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Canada Diary Part 11 – Beautiful Banff

Canada Diary Part 11 – Beautiful Banff

We woke to the sound of torrential rain hammering our tent. “Oh dear” I thought, “we have to move camp today”. Jacob had made plans to go fishing in the beautiful aquamarine Bow River, just below our camp. Although the weather was truly foul, I convinced Ralph to leave the comfort of our little dome and join our son as it was one of the last chances he would have here in the Rockies.

Bear spray and fly rod in hand, waiting for the train to pass

Bear spray and fly rod in hand, waiting for the train to pass

Jacob is working his way through the trout species. Today his goal was a Bull Trout. Thank goodness he braved the rain, as his determination paid off and he hooked a little beauty!

Bow River Bull Trout

Packing a sodden camp in the soaking rain is no fun at all, and my happy camper meter plummeted into grimace territory. Luckily, the towering trees dripped a round of applause onto our blue tarp as eventually the sun peeped through the thick clouds. The sun is so insanely powerful here that when we moved the equipment into its firing line, there were plumes of steam as the water evaporated before we packed it all away, ready for yet another camp setup.

A sodden camp

A sodden camp

Once again we were very heartsore to leave, as we felt we had only scratched the surface of what the camp and area had to offer. On arrival at our next campsite, the well-known and difficult-to-get-into Two Jack Lakeside, we got straight to work setting up camp, and promptly had a family feud over who was doing what, which culminated in a few of us having to take a power walk to collect ourselves.

 

The campsite here is OK – it has a lovely view of the bright blue lake, but the privacy is zero and we are literally on the doorstep of two other groups which is a bit awkward. We spent the afternoon pottering around the campsite, fishing in Two Jack Lake (them) and taking an afternoon nap (me). Alarmingly, our comfy blow up mattress seemed decidedly softer when I woke. I tightened the valves and hoped for the best.

Our camp at Two Jack Lakeside

Our camp at Two Jack Lakeside

Dinner was a festive affair as all the other campers returned home from their days out and rather than being in-your-face annoying, it was actually quite nice to be part of the family camping hubbub. Could this be the night that I would sleep through? I had a warm blanket, smelled fresh and clean, there were no highways or train tracks in close proximity and it wasn’t raining. Everything looked good, and we turned in early to give it a go.

 

Alas, the camping gods were not pleased and punished us with a deflating mattress. Yip, it was definitely getting steadily softer and it took around 3 hours until our bodies went from elevated bliss to touching the cold hard ground below. I know this because Ralph pumped it up at 8pm, 11-30pm, 2-30am and again at 5-30am. Our little tent is very tiny and to pump the mattress’ built in air pump, Ralph ducks down under the entrance flap and pumps up and down with his foot for about 10 minutes. From outside, with the tent bouncing up and down and the rhythmic whooshing of air, it looks and sounds rather rude and we could hear the embarrassed giggles of surrounding campers. In the morning, Ralph got some very impressed looks from the other adults. We could see them thinking “No wonder they have so many kids!” and “So THAT’s why they sleep in their own tent” and “Every 3 hours!!!” We held our heads high and ignored the stares as we headed to the ablution block with our toiletry bags.

 

We decided to head to Lake Louise for the day and judging by its international acclaim, we were concerned about bumping into hordes of tourists so we got an early start. Ralph resorted to bribing Luke and Cian with $10 each to get up, which worked a charm and was well worth the investment as when we arrived at the Lake Louise gondola bright and early there was no queue and hardly anyone about.

 

Cian is DESPERATE to go snow boarding and Jacob desperate to see a grizzly bear. We had read that taking the ski lift up the mountain was the best chance we would have of seeing a grizzly and although there was no snow, at least we could give Cian a little taste of a ski resort. We were thrilled with our decision as the 14 minute open air ski lift ride was awesome and we hit the jackpot with a grizzly bear grazing in a field of daisies just below the lift both on the way up and down again.

Going up the ski lift

Going up the ski lift

Ski lift 2

We adored the fascinating interpretive centre at the top and took a guided nature walk, learning loads about bears in their natural environment. We ended off with alpine cappuccinos and hot chocolates at the Whitehorn Bistro which has the most spectacular 180 degree mountain view I have ever seen.

What a view!

What a view!

We headed back down the lift, drove to Lake Louise and hit the dreaded hordes of tourists. So bad was the mass pilgrimage, that all the picnic sites and roads were closed as officials tried to turn the marauding sightseers away. Luckily we managed to slip through and find a parking spot and we joined hundreds of other picnickers with a car boot parking lot lunch. We wound our way through the throng to the infamous turquoise lake surrounded by pine trees, framed by a glacier and dotted with red canoes and took the obligatory photos.

These Rainbow Nation takkies made it to Lake Louise

These Rainbow Nation takkies made it to Lake Louise

Behind the scenes

The crowds behind the scenes

Back to camp for a relaxing cuppa (during which time Ralph located and patched the hole in our mattress) and then off to neighbouring Lake Minniwanka (pronounced correctly as mini wonka, but the subject of many teenage jokes in our family) to try our hand at hooking some Lake Trout. The lake is massive and has a lovely jetty with pedal boats and motor boats for rent. As we arrived a bit late we weren’t able to rent anything so the boys tried for trout around the edges of the lake. Jacob had a big chase from a massive fish, but no-one managed to hook up.

Lake Minniwanka

Lake Minniwanka

Back home at camp, it was regretfully our last night. As we sat around the campfire, enjoying another gourmet camping dinner of double brie ravioli, alfredo sauce and parmesan shavings, I drank in the peace, quiet, surrounding beauty and family contentment. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime defining moment.

Campfire bliss

Campfire bliss

And I could feel it in my bones – tonight was the night I would have a perfect night’s sleep. Even if it poured with rain or our mattress went flat. Even if I froze or was kept awake by kids, cars, trains or neighbours – whatever the camping gods threw our way, it would be perfect.

 

Because we were together as a family, surviving wild in the Rockies. Whatever happened it would be an experience to remember forever – to laugh about later on or to think about with a warm smile. Camping – I finally get you. I see you, I understand you, I feel you…

 

And with that, I had the first perfect, solid night’s sleep in the Canadian Rockies.

Happy Camper Meter

Happy Camper Meter

Yours in travel

Signature

 

 

Did you miss any of our previous Canada Diary entries? Click below to catch up:

 

Canada Diary Part 10 – Johnston Canyon and the Abominable Blanket

Canada Diary Part 9 – Enjoying Jasper

 

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