We went across the bridge and rode past the King Edward Hotel. This prompted a lot of thought about why we stayed in this noisy run down hotel in the winter of 1981. It seems quite a bit classier now.
Finally after 20 km we were very ready for a craft beer break and so headed up out of the tourist traffic for a great brew at the Banff Avenue Brewing Company deck. Nice views for sure. This meant we didn’t have time for the Cave and Basin but you just can’t do it all in one day.
A late supper, a late night and an early morning later found us in Lake Louise. Not before the tour buses pulled in but in time to still find a parking spot. The plus side to all those tourists is that it’s easy to find someone to take your photo! It is still as breathtaking beautiful as it was decades ago when we were last there. One totally understands why the Indigenous felt that it was a spiritual lake and cherished this area.
The small creek running through to the lake speaks to the timelessness of earth, water and sky. The beauty we must all appreciate and safeguard for future generations to enjoy.
This has been an incredibly long blog post so if you’ve read to the end here is a little more eye candy. A few more photos in a slide show that show some of the ways in which Banff remains a mountain town and the park hasn’t changed. Plus a few that show the other side of that. Alas I never thought to take a photo of the hordes of tour buses or people!
Thanks for reading about the flagship Banff National Park. I hope it creates in you a desire to seek out a National Park near you and explore what it has to offer. I am pretty sure we aren’t going to wait another 25 years to go back!