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December 2017
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Rockies pt 3 – Banff

All zoo’d out, we headed up to Banff for a few days. Again, for a while we thought the cloud was right down, but no…it was still the smoke from BC giving a smoky haze to every view.

The Hoodoos near Banff

Jo and I had been in Banff about 12 years ago, and just remembered rushing in and out again on the way to Calgary. We were pleasantly surprised on our return. It was a nice little town tucked into the mountains, with lots of trees and stunning Alpine rivers.

We had a lazy first day exploring the town, before returning to the place where we were staying – the Douglas Fir Resort. It was a group of cabins and appartments slotted onto the side of Tunnel Mountain. But it also had some waterslides, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, swimming pool, indoor play area (and a gym). So after a day exploring the town, the girls and I hit the waterslides. Lots of fun and easy to let the girls charge up and down the slides.

Moraine Lake

Wednesday saw us head to Bragg Creek to catch up with Marie and Geoff and their girls. They emigrated to Alberta a few years before we arrived, and Marie was such a great support to us in the early days with dos and don’ts (even from a different Province) that it was great to catch up. We last saw them when Millie and Sophie were babies and Geoff was still farming in Devon – must be around 9 years ago. How times change! We had a wonderful afternoon, and Millie and Sophie were really excited when some some deer came up to the house. Millie asked, “Doesn’t it say NOT to feed the wild animals?”…while Marie was stood on the balcony throwing bread to them!

The Family Balmer at Moraine Lake

Thursday we headed to Lake Moraine, Lake Louise and then Johnston Canyon. After a picnic at Moraine Lake, I saw a grizzly high up on the mountain. It spooked Sophie a little to see signs saying that some paths were closed due to Grizzly activity, so we got a reluctant walk around part of the lake shore. After a quick photo stop at Lake Louise amongst the crowds, we headed down towards the highway. Just outside Lake Louise village we saw a black bear ambling to the side of us. Then it was on to Johnston Canyon for a walk up by the waterfalls. We had to obligatory grumbles on the way up from the girls, but coming down was much easier.Friday we walked the 5km into Banff along the Bow river. It was a very pleasant walk, and once we had the bear bells ringing loud and we had convinced Sophie there were going to be no bears, we were halfway there. To save Jo’s knee, she took the girls back by the shuttle bus, whilst I climbed Tunnel Mountain on the way back to our appartment. It wasn’t high, but a nice addition to the walk.

Black Bear at Lake Louise

For Saturday we had a parting of the ways –  Jo and the girls went to Banff Hot Springs whilst I booked up to go white water rafting on the Kicking Horse river near Golden. It was a fun day, even if it wasn’t the biggest of rivers to raft (not quite New Zealand’s Rangitata in flood). That said, I returned to realise that I was not as young as when I’d rafted the Rangitata. That evening I ached, and hardly slept all night as it felt like I’d dislocated every bone, and pulled every muscle in my body. (Note to self – must get fitter for next trip!) 

Whilst the girls enjoyed the Springs, they felt it was too hot and hence curtailed Jo’s soak time, and they headed off for cake and coffee instead.

Doug and the girls at Lake Louise

One good thing about Banff was the presence of Lammles – a shop full of cowboy boots and hats. So after a Fistful of Dollars, we were kitted out ready for a week on the ranch.

At this point there was a mixture of excitment and trepidation. The girls were desperate to get the ranch, Jo was less certain. A week on a horse…. isn’t that going to hurt?

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