Picture of bowriver 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.
Picture of otterbanff 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.
Picture of elk 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 shots.
Picture of johnston 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.
Picture of silverton 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.)
Picture of castlemt 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.
Picture of melanie 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.)
Picture of david 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.
Picture of bowvalley 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.
Picture of banf-koot 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.
Picture of marble1 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.
Picture of marble2 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.

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