– Radium Hot Springs, BC to Banff, Alberta-
A thunderstorm crashed through Radium Hot Springs last night. The thunder was loud enough to wake all of us up, and to really upset Miss Ripley, who is not a fan of thunder. With the storm came dramatically cooler temperatures. Yesterday it was in the 80s, and today when we woke up, it was in the 40s, with little hope of getting out of the upper 50s later in the day.
With the rain and the cold, the missed sleep due to the storm, and the terrible options for running in Radium Hot Springs, we ended up skipping our run this morning so we could sleep for an extra hour and a half. After our alarm went off at 5, we looked at each other, shook our heads, and went back to sleep. It’s been pretty nice, actually. I hadn’t really noticed how sleep deprived we’ve been feeling.
Our first goal this morning was to wrap up Kootenay National Park before we continued on into Banff. We had a few stops and at least one potential hike, though with the rain we’d decided that the trail would likely be muddy and cold, so we were already planning to cut it back considerably before we even left our hotel.
Radium didn’t have much to offer in the way of breakfast, so once again we scavenged for a meal from our food tubs. We are probably going to need to visit a grocery store to restock soon. At least the hotel’s lobby had coffee for Mark. He gets so sad without it.
Just down the road into Kootenay, we stopped at Sinclair Canyon, which was backlit yesterday afternoon, but looked lovely in the morning sunshine. Not long after, we stopped by the actual hot springs at Radium Hot Springs. They are doing a lot of work in Kootenay National Park, so portions of the hot springs were blocked off or closed, but the hot pool was open this morning. The cold pool doesn’t open until noon, which make sense. Who wants to get in cold water before noon?
I was a little disappointed to see that both the hot and cold pools really were just regular old swimming pools, one of which happened to be filled by the hot springs. I always want something like some of the ones you find in Iceland, where the pool is just a hole in the rock (usually in somebody’s backyard).
When we finished looking at the pools, we hopped back into the truck and continued up the road, stopping at Vermillion Crossing to take some photos of the river. They had signs about a bear being spotted in the area, but everywhere in Kootenay seems to have those signs, so we still ventured back onto the little trail to the river to get some photos. I was a little nervous. If Mark made a sound I wasn’t expected, I nearly jumped out of my skin. I don’t want to get eaten by a bear.
Further up the road, we stopped again at the Paint Pots trail, which we had decided yesterday we would hike back to see. Today, we changed our minds, since the ground was a little wetter than we’d like, and the temperature a little colder that was comfortable. Instead, we walked back to the bridge over the river that was part of the trail, and we took some awesome photos of the green mountains and the clouds. It was a glorious morning, despite the chill. I think the bad weather really added something to the view. Yesterday it was almost too sunny. Ripley had a blast on the walk out to the bridge.
Kootenay turns into Banff at Castle Junction, and when you get there, you have the option to get on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1), or to take the Bow Lake Road, which runs parallel between Banff and Lake Louise. We decided to take the Bow Lake Road down to Banff first, which would give us the best potential views to start.
The Bow Lake Road is much slower than the highway, and it has a lot fewer people traveling it. We enjoyed the pull-offs along the way to Banff, though there were not many, since Castle Junction and Banff are not terribly far apart. The Backswamp Lookout was nice, with the mountains disappearing into a cloudy fog, and the water turned green by the shadows. If I haven’t said this already in this blog, Banff is perhaps the most beautiful and majestic place in the world. I love it.
The Bow Valley Road ends in the town of Banff, where we stopped to grab something for lunch. Banff is a miserable place, packed with expensive restaurants and tourists absolutely everywhere. It’s a nightmare to park, a nightmare to drive in, and just overall not my favorite place to be. If you like kitschy shops, restaurants, and tons of people, you might enjoy Banff, but I really don’t. The town is the worst part of the park. Of course, we are staying here tonight and tomorrow night, so I will have to endure so we have time to enjoy the park. I guess I can’t complain too much, since it is so convenient.
In any event, after searching for a restaurant we might want and finding nothing easy and nowhere to park, we instead visited the grocery store, where we bought chips and egg salad sandwiches and went ahead on our way. Mark got some ketchup Doritos. If you haven’t read along before, or don’t know much about Canada, you might’ve missed the fact that ketchup chips are quite popular here. The ketchup Doritos are a limited time thing, it seems, but regular potato chips can always be found in that flavor (or All-Dressed, which Mark also loves). They were a little weird, but not terrible.
After lunch, we took a loop out of town that’s called the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, which of course takes you up around Lake Minnewanka. The sun was dipping in and out from behind the clouds, but most of the lakes and mountains were visible on the drive, and we had a good time. Lake Minnewanka was very busy, but the smaller, prettier Two Jack Lake, just below it, was less popular and easier to visit. We took Ripley for a walk down to the water for some pictures.
This is where Ripley once again met her nemesis: the prairie dog. The area had dozens of prairie dog holes dug into the sides of hills and randomly along the sides of the path. Ripley absolutely lost her mind. She was shaking and crying and pointing and doing her very best to convince Mark and me that she needed to go stick her face in a few prairie dog holes. I told her she’d probably end up with a bloody snoot, but a hunting dog on the war path isn’t interested in facts. We still managed to make it back to the truck without incident, but she was crazy for everything that moved for the rest of the day.
While we were down at the lake, we spotted someone swimming across Two Jack Lake. It was a little funny. Mark and I were standing next to another couple, with Mark taking pictures with his film camera, and me playing with the digital camera. The couple next to us was discussing a distant splashing across the lake, so I zoomed in on the lake to investigate. Eventually, the splashing resolved into a crazy person swimming across a glacially cold lake, and we all laughed and speculated about just how legal it was to swim in the lake, anyway. The other couple implied it was against the rules. All I saw were signs about not spreading around zebra mussels and some kind of fish illness, so I can’t say for sure, but I can say that I wouldn’t do it. That water was cold!
After we finished at the lakes, we took another loop road just outside of town called Tunnel Mountain. Tunnel Mountain Road turns into Tunnel Mountain Drive, which is closed during the winter due to the threat of avalanche. Considering the road is cut right into the mountain in that area, I can see why.
Along this road, we stopped at a lookout, only to discover that Banff seemed to have some hoodoos at the aptly named Hoodoos Viewpoint. If you’ve never heard of them, hoodoos are a sort of thin bit of rock that sticks up from the ground in straight line, frequently with some kind of capstone at the top. They are formed by erosion, and are very common in deserts. The best example is Bryce Canyon in Utah, though you can spot them all over the American Southwest.
The hoodoos in Banff are… disappointing by comparison. I guess they are technically hoodoos, and maybe they even have more than we saw, but I guess I must be some kind of hoodoo snob, because I thought they were a little silly and kind of cute. The southwest has spoiled me for interesting geological features.
After Tunnel Mountain Road, we decided that it was early enough that we still had time to go visit the rest of Bow Valley Road. First, though, on our way out of Banff, we saw a turnoff for the Vermillion Lakes, which we absolutely had to make a detour for. These lakes are visible from pull outs on the main highway, but they are much prettier from the road below, which we took out to get a look at the lakes.
We took a bunch of photos, and even dragged little Ripley out of the truck to pose on the dock on one of the lakes. She enjoyed it, since she got to stare at all of the critters out around the lake. The movement on the lake’s surface was particularly fascinating. Sometimes I wonder if she understands how much of the world she’s seen. Most of the time, I assume she doesn’t remember when she had her last meal, let alone remember all of the places she’s been. She can be a little silly.
Back on the road, we decided that since we’d already done it up to Castle Junction, we would take the Trans-Canada Highway as far as Castle Junction, but it had started to rain a little, so we decided to go all the way up to Lake Louise on the big highway, where Bow Valley Road begins, and hope that the weather would be better by the time we got up there.
It did end up looking a little better when we reached Lake Louise, though still not perfect. Lake Louise is on our list for early tomorrow morning, when the sun will be at its best, so we skipped it and turned down the Bow Valley Road, turning back to the south and in the direction of the town of Banff. A lot of the lookouts in Banff are on that secondary road, and I highly recommend driving down it if you come for a visit. It’s much easier to take everything in at the slower pace.
One of our last stops was at Castle Mountain, which looked quite intimidating in the lowering clouds. It seems strangely like some sort of fortress hovering over the road, and it is a different color and shape than most of the other mountains in park. The differences make it striking, even when it is obscured by clouds.
In any event, when we made it back to Castle Junction once again, we got back onto Highway 1 and drove back into Banff. Our dinner options didn’t seem spectacular, and it was really too much work to stop and park in town, so we drove back to our hotel and had cooler dinner again. It’s crazy that we haven’t gotten tired of this stuff yet.
The trails in Banff are awesome, so I’m really looking forward to our run tomorrow. We’re also planning to get up early and drive out to Lake Louise to get some nice, early morning photos. We are hoping for clear weather, but I don’t think the park is going to oblige. They are predicting rain again, and it looks like it will be another cool day. I think we may have to wear pants tomorrow, which feels like some kind of crime against nature in June.
– Trip Total : ??? miles –