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Monday, August 6, 2012

Day 48 to 52: Banff National Park

The only problem with being in the place where it is all happening is that those in the know have had their spot in the campground reserved since early June...So it was with Canmore, and us arriving just as the folk fest was about to kick off. Our lovely spot on the creek had to be abandoned for those with a booking, so very early on Saturday morning we drove the 25 kms up to Tunnel Mountain trailer park in Banff to join the queue of hopefuls waiting for a much coveted site in the non-reservable section of the campground.

In spite of the early hour we were still 9th in line behind Sandi from England on her CanaDream touring holiday. It was like waiting to see if you had won the lottery: watching hopefully as trailers pulled out; the stakes a spot looking out over the mountains of Beautiful Banff for up to 14 days.

We won. 2 hours later we were set up in a PWS site (that's shorthand for Power-Water-Sewer, in other words the full RV hook-up works) with a view to die for...We headed down to Banff townsite to check out the attractions.

There were probably more people strolling down Main Street than we had encountered on our whole trip till then. We headed over the beautiful stone bridge that straddles the brilliant turquoise Bow River and found refuge in the Cascade Gardens - a 1930s make-work project that never actually achieved the cascade part of the plan, but which produced the gorgeously lush gardens that visitors can amble through today.

Whilst in Banff we took one of our best excursions yet...A combined bike-hike which began as a cycling adventure through a marshy bird sanctuary and along the riverside Sundance Trail, and included a hike through the scenic Sundance Canyon. The ride back down to the bottom of the trail was fantastic. This was Banff at its bang-for-a-buck best.

A little more on the pricey side were drinks at the famous Banff Springs hotel...But even in this extraordinarily opulent tribute to historic holidays past and dreams-in-the-making present, we managed to track down the elusive Waldhaus pub on the fifth hole of the golf course and enjoy both beer and a magnificent double rainbow at a digestible price.

Banff is just brimming with breath-taking vistas, alluring natural phenomena and cultural must-sees. We explored the Bow River from a variety of lookouts, including that of the imposing Banff Centre for the Arts. We were delighted to stick weary feet into the steaming hot waters of the radium hot springs. And we enjoyed meeting Sinead from Ireland as we toured the Whyte museum and gallery together, adjourning to the bar for a drink and a gab while Linnet continued to marvel at how the kitchen linoleum in one of the exhibition houses was exactly the same as that which had graced the kitchen of one of her childhood homes. In a town dedicated to the rejuvenating forces of natural beauty and pure air, there is nothing like feeling like a museum-worthy relic.