Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day Four: Canmore and Banff!

There is no question, for me, the mountains are absolutely the highlight of coming here. Today was a very, very long day, and as such I will try hard to make this brief...or at least condensed. I took 263 photos, so again, I will try to be conservative with what I share.

In the morning we had eggs, bacon and toast, which we made right here. No going downstairs for a continental breakfast, or driving all over the town to find something suitable to eat. It was nice. I also vacuumed today. Yes, there is a vacuum here, and thank goodness for that! We were fairly relaxed in the morning, and at around 11 a.m. we headed out with lunches packed, to experience Banff. Mike and I realized on our way back that we have never been here together before. We were in the mountains once together, but we went through Jasper at that time, and everything was on fire anyway so the mountains were thick with smoke and quite difficult to see. It was a horrible sight.

But not today. Like I said, I took a million pictures, but I will share as few as possible on here. Our first stop was at a place called Cascade Ponds. The view was beautiful, and there were lots of picnic tables to choose from. We ate our lunch and then in our efforts to attract the ground squirrels who were checking us out, we threw crusts and other unwanted tidbits of food. However, the squirrels were shy and instead we were swarmed by a greedy and hungry flock of seagulls.

Jamie was enamoured with the birds, and wanted to catch them. This is his reaction to every animal he sees. 
These gulls were aggressive. I actually wondered whether they would land on our hands, but they did not. Also, most of them were young, as was evidenced by their grey and freckled appearance. Mike and I just happened to learn that gull fact on our drive to Medicine Hat on Monday.

Micah was also delighted with the birds. Here he had just thrown a piece of food and two were fighting over it. I think this was Micah's favourite part of the day for sure.
There were little bridges to get over the pond, and a pretty trail all around.

Here are all my guys on the second bridge.

Here is the view at the Cascade Ponds picnic area. The green roof at the bottom of the page is where we were parked.
A picture of Micah skipping through a beautiful field. He had picked bluebells for me, which is a no-no in a national park, but I was touched.

I made him pose on a rock while the other two went to find a bathroom with Mike.

Our next stop was Bow Falls, on the Bow River. This is a truly beautiful spot, and before I post my pictures (a few of them) I have to say that seeing this waterfall in pictures does not do it justice. I was awed by the power of this thundering water. Its speed and force were truly impressive, and a bit scary. But gorgeous. Mike had never been there. Here are a few pictures.
One of five failed attempts to get a normal photo of all three of our boys at once. There are the falls in the background. My parents have pictures of me and my two sisters sitting on that very same rock wall when we were little, feeding chipmunks out of our hands.

Here is a shot closer up of the falls. Again, the photo doesn't do it justice, but you'll have to take my word for it!
Here is the view from the bottom of the falls looking up to the mountains. 

Another failed family photo. Pretty much the way things are.

At Bow Falls we took the boys on an extensive (for them) hike up many, many, many sets of stairs. They were bored and tired, so we did not go the whole hike. We were not sure how much further it went, but we called it quits seeing it was a ton of climbing. 

The next stop was Sulphur Mountain where we went for a gondola ride. Once again, my pictures will not really give you the same sense of enormity that being there gave us. The boys loved the gondola ride. I did not. I have never been so terrified, and I have done that ride many times in my life. However, the last time was nineteen years ago, which makes me feel quite old. Anyway, it was hot and stuffy in there, and I could not escape my numerous and vivid thoughts of the whole thing breaking loose from its cable and dropping us to our death on the mountain far below. I have never been afraid of heights. Now I feel like I am afraid of everything.

You can't tell from the pictures, but the trees were probably 100 feet tall, and the gondolas were actually well above most of them. It was a LONG way down to the bottom of the mountain. The ride took several minutes, and I barely breathed the whole time.

One of the spectacular views from the top.

Another gorgeous view from the top of the mountain. If you enlarge this picture, you can see the massive and castle-like Banff Springs Hotel near the middle of the picture. Just above that you can see Bow Falls. 

Our time at the top of the mountain was hardly a "mountaintop experience" for our boys. We made the trek up to the summit of the mountain, and we must have climbed hundreds of stairs. It was very hard on the boys, and by the time we got back to our van, my legs were shaking a bit. Oh, one more picture from the gondola.
If I could circle a spot on this picture I would. I took it because I can see our van, a tiny speck between two trees in the parking lot way below. We were about half way down the mountain at this point and still our van was tiny. It is in the middle of the picture, and the only van visible between those trees. 

So the day was long and very physically exhausting. On the way back to Canmore, all three boys fell asleep in the van. For Cody to sleep in the vehicle is almost unheard of. Even Micah did not sleep the entire drive our first day, and that was nine hours. Wow.
Micah fell asleep first.

Then Jamie.

But Cody was the ultimate proof that we exhausted them today.

When we got back to our place, we had some supper and then we had a tiny birthday celebration for Micah, seeing we did not get to it yesterday. Mike bought this cake at Safeway. It was much cuter in person.

Micah's birthday cake. It's a monkey, but in this picture it looks like something out of a horror movie. He did not get any candles, but he is too young to have noticed.

You can see he was delighted with his cake. But it really did taste good.

Now I think all three boys have just finally settled, at 8:34 local time. (An hour later for us. I know, that's annoying, but it is significant, as we are not here long enough to adjust!) Mike is watching football and when that's over he intends to do homework. I'd be lying if I said that does not depress me. Homework I was prepared for, but ditching me for football when we have our last opportunity to spend an evening together (while the boys are actually quiet) in the mountains...Well, I am actually very sad about it. But I guess I will have to leave it at that. I am tempted to go walking through the town on my own, but I am so sore from the day that I just want to rest. Unfortunately, Mike will be using my laptop so I will not be able to work on my book. I guess I'll have to read, but I'm not that thrilled with what I'm reading, so it is not really appealing. I can't believe I am being ditched on my last evening in this amazing place. 

Anyway, I was wrong, Micah is still talking. I bet the other two are as well. I'm going to sign off now so Mike can do his homework. I will try to do another update tomorrow. It is our last day of holidays, and so far we have no plans, but we might consider hitting Drumheller on our way back to Medicine Hat. I'm off for now. Goodnight.

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