We arrived in Banff on an extremely hot August day. The heat and prevailing winds had unfortunately fanned the spread of wildfires in a national park to the north west of Lake Louise and the Rockies were blanketed in thick smoke for most of our visit (clearer in the mornings but drawing in more as the day progressed).
Nevertheless we managed to get out and about even if the scenery was somewhat obscured and the air heavy with the smell of smoke. Accommodation is at a premium in the Banff area and as we were there at the height of the summer season, we stayed at the Inn of the Rockies in self-catering apartments off the road out to Canmore (a more affordable option). We had pre-arranged to hire a car the day after our arrival in Banff. So we used the local taxis to get around initially, which we found efficient, reasonably-priced and the drivers friendly and helpful. There are also plenty of buses in the Banff area and environs if you prefer that option (tricky when you are arriving with a month’s worth of luggage as we were!).
The next morning we headed into town and strolled round the centre gathering our bearings. Banff is in a very pretty setting surrounded by mountains such as Mount Rundle and Cascade Mountain and on the banks of the Bow River, which in summer was meandering gently through the town. Certainly it must be a place of strong seasonal contrasts. When we were looking round the many souvenir shops in the centre, we noticed underground arcades that all seemed shut up but apparently in winter they come alive as people seek shelter from the biting cold at street level.
Being both a summer and winter resort Banff must always be a hub of activity. We came across a great holiday program that the town was running in conjunction with the local Blackfoot First Nations people. We were attracted by the sound of the drums and went to take a look – it was a wonderful program of song and dance, storytelling and learning about the Blackfoot Culture, a great activity for the summer school holidays. On a different note we also saw the memorial to Armistice Day in 1918 and discovered a charming colonial era church.
The visitor centre is down near the river and it is also the site for a farmers and craft market (the Banff Farmers Market) which meets every Wednesday. Happily for us we were there on the right day. Not only was it a great place to pick up some supplies such as fresh fruit and vegetables but a good place to indulge in some souvenir shopping – there were a myriad of stalls selling jewellery, prints, gem stones, art work as well as edible produce.
In the afternoon we headed a few kilometres out of town to Lake Minnewanka, a glacial lake largely man-made where you can hike, take a picnic or head out on a cruise on the pristine waters. Just a note that you need a permit to drive into the national parks – you can pick these up at the visitor centre in town. Originally the Stoney people called this beautiful place “Minn-waki” which means “Lake of Spirits”. Even though the smaller natural lake has now been flooded to provide water for an electric power plant down the Cascade River, the area still has a feel of unspoilt beauty and charm. On a stiflingly hot and smoky day a boat trip was a very refreshing way to spend part of the afternoon. The mountains nearby are home to many wildlife species such as elk and black and brown (grizzly) bears – not that we saw any that day, most probably they were all seeking the shade too!
On a more poignant note, I’d like to dedicate this post to the memory of a special fellow blogger, Joy from Joy Loves Travel who very sadly passed away at the end of November after a long illness. Some of you may have read Joy’s wonderful blog – full of inspiration about overseas travels she took with her beloved husband and son but also activities and outings nearer to their home in North West England. I never met Joy in person but she shone through as such a warm, friendly person in her writings and she was an avid and generous reader of other blogs. I will miss her comments and friendly chats on each other’s blogs as I know will many others. Her husband Paul and son Reuben hope they may carry on Joy’s blog in time. They have bravely posted an update on Joy’s blog recently if anyone would like to post their own tribute there. Rest in Peace Joy.
Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved