Some people consider themselves an adult the moment they turn 18, others when they get their first stable paycheck. Since I’m still two years off from the latter, I’ll consider a closer milestone, the end of summer breaks. In the transition between 18th and 19th grades, Crystal and I each squeezed out a week for a family getaway. Away from palm trees and humidity and towards snowy peaks and static-y hair. Hello, Alberta, Canada!
Day 1: Banff
Our family getaway was also a family reunion with our cousin who lives in Calgary, which meant waking up to plate-sized blueberry pancakes and better-than-a-barista’s cappuccinos.
From home base we rumbled in our Tuscon straight towards the mountains and the first Canadian national park of our trip, Banff!
In Banff town, we stopped at the visitor center first to optimize our itinerary for the day. The park staff were so smiley, it really made me re-appreciate the power of smiles! And also fed my confirmation bias of friendly Canadians. Also in town, we grabbed some warm focaccia for now and sandwiches for later at Wild Flour Bakery. A short walk away along the riverbank, I tested my lung capacity trying to blow dandelions against the wind…
We took the scenic shortcut up Sulfur Mountain via the “gondola.” Up at the top we had a panoramic view of the valley, complete with more park staff smiles to soften the mountain windchill.
We popped our heads in the iconic Fairmount hotel and almost crashed a global media conference before being called back to the wilderness. There I found myself a nice nook by the brook (ok well river).
Banff National Park and the greater Canadian park system were inspired by the discovery of a cave and basin by three railroad workers. It’s fascinating to think of what most people today would agree to be an underwhelming site as the birthplace of a national environmental movement. It’s a small sliver of history and now home to endangered snails.
After our rewind to Banff beginnings, we got did another rewind of sorts with another look at Bow River. This time from an off-path climb down Surprise Corner.
Out last site of the day was the Hoodoos, but first we stopped to stretch our legs.
Now you might be wondering what in the world are Hoodoos? Turns out historians don’t know where the term came from either, but it refers to a cluster of knobby stone pillars. More exciting to this city girl though was a tiny little chipmunk.
Back at home base, we were again treated to a feast. While the cousin-in-law was grilling Canadian grass-fed steaks and roasting honey-glazed chicken wings for dinner, I played with the little one. Even though the water was chilly she was splashing it everywhere and having a hoot. Kids are so carefree!
Today was a treat for the belly, a change of pace for the soul, and a lay-back-and-chill start to our Alberta adventure.