Part 3 of 4
Well, apparently Thoreau would have enjoyed our time in Banff, since we saw some amazing peaks ,often obscured or veiled by clouds, but also were privileged to see them as the skies cleared, and the sunlight shone brightly on their sharp rocky surfaces.
The mid-point of our three week trip! After our morning of tourist shopping, wandering, and getting laundry finished, we headed off to the Two Jack Lakeside campground. Social media contacts who frequent the Banff NP area had suggested this as probably the best campground in the area…IF you can get a site. My efforts of last January to get to the front of the computer line for campground reservations definitely paid off. This is an amazing location, and even though it was reported to be “full”, the weather apparently had discouraged folks from showing up, so we enjoyed a very non-crowded few days.
Our site was located adjacent to a short path leading right down to the lake, and an easy canoe access point. The turquoise water was visible from our spot, though we initially did not appreciate that, since it was raining as we set up the GO. The weather precluded our paddling that afternoon, but when the precipitation lightened, we were able to hike around the lake area. Our tent trailer was close to the water, but here are some incredible tent sites practically on the shoreline. We certainly received some great advice from Karen Ung (http://www.playoutsideguide.com/) and Tyler Dixon (http://getmeoutdoors.blogspot.ca/) !
The next day arrived with some improved weather conditions (some clouds, mist, cool temperatures, but no rain), so we hauled the boats down to the access area. What a spot!
Given the water temperatures, and the variable conditions, I decided that wearing the dry suit would be wise…we made an incorrect assumptions about how cold the water would be, so we also put the dogs in their neoprene vests under their life jackets. The water actually was warmer than Lake Louise (50-52 degrees), but given the low air temperature, it was probably wise to err on the side of caution.
We had a beautiful paddle that morning, and I can say that I really enjoyed this lake. We rarely saw anyone else on the water, and the shoreline is mostly undeveloped ( you can see some campsites, and a tourist parking area). We saw osprey, and lots of ducks!
My husband took a photo of me, in which it can clearly be seen that I am wearing a dry suit. Since it was taken with his iPhone, we could post it to social media that day. I had tagged Mythic Gear (the great dry suit folks) in the photo. We soon received an email from Bob Holtzman of Mythic, asking if he could use the photo for a meme…sure, we said! After all, we are dedicated to sharing practices for safe canoeing with dogs, and what a great example!
That afternoon, we returned to the town of Banff, for some “tourist time”. The rain had stopped, so we were able to take the dogs for a nice walk around the town and along the river. They were so well behaved, walking among all the other people, in an environment that is very strange for them. We checked out a few interesting museums, and of course, picked up a few souvenirs.
I don’t think those are TUBBS snowshoes!
We returned to the campground, and went out for another beautiful paddle. We had hoped to paddle in Johnson Lake (near the campground), but the entire lake was closed for treatment of an invasive aquatic species. During our trip planning, Parcs Canada had advised us that the lake was planned to be open by September, but apparently the need to eradicate the organism that causes “whirling disease” required extended time.
We made delicious quesadillas for dinner ( warm meals on a rainy,cold night), and wished we could have made a campfire. The Campfire Ban was critical, though, due to fire risk, so we accepted it as just another glitch in our plans. We did actually see some sun late in the day, so our level of optimism increased for the next day’s plans. The overnight was very cold, and very wet, but we kept cozy in the GO. A neighboring camper was not so fortunate. The poor fellow and his girlfriend had ended up sleeping in their compact car, after they became too cold and wet in their small pup tent. We consoled him by giving him a small bottle of Vermont Maple Syrup, telling him he will feel better if he puts it on his pancakes!
And then suddenly, we were in our last full day in Banff NP…despite the sometimes sketchy weather, we had manage to accomplish quite a bit of what we had planned. This day we were heading out to Vermillion Lakes, though we were not sure which of the three lakes we would end up paddling.
We drove along Vermillion Lake Drive, and of course, it started to rain! So we made a scouting trip out of it…determined that First Lake was very shallow ( 6 inches of water or less)for at least 100 years from shore. Second Lake was not much better, though the hundreds of shore birds ( Wilson’ snipe? ) thought that the conditions were ideal. Ah, Third Lake, smallest of the three looked promising! We decided to wait out the showers in town, at Timmy’s, and within an hour or so, the rain had stopped.
The Vermillion Lakes were wonderful. We saw elk along the shoreline, and eagles flying overhead, and herons and ducks in the marshy areas. No one else was on the water ,so we enjoyed a bit of solitude. There was a bit of wind blowing about, but on this small lake it was not a deterrent. Mt. Rundle was partly obscured, but we had great views of what we believe is the Sundance Range.
We saw, and heard, many trains on this trip…including while we paddled on Vermilion Third Lake.
After lunch, we decided that the dog really needed to get out and hike for a bit. The weather had cleared up nicely, so conditions were favorable for a change. We knew of many local hikes, but also knew that many of them are magnets for large groups of tourists. During our stay in Banff, we had been admiring the impressive falls down Cascade Mountain; a little research and we learned that there is a short ( I mile or so) trail up to the base of the cascade. This turned out to be a great little uphill hike, which afforded some nice views and it was not until we were leaving that we saw other hikers heading up. We practiced our Bear Smart practices, just in case…the dogs were alert and focused, and we had no issues.
Taking advantage of the sunny skies, we drove west on the Bow Valley Parkway. No wildlife sightings, but it was great to actually see some of the mountain tops. We also decided that if we have to wait for an electric sign to tell us if there are parking spaces at a trailhead, that is probably not our kind of hiking trail!
The sun remained shining until we returned to the campsite…and continued to brighten the afternoon. So, once more into Two Jack Lake!
And news! On our final night in Banff NP, the Campfire Ban was lifted! The firewood pile was located very near our site, and it was “help yourself”, so we did! A warm, relaxing fire…the perfect way to end our stay.
We awoke on “move-out day” to 29 degree temperatures, and frost…the elevating poles on the GO, which had become wet from all the rain, were frozen. However, with a little warmth from hands and breath, we were able to solve that mini-crisis easily. We departed the campground to see the sun rising over peaks freshly frosted with new snow. The sun was shining as we headed east, through the Kananaskis area, and homeward bound. That part of the trip became quite the adventure, too..more to come!