Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rocky mountaineer tour: Banff, lake louise and helicopter tour

Banff National Park is set in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. It attracts roughly 4 million visitors each year. The largest community within Banff National Park is the Town of Banff. The Hamlet of Lake Louise is 50 minutes further west, also within Banff National Park. Because the Town of Banff is less than 4 km square in size and surrounded by mountain parkland and wilderness, the community really does share its space with the wildlife. Some say that a local on their way to work is as likely to see a deer as a neighborhood dog. Elk, sheep and bear sightings are not uncommon near this town filled with trees, parks and trails.

The Town of Banff sits at an elevation of 1,383 metres (4,537 feet) making it the highest town in Canada.

We stayed overnight in Banff and after two days of eating and sitting down on the train I really needed to do some exercise. So I woke up pretty early in the morning and decided to attempt a run. Hmmm first run since worlds + altitude = very hard run. I was really puffing and my lungs hurt after 7 minutes (ON THE FLAT)... hmmm them I started up the hill. Arghhhhh! I was out for about 40 minutes though and really enjoyed it.

I did take the camera with me though and caught the main st of Banff:

The waiter from last nights dinner did tell me where not to run as the elks were birthing and apparantly it is not good to get in between a mother and her child. I told the waiter that I know that from my farming days but he wasn't that convinced. So I stayed to the roads, just to be on the safe side. I didn't want to be "Canadian Fast Food". Hehehehehehe...

While I was packing Jason went on a little photo shoot off his own, this was the view from our hotel:

Here's another mountain shot from Banff:

About 9.20 we were picked up and taken to the train station. Our day today was a bus tour to Lake Louise, then a drive up the icefirlds parkway to a helicopter tour. After lunch at a ranch it is back to Lake Louise for an evening stay.
Banff station:

An arty shot from jason, check out the reflection of the mountain in the railway line... lucky there were no trains coming :-)

Another view of the station.

Once we were on the bus we were off for the 50 minute drive to Lake Louise, I really thought that I would hate the bus section but it was really great being on the bus. It provided a whole different perspective than the train. The other good thing was that there was only 16 people on the whole bus trip! However there was one snobby girl that was really annoying. I was wearing my blue seventy wetsuit t-shirt Angela bought me from Kona (which said "Kona 07" on it) and once she saw me in that she changed the hat she was wearing to an ironman cap and then wouldn't talk to us.... weird ironman triahletes :-)

Here is our last view of Banff for the day:

And another awesome mountain/sky shot.

We arrived at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise about 45 minutes later. The famous view from the hotel is a stunning vista of green glacier-fed water framed by mountains and the Victoria glacier. The Lake is it was named after Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria. See the link... Victoria Glacier feeds Lake Louise, i.e. mother feeds daughter.

Anyway, here is our first glance of the lake. We had 15 minutes here before we headed off to our helicopter tour (we were coming back here later in the day though). nevertheless we ran round like headless chickens taking lots of photos.

Jason at the Lake.

Me at the lake, note the down jacket AND the mini skirt, hehehe.

And here's the signature shot.

After we were back on the bus we found that Lake Louise is not the only emerald lake in the region... here's another one taken from the speeding bus, not that speedy really, in national parks there is a 70kmh speed limit.

This lake is not full yet as the the ice/snow has yet to melt properly.

Here are our helicopters for our 25 min helicopter ride.... the weather had been really bad in the preceding few days and I was really worried that our trip our be cancelled but the weather really turing out really awesome for a chopper ride. It was actually really beautiful weather at the helicopter base, they also had a really lovely border collie that loved to play. Only the dumb americans kept throwing the sticks towards the helicopter rotors... how dumb is that!!!!

It definitely was t-shirt weather! SO good to have some sun (finally).

Here I am getting locked in the the helicopter.

Both of us in the chopper (another signature range shot).

Here are some shots from the helicopter.

After the helicopter ride we went to a nearby ranch and enjoyed a bbq lunch (another massive steak) in the sun. So nice to just relax!!

WILDLIFE WILDLIFE.... here are he bears that were only 15 m away from the bus... we went allowed off (even though jason asked.

Benefits of having a good camera...

I thought this bear looked more like a wild boar...

This was one of the stops on the way back to lake louise.

This water was REALLY cold....even colder than Vancouver :-)

After we got back to Lake Louise and had checked into the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (really flash), Jason and I decided to go for a bit of a walk (straight up). We were warned to take bear spray and wear bear bells for safety reasons... hmmm bear bells would be so annoying and locals call them "dinner bells". Jason and I decided to risk it and not take any bear protection. However, we were well versed on how to act in the event that we stumbled across a bear. There were lots of people walking this track in full regalia, tramping boots, walking sticks... the lot. They looked at us a bit weirdly as I was still in my mini skirt and Jason was smoking... Here we are at the start of the uphill...

This is about halfway up the track to Mirror Lake.

After about 45 minutes we reached Mirror Lake. We had such a fun time up here... before we new it, it was about 8.30 at night. It was just great. We just played and had heapd of fun.

It was so awesome up there, we got so many great photos.

Here we are with my first ever snowman...

Here's the little guy up close.

Another snowball throwing scene... a bit better than my attempt at Grouse Mountain though.

Another awesome shot of the lake with the reflections.

Jason testing out the water.... it was cold. The worst thing was I missed it the first time and got no photos so he had to do it twice!

Jason doing his signature handstands (remember these from the wedding photos).

Here I am trying to jump from the rock, not very graceful or elegant at all.

My feet were DYING in this water. I don't know how Jason could have put his head in it once, let alone twice.

I think my face says it all. It was really cold. I thought that my feet were going to fall off.
Once we realised how late it was getting we headed back down to the Chateau. The Chateau is HUGE. Really huge. There are hundreds of shops, and rooms. There was even a huge array of dining options (most of them reasonably expensive though). There was:
Fairview Dining Room
Tom Wilson Steakhouse
Walliser Stube
Poppy Brasserie
Lakeview Lounge
The Glacier Saloon
Chateau deli; and
In room dining.
Way too much choice I think. In the end we went casual and ate at the Glacier Saloon. Jason got the most delectable ribs that I have ever tasted...yes I did nibble his ribs once he was "finished" with them... someone needs to teach Jason how to get all the meat off bones :-) Mind you my family will tell you how much I used to like gnawing on a good chop when I was growing up.
We got back to our room (the back wing) and this was our view. We were still in the hotel but just an entirely different wing (just as big). We could see the Lake though as well which was good.

Here's our bathroom... or half of it anyway.

And our bedroom... yip two double beds again.
Jason slept with the blinds open and was watching for the sunrise. He was going to wake me if it was really nice, but it was overcast... it would have been awesome if there was a great sunset... another great day in Canada done.

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