Animals in the Wild

Anmals-in-the-Wild

Wildlife.  It was the major reason why we chose to go to Banff.  It is home to a wide variety of wildlife.  We were not disapointed.

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On our first day, we saw this deer an hour after we arrived at the park.  We will soon come to realize that it is quite common to see them along the road.  We however wanted to increase our chances to see bears and learn more about the animals of the National Park, and joining a guided tour was our best bet.

And so on the evening of our 3rd day, at a quarter past 6, we were seated comfortably on the bus, excited for what laid ahead.  With enthusiasm, we listened to our guide talk about the habitats of the park and how Banff’s bear population is suffering in the hands of human, with trains being the single largest killer.

Deer

First sighting – a deer again and we have not left town yet.  “They are common along the Bow Valley Parkway although their population is quite low now,” declared our guide.  He appeared to be very knowledgeable but thanks to an Aussie in the group who had an incredibly keen eye.  He spotted most of our sightings that evening.  I was impressed.

“Because of the dwindling population, it is harder to spot bears nowadays.  I will however try to bring you to where I think the bears will be.” assures our guide.  He was either 1) really good 2) really lucky or 3) he was lying about the dwindling population.   😉  Halfway through the tour, we saw people out of their vehicles and on the road trying to get a glimpse or rather a good photo of

black-bear

2 black bears (actually), a mom and her cub!  First of all, you do not get out of your vehicle when you spot a wildlife, let alone a bear.  “Believe me, you will not know what hit you when they pound on you” said our guide to the other group who were trying to inch closer to the bears.  Well, pound they didn’t but retreat they did… luckily after A managed some shots (from inside the bus, of course).  Money well spent.  Grizzlies next… perhaps?   😉

One not so lucky occasion was when we spotted a herd of mountain goats.  With several cars behind us on a winding road, we had to sadly drive along.  As we drove around the corner still watching the herd, it was even more painful to see them jumping off to the road.  A rare sight and a perfect shot that was not to be.  We were too far and they were too quick.  A sight to behold nevertheless.

Other animals sighted around Banff – birds and small mammals included.

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bird

Caribou

magpie

squirrel

Squirrel.

deer-crossingThey do have right of way!

As we got closer to Jasper, the easier it was to spot wildlife along the road like these bighorn sheep relaxing by the roadside.  Not so rare apparently.  So excited, we forgot to stay in our car and was told by some concerned citizens on the danger of being so close to the animals.  Shame on us but they were so inviting, not budging, posing for us.  We eventually trekked back to our car… after we shot away.   😀

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Bighorn Sheep

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Yes…

bighorn-sheeps-3Right on the Hi-Way!

Lazing around Banff

It was a day of splendor and impressiveness and it had to end sometime.  So we checked in and had a quick bite before knocking off.  We were delighted to see Filipinos working there.  They, eager to see hometown folks, provided tips on how to get around town.

Roam-bus

Apparently, we didn’t need a car or kill our soles walking to get around in Banff.  Their Roam public transit bus system is very convenient with routes covering the whole townsite and there are bus stops near just about any places of interest.

The next day was spent downtown.  First stop was the information center, then we walked over to a tour company where we booked an evening wildlife tour, we spent the most part of the  day walking around town, museum hopping and shopping.

Grizzly-House

Food, as usual, was essential to our enjoyment. We were eyeing it the day before and agreed that lunch the next day will be at Grizzly House.

buffalo-burger

It was the Buffalo burger that caught our eye.  We were not disappointed.  It was juicy and had a richer flavor than beef burgers.  Did you know that buffalo meats are healthier being lower in cholesterol yet higher in iron and protein?  That’s right!  A great tasting, guiltless lunch.

The guiltless lunch was necessary for the dessert to come.

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Choco-mint and Amaretto fudge.  Right beside Grizzly House is this candy store called The Sweet Shoppe and we went gaga over those fudges the minute we tried a small piece of sample.  The fudge was really a tad too sweet for my taste but it looks so irresistible and the flavors blended so perfectly with the chocolate, you seem to accept the sweetness, especially if paired with a good cup of black coffee.  Perfection.  This is how to gain instant weight!!  But who cares… I’m on vacation, am I not?   😉

So with that dessert we were ready for some serious walking around town.  And here are some of the town captured through my lens.

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Banff with Sulphur Mountain as its backdrop.

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Taken from the bridge.

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The bridge.

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Yummy Caramel Popcorn from Mountain Chocolates.

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fudge

Fudge from the Fudgery.

totem-poleTotem Pole at the Indian Trading Post.

We also checked out some museums along the way.

Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum

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Just a few steps away from Banff Indian Trading Post, this museum returns you to when First Nations people followed the buffalo herds into the Bow Valley, hauling their belongings by travois.

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It tells the story through interpretive exhibitions, artifacts and dioramas.  The museum displays a wealth of Native artifacts and collections from richly ornamented costumes, beautifully decorated teepees, colorful quillwork to historical hunting equipments.

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Luxton-Museum

It is a cultural display that celebrates the richness, diversity, continuity and above all, the resilience of the First Nations people.  Life sized scenes from the life of the plains before the Europeans arrived are depicted in a reconstructed fur-trading post.

Norman Luxton, for whom the museum was named, ran the trading post.  Luxton developed a long-standing relationship with the Stoney Indians and the Luxton Museum’s collections display some of the memorabilia he obtained through the years.

Banff Park Museum National Historic Site

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This 1903 log cabin characteristic of early federal buildings is the oldest Natural History Museum.  It is a fascinating little museum.

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Not only did it have Banff’s mammals, birds and insects preserved in authentic Victorian style display cases – many of which visitors hear about but didn’t get to always see in the wild — it also is like seeing through the eyes of an early 20th century visitor with some of the displays dating back to 1860.  The amount of animals was probably the most interesting part – coming from the Philippines, many of the North American animals are unfamiliar to me so it was interesting to learn and see them up close.

stuffed-buffalo

Up next… the real thing.

Banff National Park: Lakes and Mountains Abound

banff

The Canadian Rockies.  It has been on our “must go” list since forever and we were finally on our way.  The road trip to Banff was an easy 1.5 hours through scenic views varying from the flatness of the prairies and pasturelands to the towering mountains.  Just 5 minutes away from the east gate of Banff National Park, we made a quick pit stop in Canmore.

canmore

This town, small as it may appear has breathtaking sceneries and an air of wilderness in it.  It would have been nice to spend a couple of hours just driving around but we decided to stick to our plans.

Canmore-mountain

Our friend and the designated driver was going back to Calgary the same day and if we want to see as much of Banff, we need to manage our time well.

The plan was for him to come back for us (and this time with his family in tow) and spend the weekend with us in Jasper.  A sweet plan, don’t you think?  They get to work and we get to explore downtown Banff by foot and by bus.

wildlifeWildlife (deer) along the way.

Check in times are often in the late afternoon, giving us enough time to wander around the park without worrying about losing our reservations.  The best thing about driving to Banff is that we get to hop in and out as we please.  With the multitude of lakes around the park, one will never have enough hours in the day to see them all.  Here is what’s on our list that really impressed.

Lake Minnewanke

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As we entered the Park, we decided to take the Minnewanke Loop, which (obviously) lead us to Lake Minnewanke, the largest lake in the park and is popular for boating, fishing and sailing.

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Most tour companies offer tours around the Lake or one can rent a boat along the shore to go fishing.  Not the prettiest lake but striking nonetheless.

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Two Jack Lake

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The loop continues on to Two Jack Lake, which we almost missed because from the road, the partly hidden lake looked ordinary.

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All we saw was a picnic ground with breathtaking pine trees as its backdrop.  As we approached the grounds, the aquamarine lake with a cute little island in the middle and a railroad track that meanders along the lakeshore just blew me away.

Two-Jack-Lake

The protected waters blended perfectly with the backdrop of pine forest and snow capped mountains.  A WOW moment indeed.

Johnson Lake

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If you go on further, a road branching out of the loop will lead you to Johnson Lake.  With a nice picnic ground, it is obviously a popular spot for picnicking, fishing or swimming.

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Ringed with trails, a few hours stroll will take you through natural vistas and a high chance to spot a variety of birds or some small wildlife.

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Hike we did not because we (that’s right!) wanted to see more lakes.

Lake Louise

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After a quick bite in town, we headed off to one of the Rockies’ perhaps most photographed scene.

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The almost emerald green lake against the stark backdrop of the towering Victoria glacier is a sight to behold and no wonder a favorite of almost all who visit.

Lake-Louise

Relaxing on a bench admiring the beauty of the lake are simple pleasures I pine for.

IMG_2528Seeing the little things.

Moraine Lake

Moraine-Lake-

I always save the best for last.  Just 10 minutes away from Lake Louise, this lake has become my favorite.  If the aquamarine waters of Two Jack blew me away… this left me speechless and breathless.  We walked up the rock pile and once on top, this crystal clear cyan blue lake is simply awe-inspiring.

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Climbing up the Rock pile.

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The other side of the lake.

Often nicknamed “Valley of the Ten Peaks”; ten lofty mountain peaks border this crystal clear turquoise blue lake.  Being glacially fed, the lake has not reached its peak yet, in fact smattering of ice were still floating on the lake at the time of our visit.  When it is full, it is said to reflect a distinct milky blue-green shade due to the light filtering effect of the rock flour deposited in the lake from the glacial meltdown.  The rock flour filters out much of the light spectrum except for blues and greens hence the color. Unimaginable.

Moraine-Lake-smallnessSmall against the grandness.

The Canadian Rockies. A real feast on sight and smell, the beautiful sceneries coupled with the fresh scent of pine is a definite treat to my well-being!