Travel day to Banff National Park and Hike at Sundance Canyon

Well, another travel day…another rainy day. Friday dawned as it has on several travel days the last month or so with rain off and on, some wind, and generally poor to no visibility. Nonetheless; we finished up getting ready to travel (we had dumped tanks and stowed the sewer hose Thursday evening so we didn’t have that much to do except stow inside and hitch up. We headed out and our first planned stop was at the Icefields Center about 70 miles south to see the glaciers. On the way we (well, Connie) stopped and grabbed a couple of photos of some waterfalls that we saw coming off the side of the mountains…unfortunately we had to pass on the best one as there was no place to pull over. The neat one was probably a 1500 foot drop in 2 steps almost straight down off the mountains on the east side of the river valley we were driving down…but with no place to stop safely a photo just wasn’t in the cards.

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We also stopped as planned at the Icefields Center; here are a couple of photos of the glaciers in the area…which is the largest concentration of glaciers in southwest Canada. The glaciers are up to 800 or so feet thick in places…we passed on the opportunity to drive out onto the glacier surface as it is 30 bucks apiece or so and we still had another 100 miles to go before parking. This is a shot of the largest of the bunch…Athabasca Glacier; notice just below the center of the photo the parking lot full of cars and buses…this gives you a nice perspective of the scale of this sheet of ice. From the cars up to the edge of the glacier is about 1/4 of a mile and the ice right at the front edge (we walked up to it the last time we were here) is about 30 feet thick or so.

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For comparison; here’s a shot of the same glacier from our visit back in October 2010. Notice how the glacier has actually grown in size from side to side and also extends a little farther down the slope than it did back then…granted it’s spring instead of late summer when the glacier is at it’s smallest size of the year but it doesn’t look like Global Warming is melting to us at this point. I’ve also included a shot from back in 2010 of Connie up at the edge of the glacier. Notice how all her warm clothes are on and her hat is firmly tied down. While we didn’t walk up there this time; on our last visit the temperature down in Banff was in the 60s and at the Icefields Center it was about 45. Walking up to the edge of the glacier the temp there dropped to probably the high 20s and also the wind picked up to 30 miles an hour at least. The glacier itself is sloped at about 15 degrees or so and since it’s frozen the air sits on top of and cools to freezing which makes it more dense and then it just rolls down the glacier until it falls off…the result is it’s really windy right near the glacier but by the time you get down to the cars you can see the wind has pretty much died off and the temp is probably 20 degrees warmer than right by the ice edge.

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We arrived in Banff and made our way to the Tunnel Mountain RV Park where we’re parked nicely in site 841; a full hookup pull through site. You can just see one of the mountains over the top of the rig and I’ve also included a second shot down the road looking east with another nice mountain view…these shots were taken Saturday when it wasn’t raining vice Friday when we arrived.

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We ran downtown and had a couple brews at the Bear Street Tavern. It’s claim to fame according to the Banff Dining Guide was “ridiculously good pizza” and we can attest to that. We had two; both thin crust…the first was Forest Mushrooms, Basil, Pine Nuts, and Truffle Oil…and the second was Salami and Cheese. They also serve pizza here with a side of honey and pepper oil…what you do is put some honey on the plate in a circle like a dam and then fill in the middle with pepper oil and then dip the pizza in it. Neil thought it was really good…Connie not so much. The Nut Brown Ale was outstanding though. Saturday dawned as the forecast beautiful day so after breakfast and coffee we headed off for a six mile hike starting almost in downtown Banff at the Hot Springs parking lot. It was and out and back on a 3 kilometer paved trail (we saw a lot of people biking out to the end of the paved section) followed by a 2 kilometer loop through Sundance Canyon then back on the paved section. With a 500 foot vertical rise we thought it would be a lot more challenging than it turned out to be.

Right after leaving the parking lot we spotted this huge bull elk right off of the path. We eased in a bit hoping he would leave so we could get by and eventually he did…Neil forgot to get a photo of the front of him but only remembered to get this one after we passed him.He was easily 5 feet high to the shoulder and the rack was almost 4 feet wide. Quite an impressive specimen.

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Heading on up the path we followed the Bow River and stopped a half mile up or so for lunch and some photos of the spectacular views. The first one is across the river, the second downstream to the right and the third upstream to the left. The last one is an HDR shot of almost the same perspective as the third one.

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After lunch we continued on up the path and after another half mile or so the trail turned to the left away from the river and up towards the canyon area. From there the paved path sloped continually upwards until it ended at a bike parking area/picnic area at the entrance of the canyon. We stopped at the picnic area for a few minutes and Neil was intrigued by the bright sunshine passing through the tree canopy so he leaned back and snapped a series of HDR bracketed photos he used to construct this shot. Let’s call it your art appreciation moment for the day.

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After a brief rest we headed into Sundance Canyon itself…the hike through the canyon is about 1 kilometer up right alongside the river with most of the 500 foot elevation change in the canyon. At the south end of the canyon the trail loops back to the right and along the top of the ridge before descending back to the picnic area. Right after entering the canyon we spotted this huge rock slab that sticks out over the river at about a 45 degree angle; this chunk that hangs out over the river is probably 70 or 80 feet long and is only supported at the base on the right side of the river.

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Here’s an HDR shot of the small waterfall you can see to the far left of the shot above.

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Continuing on up through the canyon we stopped for photos at a variety of small waterfalls and rapids. Good thing we stopped for photos as this part was really steep. Lots of nice short falls, lichens and really brilliant green pine evergreen trees.

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After that last one we crossed the river on the bridge you can’t see immediately out of the photo bottom and climbed up to the top of the ridge; then turned north back towards the picnic area. Along the way we spotted some views of the mountains across the other side of Highway 1 that were definitely worth the walk.

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Shortly after these two were taken we got back into the woods and then onto a series of switchbacks down the ridge ending at the picnic area where we rested awhile as Connie’s hip was hurting a bit and it sprinkled a bit so we waited in a dry shelter, had a snack and a drink then headed downhill once the rain stopped. As we headed down the paved path we noticed a notch in the mountain opposite that we didn’t see on the way up (that old no eyes in the backs of our heads thing I guess). You can’t really tell it form the photo but this notch is almost like somebody gouged out a square channel down the mountain side that is 2000 feet high, probably a hundred yards wide and a hundred yards deep.

BanffNPSundanceCanyonRidgeView3Shortly after this we got back down the hill and rejoined the river for the relatively easy stroll back to the parking area…although we did spot some finds on the way back. First up was a Common Goldeneye Duck

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followed shortly by a beaver dragging some dinner back to it’s lodge. He went right by the duck who took off in a panic.

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and then a bee on some nice yellow flowers.

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Then we finally found an example of what we thought would be a very common photo…some sort of wildlife down by the water. We were about to decide that none of the animals up here ever needed a drink.

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Shortly after that shot we got back to the visitor center where we had another rest for Connie’s hips then wandered down the hill to the car and headed home. We were originally going to drop the cameras off at home and grab our computers for a beer and internet downtown…but as we drove through town we noticed that the street festival we saw setting up this morning had gotten into full swing and there were huge traffic jams and no parking downtown along with several detours. We decided that beer and internet wasn’t worth the effort tonight so decided to eat at home instead…then get some internet at Starbucks after Mass in the morning.

Dinner was a couple of frozen burgers from Walmart, some sautéed onions, and some Taco Rice that we had in the cabinet along with a wine cooler and then a Dark and Stormy along with some TV.

Tomorrow is Mass and internet and then we’ll probably go on some sort of drive instead of another long hike…that way we can have a sort of rest day before another hike on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday it’s supposed to be rainy so Connie will probably work depending on how the weather turns out. We’re kinda tired though…been hiking almost every day since we arrived in Jasper almost two weeks ago and we need a rest day but don’t want to totally waste a decent weather day.

Our last find though; was another Golden Marmot…we got this one right outside the house maybe 4 feet from our power pedestal and closer than that to the rig itself. Cute little guy (or gal), ain’t it.

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Cyas.

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About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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5 Responses to Travel day to Banff National Park and Hike at Sundance Canyon

  1. ronlaubenthal says:

    HAPPY FATHERS DAY NEIL !!!

  2. Sparky says:

    Wonderful photos…makes me want to drive to Canada! Especially since it’s been 90 degrees with high humidity just about every day down here in FL. Hope some day to get north where you are!

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      It truly is gorgeous up hereand the last couple of days have been warm and sunny so even better. It’s supposed to be cool and rainy starting Wednesday though:-(

  3. Mj Trainor says:

    Speechless at the gorgeous scenery! Back in Ktown after a 4-day trip to Lower AL for the dance recital performance and off again later this week! We need to catch up! Huggems!

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