Monday, November 14, 2005

Banff

The past long weekend we have been enjoying a break at the Banff Springs Hotel, located near Banff in the Canadian Rockies.

The weather has been cold but with a good amount of sunshine. As a result we have been out and about and managed three hikes, one of which was over 11 kilometers long. We also swam in an outdoor (heated) pool, ate great Canadian food and enjoyed the usual high standard of hospitality we have become accustomed to here in Alberta.

The Banff Springs Hotel has 770 rooms. It looks like an over-developed Scottish castle (it’s supposed to!) and commands a location above the town of Banff, surrounded by wonderful mountains, such as Cascade Mountain and Rundle Mountain. Although we had a disappointing welcome when we arrived (not the best of starts to what became a great weekend) things simply got better and better.

A lot of this was due to our local guides and hosts, Josslyn and Gordon. Josslyn showed us around on Friday, taking us first to Johnston Canyon, where we slipped and slid up and down an ice covered pathway (we have since purchased Yaktrax, slip on crampons that really work). The canyon is magical and the two waterfalls have an abundance of ice at this time of year. As we were leaving the upper waterfall a huge icefall occurred but too rapidly for us to turn round and capture on film.

We next ventured up the gondola to Sunshine, hoping to liaise with Gordon and the boys but the ski slopes were crowded on what was the first day of the new season and, despite cell phones, we managed to miss each other completely. Not being skiers it is hard for either of us to get too excited about ski resorts and with the crowds of skiers and boarders up there we were quite happy to return to the hotel and take a dip in the pool.

Actually the hotel has two pools. The indoor pool is heated to around 85ºF and has tremendous length – perhaps 35 meters. Great for a serious workout. The outdoor pool is h-h-h-hot. No matter how cold the air temperature is, you simply walk out the doors from the indoor pool and step down into hot water with steam wafting in the cold evening air. With the moon out over the top of Mount Rundle it was all quite stunning.

Dinner that night was a semi-formal affair in the Grill. Our company was expanded to six with Andrew and Mavis joining us from neighboring Canmore. We celebrated wedding anniversaries and birthdays and enjoyed a delicious repast.

Saturday dawned with clear skies and the opportunity for April and I to do our own thing. We stumbled on an 11 km trail up and down the Spray River. This was a real wilderness trail with fresh snow to mark our and a few others’ footsteps. At one point we were only the 3rd and 4th people along the trail. Meanwhile the rest of the world went about their shopping expeditions to downtown Banff!

We ended up in Banff for a late lunch/early supper, and then returned to the hotel and another session in the two pools.

Sunday turned out to have less good weather with some clouds obscuring the peaks. We had planned to ride the Banff Gondola but this seemed pointless so we checked out of the hotel and drove over to Lake Minnewanka. Here we took in the trail to Stewart Canyon while the sun tried very hard to break through the clouds. Soon several of the peaks were visible and we added Two Jacks and Johnson Lakes to our itinerary.

Finally we made the relatively easy drive back to Calgary in the late afternoon sunshine. A great weekend, lots of memories, many captured for posterity and soon to be uploaded to Flickr.