02 Feb Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Well, secret’s out you guys. I’m half Canadian, and if I want to, I could become a dual citizen! This is thanks to my Grandparents on my Fathers side, Keith and Evelyn. They grew up in the Edmonton area, but for the past few years have been living out the glorious winters in Canmore. It was very overdue for me to escape up there and have them show me around.
I think it’s safe to say when people think of Canada, they imagine people living in Igloos braving the cold, harsh, never-ending winter (just kidding ‘gramps!) I got lucky with the weather. My dad and step-mom were there just three weeks earlier and it was about 12* F, with a wind chill making it feel 0*. So I was a somewhat afraid I was going to freeze my bum off. But, the night I flew in a warm and blustery ‘Chinook Wind’ swooped into the valley giving me a balmy 30-40* F to explore and adventure out and about in! When dressed appropriately, it was more then manageable. Thank you for that, Canadian Weather Gods.
I arrived at night on Monday, so my first glimpse of Canada early Tuesday morning from the back deck was delightful. I learned by the end of my trip, that these mountains never look the same. Every morning the clouds and lighting changed ever-so slightly, allowing you to never be bored by the same view every day.
Tuesday consisted of two things, visiting my Grandparents friends, Heather & Kerry, on their farm, and visiting the ‘Castle’ in Banff.
Heather & Kerry have beautiful Fijord horses (hailing from Norway), and I was lucky enough to be there when their shoes were getting replaced. The Farrier uses an old method of Hot Shoeing the horses. This allows the Ferrier to get a better fit on the hoof, and requires a lot of practice and skill.
After a cup of cocoa and an amazing history lesson about the Canmore area, we headed up the road to the Banff National Forest to see the ‘castle!’
Okay, so it’s not really a castle. It’s actually the Fairmont Banff Springs luxury hotel. But it sits atop the mountain with as much grandeur as any castle would. My grandparents and I had a tasty lunch inside with a breathtaking mountain view. Then, we met up with Gord. Gord is the head electrician at the hotel. Man oh man, if you want the ultimate tour of any hotel, I’m telling you now to befriend the head electrician.
He first took us to the very tippy top of the hotel, The Royal Suite. If any President or World Leader came to visit Banff, this is where they would stay. Celebrities like Marilyn, Prince, and John Travolta have stayed here.
It was pretty luxury to say the least. Gord then proceeded to show us the glorious spa, the elite Gold Floor for guests who want to keep their interactions with other guests to a minimum, and then down the the basement! We got to see his workshop that held at least one of every light bulb needed in the hotel. It was impressive. And the woodworking space, upholstery, and pretty much anything else you need to keep an entire hotel running. Surprisingly one of the most impressive rooms was the Boiler Room. You can’t even begin to imagine how large of boilers you need to heat an entire hotel in the Canadian Mountains.
We drove around to the landmark known as the ‘Surprise Corner’ to get a different perspective on the hotel. It really looks like something out of a Wes Anderson movie. It was built during the 19th century as one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, and really helped put Banff on the map as a luxury vacation destination.
Tired and chalk-full of information, we headed home for the night to have dinner and drink Hot Toddies with some specialty Alberta whiskey. I can’t remember the brand, so it must have done its job!
I took a picture of the mountains every morning, because I just had to. Too much beauty to keep it all to myself!
On Wednesday we took the trek out to the marvelous Lake Louise, or as the French say, Lac Louise! In case you didn’t know, French is the second language up there. Which was great since I am obsessed with it! My Grandma made me practice a few times, but I would always get hit with stage-fright! 😉
Something that really strikes me is the incredible transformation winter has on the landscape. I’ll share my picture from the visit, and then one from the internet of the lake in warmer months.
Quite the difference, eh? The water in the summer takes on that beautiful opaque turquoise water because it is fed by glaciers! I am just so in love with the blue. I definitely want to visit when it’s warmer to see the transformation for myself.
There was an ice sculpture contest just the week before, so we first walked around and looked at those shimmering in the patches of sun.
We then walked the length of the lake (accompanied by the sweetest adventure dog, Annie) to get a glimpse of the glaciers and to see the Chateau from far away. The first bit of the walk I found myself getting a bit nervous at the thought of walking on top of a frozen lake. That was something I had never done before! There was a bigger glacier further down the lake, but the trail stopped and our hiking boots were just not cutting it in the deep snow. My Grandpa sank hip-deep into the snow, so we decided to turn around before we both got stuck! The view from the end of the lake though was quite breathtaking.
On our walk back we saw a group taking a sleigh ride, it looked so picturesque, straight out of a movie.
More toddies that night, and our final adventure the next day!
My final mountain photo. This one was my favorite. Glowing and sun-kissed. Pink clouds, and the moon!
Thursday I went on a hike with my Grandpa to Johnson Canyon. As you can imagine, seeing photos during the summer vs. now is just mind-blowing. Especially because a lot of the rock formations along the river and falls are Travertine Limestone. This is a very porous rock, that is slowly constantly renewing itself right in front of you! In the summer the rocks just look smooth and slightly wet. But all that constant moisture creates the most interesting sculptural ice formations. Mother Nature really is the best artist out there, it’s true.
To get to the first falls, you have to climb through this small cave. The sound of the falls echoing in here was very other-worldly. I always wish I could share the sounds of our explorations with everyone, they are always so immersive and unique to each location.
There is such a variety in the greens all around us. The pure white snow makes every other color pop that much more. It was hard to capture in a photo, but the moss on this tree was an incredibly vibrant light green.
Turning around the the bend on the trail you are met with this entrancing blue wall of ice, created by the seepage of water I mentioned earlier. The second waterfall right around the corner at the end of the trail. It was all so much to take in. My Grandpa said he as never seen it all so blue. Since was a bit warmer the usual, the snow melted a bit to reveal the vibrate cyan of the ice below.
After spending some time to take in the sights and sounds, we turned around and headed back the way we came. Johnson Canyon is a vary popular hike in the area, so the trail is very well maintained.
I bugged my Grandpa the whole hike asking him what tracks went to which animal. Which lead to him taking me into a souvenir shop on the way home and buying me the best T-shirt ever that has about 30 tracks and their respective animals printed on it. A perfect token to take home from my trip here. Though I didn’t see any wildlife!! Oh well, a reason to come back 😉
That night as my fare-well dinner, the obvious thing to eat was POUTINE! We went to ‘La Belle Patate’ which is French for The Beautiful Potato, of course. I never knew there were so many ways to eat Poutine! I got the Steak Hache. It was an amazing choice.
I also tried a local favorite, Spruce Beer (similar to a Ginger Beer). It was a very unique flavor, I felt like I was drinking the smell of the air from my hike earlier.
And that’s that! I left earlier the next day after a delicious breakfast of pancakes with locally made maple syrup, and locally cured sausages on the side! Yumm.
I am so thankful to my Grandparents for hosting me for the week. They spoiled me rotten! And their love of the outdoors was inspiring. I hope that I will be able to keep up with my grandchildren one day like they do now! Now that I got a taste of the magic up there, I will definitely be returning sooner than later.