Saturday, July 9, 2016

Banff, AB Canada: Reflecting and Reflections

Ahhh, Banff.  A beautiful resort town in the Canadian Rockies, when compared to where we've been lately, the "big city" is a little overwhelming!  It's trendy.  It's busy.  It's urban.  After having been in (relatively) quiet and desolate places like Jasper, we feel a little like the Unibomber, blinking and unbelieving as he leaves the quiet isolation of his bunker.  

And yet, we are still surrounded by towering mountains, dense forests, and nature galore!  We are reflecting on the first four weeks of this trip and how to incorporate the serenity of this beautiful place into our daily lives. (Hot yoga, journaling, moonlight > moonshine?)


Allow me to take you on a brief tour of Banff Township, free of charge and no ticket needed.  Here is the setting as seen from the chairlift atop Mount Norquay.  That's Banff down in the pocket.


Its architecture is "early Swiss Alps" with a touch of Urban Outfitters and a dash of Radio Shack.


At ONE END of downtown Banff Avenue are towering mountains.


At the OTHER END of Banff Avenue are Cascade Gardens, which house Parks Canada's offices.  Nice digs, though maybe they are entitled to a little luxury, since the town of Banff is completely 100% inside Banff National Park.


In the MIDDLE of Banff Avenue are a million trillion billion tourists.


Also in the middle is Canada's #1 ice cream shop, boasting clever cow-related names ("Cowconut Cream Pie," anyone?), plus the world's slowest scooping employees, and a 45-minute wait minimum to get to the front of the line.  But, ICE CREAM, so there we were along with everyone else.


Banff is host to a majestic and ridiculously pricey luxury hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs.  It's easy to see why you'd want to stay there, but creak open your dusty wallet as the most basic room starts at $599/night in the summer season (up to $3,500/night for a suite).  But hey, you can take 25% off that in exchange rates, since the Canadian dollar is depressed at the moment, so why not!!! We're happy to stay with our $34 campground site, however.




We're hiking our brains out ... Philip has moved in two holes on his belt and the dogs have lost their inner-city, pampered-pet fat rolls.  Banff has some of the most extensive trails in Canada, right at your doorstep.  A few examples ...


BOW RIVER LOOP TRAIL from our campground all the way to downtown




LAKE MINNEWANKA where you can spot black bears on the edge of the lake and take a cruise



JOHNSTON CANYON where a series of cliff-hugging catwalks lead you to multiple sets of various falls





EMERALD LAKE in nearby Yoho National Park, where every angle of the loop around the lake provides amazing reflections





We got all excited when we learned that Banff has hoodos.  Refresher:  our first stop of this summer adventure was Bryce Canyon, Utah, where we saw hoodos like this:


We crowded in next to hundreds of other tourists at the Banff hoodoo viewpoint to witness their splendor.  And.... this.  Four little jagged rocks.  That's it!  Ohhhh Kayyyyyy.  Moving on. I guess we have become hoodoo-jaded.



The Parks Canada "Red Chairs" program places pairs of red adirondack chairs in "hidden" scenic locations for you to discover.  The program is so popular that it was celebrated (mocked?) with an entry in the recent Canada Day Parade.



The Banff Centre is a famous institution that encourages creativity and the arts with a variety of programs (for instance, the people that participate in TEDTalks were hanging out there this week, as if they need to get any more evolved than the rest of us average Joes).  

We attended a big band concert that featured seven musicians who were awarded the Order of Canada, the nation's second highest honor. 



The musicians were amazing, but even more amazing ... check out that backdrop ... it's not a painting, it's honest-to-goodness real trees!  Magical!


The Banff Centre also sponsors a film festival/competition that focuses on adventures, expeditions and general outdoorsy stuff that makes you feel really bad about yourself and your cubicle job.  The night we went, we saw different features about river runners in China, two guys who did a crazy five-day ascent across the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia, a photographer who spent years and years trying to get this ridiculously awesome basejumping photo, and a crew who went to capture an almost-impossible shot of skiers in front of a solar eclipse in Svalbard.  


But the MOST epic entry (to us) was a two minute "commercial" for nature, spoofing all the Rx drug commercials on TV.  You'll love it (promise) if you take two minutes to watch .... (my favorite parts:  "golf is not nature" and "for euphoria lasting more than four hours, check work email") .....

If this is not clickable for you or to see it bigger, click here instead

This guy in downtown Banff must have seen the commercial as he has the right idea:  Feeling down? .... climb a tree and jump off!


We had a "charming" little miracle when Philip prepared our traditional Sunday morning lattes (yes we have a latte maker in the RV, don't judge), looked down, and a Lucky Charm had magically appeared in the foam!  Whoa!!!  

As we head to the even bigger city of Calgary to take part in the Stampede festivities with a million of our closest friends, we are hoping this brings good luck and a lot of patience!