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Banff National Park, BC, Canada Color Photo Gallery
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My Road Trip Route
Beauty in the Canadian Rockies
Ever wanted to just jump in the car one day, and go somewhere exciting??? I am always mulling over places I want to go in this world, and on a beautiful "almost Autumn" day, I did just that--I jumped in my faithful Durango, and went on an adventure. In the process, I cleaned some cobwebs out of my brain, learned to trust myself and my instincts again, and just plain had a great time. I highly recommend it to those of you who have become so dependent on your IPad, IPhone, and Garmin that you have forgotten how to be a real explorer.
In my travel experience the most beautiful places in North America I have seen are either surrounded by or located near large bodies of water. Think about it for a moment, Alaska, Hawaii, the Florida Keys, South Padre Island, Texas, Lake Powell (Arizona and Utah capitalize on this beauty)...and oh yes, Sandpoint, Idaho.
Being the water lover I am, I have extensively explored beautiful "great lakes" like Lake Pend Oreille (near Sandpoint and Hope, Idaho), and Lake Coeur d'alene, For those of you who don't know, Lake Pend Oreille is so deep at Bayview www.ss563.org/idahoss.html that Naval submarines could be tested there. After 7 years, I was conditioned to settle into my regular vacation routine and forgot that there might be life outside of Idaho. Prior to this, my favorite water vacations included massice Lake Powell (Arizona), where I have spent hours traveling by boat and jet-ski to it's remotest corners,
It was Labor Day and it seemed I could choose between two options within 6 hours, either Glacier Park, or Banff, and Lake Louise, in British Columbia, Canada. Choosing Banff and Lake Louise because I had seen such lovely pictures, I packed a small bag, my camera, some water, and snacks. I jumped in my 2000 Durango, the one dependable old vehicle that I was sure wouldn't fail me.
I traveled north through Bonner's Ferry, Idaho on Highway 95 and ultimately through the Canadian border crossing into British Columbia.Since it was early, there was a very short line of cars, Onward I ventured, through the King's Gate border crossing at sunrise on my way Cranbrook for the first time.
I was grateful for having been duly advised that this was a beautiful route (by a bank teller who was from Banff) search of the various hot spring areas that dot the back highways that lead to Banff National Park and into Kootenai National Park in British Columbia.
It was an incredible drive through the Canadian Rockies, I discovered and lingered at Columbia Lake, taking a random side road that took me close enough to take unrestricted pictures. I sum up this leg of the trip as yet more proof of the beauty in nature water enhances. I did not know that it was the source of the Columbia River that runs through Oregon.
I traveled up through Invermere, and Radium Hot Springs, taking hundreds of photos, when turned right on Highway 93, I discovered this amazing town at the south end of Banff National Park banffnationalpark.com . It was similar to how I imagined the Swiss Alps might be, with A-frame cottages and flowers in flower boxes strategically placed everywhere. After paying for and entering the park with instructions It took me a minute to realize how to navigate, as people would run up behind me and expect me out of their way. Why, I thought, I just want to enjoy the park I thought to myself, is that unacceptable here?
As I traveled on, I enjoyed several moments of conversation with warm Canadian folk who were quite a contrast to the impatient ones. They kindly instructed me on the finer points of the park, which I quickly gathered one could not possibly explore in a day. They also recommended to go on to Jasper and stay the night since it was the end of the season. They pointed out Stanley Glacier, the often-photographed dazzling peaks that are so representative of the beauty of British Columbia. They also answered my questions about the aftermath of the fire that burned thousands of acres, and which provided quite a sad contrast to the lush green hills nearby. It was refreshing to hear them talk about their land so proudly. Having seen similar destruction in Montana and California, I expressed my feelings to them and they agreed. They suggested some great trails for the future.
Lake Louise was also quite busy, but I reveled in the number of international travelers, and found myself taking as many photos of the families of the world that I encountered. The representation of the myriad cultures was as colorful and breathtaking as the Fairmont Chateau and Lake Louise itself. For a brief moment, I imagined myself traveling the continents, as I listened to excited happy voices in every dialect imagineable. I found incredible beauty in the movement of humanity, as well as the environment, and loved it. Some gifts of love we receive without recognizing them fully.
After capturing many more photos and just breathing in fresh air, I attempted the climb up to Lake Agnes, but my Durango's transmission faltered and I thought it best to descend while I could. Of course, I never had another problem the entire trip, but the prospect of my car breaking down caused me to alter my plans to go to Jasper. I opted to make the journey next year with my granddaughters, who will undoubtedly be as enamored with British Columbia as I am. I may take them all the way west, if time allows.
Banff was bustling due to Labor Day weekend tourism, and parking was difficult to navigate, so I opted to travel on after refueling despite the numerous restaurants I spotted that I longed to dine in. I headed to Calgary, Alberta, which was a difficult journey because of the volume of traffic. It never occurred to me that so many people would be returning home at this time, but then again, it was Sunday afternoon. For a brief moment I contemplated exiting on a side road south, and later discovered that it would have been the easiest route back to the United States.
Let's just say I took the long way home, the consequence of having no map, no GPS and no operating cell phone.(I falsely assumed that my new IPhone would work in Canada, but didn't even set it up to do so. Next time things will be different, as far as having at least a paper map. t wasn't that I didn't pass a place where I could have bought one, I lactually looked at several. I was just not sure what map I needed and too embarassed to ask. Maybe it was supposed to be that way or I would have planned a way that would not have been nearly as interesting.
Needless to say, I meandered through Calgary and took the "wrong" road east which would have eventually brought me to Glacier Park, which would have been a disaster as they were having high winds which I was told by another traveler (when I returned to the U.S). was a miserable experience. I was in a historical town named Fort MacLeod where I looked again for a map only to find that there were only Alberta maps available. One kind women who was leaving after her shift, told me how to get out of the town, and which way to go from there. I thanked her for taking the time, jumped back in my car, then adjusted my course by feel since it was now becoming too dark to see landmarks.
As I headed southwest, I saw a signs for Crows Nest pass, and chose that route. Shortly after I began climbing yet another hill, the thought crossed my mind, "What will I do if my car doesn't make it?". I briefly entertained a moment of fear and reminded myself that there was divine intervention available, so I utilized an opportunity to pray for help. When I focused upward, I caught sight of the moon, and it was brilliantly orange red in color and seemed to be rising. I took it as a sign that more light would be given along the way, and it certainly was. The stars were brilliant everywhere and as I arrived in Crows Nest, there were lights and signs galore.
I continued driving in confidence, and in Fernie came across the "Largest Truck in the World", photographed it and kept going. I followed a winding road for miles and did so in full trust that I would reach my destination safely. I saw animals on the road in the forest (alive) and traveled at the proper speed despite the loggers who intimidated me momentarily until they passed and went on. They knew the road far better than I, and probably had the advantage of coffee under their belts.
I became acutely aware that hunger was keeping me awake and alert, and vowed that I would find a place in Cranbrook once I got there to get a snack and something to drink. When I got to Cranbrook, it was 2 am and there was only one convenience store open so I did just that and continued homeward. I pulled into Bonner's Ferry about 4:45 am.
As I crawled into a very warm, comfortable bed, sleep of course, was not a problem. When I crawled out of bed, my first agenda was lunch and wouldn't you know it, I met a Border Patrol agent and his wife at the restaurant, who were happy to hear about my trip. Providence, that's what I call it. Later that day they were headed back to Canada, and happily invited me to join them, but I had a massage scheduled, and I was just plain tired.
Some months later, I decided to plot the route, and guess what? I drove a remarkable 741 miles which translates to just short of a 14 hour drive. If you are interested, there is a link below to the map. I did that alone, and in the end, it really didn't seem all that difficult. The only real regret I had was that I didn't keep driving to Glacier. Maybe next time?