I've been dreaming about going to Banff most of my life. I'd heard stories about it's breathtaking scenery, when I was younger, from my Gramps. Last fall I had the opportunity to go with a group of eight other women (five of whom I'd never met). It was a hiking trip organized by Deb, co-owner of Hi Tempo Snowsports & Watersports in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Our motto - keep calm and carry bear spray! During this trip we knocked off a good portion of the top ten places to visit as well as some off the beaten path. We visited Lake Louise, spent a long day hiking Morraine Lake to Eiffel Lake, stayed one night at the coveted Elizabeth Parker Hut in Yoho National Park, a couple nights sleeping in oTENTiks in Jasper National Park, were treated to a rainbow over Peyto Lake, and more... It was like living in a postcard. The weather was colder than normal. We dealt with snow, rain and moody clouds most days. As a photographer, the weather was a perfect! My favorite part of the trip was our time at the Elizabeth Parker Hut in Yoho National Park. No electricity, no running water and a wood burning stove for heat. It was perfect and I couldn't have chosen a better group of women to share this experience with.
My biggest fear going into this trip was encountering a grizzly bear. Fortunately, our one encounter took place the first night as we stepped outside the restaurant. At the end of the sidewalk about 20 feet away was a huge grizzly. He was minding his own business but I have to admit it freaked me out a bit. I wondered: if there was one outside the restaurant - how many more would be hiding in the forests that we were going to be hiking in all week?
As I mentioned, we stayed two nights in oTENKik's at a campground in Jasper National Park. The oTENTik is basically a deluxe platform tent. When we arrived, the park rangers warned us to be alert because the elk were rutting. That means it's mating season. During this time, the male elk are aggressive and let out a loud and haunting bugling sound. It was fun to watch them during the day but a little scary when you had to make a trip to the toilet in the middle of the night when it was pitch dark.
In the end, Banff, and the surrounding areas, more than exceeded my expectations. I can't wait to go back!