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Baffled by Banff

Have you ever been to Banff before? Because HOH MY GAWD, I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant (for you 30 Rockers out there). I’ve logged visits to 44 of the 50 U.S. states, and while there are some amazingly stunning parts of my own country, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a spot quite as spectacular as Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Exhibit A: 


While I had all these grand plans of hiking and canoeing and other things outdoorsy and calorie-burning during my three days in Banff and Lake Louise following the magnificent journey aboard the Blue-Haired Express, I’m sorry to say that Evan and I pretty much spent an entire afternoon atop Sulphur Mountain just admiring the view.


I mean, wouldn’t you?


(Side note, which will only make sense if you watch this video: Why is it considered derogatory to classify a group of people as “Asian”? I mean, sure I could have distinguished between Japanese or Chinese, but I wasn’t entirely sure as I didn’t hear them speak. Yet Evan got a little offended when I remarked about this tour group of people from that one massive continent north of the South Pacific and quickly corrected me. It struck me as odd, because I wouldn’t be the least bit put off if someone categorized me in a group of “Americans,” as I’m sure an Aussie wouldn’t be offended to be called “Australian,” a Canadian a “Canuck,” and so on and so forth. Just saying.)


Banff 2 (Alberta, Canada) from krysleigh on Vimeo.

This is where we wished we’d stayed, the Fairmont Banff Springs.


Instead, we had to settle on dinner there at the chateau, before retreating to our own backpacker-like inn that was oddly laid-out with the bathroom situated between the two double beds so I literally (yes, literally, Ali) had to yell around the median or else rig a can-and-string communication device in order to get Evan’s attention. Also? Evan claims I “pose” in every shot I’m in. I beg to differ. Tyra would so not call this anything remotely close to fierce.


On our last morning in Banff, we signed up for a wildlife tour. We had heard grand stories of all of this alleged wildlife that Canada boasts, but had yet to see a trace in the week we’d been bopping around BC and Alberta. The tourism board rep we brunched with even went as far as to tell us of the “bear jams” when downtown Banff was thrown off course by a hungry visitor and how many mornings the elk in her backyard were so many, she couldn’t even open her door. We figured this just a ploy by the tourism board to increase numbers–“Canada: Where the Moose Roam Free and the Locals Co-Exist Peacefully with the Bears”–as we had seen one “long-horned sheep” (AKA ram) on our 24 hours aboard the train, and little else besides some osprey and eagles. But we wanted the goods; give us the two-ton beasts. We’ll gladly make friends. So when we boarded our tour bus, we took an informal poll of our fellow tourists to inquire as to whom had actually had a real wildlife sighting (sheep and birds so don’t count). Twelve of the 14 raised their hands, the two losers with their arms firmly pinned to their sides being Evan and me. Boy, did we feel like the cool kids on the bus. We did spot a horse, oh but he was on reins and pulling a cart.


And a chipmunk, which just about made my day. Evan, on the other hand, was not impressed. “It’s still a rodent!” she exclaimed. True, but a cute one at that.


So we had high hopes as we embarked on our wildlife excursion, as anyone who forked over $55 for a three-hour tour (a three-hour tour) might. Instead, we had a gem of a guide (the sarcasm, it drips from the keyboard) who claimed to work on some big bear project but refused to take us anywhere near where the bears supposedly chill. But we want to see the bears! Teddy Ruxpin was my bestest friend as a carpet-crawler! I even brought a pot of honey and everything (I hear it helps to establish rapport)! And just to further ensure tha
t there was no way a bear would stick around for our arrival, Douche Guide would yell out, “Ho Bear!” to scare them all off as we approached (something to do with a Pavlovian association between that phrase and them getting whacked in the butt with a dart; I don’t blame them, if someone was using my ass as a target, I might be inclined to run the opposite way, too). But hey, we saw plenty of scat (AKA poop), and as our guide so sagely pointed out, “that’s wildlife, too, you know.”


In the end, we saw two GROUND SQUIRRELS, some juniper, and a lot of tracks, indicating that a bear, wolf, some elk and WILD PEOPLE had been somewhere in the area sometime in the past months or so (all things I could have seen in my backyard in San Francisco). All-in-all? Fifty-five bucks well spent. NOT.


Moral of this story: When in Canada and you’re tempted by flashy promises of four-legged, antlered friends by Discover Banff, remember that they’re liars, all of them! And also that poo is wildlife, too.

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Comments ( 21 )

  1. No Pooh? Boo!!

    But the area is beautiful, that hotel looks amazing. I would’ve done nothing else but staring at the scenery myself.

  2. Actually, I prefer being called “Asian” versus “Chinese”. Possibly because I don’t want to be mistaken for a Commie or a spy.

  3. Hardly do pictures do scenery justice-but wow, yours do! I was staring at the pictures for a while so I can see how you did that for a long time! WOW!

  4. La Petite Chic July 29, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Oh wow, those are beautiful pictures! And that chateau reminds me of a castle. Very cool!

  5. nicoleantoinette July 29, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Where has Banff been all my life? Jeez.

  6. i am dying to go to banff!!! i hear amazing things about it.

  7. i NEED to go there. no more excuses. it is only an 11 hour drive. i drove 15 to get to NORTH DAKOTA of all places…

  8. Tourism officials make lots of odd ball claims (like that Kamloops is BC’s friendliest vacation destination? it’s nice, but I’m quite sure that BCers don’t know it as such!), but the one about wildlife in Banff is generally true! I have never been there without seeing some pretty crazy animals – this February we were almost late for a wedding at the Chateau because we had to wait for the elk to clear.

    It may not be such a bad thing though that you didn’t get up close and personal with the bears. A woman was killed by a grizzly on the Canmore golfcourse (15 minutes outside of Banff) not so long ago.

  9. I have this great image of you toting around a jar of honey, all prepped for some Bear Rapport.

  10. It’s too bad you didn’t get to see any wildlife. Try a trip to the Yukon, you’re pretty much guaranteed bear, caribou or elk! Or come to Northern Ontario, blow your mind beautiful.

    Cheers!

    Kathleen

  11. The Running Bob July 29, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Bear pooh is wild life, too?
    Hmmm….

    How many Molson’s did the guide have to get to that conclusion?

    Living, breathing bear pooh — sign me up!

  12. transienttravels July 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Those pictures are beautiful – and I love that you post videos.

  13. heh! I live an hour from Banff and have for about 8 yrs and still find it gorgeous every time I go there for a hike. I’ve yet to see a bear but have seen plenty of other wildlife. [other then poo and chipmunks :p)

  14. My husband has a Banff t-shirt and every time he wears it, I uncontrollably yell BANFF at the top of my lungs. My own private Tourettes.

  15. hehe yup just an hour from Banff, 45 mins from Kananasksis, and about 2hrs from Lake Louise. Three of what I think are the most beautiful mountain landscapes in Canada. I really do not spend as much time in the mountains during the summer as I should! When I first moved here from NB, I spent many a weekend hiking or camping there.

    I’m making up for it this weekend though, Friends and us are heading to Fernie for the long weekend for camping, I can’t wait!

  16. moosh in indy. July 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Dude.
    My heart just dropped from those pictures of the view. My mom took my sister there back in the day when she didn’t like me. At the time I didn’t care but now I’m really bitter.
    Stupid flat Indiana. grumblegrumble

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  18. Hi there,

    Lived in Banff for a few years and am so pleased to hear that you enjoyed it! I think I’ll forever be a girl of the mountains. And the pics are great, but shockingly still don’t do it justice… The Valley of the Ten Peaks and Morraine Lake which is outside Lake Louise used to be pictured on the Canadian $20. Worth checking out as well.

  19. Why Mom Drinks Rum August 22, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Well lookie there! You did make it to Banff! See, if I had spent more time neglecting the work on my desk and actually explored the site more, I’d have seen that.

    Sigh.

    It is gorgeous – we stayed at the Rimrock over Christmas when we showed our Minnesotans around and it was great as well. Stunning views.

  20. Banff is gorgeous. Trust me, you do NOT want to meet up with bears in the wild. Living in BC we know bears are dangerous and do not like people watching them. Yearly there are deaths from bear encounters. Be thankful you did not get a chance to share your honey!

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