The lady in the AAA shop back in Boston told us that we should definitely go to Banff. She said that it was one of the best places she had ever visited and that we simply had to go. She was no stranger to travel herself having meandered through nearly all the states in the USA and the more she spoke to us the more we felt as though we needed to make a detour to visit this haven! Her enthusiasm was infectious: she told us of incredible mountain vistas, ample opportunities to hike the hundreds of miles of trails within the region and of the abundant wildlife that called the National Park home. By the end of our fifteen minute conversation we had already decided that Banff sounded like a place we had to visit. And so we added it to our route.
To put things into perspective, Banff is a the name of a town within Banff National Park which is itself part of a huge network of five National Parks. When looking at an ariel view of the map it appears as a huge splodge of green straddling British Columbia and Alberta. The area features glaciers found amongst the rugged crevices of the northern Rocky Mountains and when they melt they provide streams and waterfalls which turn into amazingly azure glacial lakes. Wildlife in Banff is diverse and truly wild. Grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes, marmots and eagles can all be found here as well as numerous other small animals.
Having set off from Glacier National Park at 7am we were within the park boundary by 12pm. We set up our backpacking tent which takes a whole five minutes to assemble and headed to the town of Banff to explore. Put plainly, the town of Banff is brilliant. First and foremost it is a year round tourist town as it caters for a huge influx of summer visitors/hikers as well as the winter skiers. Everything in the town has been planned to perfection. The buildings are immaculate and built from local wood and it's incredibly clean. The main street has a bustling vibrancy to it that is amplified by the huge variety of accents and languages you can hear. People fly from all over the world to visit this place and it was not difficult to see why. Not only can you wander around this pretty place adorned with hanging baskets and pubs but you can look to the sky and see massive bare rock mountains towering over the town that light up in the sun like a shining shiny thing!
After completing our laundry (not particularly enthralling but not too many opportunities when camping!) and making a trip to the liquor store to check for local beverages (found a great one from Grizzly Paw Brewing!) we headed back to the campsite to cook and to finally get a shower after days of primitive camping!
The next day was one of the best days on our trip so far. We had planned a 9 mile hike from Lake Louise which is one of the most famous glacial lakes in the region. We arrived early before the crowds, packed the bear spray and approached the lake. The color of the lake left us pondering whether it could be such a natural phenomenon. It's bright blue, cloudy but electrifying. The only way I can describe it is as toothpaste blue, whatever that means. Whilst still gazing at the lake we began our climb to Lake Agnes, yet another glacial lake via Mirror Lake. The fresh air of the pine trees that encompass the whole area filled our lungs and the more we climbed the more we wanted to stop and take photos of the incredibleness!
Passing the two lakes (Mirror Lake being exactly like a mirror, so reflective that it could be the very one Narcissus became obsessed with!) we headed for the two peaks of Little Beehive and Big Beehive. One relatively strenuous climb later which involved stopping to watch a marmot going about his daily routine we reached the top. We dropped our packs and took in the panorama that opened up before us. At 7,400ft we were high enough to see everything we wanted to see! We peered over the edge of the cliff, Big Beehive was not named lightly - the drop was sheer on every side with the rock mottled and uneven like the sides of a beehive.
As we made our way back down to Lake Louise, clapping loudly every so often so as not to have a surprise interaction with a bear we marveled at the vast array of wildflowers on either side of the trail. With the sun beaming down on us we were ready for a cheeky beverage and we hastily made our way back to the campsite to see out the remainder of the day.