Miles: Maybe 20
Wildlife: Elk; elk; elk
We did more in Banff, but we are doing some in Canmore.
We spent a couple nights in a Banff hotel, because Rebecca needed to get some work done. (In fact she’s at the Canmore library working again, now.)
We awoke our first morning to snow. The trees were draped with a lovely white blanket, which melted away at ground level by mid-day and was gone from the mountainsides by the end of the day. The peaks are still snow-covered, however.
Banff is a large little mountain town, which owes its existence to a nearby hot springs that was Canada’s first national park. The town has a main commercial strip that extends for about five blocks, plus a parallel road running about half that length. There are hotels for another few blocks up the main drag. Beyond that is a grid of residential streets; the size of the town will surprise you when seen from above.
We went back into camper mode for three nights, staying at the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court, which turned out to be a great campground despite its name.
Our first hike was down Tunnel Mountain to Surprise Corner on the Bow River. There’s a waterfall at that point, which is more of a set of cascading rapids than a true fall, but there’s a lot of water going very fast so it’s a pretty impressive sight.
The Surprise in Surprise Corner is you can’t actually see the falls from the trail when you get there.
We discovered a nice bonus in Banff is that the bus system runs up to the campground, so for our next-day’s adventure we took the bus to the tram station at the bottom of Sulphur Mountain. Rather than ride the tram up, however, we hiked. The trail climbs from 5200 feet to nearly 7500 feet elevation in around six kilometers.
The views from the top are stunning, even on a cloudy day. (Every day is apparently cloudy here.)
We were able to take the tram down without paying since nobody was taking tickets for the “return” trip.
On our last day we rode our bikes down the mountain and about town on the bike trail, and wound up at a small canyon, Sundance, just outside town, where we were able to get in another hike.
One morning around four Rebecca jostled me and said, “What was that noise?”
Then it happened again, a combination of a low bellowing sound accompanied by a noise one might have heard coming from my trumpet back in the day. We peered out into the darkness and saw several elk cows grazing under a street light, and in the shadows an elk bull, who was bugling, presumably a wooing song,
We had appetizers at the Banff Avenue Brewing Company one afternoon, where we were served with a passable IPA. Earlier that day we sampled elk poutine at another eatery. Poutine is French fries, gravy, cheese curds, and usually an accompanying layer of meat. It’s the national food of Canada, and it’s surprisingly good. (Remember the pasties in the U.P.?) I think of poutine as the northern version of nachos.
Whereas Banff is ringed by massive massifs, Canmore is more like sitting in a corridor with giant mountains running down either side.
The reason we first came to Canmore was due to a lack of services in Banff. Specifically, you can’t get your propane tank filled in Banff. We were lucky we got our tire fixed in Jasper, because you’d be hard-pressed to get tire service in Banff, either.
Canmore is a bit bigger than Banff, with a street of brand-name commercial enterprises. It’s also got a nice mayonnaise (see Smith lexicon) town center. It’s a pretty setting. There’s a nice bakery with a twin in Banff.
It’s also got a brewery, the Grizzly Paw. Their IPA may be the best of the trip.