John on  top of sulphur mountain in Banff

John A. Travels to California

Day 7:  Friday, September 14, 2007 - Banff, Alberta

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Day 01- Leave Ontario
Day 02 - Chicago
Day 03 - Mt. Rushmore
Day 04 - Yellowstone
Day 05 - Yellowstone
Day 06 - Up to Alberta
Day 07 - Banff & Lake Louise
Day 08 - Whistler, BC
Day 09 - Vancouver & Seattle
Day 10 - Mt. St. Helens
Day 11 - Coastal Hwy 1
Day 12 - San Fransico
Day 13 - Yosemite Park
Day 14 - Giant Redwoods
Day 15 - Hearst Castle
Day 16 - Los Angelos & COD
Day 17 - Hollywood
Day 18 - Thru the Bible & Vegas
Day 19 - Death Valley
Day 20 - Hoover Dam & Skywalk
Day 21 - Caverns & Grand Canyon
Day 22 - Grand Canyon - Hike
Day 23 - Grand C. - Hermit's Rest
Day 24 - Petrified Forest
Day 25 - Meteor Crater
Day 26 - Carlsbad Caverns
Day 27 - Dallas, Texas
Day 28 - Mississippi River
Day 29 - St. Loius
Day 30 - Detroit
Day 31 - Home to Woodstock

All images can be enlarged NOTE:
All images can be enlarged

Welcome to Banff
Welcome to Banff

I woke up a bit early in our lovely chalet, feeling a bit stiff.  Apparently I had rolled around a lot in the night and threw my back out.  I decided it was time to see a chiropractor for an adjustment, rather than have to deal with aches and pains.  But overall I was still feeling quite well.  We were going to see the mountains around Banff today, and, in fact, we were already in the mountains!
We checked out of the motel just after 7:00, and went for a lovely breakfast a few blocks away.  Canmore seemed to be a booming town, with a whole lot of tourists.  We’re starting to see a lot of ski shops and other alpine features.
By 9:00, we arrived in Banff.  GPS tracker led us right to where it said the information booth was, but we couldn’t see it.  We jumped out of the car and went to a huge hotel called the Banff International.  Just for a lark, I wanted to see what a room might be, and they said $230 per night to start.  I don’t know how people sleep at night at that price.  But we were to see even more ridiculous prices

Banff Chateau, taken from the mountain
Banff Chateau, taken from the mountain

later on.  Apparently, we were only half a block away from the Information Centre, and the gentleman at the check-in desk gave us a lovely map with everything available in Banff located on it.  It was going to be mom’s birthday in three days, so I decided to buy her a birthday card and burn a DVD Data disc of all of our pictures and movies and mail it to her.
Our first stop was the drug store to pick up the birthday card.  We couldn’t find that either, even though a sign on the sidewalk indicated a drugstore.  We stopped a lady and asked her where it was.  She said it was in the basement of a mall.  There seem to be a lot of malls all inside of unassuming doorways.
After I found a lovely birthday card, I asked for a phone book, and we phoned the various chiropractors in the area.  The best they could do was an 11:30 appointment, and they were located about four blocks away.

John swimming in the Banff Hot Springs
John swimming in the Banff Hot Springs

The next off was the Visitor Information Centre, and we found the staff to be very helpful.  We chatted for about 15 minutes with an extremely affable gentleman who loved his job.  He told us about the Sulphur Springs, the gondola ride, a nature walk with all types of wildlife, and many other things.  I noticed a huge line of people building up behind us, but the gentleman just chattered on, like we were sitting around over a coffee, discussing the beauties of his home town.  Ronald and I decided to do the Sulphur Springs and the gondola ride.  If we had had more time, we could have watched some male elks vying for the females on a local golf course, but we decided there was not enough time.
After we took several pictures of Banff, it was time to burn my photos to a DVD disc.   I went to the car, and it took me about 20 minutes to assemble the pictures and burn them to a DVD disc.  Ronald went for a hike while I was busy.  It was actually the

I call this the Detour Buster
I call this the Detour Buster

first time I’d used this feature on the new computer, but all went well. 
Next, we drove over to the post office and parked the car.  I bought an express mail package, with bubble wrap, and sent our treasures in digital format off to mom.  We still had about an hour before the chiropractor, so we went window shopping.  Banff seems to be just loaded with tourist shops.  Neither Ronald nor I like shopping, so we didn’t go into a single store.  They’re doing construction right on the main street, which made things a little bit difficult.  You can tell that there’s money pouring into Banff hand over fist.  The city is also surrounded by mountains, which are beautiful.
We found the chiropractor on the third floor of a little mall, again hidden behind an unassuming doorway.  I filled in my forms, got adjusted, and we headed out.  I felt much better.  The chiropractor was also gave us some tourist tips.

Gondola at the top of Sulphur Mountain
Gondola at the top of Sulphur Mountain

We jumped into the car and headed toward Sulphur Springs.  However, as my computer had been turned off, we tried to follow the local map, and promptly got lost.  However, we did get right in behind the huge CP hotel called, I believe, the Sulphur Springs Hotel.  It was a truly inspiring structure, about 10 stories tall, which would have been rare in the days when it was built.  I figure it was at least 120 years old.  We got ourselves completely turned around, and so I fired up the computer, and we were able to find our way back. We were about 1½ miles from where we had intended to be.
We parked in the lower parking lot, and walked up to the Sulphur Springs.  Ronald decided he didn’t want to go swimming, as water is just not his thing.  We agreed to meet an hour later, and I went in.  They charged $8.00, plus a towel rental for $2.00.  It cost me another dollar to lock things up.  What I found interesting is the hallway out to the pool was under water for the latter half of the hallway.  The door at the end was up from the floor so as not to be in the water. I guess that was one way to ensure no street shoes went on the pool deck!

Ronald & John at the top of Sulphur Mountain
Ronald & John at the top of Sulphur Mountain

You could smell the sulphur in the air, and the water was indeed hot!  However, I love hot tubs, and so was not worried.  The sign on the wall said it was 40° C, and that you should not stay in it for more than 20 minutes.  I went right in and started swimming around the deep end.  It was just an average-sized pool, but very relaxing for the first five minutes.  I struck up a conversation with an Irish gentleman. He said he had been traveling in Canada for four weeks.  He had taken four days to ride the train from Ontario out to Alberta.  He was heading to Hawaii next week for one week, and then on to Australia for two weeks to visit his son.
I had only been in the water ten minutes, but had to excuse myself because I was getting too hot.  I couldn’t take it.  I went over and laid down on my towel and relaxed for a few minutes.  Ronald showed up on the railing above us, and took some pictures.  I decided I looked a bit lazy, so I jumped into the pool,and he took a few more pictures.  Altogether, I

Bird eating our of the hand
Bird eating our of the hand

was probably only in the water for about 25 minutes.  I have to say, it was just a bit too hot for me.  Forget the 20-minute limit.  I could only handle ten minutes at a time!
I talked to the lifeguard, and he said that the water was from a spring just up the hill from the facility.  It came out of the hill at 45°, and they simply piped it into the pool.  The pool was emptied everyday and refilled with fresh water.  They only added chlorine due to health regulations.  I took some pictures of the overflow of the outside spring.  While I don’t think I would take a Sulphur Springs bath every day, it was a very interesting experience.
Next, we headed over to the gondola ride, which was on the opposite side of our parking lot.  Apparently this gondola only handles tourists who want to go to the top of Sulphur Mountain.  Normally these are ski lifts but double as a tourist lift in the summer.
At the bottom, we saw a huge ice bus.  It had gigantic tires about 8 feet tall, and was used on the Columbia Ice

Lake Louise
Lake Louise

Fields.  I called it the Detour Buster. We could use that type of thing in Cambridge when they tear up our city streets.  We could just sail right on through, and tell the city workers, “Forget it. Regular routing!”
We headed up the gondola, sharing it with two other people.  The girl was from Czechoslovakia, and was visiting a Canadian male friend.  Apparently she had been his tourist guide when he was on a holiday in Europe, and now he was returning the favour.  However, I think there was a bit more going on than just the tourist business. On the way up, which took about eight minutes, we could see snow amongst the trees.  Apparently there had been snow a few days prior.
At the top, the little facility had a circular boardwalk from which you could view the mountain scenery.  It was truly breathtaking!  I liked looking down on the valley where Banff was located.  We took a lot of photos, and read some of the information plaques about the names of the various mountains.  Besides the

John at Lake Louise
John at Lake Louise

height of the mountains, I was impressed with how dense the pine forest was - nothing but a solid mat of trees.  We could see the Trans Canada Highway in the distance.
They also offered the opportunity to hike over to the next peak via a boardwalk and a whole lot of stairs.  Ronald said he didn’t want to try it, and I wasn’t particularly eager myself.  We talked to a firefighter who said he had just done the hike, and was surprised at how winded he was.  This was a guy that works out every day.  Apparently the high altitude makes it more difficult, and so I decided to content myself with just one mountain.
I was getting a little hungry, and so I bought a hot dog and a drink for only $8.00.  Oh my!  We were lucky to find a picnic table.   I sat down with my hot dog.  We had been watching a lady at the next table feeding some type of bird, about the size of a blue jay, right out of her hand.  The bird would fly over, land on people’s hands, and eat bread from between their fingers.  I saw the bird come flying in, thinking it was heading toward the lady.  Much to my surprise, it

Rock flour clouds water of Lake Louise
Rock flour clouds water of Lake Louise

dive bombed the hot dog in my hand and took a peck out of the end of it, and flew off again, all within one second.  The people around started laughing and pointing, and couldn’t believe what had just happened.  There was a hole in one end of my hot dog where he had grabbed a tiny piece with his beak.  Being a good Scotsman, I ripped that part of the hot dog off and kept eating!  Ronald got a few shots of the birds eating from the other people’s hands.
We then went up the stairs to the upper observation deck where the view was a little bit less obscured.  I took a series of photos in all directions, and hope to stitch them together into one huge picture when I get home.  We were very fortunate to have such a clear day for viewing the various sites.
We jumped into the car and set the GPS for Lake Louise.  It was only about an hour up the road.  We decided to bypass Tourist Information and go straight to the lake.  The GPS showed a road heading right near the lake, adjacent to the Lake Louise hotel.  However, when we pulled into the driveway, a gentleman in a Swiss outfit approached the car and asked if we wanted to be parked.  He said it was only $15.00 for him to look after our car, but we declined.  He was very friendly, and said that if we parked ourselves, it was actually closer to the lake, and it was free.  This hotel was also very impressive, and was about 10 stories high, and probably had about 1000 rooms.
We got out of the car and walked through the woods to a little boardwalk right at the end of Lake Louise.  The

Mount Victoria at end of Lake Louise
Mount Victoria at end of Lake Louise

difficulty was that the sun was directly in our eyes.  However, we were still able to take some rather decent photos.  My first impression was that the lake was much smaller than I had imagined.  However, its turquoise colour was still very beautiful.  The mountains at the far end of the lake were covered in snow, and the whole scene was simply breathtaking.  There was also a canoe rental to the left, but Ronald doesn’t like canoeing, and I didn’t want to waste the time.
We walked around to the back of the hotel where there were some steps down to the water.  I put my finger into the water, and it felt as though it was almost freezing.  Apparently it is only about 45 to 50° even in the summer.  That is because it is fed by glaciers.  The plaque said that the sediment you could see in the water was due to rock flour.  Apparently the glaciers grind the rock into a fine powder, which gives the lake its turquoise colour.
I was amazed at how many tourists were there, and how well designed the entire area was.  We walked into the hotel and checked on the price of food.  Only $17.00 for a hamburger!!

Ridiculous price at Lake Louise Hotel
Ridiculous price at Lake Louise Hotel

Next, we walked upstairs, and for a lark, walked over to the desk to see how much it would be to stay the night.  The lady said a simple basic room, without a view of the lake, was between $350 and $550.  However, all the cheap rooms were gone, so we would be looking at $550 just for a plain old room.  Prices for a two-bed room went from $450 up to $800, which is likely what we would have to get.  However, the really good rooms cost up to $1500 for a single night!
I think they must provide sleeping pills with those rooms so you wouldn’t have nightmares from what you had just paid!  It is absolutely crazy!  We took a photo of the price chart just to prove it.
We headed into town and stopped for a bite to eat.  I called mom and asked her if she could check for accommodations in Jasper.  We had salmon linguini for supper, and it was all quite delicious.
However, when I called mom back, she said that everything was booked in Jasper. 
Some people beside us asked where we were going. When we said Jasper, they said, “You do have reservations, right?”
It seems Jasper was celebrating its 100th birthday, and everything was booked solid.  After I tried calling a few of the surrounding cities, we realized there was no way we were going to be able to stay overnight in Jasper.  It was also further away than we had thought, and it would be well after 8:00 before we arrived.  Ronald and I discussed the situation, and decided to eliminate Jasper from our schedule, and head west on the Trans Canada.  Ronald said that Jasper was just more of the same scenery anyway as we had seen in Banff.
And so, on down the highway we went!  Just before 8:00, we came to the city of Golden, British Columbia.  We

Bighorn Sheep in Golden, BC
Bighorn Sheep in Golden, BC

pulled off on the first exit, and found good accommodations at the second motel we checked.  The price was reasonable, and we were set for the night.
Before we actually went to our rooms, though, we went to the edge of the parking lot to an old garage where there were some bighorn sheep feeding on the lawn.  The lady at the desk said the herd lives right in and around the hotel, and are almost tame.  Ronald and I took a bunch of pictures, and it seemed the bighorn sheep could care less that we were standing only 10 feet away from them.  I must say, though, that their horns are very large!
I did a bit of work on my online journal, and uploaded the first page.  It is good to finally have the computer online again after all the technical trouble we experienced earlier on.
We dumped both cards into the computer, and were quite pleased with our crop of photos from that day!  Ronald had taken 76 photos, and I had taken 165.  I think photos are the best souvenir one could ever hope for.
We traveled 180 km today, and saw some sites we would not soon forget.

On towards Seattle via Vancouver tomorrow. We had driven 180 km today. Not too far, but some of the most  scenic mileage we have done.

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