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Friday, June 22, 2012

Canadian Confrontation at Banff National Park

One of these days I want to get up to Canada to visit this park. I've heard first hand accounts from my brother & sister-in-law of how beautiful this area is! Nice article by Amanda Lepinski and thanks to Link to their site follows.

Amanda Lepinski, Associate Editor
June 14, 2012
Filed under DestinationsNational ParksTravel
All winter I’ve been dreaming up vacation destinations. Nowadays a destination has to really, REALLY, make me want to spend the money and take time off of work to visit. And even though my bucket list is brimming to the top of places I have yet to see, I’ve been obsessed with one area that I’ve already visited and loved so much that I can hardly wait to go back — Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Lake Louise - located in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Doesn't my dad take awesome photos?
 During July 2000, my family took a two-week drive from Minnesota, up through the Dakotas and into Canada, westward into Vancouver and then back home through the States. All four of us piled into the family mini-van and headed northwest. At 16, the last thing I wanted to do was spend two-weeks of my precious summer in close proximity to my brother (who is two years younger than me) but we didn’t have a choice. We shared the backseat while my parents manned the front; dad drove and mom handled directions and the video camera. She filmed plenty of beautiful mountain scenery as we made our way through Alberta and British Columbia but forgot to turn the audio off while recording. So in addition to the majesty of the Canadian Rockies, viewers also get to hear my parents’ commentary and the wind hitting the camera mic as we drove along the winding roads. (Well, all of that and my dad telling my brother and I to stop pestering each other and pay attention to the scenery.)
Those of you planning a family, couples, friends or solo vacation should certainly take a drive from central to western Canada (I’ve done the eastern Canadian drive as well but I just prefer mountains to flat lands, so the western trip interests me more). Though we hit a lot of scenic stops along the way, my favorite portion of the trip was Banff, Alberta, Canada. Nestled within the Canadian Rockies, Banff sees nearly 3 million annual visitors and is home to Banff National Park, one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been to. My family spent a lot of time walking the trails and checking out the breathtaking views of the valley and spending (not nearly enough) time at Lake Louise.
When the grass was still cool to the touch and the sun was just rising above the crest of the mountains, we unloaded ourselves from the van and started on the trails toward Lake Louise. I get chills remembering how gorgeous the views were in this part of Canada – looking around to the mountains on all sides of the lake, I realized just how small I was compared to the rest of the world and how natural beauty like this exists and begs to be preserved and protected. The mountains in the background of this photo, which was taken in early July, shows just how different the climate was as I stood near the bay of the lake in shorts and a tank top with snowcapped mountains behind me.

We spent a few days in Banff National Park checking out the Bow Valley. The Bow Valley is located along the upper Bow River in Alberta, which flows through Banff National Park. The name, Bow River, was coined because First Nations people used to take the reeds that grew along the riverbanks to make bows. Water is an important aspect of this region and the Bow Valley comprises many lakes: Lake Louise, Bow Lake, Hector Lake, Vermilion Lakes, Gap Lake, Lac des Arcs and Ghost Lake. From 1910 until the 1960s, Bow River and its tributaries were used for hydroelectric power, forever altering the river’s flow and ecosystems.

Me at Lake Louise, summer 2000.
As important as lakes have always been to this native Minnesotan, on this particular trip I was interested in capturing a glimpse of wildlife – the bigger mammals rather than deer and an occasional fox I could see back home. I was always a curious child, and that probably makes me better at my career, but at 16 I wanted to see and explore as much as I could — even if that meant straying from the beaten path. As my family checked out the trails, I stopped to snap photos of foliage and mountains. My dad, a guy who almost always has a camera ready – be it an impending dangerous weather pattern or a family vacation – walked off the trail, which I believe was prohibited, to get a better photo of the Bow River Valley. I caught up to him and we peered just over the edge of part of the mountain together.

A look at the Bow River Valley.
 Unbeknown to me, my dad left as I spent a few moments taking in the gorgeous scenery, breathing in the air and (as cheesy as this sounds) closing my eyes as the wind blew across my face until I heard my name. I turned around and realized I was standing just a few feet away from a mountain elk. My eyes got wide as I stared into the dark eyes of my wilderness companion – it was just me and an elk – all within a few feet of the edge of the mountain. Just a moment ago I reveled in how beautiful this vacation was and the next moment I was horrified for my life – was this animal going to go crazy and buck me off the side of the mountain?! I paused and looked to my dad for some guidance but his response was, “Amanda! Get closer, I can’t get you in the frame with the elk!” At this point about 10 other tourists stopped and were pointing at me saying things like, “Stay calm, it’s okay! Don’t worry and don’t excite the animal!” There was no way I was just going to stand there – if this animal was going to go crazy on me, I wasn’t going down alone. Shortly after my dad snapped his photo, the one you can see below, I ran toward the tourists and my furry friend disappeared into the woods. Folks, by all means take the path less traveled in life, but when it comes to park trails, stay on the designated path – especially if it’s advised!

Me playing nice with the elk.

The rest of our cross-country trip was less exciting than the Bow River Valley, mostly because there were no other animal confrontations. However, I certainly can’t belittle the splendor of western Canada and northwestern United States. All of it was gorgeous, and I highly recommend checking out North America’s glaciers, like those found in Glacier National Park, before they’re gone.As I remember awesome places I’ve been or check out more places in the future, I’ll keep you posted…embarrassing animal encounters and all. Please feel free to do the same and let us at Trailer Life magazine know where you’ve been and where you plan to go.

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