Banff and Jasper National Parks . . . A Diversity of Thrills and Potential Spills

Banff viewed from as the “Castle in the Rockies”, The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

Our spectacular Rocky Mountaineer train ride (click to see my article) from Vancouver (click to see my article) to Banff leaves us in the mood for outdoor excitement and spa pampering. Majestic Banff National Park, established in 1885, the first in Canada, the third in the world, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is rich in nature, national historic sites, ski resorts and golf courses. Every month is a celebration with a wide cross of scheduled events for all ages and interests, including overnight guided pack trips, Western barbecues and hoe down dances; in the winter, there’s sleigh rides, skiing and skating.

 

Monday

We reach Banffearly evening; a bus transports our group to The Brewster Mountain Lodge, conveniently located in the center of town.   My oversized room has a colorful Western décor, a huge hand hewn wood bed and a large bathroom.  A stroll around town and a bison burger in a popular pub give us a chance to sample some local color before calling it a night.

Tuesday

We head out to Buffalo Mountain Lodge for a hearty buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Sleeping Buffalo Restaurant. We are given VIP passes to Banff‘s diversified Tourist attractions.

Naturel www.naturellifestyle.com

Later we get lunch at Naturel.

Whyte Museum (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

I visit theWhyteMuseum; tour theBanffCenter, recognized internationally for its music, dance and opera performances and festivals.

the Banff Gondola to the top of the mountain for spectacular views (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

I ride the Banff Gondola to the top of the mountain and see spectacular views.

Cave & Basin where the sulfur springs were first discovered by three Canadian National Railroad workers

Then off to visit the Cave & Basin where the sulfur springs were first discovered by three Canadian National Railroad workers.

The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum - Diorama and Indian clothes (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum - Life Size Displays (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

I go to see The Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, and shop Main Street for Native American jewelry.

The elegant Fusion Restaurant on Main Street

That night we are treated to a special chef‘s dinner at the elegant Fusion Restaurant onMain Street.

Wednesday 

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel - the “Castle in the Rockies” (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

The Fairmont Banff Springs reigns proudly as the “Castle in the Rockies”. Its grand foyers, elegant surroundings and nurturing Willow Stream Spa draw inspiration and energy from the mountains.

The Fairmont Banff Springs in yesteryear (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

Lawrence and I spend the morning in the hotel’s Willow Stream Spa: detoxing in the steam rooms, floating in mineral pools, and being indulged with a signature Rejuvenation Treatment.

Lake Louise (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

At noon, Lori Grant, the hotel’s publicity director drives us up to the quaint villageof Lake Louiseto have lunch at Chateau Lake Louise, another Fairmont property that has been welcoming guests for centuries.

Chateau Lake Louise, a Fairmont property that has been welcoming guests for centuries. We are seated in the Lake View Restaurant less than 500 feet from magnificent Lake Louise (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

We are seated in the Lake View Restaurant (less than 500 feet from magnificent Lake Louise; I munch on a scrumptious lobster and baby shrimp salad sandwich served on a crusty flaky croissant with a side of spicy Caesar salad. My cup of cappuccino, served with rock candy on a stick, is so thick, frothy and rich that I order a second.

Chateau Lake Louise has a new building (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

Then Lori proudly takes us on a tour of the new building at Chateau Lake Louise.

 

Chateau Lake Louise (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

That evening we eat at Lake Louise Station, a charming converted railroad car restaurant.

Ted Bilton of Wild Water Adventures arranges a high speed afternoon adventure on the glacier fed Kicking Horse River. To protect myself against the freezing waters and hazards we might encounter, I wiggle into rubberized insulated shoes, gloves and wet suits, then add a fleece jacket, a rubber hooded jacket and  a life vest;   a plastic protective helmet completes this less than attractive and somewhat cumbersome uniform. The sun is hot; we all stand in the water to keep our temperatures down as we are prepped on rafting procedures and safety rules.

 

Wild Water Adventures arranges a high speed afternoon adventure on the glacier fed Kicking Horse River (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

The KickingHorseRiverkicks up some wild # 4 rapids ( Niagara Fallsare # 6) as we paddle down stream, eight in each raft plus our guide.  I am assigned a place in the front of the raft; the rapids crash against me; I buffer their force, holding on to the safety ropes for dear life; we swerve to stay afloat; the thrill and potential spill is exhilarating.  Midway through our three hour journey, we drift into a calm cove to change positions; I move to the back of the raft; I feel like I am on a bucking bronco or a roller coaster as the raft rises and falls from one rapid down to the next.    

 
Dinner in the gazebo of The Lake Louise Inn, where we spend the night, is a friendly hoot; checkered tablecloths, fiddlers and country singers are a great backdrop for the delicious BBQ buffet of smoker - cooked ribs and chicken served with all the trimmings of a country hoe down.

Thursday

Lawrence and I travel to JasperParkon a Brewster Tour bus, climbing to the highest accumulation of snow, an elevation of 6,500 feet, passing avalanche shoots or paths, caused by high winds that take down trees, rocks and snow. At a rest stop, we board a shuttle and climb to the rim of the Columbia Ice fields; glaciers surround us on all sides.

Jasper Park Glacier - climbing to the highest accumulation of snow, an elevation of 6,500 feet (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

We transfer to the Ice Explorer, a space like vehicle with oversized tires; slowly bump down a steep gravel incline, then move cautiously onto and across the surface of the glacier. We leave the bus to walk on the glacier as do groups of tourists from all over the world; foreign languages and the click of digital cameras echo across the ice.

At a rest stop, we board a shuttle and climb to the rim of the Columbia Ice fields; glaciers surround us on all sides. We transfer to the Ice Explorer, a space like vehicle with oversized tires (Click on Photo to view Full Size)

I feel like an astronaut who has just landed on a strange ice surfaced planet; the moment is surreal, Mother Nature at her purist. We spend an hour removed from reality as we know it, then descend to begin our journey on to Calgary; we spot a grizzly not far from the road and stop to take photos; we are   in one of the only parks in the world where wardens patrol on horseback  to  protect hikers and bikers from wild animals.

 Photos by Lawrence Davis

 

To read more from this trip, click on these links:

Vancouver - A Fabulous Place to Visit, a Great Place to Live

VANCOUVER - An Emerging Culinary Destination Wows My Palate

Alberta, Canada, Where The Canadian Rockies Speak Nature in Harmony with Mother Earth

Banff and Jasper National Parks . . . A Diversity of Thrills and Potential Spills

The Calgary Stampede . . . “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”

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