BANFF NATIONAL PARK, ALBERTA CANADA
Let me tell you how this story was supposed to begin.
It was supposed to begin in the tropical rainforests of central Costa Rica, at the foot of the remote
Volcan Miravelles and Volcan Tenorio, hiking, seeking out wild monkeys, and soaking in volcanic hot
springs. This would be punctuated with a swanky boutique hotel stay on the Pacific Coast where
we would swim, read books, paddle board, do yoga, and sip on adult beverages served with
paper umbrellas until it was time to go home.
Well, that wasn't how this story began.
It began with a hurricane hitting Costa Rica, a mountainous country usually insulated from hurricanes
of this sort, especially this late in the year. The last time this happened was in 1969. With flights to
tropical jungle paradise looking like they will be cancelled, we grabbed the list of Plan B's I always
have stashed somewhere safe in the recesses of my consciousness and studied the precious bank
of miles saved away for rainy days like these (we just didn't realize how literal of a rainy day it would
turn out to be). While Iceland was a momentary contender, we settled on Banff given its surprising
convenience (only ~4 hours of flying time) and the availability of reasonable accommodations.
Banff has piqued our curiosity especially since we haven't missed the Banff Film Festival World Tour
the last four or so years. This place Banff has garnered so much of our esteem despite knowing close to
zilch about it. If it is a place that is attached to the world's finest in adventure and outdoor films and
documentaries, then it must be a haven for adventure sports, right?
We were not let down.
Banff is located ~1.5 hours west of Calgary in the province of Alberta in Canada deep in the throes
of Banff National Park. It is in the midst of the Canadian Rockies, and I tell you, I've seen many mountains
in my life and I've never seen anything like this before. The multitude and magnitude of trees is jaw-dropping.
The Canadian Rockies itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Banff is the first Canadian National Park.
Other than tiny concentrated pockets of civilization and Highway 1 that traverses the park east to west,
Banff National Park is predominantly and astoundingly pristine, uninhabited and remote.
Our drive into Banff was welcomed with snow flurries and gray skies. It was time to roll the windows down.
The pure mountain air was intoxicating. I could not wait to get out of the car.
We dropped our bags at the hotel and immediately set out on foot. We discovered a quiet and empty
trail so close to our downtown hotel that had staggering mountain views of mountains upon mountains
reflecting on a glassy, still turquoise Bow River. I was bowled over.
The snow has stopped and the sun was slowly starting to set, giving the skies a cotton candy glow.
We followed the river trail to the Banff Christmas Market and shopped for small artisan crafts to give
to friends for Christmas. We walked back to our hotel in the dark, the trail illuminated only by the snow.
We almost ran into two massive grazing elk riverside.
Tomorrow, we ski.