Monday, August 13, 2012

Banff National Park

 Banff National Park is a beautiful place in the Canadian Rockies, and the last stop on this epic photographic adventure. I'm writing this a year later, and the details have already begun to fade.

As you may or may not recall, the trip started out with Kristi. She had gotten her pink slip (or reduction in force - RIF notice) at the high school the 8th year in a row. And after 5 years of continuous home renovations, she was ready to split. She packed up the '76 VW bus and was headed to Canada, with or with out me. Now our relationship was entering the 11th year together, and we were fairly stable. She was experienced and street smart, so I wasn't worried at all. Just jealous that she could pick up and leave for 2 months. I wanted in on all the fun. We agreed to meet in Jackson, Wyoming and take two weeks to drive through 3 national parks and into Canada for Banff. I would then fly out of Calgary and back home. She took our two dogs, Max and Robin, and I would have a friend take care of our littlest dog Jester. The timing turned out to be perfect, as Max has just recently passed away. There is no way we could have known that he would be gone in less than a year. It goes to show you there is no time like the present.

  Trying to make the most out of our time we decided to set up camp at a campground between Banff and Lake Louise. We thought that it would make the driving faster with whatever we decided to do each day. A couple of things that surprised me about Banff was that the Trans-Canadian highway and railway went right through the middle of the park. The train horn could be heard echoing off the mountains. It immediately made me think of home, Flagstaff. It kind of put me off at first, but the trains didn't blow their horns at night, so sleeping wasn't an issue.

 I was just used to the wilderness feel that some national parks in the US have. It was a weird juxtaposition seeing beautiful mountain glaciers, and a freeway lined with light poles. A lot of my mountain shots were taken carefully, to avoid the ever present sign of man and progress.

I really didn't do much research on Banff, and we were at a bit of a loss on what we should do. Whenever we get to a new destination we find it helpful to stop at the visitor's center. There we learned about a dance at the center for performing arts. We also found the best pizza in Canada. Oh, don't forget the hot spring pool!

 The landscape photos I have seen of Banff were of the dominant peak Mount Rundle. I assumed it was miles away, but it was darn close to town. Something I like to do to get the 'lay of the land' photography wise is to look at the post cards in the gift shops. It tells you not only about the touristy photographic attractions, but what has been photographed and how. Storm Mountain was a popular subject, and one I have not seen. It so happened that we camped just below Storm Mountain and had easy access to photograph it.

 Banff is a neat town, much like other resort style towns. Gift shops, restaurants, hotels and art galleries all neatly lined the streets. The magic of Banff lies not in the town itself but in the beautiful surroundings. The Vermillion Lakes, Bow River, Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain are all within rock throwing distance. Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Peyto Lake and the Ice Fields are within easy driving distance from town. I've already written about Moraine Lake, and soon I'll be writing about the others.

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