Banff Day 1: C-Level Cirque and Johnston

Oh Canada. I still don’t know your national anthem, but I’m head over heels for your country. And I can’t believe it’s been a month since I reveled in your majestic landscape. There’s far too much to share in one blog post, so I’m breaking it down into multiple posts so I can give you all the good stuff in hopes that you’ll add Banff and Jasper to your travel list.

We took off on July 22. Matt, my mom and I. After a quick layover in Toronto, we flew Air Canada to Calgary. Let me tell you: Air Canada is the best! Let’s put it this way: I had a bunch of writing to get done on the flight. Instead, I played interactive games with Matt on the seat back entertainment system (Whoever was in seat 22A was rockin’ those trivia questions!). Then I watched an incredible Spanish T.V. show that is brand new. So if you’re into Spanish shows (or not), check out “SĂ© Quien Eres.” It’s intense!

fullsizeoutput_df7From Calgary, we took a short drive to Banff National Park. Despite my 3:15 a.m. alarm clock, I didn’t feel tired yet. We checked into the “humble” Red Carpet Inn– strangely devoid of red carpet– and wandered around the small town. Downtown Banff is so cute! It’s a little like Aspen in the sense that it has luxury brands and expensive restaurants. While it dazzles the high-end traveler, it also pleased us. There were neat little shops and restaurants, and parks everywhere.

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Downtown Banff, featuring a beautiful double rainbow after a 15 minute downpour. This was the only time it rained during the whole trip!

The next morning, we popped out of bed and headed to C-Level Cirque. around 9 a.m. I’d advise hikers get going by 9:30 or so. We saw so many people coming up, on our way back down. To beat the rush: Start your hike by 9 a.m. C-Level Cirque was a modest first hike, and a pretty one at that. Since July is bear season, we were armed with bear spray and plenty of conversation topics. The key is to make noise so you don’t surprise a bear. As we unpacked the car, I looked at the girl parked next to us. With a kayak atop her car and dirt on her boots, I knew she was an experienced hiker. It turns out, Jackie is a Math teacher who spends her summers traveling all over the world. We all began chatting and — much to my delight– Jackie decided to hike with us. “I want to be like Jackie,” I raved to my mom. “She’s everything I want to be…. just take out the Math.”

fullsizeoutput_e1cTogether, we hiked up through the wooded portion of the trail, dotted with abandoned mine shafts and the occasional stream. After about 45 minutes, we emerged from the woods and the trail turned to rock. This was the steepest part of the hike– often requiring a hands and knees approach. We climbed right past a beautiful blue lake,missing it completely on the way up. But we soon were high enough to see the lake, and a lot more! There was an impeccable view of the Bow River and multiple lakes. By this point, we were higher up than snow, but the temperature was a comfortable 60 degrees or so– not cold, as long as we kept moving.”

After roughly two hours, we crested the ridge and reached the end of the trail. Now Jackie, in all her awesomeness, scrambled up the scree to get an even better view, but that was about as high as you could go. No matter, it was gorgeous! Like I said: We had a view of the river, some lakes, and the mountain range ambling off to our left.

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We completed the hike in about 3:45 minutes and exchanged contact info with Jackie before setting off to see Johnston Canyon. Me, oblivious to that fact that I had just lost my mom’s GoPro in the parking lot, took a much needed nap. One longhorn sheep sighting later, we pulled into the parking lot at Johnston Canyon. We structured our days in Canada so that our big hike was in the morning and in the afternoon, we visited the more “touristy” spots or, if you’re Matt: Napped.

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Johnston Canyon was crazy! There were so many cars buzzing in and out of that parking lot. That being said, I was really pleased with the signage, facilities and information. Plus, this hike was totally handicap accessible. While hikers like myself tend to gripe about paved trails, I’m really glad that Canada’s National Parks Service has made some of the key destinations more accessible. Wheelchairs and strollers could easily traverse the path, and it was pretty short too (about in hour if you do the full thing).

By the time we traded our parking spot with an ever-grateful group of tourists, we made the short drive back to town. We ended the day with a short jaunt around town and a strategy planning session for the next day. I’m pretty sure I was asleep by 9. Given the two hour time difference, we all turned in early.

The second day began with a quick run and breakfast, followed by one of my favorite hikes of the trip! But Day 1 was pretty incredible in its own right!

Day 2 Blog Post: COMING SOON

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