When we first pulled into our campground in Banff we quickly encountered what appeared to be a wolf. Kristi was a little slow on the trigger and we did not get a good photo. Hunter insists that it was a coyote, but we have seen out fair share of Coyotes and this looked much more like a wolf. We even dragged a Park Ranger into the debate who did not help settle the argument. He said that based on our description and the blurry photo that we had it could be either one. For now we will call it a Wolfoyte and be done with the debate. Our next adventure in Banff required a 2.5 hour trip in the Jeep to the Columbia Icefields.
This may be the last chance that we get to see and feel a real Glacier in our lifetime. It was downright scary to see how fast this thing was melting away. There were markers down the mountain from where the edge of the glacier was just 10 years ago to show how much of it had melted. Climate change is real my friends and this was first hand evidence. After a three day assessment, I can safety say that this is a very commercial place.
It is more like a ski resort town than a National Park. It reminds me a lot of Aspen to be honest. The Canadians do National Parks a lot different than we do in the states. Not different in a different kind of way, but different in a worse kind of way. No National Park should ever contain 40 restaurants, 20 ice cream shops and a Foot Locker. The “town” areas of US National Parks contain small stores to stock up on provisions and maybe get an ice cream cone if you were lucky. Here in Canada, you can stock up on Gucci, Prada, and the latest Sharper Image products. Beneath all of this commercialism, there is some beautiful scenery. The fact that this place is so commercial and so many of the best attractions are available without hiking, Banff tends to attract a different type of visitor. More like the visitors that we saw at Yellowstone last year. If you read the blog from last year, you will remember my accounts of parents and children alike putting their hands in boiling pots of clay to see what it would feel like. Well Duh. It was BOILING! These types of mishaps were common. Well yesterday’s roadside tourist show was a winner as well. While traveling back from the Columbia Icefields, we came across a large group of cars pulled to the side of the road. The occupants all lined up on the edge of the road with cameras affixed on an unknown creature. Being a good lemming, I pulled over to see what this was all about. Naturally the kids wanted to jump out of the car and run over with me to see what was in the woods.
The answer was of course NO. I would investigate first. When I got to the crowd it became clear what they were looking at . A 300 lb black bear walking parallel to the road not 20 feet from where they were standing. Before I could even snap a picture, I made an about face and headed back to the car. From the safety of the Jeep I watched entire families with kids as young as 3 stand 20 feet from a huge black bear. Now let me ask you this. If you were taking your kids to the Bronx Zoo and you noticed an inattentive zookeeper leave the door open to the bear cage would you?
A. Grab little Johnny and Jane and head inside for a close up encounter with a bear?
B. Get the hell outta there since there is nothing standing between you and a bear?
For some reason all of these people thought nothing of choosing the equivalent to option A. It is not even fair to say that it was the equivalent because zoo bears are more used to humans. This was a wild bear that probably felt that he was being stalked by a huge group of overweight mammals. A threatened bear is not a safe bear. Well no bear is a safe bear, but one that is threatened or has cubs is particularly dangerous. Its always the stupid humans that provide the most entertainment. Our way to a hike in Lake Morraine, we had a much more safe encounter with a black bear. This one was easily viewed from the safety of our car. It was a large black bear scavenging for food not far from the road. We later learned that his name was Taylor. The park wardens know almost every bear in the park and where they like to hang out. The bear Warden that we ran into told us all about Taylor and the massive Grizzly and her two cubs that hangs out on the trail that we just came off leading to Consolation Lake.
Now this lake is the true highlight of Banff. Deep Green water fed by glacial runoff with snow covered mountains flanking its shores made for a postcard picture. We planned to do a 4 mile hike here. The trail started with the most serious bear warning yet on our entire trip through Grizzly country. The sign was not a suggestion or a warning, but a mandate that hiking this trail requires a party of no less than 4 people or face a $5000 fine.
Kristi’s nervous breakdown started at about the ½ mile mark when she swears that she heard snorting sounds of a bear. We then encountered people who had seen fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail about 300 feet from where we were.That was enough information to turn us around. Speaking to the Bear Warden later that day, it turned out to be a good idea. She told us that the bear on the trail was a huge Grizzly with 2 cubs in tow.
In summary, Banff has some beautiful scenery. If you want to see the Canadian Rockies without too much hiking and the option of fine dining, shopping, and lodging than Banff is a great place for you. If you are a hiker and enjoy a more remote experience, skip the long trip to Banff and enjoy the splendor of Glacier National Park. Tomorrow we start the freestyle phase of our trip. The schedule is over and we will go where the road takes us and do what feels right along the way.
One last thing about Canada before we point the RV back towards the states. The Canadian Government is sign happy. We have seen signs everywhere for absolutely every possible scenario. I posted some pics below of some of the best, but the one that leads off this entry took the prize for the craziest sign in Canada.
IF YOU MISSED PART I OF THE BANFF TRIP CLICK HERE