On the third day, we left Calgary behind and headed west into the mountains
which had been tempting us for two days. Our first stop was actually
a campground near Castle Mountain (much more on that later). Then
we headed back to Banff for some lunch before a day of hiking. In
Banff, we visited Bow Falls (semi-mandatory), which you cannot see in this
picture because it's behind us. It's really not very spectacular
though, and there are better ones coming up on this page, so instead we
offer this view of the Bow River in the other direction.
Many, if not all, of the streets in the town of Banff are named after various
wildlife that can be found in the area. This fortunately includes
the otter. Shown here is she-who-worships-otters underneath the sign
for Otter Street. Incidentally, we planned to take this picture before
we ever arrived in Banff. Actually before we even arrived in Canada.
Banff is not a very large town, and there isn't much in the way of fences or
walls to keep the wildlife out. In fact the highways have cross-under
points for wildlife. This picture was taken in the Bow River Park
in "downtown" Banff. These elk were doing their absolute best to
ignore the horde of tourists creeping up on them to get close-up
After a healthy lunch of open-faced sandwiches doused in gravy, and poutine doused
in more gravy, we went hiking. As you might guess, we started
off with an easy hike through Johnston Canyon. Not only was it easy,
it was paved, guard-railed and moderately crowded. It was also chock
full of ground squirrels. They were not exactly what you would call
'wild' life. One of them even perched on my shoe (while I was wearing
it). The falls weren't bad though. This is the lower falls,
which just happens to be more photogenic than the upper falls.
For a more authentic wilderness experience, we followed our guide book through
Silverton Canyon. This 'trail' had more interesting and challenging
directions to it such as: "Look for the big rock just past where the woodshed
used to be and then crawl under the tree next to it. You should see
a slight trail here." (We didn't). However, there were no
other people, and that's worth something. After more or less inventing
our own trail by following the creek upstream, we came to the falls.
Unfortunately, we couldn't really see them so much as we could hear them.
We needed to get a bit more altitude for the view, so we scrambled up a
very muddy and rather steep slope. This took a while, and when we
got to the top we found... a trail. Okay, so going back would be
much easier. Anyhow we did have a better view from up there.
The waterfall consists of about 7 drops total, 3 of which can be seen in
this picture. Once we got back to the car, we headed back to Banff
for a nice steak dinner before returning to the campsite. (Okay,
so it was only a partial-wilderness experience.)
We spent the next morning and early afternoon on Castle Mountain. This
is a view of the mountain from the road - that is, before we climbed it.
Our trail guide rather failed to do justice to this particular trail.
First it was what you might call narrow, with what you might call precipitous
drops on one side. Occasionally, for variety, there were precipitous
drops on both sides.
Somewhere along the way up we took this picture. You can't really see the width
of this ledge, but this was one of the spots where we could sit down.
If you look closely, you'll see a bright speck in the distance. That's
actually a bit of the Bow River about 1500 feet below us in the valley.
There weren't really any ground squirrels on this trail. There were
apparently grizzly bears, but we wouldn't know that until after we had
finished our hike and decided to read the warnings posted at the trail
head on the way back. (Yes we know you're supposed to read the
warnings posted on the trail head before
you take the trail.)
Here, somewhere near the top of the trail, is David, looking like he just straggled
up to the top of the trail and is about to collapse. Which is more
or less accurate. It should be mentioned that the top of the trail
is not the summit of the mountain, it's the top of the treeline which is
visible two pictures back if you look closely. You really can't go
much further up this face without ropes and other climbing equipment.
We had 'lunch' here which was actually just some granola bars and a lot of water.
So despite the fact that it was a bit more strenuous than our guide book had
implied, the view was clearly worth it. This is looking across the
Bow Valley towards British Columbia. If you look closely, you'll
see two lines snaking through the trees down in the valley. One of
those is the road from Banff to Lake Louise, the other is the railroad
line. The shiny bits in the foreground are the wider sections of
the Bow River. We spent a while enjoying this view before heading
back down, which wasn't much easier.
After a stop at a little convenience store for snacks (lunch) and a lot of liquids,
we headed into the pass through to British Columbia. You can pretty
much figure out the rest from reading the sign in this picture. You
may also notice that we're slightly more refreshed than we were on the
Castle Mountain trail.
Our major stop in Kootenay N.P. was at Marble Canyon, which we highly highly
recommend. What we really just can't convey in this picture, which
shows the bottom of the canyon where the river emerges, is just how cold
the air coming out of here is. This canyon is fed by water melting
from a glacier which then funnels down through this canyon. Although
it was around 65 degrees Fahrenheit on this day, the air coming out of
this canyon was only a few degrees above freezing - about the same temperature
as the water. Much of the canyon itself cannot be seen, as it is
nearly closed at the top. In many places the canyon walls are only
a few inches apart.
The one other place where you can clearly see the river, is where it falls
into the canyon at the top. This is the view from there. Signs
posted around the area told us that Marble Canyon had recorded a fair number
of deaths from people falling in. At least some of these were attributed
to people standing on the edge to have their photographs taken. We
can assure you that we were not standing particularly close to the edge
despite how it appears in this picture.
After we left Marble Canyon we drove to Radium Hot Springs to partake
of the namesake baths. The key word here is 'hot'. Very very
hot water. Melanie, who likes very hot water (unless there are dirty dishes in it)
found it to be extremely relaxing throughout the pool. David who isn't as fond
of very hot water found it to be relaxing on the far side of the pool only. After
our swim, and some lag time to otherwise regain muscle control, we headed
for Golden, British Columbia where the next page will take place.