September 17, we flew from ATL to Spokane to meet Mike and Rita Tunnicliff who were coming in the next morning. We stayed at the airport Ramada which is a short walk from the baggage claim. They had several fire pits with gas fires burning so we got a drink and sat outside to acclimate.
The next morning, Mark picked up the car and our friends and we drove through Idaho to the Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia, Canada. We stayed in a nice hotel/condo surrounded by mountains. Mark and I got out and walked around a bit in the morning where a resident pulled his golf cart over to let us know a bear had been seen in the neighborhood that morning. We then noticed bear scat all over the place~ Eeek! We did not see the bear. Knowing that we had a sightseeing drive through the Kootenay and Banff National Parks, we headed out early, destination Canmore where we had a condo rented for 5 days.
We stopped in Kootenay NP a few times. The first stop we noticed that the fencing along the highway has stairs and gates for people to access the trails. The trail we chose to take was very short but took us to a creek / river with water so clear it is indescribable. Next stop included a trailhead for the Paint Pots over the Vermilion River. “After tracking the bank of the Vermilion River for a short distance, the short jog right through forest leads abruptly to the meadow hosting colorful wetland Ochre beds.
The aboriginal people who inhabited the region traveled here to collect the vibrantly colorful soil for use as ceremonial body paint. The unique area was justifiably considered sacred ground worthy of respect.”
Early settlers mined the area early in the 1900’s, and some of the equipment is still there. A small orange river borders the trail with small, multi-colored pools at the top – the paint pots.
Canmore is west of Calgary in the Canadian Rockies. It’s known for rugged summits like the Three Sisters and Ha Ling Peak. In nearby Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, the Grassi Lakes Trail winds past a waterfall to two turquoise blue lakes.
To see Canmore for yourself, check out their webcams! https://canmorealberta.com/webcams
With five days to explore, we started with the most known – Lake Louise with turquoise lakes, red canoes, rustic tea houses and, of course, the Fairmont Chateau. Yes, the water is that color that you see in the tourist photos! It’s from glacier sediment that is suspended in the water. You would expect it to settle and it does but there’s always more coming so there’s always some floating to keep it that amazing color.
We took the hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. It was a bit more demanding than expected based on the number of people who take it and were taking it that day but WOW the views were spectacular and so worth any effort. We passed horses coming and going which was an impressive feat since some of the trail was chunky rocks – not my favorite riding surface! When we reached the Tea House, we got some to-go tea and sat on the benches to snack and absorb the surroundings – trees, soaring mountain peaks and fresh air. We had help cleaning up our lunch – chipmunks and birds. After descending, we stopped in the Chateau (ignoring the signs that said guests only!) to check it out and have a drink in the lounge overlooking the patio and the lake. Gorgeous!
We stuck to the touristy stuff for the most part. It was shoulder season so not as crowded as it could have been. Weather was near perfect with sun and highs in the 60s.
Saturday we took the Johnston Canyon trail which sees about a million people per year. Thankfully, the majority of those people were not there with us! It’s a fairly easy hike with much of the trail paved or with catwalks attached to the cliffs. Again, the water in Johnston creek was so clear or turquoise it seemed unreal! The Lower Falls had a rainbow in the mist – took a bunch of pix to try to catch it. There’s a bridge over the pool to allow visitors to go thru a small opening in the cliff to get incredibly close to the actual falls. Unique!
The Upper Falls is at the very end of the trail and has a platform for viewing/photos. There was a trail up to get a glimpse from above but we didn’t take that. As we neared the falls, the Limestone cliffs on the right caught my eye because of the yellow-orange color but then I noticed all the holes in and below the walls. Must be a soft stone!
Sunday had us up the Grassi Lakes Trail (so glad a local suggested we start on the “hard” side since it was hard but would have been harder to descend) followed by a trip to Banff to visit the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, the gardens and do a little souvenir shopping. The views from the Fairmont were stunning!! Their flowers were richly colored and made a perfect foreground to the mountains in the distance. The Grassi Lakes Trail had the biggest waterfall of the trip and the most stunning colored lake!
Monday we split – Mark and Mike went to Lake Louise again to tackle the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse hike, which had its own very rustic tea house (built in 1927, privately owned and operated by the same family since 1959) and glaciers (surprise!). The guys said the weather rough – very windy and even snowed a bit. By contrast, Rita and I stayed in Canmore and took a leisurely stroll throughout the town’s trails, including part of the Bow River Loop. We stopped for lunch, groceries for dinner and then fed the feral bunnies. The bunnies were so cuuuuuute~
Our trip home started with breakfast at a coffee house and a bus ride from Canmore to the Calgary airport. Then it was allllllllll day in airports, on airplanes, and delays due to fantastic lightning near Minneapolis. We arrived in ATL about 12:30 AM walking in our door about 1:45 AM. Yes, it was a long day but other than my irritation at the change in how to find the bus to our off-site parking place, even all that time to get home was a pleasure.
If you have never been to Banff, go!
After this reconnection with nature, I’m all rested up. Can’t wait to get back to the barn to see Roo!
See you at the barn,
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