Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Banff this week

I've been so busy tooling around town and enjoying the fresh mountain air that I've lost track of my journaling, at least online.

So, to catch up you interested parties, I'll tell you what we've been doing since Monday.

Let's see. Hot Springs are common in this neighborhood. There are several in the national park, which, BTW, encompasses four distinct areas: Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, and the Columbia Icefields. One Hot spring here in Banff proper was the site for the world's Third National Park (the first two are Yellowstone and Royal Park, Sydney, respectively). The Hot Springs here is like a public pool, modern and accessible, though Jon and I were horrified they RENT bathing suits. Eeew. Also towels. Granted, some of the rentals are antique, period costumes really. Still.... it's like borrowing someone's undies. I don't care HOW clean they are... Eeeeew.

Luckily, Jon and I both brought our own suits, and lounged in the pool fed by the Springs for almost an hour. Ahhh.

Tuesday was Jon's Free half-day, and we took it easy, eating a leisurely lunch and drive to Lake Louise, where we arrived just in time to take a "Gondola" ride up the mountain. Actually, it's an off-season Chair lift for skiers. For the price, ($22 Canadian), it was very disappointing. Couldn't even see the Lake from the summit, and we got to the top after 15 minutes on the lift only to be turned around and sent back down. We'd been told the last ride was at 4:15; thinking we had 45 minutes, we plunked down the plastic and got on the lift, following a brief introduction by our Aussie guide. Seems a great many Aussies work here in the off-season.

Being warned that Bears aren't supposed to be in the park, and that an electric fence was set up to keep them out, didn't way me from wanting to see one. I haven't seen one yet, though I've been told to follow the train tracks if I REALLY want to see one -- they eat the grain that falls off the feed cars.

The views were stunning, yada yada ya. It's also cold, and one mountain to me looks pretty much like another. I'm glad, though, that we've had nice, sunny weather, and can SEE the mountains in the distance.

The day picked up when we went to Lake Louise. The fabulous Chateau overlooking the lake is stunning. Nice to see briefly how the other 10% lives.

Lake Louise, named for Victoria's Daughter Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, is famous for it's jade blue/green water. The natives called it the Lake of Little Fishes. It has also been called Emerald Lake. Coming here in the off-season restricts the color to the lake's edges, where the ice has melted back. Most of the lake, in fact, is covered in ice.

We took an easy 45 minute walk to the lake's other edge, and again, my wish to see wildlife, WILD wildlife, that is, was frustrated. Two Chipmunks crossed our path, really close enough to touch, proving that the Chateau's well-heeled guests must feed them crumbs from their picnic lunches.

I'd have to say Lake Louise is the prettiest spot I've seen yet. The mountains hem it in on three sides, and rise up flat and sheer. The shale is sheared off in places, revealing varying shades of color from pink to blue. Around the corner toward the end of the trail, a sign warned to keep moving to avoid falling ice. A look up and right showed a vertical sheet of ice clinging to a crevasse, melting slowly into a small stream. I think we got some nice pictures.

On we went to dinner at The Mountain Restaurant. I've noticed the store names here aren't very creative. "Mountain" figures in a lot of them, from gear boutiques to inns. The decor was... unique. Carved entirely of pine, the chairs, tables, wall art, and low "cubicle" walls so common to family restaurants are ALL carved of pine by the same artist. The monochromatic decor does not detract from the, you guessed it, lovely mountain views seen through the large windows. The food was unremarkable. Most of the food has been solid, good, wholesome, but not very flavorful. I'm used to dishes with more Kick. Then again, I also come from an area where the biodiversity means we have a great many more herbs to chuck in the stew. Never thought I'd say this, but the food was much better in Britain.

In fact, the best food we've had was definitely the Sushi bar we visited Monday night. I've never had Sushi, though I've heard of dim sum served on a belt so the food drifts past you. Here, instead of a conveyor belt, they used a large-gauge model train pulling flatbeds. It was cute.

Yesterday, Wednesday, Jon and I attempted to go to Lake Minnewanka together, but were frustrated because the wilderness loop was closed. Apparently, park rangers were watching a controlled burn, nature's way of plowing away the old. Instead, we went to see the Bow Falls, more of a whitewater rapid, really, and overlooks along Tunnel Mountain Road. We ate at Brunos' Pub, where Jon had a buffalo burger. Tasted like beef to me.

Today, I'm off to the Cave and Basin site, followed by the conference banquet. Tomorrow, Columbia Icefields! Then home.

Enjoy your warm weather!
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Banff so far
Hello all from the chilly Canadian Rockies. Jon and I arrived safely yesterday evening after a heavy day's travel. Yesterday, on the drive up from Calgary to Banff, we saw an elk and a moose.

Jon's Number Theory conference started today (yes, Sunday), so I'm on my own. Banff is a very small town, and it didn't take me long to walk around most of it this morning. I drove up to Lake Minnewakka, and Two Jakes Lake, where I saw some mountain goats (man, they're huge), and some chipmunk-sized squirrels that tourists have overfed. They'll come right up and eat out of your hand. Illegal, but fun. They in fact did sit on my foot begging.

This afternoon, I think I'll relax, perhaps go to the indoor pool at our "hotel", the Banff Center for Continuing ed., whose raison d'etre seems to be hosting conferences. I've counted at least two others at breakfast this morning. The Banff Center consists of several buildings with gorgeous Rocky Mountain views.There's a natural hot spring where I can soak my tired muscles, too. I think I've got Jon convinced to go horseback riding on Tuesday afternoon!

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