There are only a handful of places that have legitimately messed me up upon first glance. Banff is probably number one. When I got to the city, I truly had my breath taken away and it didn’t even seem like something this beautiful could possibly be real.
I headed out for Calgary in Alberta, Canada last Thursday morning, January 12th. I flew into Minneapolis for a quick layover before flying to Calgary. By the time I got here, my day was half over. I was hoping that I could catch an earlier ride to Banff and managed to do so. I took the Banff Airporter for a small fee to get from the airport in Calgary to Banff. I knew that I wouldn’t be comfortable driving a rental, so this seemed like the best option. The bus was VERY NICE. It was leather reclining seats and each had outlets to plug in all your dead electronics from the long flights in. I started to get slightly concerned with how cold it was going to be when I saw the ENTIRE place was covered in snow from the plane.
With less than an hour and a half ride we made it to Banff and I was dropped off at Irwin’s Mountain Inn for the night. I was really happy with my room and the location to town. Since by this time it was just about 5pm, I figured I would just walk around the town and check some things out.
The city is very quaint and absolutely beautiful at night with the white snow and all the Christmas lights hanging from the trees throughout the entire downtown. The roads in Banff were essentially an ice rink, so I was even happier that I’d decided not to rent a car. I went in a few shops downtown and was able to find some ski goggles since mine did not arrive on time (thanks Amazon One Day Shipping) and then headed back to the hotel to have some dinner.
Attached to the hotel was a restaurant called El Toro – self-proclaimed Canadian food with a Spanish/Mexican twist. I was so tired and just wanted something before heading to bed but the food here ended up being pretty amazing. I had the curried cauliflower soup which was fantastic and I also had bruschetta with brie, apples, asparagus and prosciutto which was to die for! After that and a tall glass of champagne, I went to my room to try and find something to do in the morning. I settled on going on an ice walk thru Johnston’s Canyon since I had seen it several times and was pretty intrigued.
The next morning I grabbed a quick coffee and waited to get picked up at my hotel for the ice walk at 8am with Discover Banff Tours. We stopped at a few other hotels and the 9 of us and our tour guide headed off to the canyon which was just about 30 minutes from Banff. Our guide’s name was Norm and he was funny and very knowledgeable about the area, animals, and other things. While we were driving we came upon two wolves in the middle of the road. I thought this was cool, but probably something you see every day in Canada – wrong! Norm was super excited to see them and told us that the black one was a 2 year old and that the other one was his sister. I was a little skeptical that he “knew” these wolves until he told us how the Bow Valley pack had recently had a really tough year going from 11 to just 3 wolves. Seeing these two was actually a pretty rare thing. They walked along side us for several minutes as we took pictures and watched these beautiful creatures. It really was a pretty neat experience and Norm said that it was the longest length of time he has ever been able to see any wolves in the wild.
A short while after we got to the canyon and begun our two mile hike to the lower and upper falls which were now frozen solid. We didn’t walk on the creek bed since much of it was exposed to the elements and not frozen all the way. The hike was not very challenging but it was a great way for me to start getting “used to” the -20 degree weather. Honestly the temperature sounds a lot worse than it was. I had the right gear and never once felt cold during my trip.
On our way back to Banff, I’d hoped we would spot a few more animals but we didn’t have any luck. I checked out of my hotel and checked into one that was two down, the Banff Aspen Lodge, where I’d spend the next two days. My friend Nick was headed to Banff this day, so I decided to grab lunch and then wait for him at the hotel (since we couldn’t text in Canada and had no way of finding each other). I got a text that he landed and figured he would be there a few hours later. Time kept ticking away and I started to get worried that maybe he had crashed since he decided he was going to rent a car…
TO BE CONTINUED…