International

Banff National Park

My last few days in Canada were to be spent at Banff National Park. Banff was about 90 minutes to the west of Calgary up in the mountains. I was hoping that the elevation would give some relief from the heat. Bummed that I had lost my phone at the rodeo, I pulled out the old school maps and headed west. Due to the flooding in Calgary, there were road warnings about Highway 1 west of town. The floods were bad.. a good portion of southern Alberta was hit, hard.  Canada helped me as I was grappling with coming out (for another post), so I wanted to support them as I could.

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I have to say at this point in the journey I was tiring of driving. I had expected to do about 1000 miles over the entire trip but it looks like I was about 30% off. It was a long slog through Calgary and like the rest of Canada destinations were further away than they appeared. The bridge closure turned out to be no big deal and I pulled in to Lake Louise just after 10 PM. What really gets to me about this place is that it 10 PM it that it is as bright here at 10 pm as it is at 7 o’clock in San Jose. My concept of time is completely off.

Since the sun didn’t go down until after 10 PM I slept in. One of the local townspeople reminded me that it was Canada Day. She was all excited about what this day meant for her country particularly a day to set aside politics and celebrate. Apparently there is a parade and a barbecue at the recreation center in town. I didn’t have anything better to do so I went.

It was interesting celebrating a foreign holiday in a foreign land. I think it was the first time for me that I had done so. It was so close to the Fourth of July that it felt similar just without the blue.

After celebrating all things Canada it was time to head out into the park. About a year ago I saw the movie One Week. It’s about a guy who develops a chronic illness and finds the need to buy an old motorcycle and right across Canada. I know we have interstates here that are somewhat the same thing but I’ve always been fascinated by the Trans-Canadian Highway. It’s one ribbon of concrete that traverses all of Canada.

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I thought the boys back home might appreciate this:

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Since it was Canada Day and the parks were free, everything was mobbed. There was very little parking at Lake Louise. The road to Lake Moraine was closed because there were too many cars in the area. The guy manning the closure suggested to go somewhere else and come back later in the day. I headed up Alberta Highway 93 also known as the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway winds its way from Banff National Park up to Jasper National Park. This area was truly spectacular. This was also one of the feeder roads to the next great destination: Alaska. I so wished my motorcycle was here.

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I didn’t want to stay in my car the whole day so I looked for places that were high and that I could hike. That led me to Bow Summit. It was about a 20 minute hike out to a vista of Peyto Lake. I was expecting to see deep clear waters in each of the lakes up here. I couldn’t of been more wrong. Since all of these lakes are glacier fed there’s a high degree of silt in the water. That silt comes from the ice grinding along the rock as it travels down the mountain. Some lakes are bright green. Others are bright blue. None are clear. I got lost in the random network of trails at Bow Summit. I found my way out to an even better overlook of Peyto Lake. Through somewhat broken English and very broken Chinese I was able to get a photo of myself!

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Driving back to Lake Louise I stumbled upon “another lake and mountains photo.”  The size of the mountains compared to the rest of the landscape is continually impressive.

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I got back to Lake Louise much later in the day, about 6 PM. Since the viewpoints at Lake Louise and Lake Moraine faced to the West, I was doubtful I was going to get any good photography. Although the mosquitoes were out in full force, it was nice to be able to get a couple of miles under my belt around Lake Louise.

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What was utterly shocking is that there wasn’t water fountain to be found. I was thirsty is all could be yet not a drop of water to drink. Since the Fairmont Hotel (above) pretty much owns that area I think that was intentional. You could buy a bottle of water for $3 but it seems like such a waste of plastic, energy, and hassle.

Lake Moraine was spectacular. It’s waters were a pretty, deep blue whereas Lake Louise was more so mild green. The sun was again in the wrong spot, but it was just nice to soak in the aesthetic beauty of the area.

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On the way back to the car, I saw a bear! He seemed to be content minding his own business not really caring about all of us tourists taking photographs of him. Angry, that is one of the most powerful animals in North America. It was surprising how close people were willing to get to him. I was content to use my mild telephoto lens and call it a day.

I got up extra early the next day as I wanted one more shot to photograph both Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.  In the morning I figured the sun would be behind me and would make for better photographs.  The wrinkle is that I didn’t know really how long it was going to take to get to the airport.  I didn’t want to waste time sitting in Calgary nor did I want to miss my flight.

I got up early and hit the road by 7 AM. It was a glorious day to be out and about! Fortunately, it was still pretty warm out.  The ride up there was spectacular!

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Lake Moraine was again the clear winner for me so I stopped by their first.  I’m glad I did!On the way up to the overlook I got someone to take my photo.  When someone else takes your photo, you’re never really sure what you’re going to get.  I guess beggars can’t be choosers.

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Having the sun behind me gives much more realistic color to the lake and more contrast to the mountains.  The photographs often needed much less work and postprocessing.

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After I got down from the overlook it was cool seeing the docks and seeing all of the boats.  This photograph reminds me very much of camp.

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Lake Louise was just tough to photograph.  I was looking around seeing so many amazing photographs of Lake Louise and just didn’t have great light that day so the lake and mountains were not washed out.  I’ll take what I can get though!

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