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Visiting the Canadian Rockies

By: Elaine and Hank Levy

The Air Canada flight made a flawless landing at the Calgary airport, beginning what was to become a memorable travel experience in the Canadian Rockies. We began our trip in the town of Banff. The center of town is filled with enough shops and restaurants to satisfy most anyone. Banff also hosts many forms of musical concerts during the summer season and has many interesting museums to visit. The Luxton Museum was one of my favorites and focuses on the Indians of the area. The full size, life-like exhibits depicting Indian life are superb. One could easily pass the day strolling the streets of the town of Banff if there wasn't so much more to do.

On our first day in the area, we went on an all day interpretive hike in Sunshine Meadows, in Banff National Park, which was run by White Mountain Adventures. White Mountain Adventures, started in 1992 by Gord Stermann,, now runs pick-up and drop-off shuttle service to Sunshine Meadows. The knowledgeable guides make this a fabulous learning experience and are solicitous of those under their care. Bring a camera or binoculars as there are many lovely views. One can choose from Treeline Nature Walks, Predators of the Rockies (learn about mountain carnivores), Raptors & Alpine Birds (you may spot Golden Eagles), or a journey to the remote heart of the wild Rockies. White Mountain Adventures can arrange it all. Call (403) 678-4099 or write to #7, 107 Boulder Crescent, Canmore, Alberta, Canada T1W1K9.

In addition to learning about alpine flowers, plants and trees, one will certainly spot the very cute ground squirrels and possibly see marmots, deer, elk, and less likely big horn sheep, coyotes, and bears. But the exercise and scenery are a given. Even in the winter, while downhill skiing is king, there are snowshoeing and cross country skiing available.

A visit to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site at Banff National Park provides one with the historical beginnings of the Rocky Mountain Parks. The original sulfur cave and exhibition room filled with data and a well done video make for an interesting experience.

The 5.5 mile Tunnel Mountain Drive offers amazing views especially at the Hoodoos - which are fascinating pillars that have been sculpted by rainwater, wind and snowmelt from debris flow deposits.

One should plan a boat ride on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park. The Banff Park Lodge is a highly recommended place to stay. It is a full service, luxury hotel and conference center conveniently located in the downtown area. Additionally, it has well rated formal as well as casual dining facilities on the premises as well as a concord of shops in the lobby. Rooms are approximately $150 to $200 for a room with two queen sized beds to a lovely one bedroom suite. Toll free number is: (800) 661-9266.

After spending three days in the Banff area, we were on our way to Lake Louise. The Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) offers a variety of stops on the way to Lake Louise. Many visitors come to Johnston Canyon to take an easy walk to the lower or upper waterfalls.

For those waterfall devotees, I recommend Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, which is also on the way to Lake Louise. It is 254 meters high and the swirling water is spectacular. You can get close enough to the base of the Falls to feel the mist in your face.

Emerald Lake is another recommended attraction at Yoho, and offers an opportunity to take a leisurely 2.5 mile stroll around the lake. There are many places to rest and enjoy nature. Cabins on the Lake can be rented at a cost of $275 to $435 for double occupancy

Yoho National Park is mainly situated in British Columbia on the Alberta border and offers many other sights of interest.

When we finally arrived at Lake Louise, we were impressed by its beauty - a natural wonder surrounded on three sides by mountains with the five star luxury Chateau Lake Louise situated on the Lake. The ice on the glacier facing the hotel is said to be 200 feet thick at the top. The Chateau is the only hotel allowed on the Lake and its beginnings date back to 1890 when the Canadian Pacific Railroad decided to develop this property. We were advised that the Chateau Lake Louise is planning some innovative packages for the winter skiing season. For a flat rate, one would be entitled to hotel accommodations, all meals at any one of the hotel's dining rooms, as well as the amenities offered by the Hotel, plus the choice of a daily activity including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, and more. Spring and summer activities will include river rafting and guided hikes. For more information, call (800) 441-1414 or (403) 522-3511.

During our visit at Lake Louise, we stayed at the Paradise Bugalows, 105 Lake Louise Drive, which is in close proximity to the Lake. The bungalow we occupied was very comfortable - consisting of a bedroom with a queen sized bed, living room with gas fireplace and cable TV, kitchen fully equipped with new appliances and dishes and utensils, bathroom and deck. The rooms are immaculate and charmingly decorated. The cost is about $140 per night during peak season, and highly recommended. For more information, you can call (403) 522-3595.

A fun hike starts at the base of Lake Louise and ends about 2.5 miles at the Lake of Saint Agnes Teahouse high above the starting point. Take your time up the trail, bring water and enjoy the incredible scenery as you near the top. You will be rewarded with a fine selection of teas and desserts, or light sandwiches. You should be aware that the chipmunks in the area are quite social, and will not hesitate to grab a piece of your dessert if left unguarded.

After a day in Lake Louise, we were on our way to Jasper. We stopped for the evening at Simpson's NumTi-Jah Lodge on the shores of Bow Lake in Banff National Park. The original cabin was built by Jimmy Simpson, one of the area's pioneers and early guides. His son still resides on the premises although there are new owners. The site was chosen for its natural beautry and the expanded lodge has maintained the rustic appearance of an earlier time. It offers accommodaitons from about $70 to $125 during peak season and has a well established dining facility - The Elkhorn Dining Room - presided over by the co-owner chef. It is well worth a stopover as hundreds do each summer day - and if you plan to be there at mealtime, call head for a reservation at: (403) 522-2167.

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