Banff National Park in Alberta Canada is breathtaking. I'm so glad we decided to spend a day there, well worth the extra drive (what's four more hours on a two-week long road trip?).
Originally we'd planned to drive there and back all in one day, but as it got closer decided that sounded lame and it would be better to go up after dinner Thursday and spend the night so we could have more time to enjoy it. Unfortunately we made this decision a little late in the game, and with it being the week of Canada Day, there were absolutely 0 hotels to be found. So we got extra adventurous and decided that it might be fun to camp instead. Luckily, there were exactly two open camping spots, so we snagged one of them. So Thursday evening we ate dinner with everyone, then packed up and went north up to Calgary then hung a west over to Banff. We got a later start than we wanted to and worried it would be hard to set up camp in the dark. Silly us. It didn't get dark till after midnight so far north at that time of year. I took this picture at 10:00pm.
It was not a good night's sleep. Some of us were freezing cold, others could not get comfortable no matter how they tried, some of us suffered multiple mosquito bites on the face, most of us counted down the hours till the sun came up. Not Lydia and Afton though, they fell right to sleep and didn't stir till morning. BUT, totally worth it for the fun we had on Friday.
First of all, it was our anniversary. Happy 17 years to us! We didn't actually plan it that way, but I was glad we ended up having this one day mini excursion with just our family. It made me feel all happy and loving all six of them extra.
We woke, dressed, and broke camp right away, anxious to get going, and ate breakfast in the car as we drove to Lake Louise. Pictures don't do it justice. The water color is so vibrant yet serene looking all at the same time. It's hard to explain. It's just gorgeous. (We took our pictures with a variety of cameras and phones, so the color looks a little different in all of them.)
After admiring it and getting a few pictures we headed off on our planned hike. It was really crowded there, far more than Waterton, so we were glad to get away from all the people. We walked 1.3 miles around one side of Lake Louise, then 1.9 miles up Big Beehive Mountain. That climb was super steeps switchbacks all the way, and tough on our youngest hikers and we took a lot of breaks to catch our breath.
Near the top we heard what sounded like a long peal of thunder, and were bummed we were still in the trees, because it turns out we missed seeing an avalanche on the neighboring mountain by just a couple of minutes. Once we reached the top we were greatly rewarded with the view down on Lake Louise.
Next we continued 1.5 miles down more steep switchbacks on the other side toward Lake Agnes, a smaller lake with a different but equally ethereal color.
For this portion of the trail we passed a couple of snow patches that were full to climb and slide on. On the other side of Lake Agnes was a little mini-restaurant that was set up on the trail. We'd heard this place was so pretty and nice to stop for a meal, so we were really looking forward to it. Plus, we'd been hiking for almost five miles already and we were starving. Unfortunately when we arrived it was overflowing with people, and when we saw the scanty menu I almost wanted to cry. Cucumber sandwiches, chips and salsa, and other such light snacks were all they offered at $10 a pop, and we each felt like we could eat a moose. We waited around about fifteen minutes for a table to open up, then waited a few more for someone to notice we needed to order food (there wasn't a lot of structure), then a lady who was leaving told us she'd just waited a full hour for her peanut butter sandwich. That's all we needed to hear. In an hour we could finish the hike and get real food for half the cost. So on we pressed, 2.2 more miles to end up back where we'd started. It was one of the harder hikes we've done as a whole family, and I was incredibly impressed that everyone finished with no piggy back rides. I hope they remember that hike and it will remind them that they can do hard things.
We found some burgers in town and spent some time checking out souvenir shops before heading back down to Beazer. I love you Banff. I love you Canada.