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The pictures on this page were taken in the Banff and Lake Louise area of Alberta.

Lf.: Taken at the Cascades of Time Garden in Banff (Cover for PJ Newsletter)

For safety hikers are required to hike in groups of four – grizzly country

Opening Comments from Bob

Traveling the highway to Banff and Lake Louise: A few of you followed me on the blog as I returned to what some travelers call "the World's most beautiful drive."  Frankly, I would have difficulty arguing with them, though there are still many roads I have yet to travel.  One of the poems, the vignette, and suggestions focus on a portion of this eight day journey.  To understand more about what drew me to this magnificently beautiful location, read the vignette below. 

Lake Minnewanka

Turquoise or blue, or perhaps emerald,
.....depending on the sun,
.....tricks the gaze across
.....the “Spirit of Waters”
.....as the Cree called
.....this mystical lake.
For over 10,000 years
.....humans fished from the shores
.....or took their canoes
.....onto the often angry water.
Sixty-feet below today’s calm surface
.....rests a village no more..
The villagers, rather than cede their town,
.....burnt it to the ground
.....before the dammed waters
.....blanketed it forever.
Today, divers plunge downward
.....to play and frolic
.....over the sorrows of the past.
Along the peaceful appearing shore,
.....grizzlies still munch on buffalo berries,
.....and cougars feast on mountain sheep.
Hikers walk the trail
.....often oblivious to the strains of survival
.....occurring around them.
The spirits carved into the rock faces
.....peer down,
.....sometimes benevolent
.....and sometimes malevolent.
For the ones on the lake cruise,
.....only the beauty matters.

Comments:  Minnewanka is a majestic body of water a few miles outside the village of Banff.  Much of the poem's content comes from the narration while on a sixty-minute lake cruise.  Yes, a village was covered by water when the third dam was built in the early 1950's.  And yes, the citizens burned the village to the ground rather than allowing the government to take control.  One major section of the hiking trail around the lake was closed due to a grizzly charge on a mountain biker who surprised her the week before.  Grizzlies are feasting on the bountiful buffalo berries that have ripened along the shoreline.

Mr. Feng practicing his tai chi (Yang Form) – Cascade of Time Gardens
Narrator extrordinaire Lindsay
Lake Minnewanka Cruise
End point on Lake Minnewanka
Guys taking flight off of Two Jack Lake
Dock area of Lake Minnewanka
Looking toward downtown Banff----- to see more pictures of the Banff area.
Osprey feeding her young (note the fish in the claws)
Vignette: Return to Banff and Jasper

Some say that you can never return to the experience.  If you try, you will be disappointed.  In August I made that attempt and was not disappointed.  In 1973, I organized a group of high school students for a two-week bike trip through this magnificent scenery.  Our group traveled with an American Youth Hostel group from the Lima area.  Rather than by a plane to Calgary and a rental car to Banff, we arrived following a long “rehabbed” school bus trip across country.  Throughout that trip we stayed in youth hostels or camped under a tarp that pulled out from the bus.  Flash forward, on this trip we stayed in upscale hotels.  There was no dashing to the ice cold mountain streams to bathe, wash clothes, or gather water.  No late night dashes to the privy, after first checking for bears.  This trip was many years and a long way from shared bunkhouses.  The lean cycling machine is now substantially wider with less hair, but not by much, on the hair that is.  The young teenagers I took on the trip have also changed, all in their 50's. 

The roads are better paved.  The arduous eight-mile climb up Mt. Edith Cavelle is now on a nicely paved road rather than gravel.  In '73 the descent, making hairpin turns on gravel, was more challenging than the climb.  This time, I simply pushed the gas pedal a bit harder.  I must admit though that at the top, my chest puffed out a bit thinking that I once cycled to the top to see the spectacular view that has not changed.

One of the factors that I appreciate about the Canadian National Park Service is that growth has been restricted.  True, Banff and Jasper are flashier and some hotels have been added along the 150 mile route between the two villages, but I really saw little change in the abundance of unobstructed views and vistas that were in every directions.  One reason this drive is classified by many as one of the most beautiful in the world is that the road meanders through valleys, except for the one mountain pass.  As you drive, motorcycle, or bike, looking out in all directions are spectacular visages. Yes, many still bike the road as I did in '73.  Incidentally, during the five days in the park, we passed over 100 cyclists on these biker friendly roads. 

So which trip did I enjoy the most?  Frankly, each was perfect for that particular time in my life.

Cascade of Time Gardens in downtown Banff ----- Click here to see more pictures of these magnificent garden.
Another view of Lake Minnewanka


Visit Banff and Jasper: If you have the opportunity, I encourage a visit Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta.  Some world travelers claim the drive through them to be the most beautiful in the world.  The park fee is approximately $20 U.S. per car per day.  If you are traveling from the U.S. expect to pay more for hotels and food as the Canadian dollar currently is almost 1/1 with the U.S. one.  The suggestions below are for the Banff and Lake Louise areas.

Places to Stay: Though we stayed at three different hotels in the Banff/Lake Louise area, I can only suggest one that met my recommendation standards, The Rimrock Resort Hotel.  This 4+ star hotel, though a bit pricey as are most of the area ones, provides very nice rooms with excellent and efficient service.  The views are worth the price.  It is up a long hill, a couple miles from town center.  The hotel provides shuttle service though we chose to drive in–within Banff parking is free whether in a garage or on the streets.  The hotel parking garage has an attribute that I appreciated, sheltered parking and entrance into the hotel from almost every level.  I was able to obtain a very reasonable rate for this fine hotel through Hotwire.

Some Must Sees:  So many choices but here are mine – stroll through the magnificent Cascades of Time Gardens in downtown Banff (no charge); take the cruise and then drive around Lake Minnewanka; hike to Johnston Canyon Lower Falls (.6 km hike); drive to Bow Falls just outside of Banff; enjoy the views from the Banff chairlift ($24 per person);  drive some of the back roads to Lake Louise (chance to see the wildlife); ride the Lake Louise chairlift ($24) to the viewing station, expect to see grizzlies; drive to Moraine Lake and hike up to the overlook (prepare to huff and puff); and visit the Chateau and savor the beauty of Lake Louise.

Restaurants: We had a number of outstanding meals while in Banff.  The Rimrock has several restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet, including the price.  We ate two meals there, one in the lobby lounge with a superb view and the Primrose Dining Room.  The service was always friendly and efficient, especially in the Primrose.  The food was creatively fixed, gourmet.  Service: 9-10/10 Food: 9-9.5/10.  We enjoyed two lunches at the Balkan Restaurant.  If you enjoy Greek/Mediterranean food, then the Balkan is a perfect choice.  For the two meals the food rated 8.5-9/10.  Service was mixed with less than exemplar on one day but excellent on another.  If you are into healthy eating and organic, then Wild Flour Bakery is a superb choice.  Plan to be mesmerized as you try to make your selections. You go to the counter to order and then try to find a seat, especially at peak meal times.  We enjoyed breakfast and a lunch there and one take out.  Food: 8.5+.  You can't go wrong with Melissa's.  The breakfasts are scrumptious, wonderful options, and the dinners very well-prepared.  Expect a line at peak times.  The fresh B.C. salmon with bearnaise sauce was heavenly.  Food: 9-10/10 Service: 9.5+.  At Lake Louise I suggest you enjoy a touch of class and eat at one of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise restaurants.  We enjoyed a light lunch with superb service and magnificent views without breaking the bank at the Poppy Brasserie.  A special hint: Finding parking around the Chateau can be nearly impossible.  Instead, park in the hotel garage, take your ticket with you, eat at one of the restaurants, have the ticket stamped at the desk after showing your receipt, and the parking is free.  Parking there saves you a long uphill walk as well.  An excellent dinner meal while staying at Lake Louise can be had at the Lake Louise Railway Station and Restaurant.  Service: 8 Food: 8.5.

Taken from lobby lounge area of the Rimrock Resort
Inside the Balkan Restaurant
View of Lake Louise from Poppy Brasserie
at the Chateau
Chateau Lake Louise, a must stop if you are
in the area

Canoeing on Lake Louise ----- Click here to see more pictures of the Lake Louise area.

Moraine Lake

To see additional beautiful pictures of the area click here!

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