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Canada Roadtrip (3): Banff Park

Banff town was my basecamp for exploring the Banff park, not only because I wanted to have some services around after long days in the nature, but also because it is where the vast majority of accommodation is based. When I walked out from my hostel and walked to the town centre, I could not avoid thinking of Interlaken (Switzerland), where I had been a few months earlier, or Benidorm, in Spain. All three places had the same origin: a small town which was not born as touristic place, but which are now mere tourist resorts. Since I was in August in Banff, all hotels had no vacancy, and the streets were full of families from all over the world shopping, dining in their restaurants, and buying some food for the next day’s excursions.

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In order to have some flexibility, I also bought some supplies for the next day, which started really early thanks to the jetlag. There are two roads to go North from Banff, one is a highway, and the other one is the Bow Valley Parkway. The latter was my choice to start the trip, as it is a mountain road, with less traffic than the highway, but much nicer views of the mountains, the Bow river, and the meadows in the valley.

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My first stop was in the Johnston Canyon, where a nicely preserved path through the canyon brought me to the Lower and Upper Falls giving a first glimpse of what these days were going to be about. The hike was just 5.5 km in total, and is worth it. I was very happy when I returned to the parking and saw a couple of buses arriving to this spot. I was ahead of time thanks to the jetlag… or that is what I thought.
My next planned stop was Lake Louise, one of the highlights in the park, but it seemed that everybody else had gone directly here, and I could not arrive there: it was full. So I looked for a plan B, which was Lake Morraine, a nearby lake… which was also full, but I had good timing and they let a few cars in, and one was mine!

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Lake Morraine was my first contact with a glacial lake and it is unforgettable: the huge mountains surrounding them, and their particular turquoise water makes them unmissable. The water is freezing (less than 10 degrees in summer) as it comes from glaciers, and it has rock flour in it. This rock flour is the fine powder resulting from the glacier ice grinding the rocks, formed by rocks, gravel and silt, which is washed into the lake by the meltwaters. This flour absorbs all colours of incoming light except the blue-green that is seen.

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Once I recovered from the impressive view of Lake Morraine, I started a hike to Consolation Lakes, less than 6 km in total, although it was quite deceiving for a couple of reasons.
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The path was emptier than I expected so my level of attention had to be higher, it rained during most of the hike, and the Consolation Lakes were not as beautiful as I would have expected (I do not see a lot of pictures when I plan the trips, I rely on descriptions). Before leaving the area, a sudden traffic jam caught my attention to its cause: a black bear walking in between the trees next to the road.

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I decided to go back to Banff and as the weather was better, I drove to Lake Minnewanka. This lake is very popular for families to spend the day there, and it is one of the few ones which can have motorboats in it. One of the borders of the lake is a dam, as the original lake was expanded in the first half to the 20th century. It should be a nice and pleasant place to be, if it was not because one of the hikes had been banned by authorities, as a bear had been seen a few days earlier. The alarm was clear, but still some people ignored it. Like the Korean lady who was in my hostel, and who told me she had been hiking there, and seemed to be surprised not many people were hiking…

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Before returning to the hostel, I paid a visit to the Banff Hotsprings, which is always a good way to recover from a first long day of driving, hiking, and raining while still admiring the views.
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