Day 71: Banff National Park #1

Iceland and Canada are like day and night. Sure, they’re both beautiful and provide mankind with a much needed glimpse into what the world might look like if we didn’t shit all over it, but that’s where the landscape ends for having anything in common. Iceland feels closer to Mars than earth, whereas Canada is teaming with life. In Iceland, you are pretty safe to go wherever the hell you want for however long you want to in the summer, with the long days and moderate temperatures, provided you have enough water and some sense of direction. In Canada, however much you might want to, most National parks are a big nuh-uh for going it solo, because of moose, bears, coyotes, caribou etc. In Banff and Jasper, they advise that you go in groups of four or more, to ensure that you are both large enough to be intimidating to the wildlife, but also large enough to get help if something goes wrong.

I could keep going with comparing the two countries, but I’ve listed enough to justify why I prefer Canada. I was in awe of Iceland and will always have fond memories and utmost respect for the place, but I’ve loved the thrill of staring into the trees and seeing something move.

We started off in Banff, with the plan to head north and see all as many sites as daylight will allow along the way to Jasper over the course of four days. Let me tell you now – we barely scratched the surface. You could easily spend a week here!

On day one, we visited a historic site called the ‘Cave and Basin’. This site was most likely discovered over ten thousand years ago, as humans were known to have been in the area after the retreat of the last Ice Age, and any source of natural heat would not have gone unnoticed. It wasn’t until 1883, when three railway workers used a tree trunk to get in through a hole at the top of the cave, that this cave became a site of national importance. It was so important, that it set in motion the creation of the first National Parks in Canada, which began in 1885.

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Surrounding the cave were several interesting things. First was a large patio, that outlines where a naturally heated pool used to be. It was open until the 90’s, where it became too costly to maintain.

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Secondly, were some model tents that are similar to what the railway workers would have used when the cave was discovered. Both were cosy, but one was for your standard-Joe worker, and the other was for an important surveyor.

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Thirdly, were the beautiful walks that surrounded the building. Most of the pathways smelt all-too-similar to Iceland with the strong wafts of sulphur hanging in the air. It was worth pinching your nose to see the steam rising to meet the snow falling. It’s the kind of life that I love in Canada, where the nature doesn’t always stand still in a stoic pose, but dances before your eyes, hypnotising you for a time.

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After ‘The Cave and Basin’, we drove around before heading towards our hostel for the evening. I’ll have to bunch up some photos in a moment, but I wanted to share one with you just before I do. It’s no more or less beautiful than the others, but it transfixed me for a while.

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This is arguably not the most beautiful photo in this post, but this scene really caught me and made me look for the first time on this segment of the trip. This magical site was on the highway into Banff, before you get onto the 93 which is the road that links Banff and Jasper and is considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world. If being in the moment is our main weapon against the cruel passing of time, this place is definitely an ally. If you’re there at the right time, when no other cars are around, then the soundtrack to this site is complete silence.

One of the best things about the highway 93 and others directly connected to it, is the wildlife you see on the road. This was by no means the only wildlife we saw that day, but just to give you an idea.

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These animals seemed un-amused by the cars at most. Five or more cars were pulling over to snap the deer and elk, but they didn’t move on from their grazing area. Our cars, with their alien sounding engines and fast speeds didn’t phase them in the slightest. It’s as if they knew that this was their land, and we were merely visitors; there to take hundreds of pictures and get in their way, but not to harm them.

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