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Banff National Park, British Columbia, Canada   071/8-207/06 (Day 84-86)
We're Soaking In It

There’s a theory in Banff and it goes like this: if you don’t like the weather in Banff, head up 20 miles to Lake Louise. Since we do not like the weather in Banff at the moment (blustery and threatening rain) we take the advice and drive up to Lake Louise to do our hiking.

We are rewarded with bright sunshine for the entire hike up to the Plain of
Six Glaciers and back. There are definitely sections that are steeper than expected, but at the top you find an absolutely adorable tea hut (where you can get sandwiches, cakes and, of course, tea) plus an amazing amphitheater of glaciers (the aforementioned Plain of Six Glaciers) just a  bit beyond.

Back in Banff, the weather is still sour but our outdoor fun is done for the day. Now it’s time for some indoor fun with a superb meal at Cilantro Mountain Cafe. Not cheap, but the mid-range menu is worth it after a nice day of hiking.

We were lucky enough to see a big horn sheep on the Plain of 6 Glaciers hike, but we want more and we’re willing to work for it. So we get up at 5:30 the next morning and taken a drive out Bow Valley Parkway hoping to see some more species.

Almost immediately we see a group of three male elk with mid-sized velvet-covered antlers daintily nibbling their way through the grass along the side of the road. We pull up right next to them and stop the car, a move that elicits little more than a sideways glance. These guys know that grass this succulent waits for no elk and they’re not about to miss a blade because some sleep-deprived fools want to take their picture.

Later in the day we drive up to Jasper National Park for a peek at the largest body of ice in the Canadian Rockies, the vast and glacier filled Columbia Icefield. We are not usually very big on taking organized tours of any kind for any reason, but we make an exception for the 1,000 foot deep Athabasca Glacier (it helps that a tour is the only way you can really get to heart of it).

And so, we hop into a huge “snow coach” (picture the biggest cat track you’ve ever seen with a huge tour bus perched way up on top and you’re about right). This specially made machine slowly but surely navigates its way out onto the glacier itself. All the while, the driver fills our imaginations will all manner of fact and figure about the ice.

By the time we reach our destination (literally on top of the glacier) and are told we can get out for a (careful) walk, we almost have too much respect for the amazing ice to step on it. Almost.

But what about the area’s most famous hot attraction, Banff Hot Springs? Glad you asked. The Banff Hot Springs facility is beautiful and clean and spacious but the water is only 104 degrees Fahrenheit the evening we take a dip. Pretty sure we’ve had hotter baths. But it’s relaxing nonetheless and the dusky, evening sky above is clear and we stay until closing time.
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