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Week 221 – Calgary and Banff

Since last update, I have spent a lot of time in Ottawa and Toronto but this was my first trip to Calgary and the Canadian Rockies or as the locals call them “the Rockies”.  My time in Calgary was work-focused and meetings, so I didn’t see much of city outside the downtown core but it reminded me a lot of Oklahoma City.  Flat, lots of trucks & steak places, cowboy hats, and a grid layout. But 13 hours closer to the mountains than OKC that are only 90 minutes away.

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The only mention of the American Rockies is that they “aren’t as good” – reality is that both are spectacular but the glacier formations in the Canadian Rockies do make them more dramatic and creates the aqua-blue water.  Original plan was to base out of Calgary for the weekend and take day trips to Banff and other places after Sharon arrived late Friday night but Alexandra talked us into driving 5 hours each day to go north to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway (link –Icefields Parkway) .  It was the right decision as driving up and stopping along the way broke up the drive and we had 7-8 hrs hiking and exploring.  And we hit all four seasons on the way up to – sunny, snow, rain, and fog.  I had rented a Jeep through Turo (like Uber for rental cars) and it was better than my Emerald Aisle sedan would have been.   And it had an EZPass for the National Parks.  First stop was Johnston Canyon with about a 4 mile R/T hike.

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Upper Falls frozen
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The people who hopped over the fence were yelling at us to get out of their picture – we were at the “photo spot”
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Much of the trail had the walkway hanging off the side of the canyon

After a very quick stop in the town of Banff, we continued north on to Lake Louise – Never crossed my mind it would be frozen and look like a white field.  But still a great view and we have a reason to come back in the summer.  Many people braver than us and out on the ice even though the signs warned of thin ice.

 

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Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
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Note the “thin ice” sign with lots of people on the ice – a nice young lady made us hold the flag (she wasn’t Canadian)

Jeep worked out well except when coming down a hill and I got stopped for going 66 MPH in 54 zone.  Then I met the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Very nice guy (and in a truck, not on a horse) but my insurance in the Jeep had expired the prior day and he didn’t know what to do.  By the book, he said he needed to impound the car and take us to police station and we would be on our own (since we didn’t own the car we couldn’t get it out of the impound).  But after talking to his boss and my providing my insurance they decided to let me go and send the owner a ticket – I think just too hard for 7pm on Saturday at end of shift.     Found out later the insurance was renewed but he didn’t put the updated proof in the car.  I later got another speed camera ticket for 33 in a 24 – another $200 down the drain.  More tickets in Canada than I have had everywhere in past 20 years.

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We continued up the Icefields parkway with dramatic scenes as the weather changed – ending up at Athabasca Falls where we did have some aqua-blue water.

Jasper was pretty quiet – between ski and summer seasons and only a few restaurants open.  Not an upscale as Banff and our Airbnb looked a bit sketchy on arrival but was nice inside and a good location.

On the return trip south, we did the gondola ride almost to the top of The Whistlers Mountain just outside of Banff and weather was spectacular.  The mountain was still covered in snow we bypassed the option to snowshoe the final 800 feet (2 miles R/T) and it was a little chilly.

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We then worked our way back south stopping longer in Banff and on to Calgary.  Going south the scenery seemed much more dramatic – not sure if it was the weather or just a different viewpoint.

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Columbia Icefield
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Main Street Banff

Flew out next morning to Toronto – shortly after getting to the office got a call from our security department to check on me – then found out about the terrorist attack with the van and some of my co-workers were right in the middle of it but were safe.  Back to reality.

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