Beautiful but a Bit Boring in the end Banff

Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
Trip End Dec 18, 2012

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Where I stayed
Tunnell Mountain Campground

Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, July 6, 2012

Early start 4.20am  argghhhhh, shuttle bus to the airport to catch our 8.30 flight to Calgary, via Denver, the cheapest route for us but time consuming........we arrived at Calgary airport around 5.30pm.

We had booked a car for 24 hours which we collected at the airport to drive to Banff, this worked out cheaper than 2 bus tickets!!!  It also allowed us a hassle free way to get to our campiste which is out of town to dump our stuff and get set up but also have a full day exploring the further away areas which we won't be able to access tomorrow.

The drive was amazing from a very flat Calgary we were soon driving through the snow capped Rocky Mountains and their tumbling rivers and streams.  We pitched out tent and headed into town, which although named after Banff in Scotland it reminded me of Peebles, a Scottish border town.  I don't recall ever having been to Banff in Scotland but this place as piqued my interest so I intent to visit there on one of my trips home. 

We had a wander round town, shared a chinese meal for 1 in the food court and picked up some bread for George, he needs to eat more he is getting very thin however I have to say although I have lost a little weight it hasn't dropped off me as I thought it would!!!  We also got some raisin bread, our new favourite breakfast and or supper, tin of soup and fruit.  I bet you are finding this thorougly rivetting reading as though you don't get enough of shopping lists and supermarkets yourselves.  However although travelling is fantastic and I would recommend it, there are times when there is not a lot going on and what one bought at the shops can seem rather interesting ;-)

Canada is like gets dark late and light early in the summer.  Going to bed which was finally around midnight it was still quite light and surprisingly warm and I had high hopes for a cosy nights sleep.  However in the middle of the night the temperature plummeted and I was awoken by the cold again and yes you geussed it I then needed the loo.  Luckily for George even in the dead of night it seems to be quite light with the moon very bright and there are street lights at the loo block so I didn't need accompanying.

We set the alarm for 6.30am to get a full day's use out of the car hire, showered, breakfasted and headed off to the Columbia Icefields Parkway to an apparantly famous clacier, which was a 3 hour drive away!!

Despite the beautiful scenery I did keep modding off and I found bear spotting, when there are no bears to be spotted, to have the same effect as counting sheep!!  George stopped at the Lake Louise Gondolla to reminiss and I was even too tired to get ouf of the car and fell into a deep sleep.

When we got ot the parkway we did the short glacier walk and toyed with going on the bus with big tyres which takes you ontot hte clacier but for a 20 min ride and a 20 minute walk about on the ice we could think of better things to spend $100 on.  After all it's not like we haven't seen a glacier before!!

On the return trip we stopped at lots of viewpoints of lakes, waterfalls, rivers, popped into Lake Louise to check out our cmaping options there for the flowwoing week and had a snack by the river.  I cannot explain to you how amazing the river are around here, strong current, full and flowing and the colour is impossible to describe, obviously I have taken lots of photos but I am not sure they will do it justice!  It may just be a hue from the reflections of the grey snow mountains, lush green forests and the clear bright blue skies but I have never seen a colour like it, a bit like wolves eyes.

On our route home, during one of my nacoplexy attacks, George stopped the car rather abruptly and woke me because at the side of the road was.............................................a black bear, the first we have seen.  Beautiful and furry, he looked like you coul just go over and give him a big cuddle and fee him some of the berries he was foraging for.  However my survival instinct wanred agains it!!!

We took a drive through Banff, topped up the petrol tank, headed back to the campsite to drop all our stuff off before then heading back to town to drop the car off.

By this point we were both tired and heading into a deep depression at the thought of being camped at a site a good few miles from town, which the shuttle bus doesn't quite go to, without a car.  The car makes camping a much more pleasant and easier experience for getting around as campsites tend to be out of town, they provide somewhere to store our clothes other than our tiny two man tent, we can pick up shopping and sometimes if the weather isn't great or the place is swarming with mosi's we can just sit in it and have a comfy seat.  But alas it is a luxury we cannot afford!!!

In town we drowned our sorrows with a badly poured, but cheap, happy hour gin and tonic for me and beer for George and shared a sandwhich and a jacket potato from the daily specials board.

I tracked down a retailer of hot water bottles and purchased one to help with the chillly nights before heading to Safeway, yet again, for fresh provisions of cereal bars, fruit, a jar of pesto and half a pint of milk.  Now I know it seems like we go to the supermarket a lot but we do not have a fridge or any icepacks to keep our cool bag cool enough to store food for more than 1 day hence the daily visits if we want to eat anything fresh.  We have found the prices in Canad and the States, as we did in Asia as well actually to be so high it is cheaper to find a cheap takeaway or special in a cafe or bar and just order tap water, cheaper than the UK and ordering tap water isn't met with a look of disgust like it is at home!!

Despite being on time we seemed to miss the shuttle bus home, which goes to the next campsite along from us, so we had to sit and wait for 40 minuts in what we affectionately term 'the witching hour'  which is when the mosi's come out and use our flesh to feast upon.  Five enourmous bites for me later and the bus arrived which dropped us about a 15 minute walk from our campsite where we had to walk down a mosi infested trail which appears to have no other humans closeby, ideal grizzly territory me thinks!

So again we returned late and tired, had a hot drink, brushed our teeth and had a ceremonious filling of my new hot water bottle before retiring for the eveining.............would I sleep????

mmmm well I didn't get too cold just a bit chilly thanks to my new hot water bottle and the fact that it got refilled from the tap each of the 3 times I needed to get up for the loo in the night!!!  Also there was the incident when I awoke to George crouched over me on all fours physically lifting me to the middle of the tent when he then leaned over me like a human bridge.  My first thought was that there was a bear pawing at the tnet but when I asked George what he was doing he replied "moving us into the middle of the tent so we didn't get run over!!!"???? so overall not a great nights sleep but in the morning as it warmed up I popped in my ear plugs and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

The rest of our very lazy sunday was spent witha  breakfast of mocha and raisin bread at camp, sorting out our backpacks and provisions, did some hand washing and made a bit of plan of what we might like to do over the next week.  Lunched on cereal bar and apples before exploring out campsite area and visiting some of the view points around our area which is nestled between Mount Rundle and another great big mountain both of which have snow on them despite me getting a bit sunburned.  We are on a ridge, not literally, which drops down to the Bow River and Hoodoos where there is a fantastic 360 View of snow capped and forrested mountain ranges, the river and down to the Fairmount Hotel and Banff town centre.

As I said before Aamerica is difficult to backpack in and I wouldn't recommend it on a budget it is really quite hard work, you just can't carry the kit needed to make it comforable and hassle free!!  However every day I see the beautiful views or a river, flower and I think the hardship is worth it.  However when I get back into my slelping bag every night with mosi bites knowing I am going to wake up cold and have to walk to the loo, sometimes several times, in the middle of the night I wish then I was home in my comfy bed with AShley and my firneds nearby and it really doesn't feel worth it as the splendiforous sights of the day before fade!!

Back at camp now catching up filling in my journal before our 2 course feast of a packet of chicken noodle soup and pasta with pesto sauce at our picnic bench with a fabulous view of the snow capped mountains from our dinner table, which most restaurants would love to boast they have!.

Monday - we are both a little down today probably a little tired and run down.  Decisions to be made about our ongoing plans have to be made ASAP too.  Although we both know how lucky we are to be off work and touring all the beatuiful places we are and having seen all the places, people and sights we have with more amazing things still to come our budget is depleting so we are finding we have the means to do less and less activities and buying cheap food which is healthy too is proving problematic!!  Also George pointed out that we are both maybe starting to take our trip for granted because we have seen so many wonderful places in quite quick succession we are not looking with fresh eyes as though we had just arrived and our expectations may be increasing with every new place!!  Sad but true so we must try and give ourselves a shake!!

Unfortunately most of today has been spent in the library on the internet booking some of onward transport andaccommodation, we have found that booking in advance can save us money so it is best to be as organised as we can.  So we are now staying in Banff till next Monday, although our campsite is about 5km out of town there is a really scenic river hike into town which we have done again today so it is a good base for us, and we have campsites and transport booked for what looks like the next 2 weeks (fingers crossed as we can't get some of it confirmed due to the national parks computer not working properly).

We had a picnic lunch in town and shared a foodcourt meal before heading back to camp as our campsite is proving difficult to cook in due to the increasing swarms of mosquitos!!

Tuesday - Thanks to 2 painkillers and a sleeping tablet last night I enjoyed a full and uninterupted night sleep and feel so much better for it!!  Breakfasted on tea and ceral bars before heading off on the the river hike which we condintued on up to Bow Falls.  The river is wider and faster flowing than when we arrived and has breached its banks but it looks like there has been quite a bit of snow melt from the mountains so that is probably the cause.  We took a walk to the Banff Springs Hotel, the famous castle like hotel to check it out, we had planned to have afternoon tea there, an expensive luxury, so we wanted to check out the setting before booking.  It wasn't as impressive as we thought it would be, I was expecting a Victorian style Orangery with great views instead it was served in a lounge ona  mezzanine level overlling one of the bar/grills, there view was obstructed by net curtains so not woth the $41 plus tax splurge each!!!  So George has agreed to take me for afteroon tea when we get back to the Grande in Brighton, I am putting this in writing so he cannot welch on his offer! We enjoyed another picnic lunch of rolls, crisps and ice tea again in the town and had a wander round the shops where we saw a Red Indian Shop, attached the Musuem, which sold real rabbit pelts, fox tail keyrings and their walls were adorned with every kind of stuffed animal you can imagine.

On our way home we stopped by the supermarke to pick up a very rare treat of bacon and eggs for breakfast in the moring and then headed back to camp to cook up what was left of the pasta and pesto  but with a bit of jazzing up from some Canadian smoked bacon and green beans, which was delicious.  We had to take refuge in our tent pretty much straight after dinner to avoid the mosi's despit it being very early so reading was the activity of the evening!

Wednesday - It's about 2pm and I have just sat down at our picnic bench, at our campsite, to catch up on my journal and I've heard an animal sound turned round and low and behold there is an Elk or Deer ( not really sure but it is big so I am thinking Elk) munching on the bush behind our tent, it must be  ayound adult because it is on it's own and has the start of stumpy antlers. It is taller than me and must weigh quite a bit, it looks like a small horse!  It has just wandered down the path a bit and is currently standing its ground out staring a dog  which is going a bit loopy and barking at it, stragely enough the elk doesn't seem bothered too much by it and is moving a little closer to the dog!! I have just spotted the owner trying to take photos of the animal and getting quite close, you would think he would want to comfort his, now obviously, distressed dog!!

I have stayed at base camp today, I fancied a relaxing day, somewhere quiet, well it would be if that bloody dog would stop barking.  We breakfasted like Kings on bacon and eggs this morning before George headed off into town on the bus to get some camping gas and have a wander and I have had a long hot shower, downloaded and sorted out some photos on my laptop, until the battery bloody died again, had a catch up with my journal and will spend the rest o the afternoon lounging in  the sunshine daydreaming looking at Mount Rundle and reading.

Dull dinner then we had to escape into the tent really early as the mosi's were sooo bad, they were swarming and for quite some time it looked like there was a black cloud above our tent, it was a bit like Pooh Bear when he saw the cloud (of bees!)  they hung around for hours while we were kept prisoner in our tent, I would have preferred a bear to have us under house arrest at least it would have got bored quicker!! 

Despite us having to retire to our tent earlier and earlier each evening it was nice having the inner doors closed and keeping the outer open so we could lie and watch the sky change colours and see the stars come out, we even saw what we think were the Northern Lights. 

Thursday 12th - up and at em early as we had to call the UK before 5pm (UK time) to change our flights home.  Despite still having quite a long list of things to see and do we must be practical and as I am sure you have gathered our funds are depleting and not because we are living the life of Riley (whoever Riley is) but the recession has hit the US and Canada quite badly and everthing is more expensive than it was a  couple of years ago and without a car to shop around or a fridge to buy larger amounts or take advantade of special offers basic living costs are just too high!

Call made and with a rather generous deduction made to my credit card to the airline company we have re-arranged our flights to leave from Boston (instead of New York) on the 19th of September arriving home the 20th.  We have mixed feelings as there are still lots of things we would have liked to have done, however with the trip we have had so far and the amazing places we still have to see coupled with the fact that I will get to see Ashley sooner, sleep in a comfy bed with a duvet and feather pillows sooner and with the added good fortune of securing employment quckly we should be able to have our own place by Christmas not all bad!!!

The truth is we are starting to make compromises in all areas and the plan wasn't to just stay away from home for as long as possible but to have the best experience we can without creating the debt of a third world country so disappointing as it may be the sensible thing has been done!

So it is with mixed emotions that we head off on our 12km hike up and then back down a mountain, to the summit of Sulphor Mountian to be precise!  A steep uphill hike of hairpin turns (switchbacks) at a starting point of around 5000ft.  We actually did it in really good time, less than 2 hours and at points we were slow going, I have found the altitude has been getting to me more in Canada, not sure why maybe the air is cleaner!?!  Despite the vertigo and hyperventilating at points it felt quite an achievement when we reached the top!  A point to note for all you readers out there is that there is actually a gondolla which we could have taken up to the top which teasing passed us several times as the switchbacks cut under it's path.............what would you have done................hiked or taken the gondolla?

A look at the views, a cold drink and we started our descent.  Anyone who has ever walked up a hill with me knows I am much less agile in a descent than an ascent but my hopes of getting down within an hour were only quahsed by 10 minutes, which really for me, is quite good going!

So with a sense of achievement and several additional mosi biteswe headed into town for a celebratory happy hour drink to toast our achievement and our planned return home followed by dinner at the 'best BBQ' in Baff at Wild Bills, which was mediocre at best and my brisket had certainly not been home smoked in their very own kitchen for a minimum of 15 hour as stated!  If you are in Banff I wouldn't bother!!

As we headed back to camp for a cup of tea and an early night (hiding from the mosi's really) we competed over which of us was worse done by George with his blisters on his blisters or me with my mosi bites on my mosi bites (George also had mosi bites on his mosi bites but it doesn't pay to sympathise too much with a moaning man it only encourages them!)

Friday the 13th - well no terrors or horrors struck us upon this supposedly unlucky day, quite uneventful actually.  After a lazy morning at camp we walked into town, the road way because the mosi's are out in force and the hike involves walking through lots of mosi hotspots.  Most of the afternoon was spent in the library catching up on e-mails, booking car hire for the last let of our trip and trying to catch up on a bit of blogging.  Then our daily stop at the supermarket for dinner which was weiners, fried onions and bread rolls. Again into the tent straight after dinner to avoid the infestation of mosi's with my book and I fell asleep really early at 10.30 as I say uneventful.

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