Full disclosure: I had never been camping prior to this trip. EVER! But what better way to experience the national parks than to sleep in fear of being eaten by a bear (or mosquitoes…your pick)? Though I am not an avid camper, I an expert planner. I can plan and organize the shit out of a camping trip even if I have never been. And that’s exactly what I did. Here’s a recap of our trip.
Mark and I arrived! YAY! After about 8 hours of traveling we checked into Candlewood Suites Calgary Airport North for the evening. Nothing exciting happened.
We returned to the airport to pick-up our rental car and upgraded from an intermediate to an SUV. Smart. Move. We stopped by Cabelas to purchase a few items that we couldn’t carry on the plane then picked up our camping gear from Rent-A-Canada (get the bear spray just in case). I was looking forward to cooking over the campfire (no trail mix and LUNA Bars for me) and purchased an extensive list of groceries from Safeway in Canmore.
We stayed at the Two Jack Main Campground which accommodated two tents and two cars. Our relationship had survived the Ikea furniture assembly test and we felt confident that we could put together the tent. My sister-in-law Kate and her boyfriend Zach arrived later that afternoon from Boise, Idaho. We played card games and interrogated Zach while Mark slaved over the fire to make us dinner.
We dined as true Millennials and enjoyed avocado toast for breakfast. On our way to the hike we drove through town as people were lining the streets for the Canada Day Parade. The Sulphur Mountain trail begins at the Upper Hot Springs parking lot and follows a series of switchbacks 5.5 km up to the upper terminal of the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. The hike is listed as “moderate” in the brochure which IS A LIE. Pools of sweat collected on our backs as we ascended to the top. My hunger for the ham sandwiches we prepared that morning strengthened me to continue. But we got more than lunch at the top. The upper terminal has a observation deck with a 360-degree view of the area and six mountain ranges.
As a reward for our strenuous hike, we went to the Upper Hot Springs to soak. It didn’t compare to the grandeur of the thermal baths in Budapest but was sufficient enough to relax in. Mother nature had other plans and after about 45 minutes we had to exit the pool because of the impending storms.
After we packed up our campsite we made the short drive to Lake Louise. We were fortunate to find parking spaces as they were constantly flagging cars out of the lot. We walked the Lake Shore trail to distance ourselves from the crowd and selfie sticks. The end is the trailhead for several different hikes and access to the beach. We doubled back and went to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for lunch and shared appetizers at Alpine Social. We setup our site at Lake Louise Campground.
Hiking the Plain of Six Glacier trail was like entering the wardrobe. As the Fairmont faded behind us we passed a river then began to tread through several inches of snow. While taking a photo of Mark, I heard a loud BOOM. Snow began crashing down the mountain and we watched in awe of the avalanche. We arrived at the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse and I had a million questions for how it operated: Does the staff live there? If they don’t, how do they commute? How do they get food and supplies there? Is there a helicopter pad I don’t see?
We continued on to Abbott Pass and reached what could have been the end of the earth. We headed back and saw several people on a path that broke away from the trail and decided to follow. After walking for about a mile a few hikers that were heading our way warned us that there were several rocks blocking the trail and there didn’t seem to be away around them. The main trail was visible from where we were so we decided to climb up. We lived to tell the story and I made friends with a chipmunk.
And that’s Banff! Check out our next post for more on our time in Jasper National Park.