Considering the altitude we are at it wasn’t surprising that the night was rather chilly. Jamie didn’t sleep well, though he kept this to himself until around 6am when he put on the furnace to heat up the RV and relocated his sleeping position onto floor next to the heating vent.
I was first woken at 4.45am by the sound of a distant train blaring its warning siren for what I guess was its entry into the tunnel (wherever that is). Sound travels far in the mountains! I soon got used to the Canadian railways timetable in this region: 5.45, 6.45, 7.45 etc.
After dressing I made us both warming coffees then while Jamie took a shower in the RV. I took a walk to the toilet block, at that time in the morning the earlier queue of bears desperate for a pee had disappeared and I had the place to myself.
Returning to the RV we had a breakfast of cereal with cinnamon, it was ok.
We could have caught the local bus from the camp site into town, it is free on the journey into Banff but $2 for the return journey, now that is cheap! We drove and parked in the same spot as the previous night. The town was on the quieter side of bustling. As it was the end of their season there were many sale signs displayed in shop windows. We took advantage and bought a pair of gloves each and I couldn’t resist a rather nice jacket with hood.
From the town bridge we headed off along the trail to the Caves and Bowl. The track took us along the banks of the River Bow and as in the park in Calgary we saw many of their black squirrel country cousins leaping from tree to tree, undeterred by our presence. Arriving at our destination we paid the entrance fee of $3.95 and entered. The museum/heritage centre celebrates the very first white settlers in Banff and the indigenous Stoney Tribe. The cave/grotto was used by the Indians as a place of worship. They entered from a very small opening in the roof by way of a rawhide ladder. This was later discovered by trappers who built a shack above it recognising its future potential. The cave has a hot spring pouring out from a hole in the wall and forms a small pond. Many years later, below the cave, which had now been opened up by way of an access tunnel, a thermal swimming pool was built as a tourist attraction for the area. This has since been removed and a museum built in its place.
After the delights of the cave and museum we climbed part way up the mountain along wooden walk ways and platforms, visiting a series of thermal pools on the way.
Returning to the RV we set off up Sulphur Mountain to the Gondola station. After paying for our ticket ($67) we queued along with the many other nationalities waiting for our ride up the mountain. We were fortunate that we had one to ourselves on the journey upwards. Arriving at the top we took photos of the rather stunning mountainscape. We then trod the boardwalk to the very top of the mountain and the location of a past weather station hut, but now the site of a cosmic ray collector. We vied with other tourists for our photos of the scenery, many of which seemed Japanese. They do have a way of ignoring all around them when they have camera in hand, they are such a polite nation at most other times.
We queued again to return to ground zero and again nearly had a Gondola to ourselves, but we were hurriedly joined by an American couple. The wife in her hurry to get in, sat on me and then apologised at length.
Our next stop was at the thermal swimming pool halfway up the mountain. With trunks and towels in hand we made our way to the entrance, eager to sample the 40 degree sulphurous temperature. However, we could see the pool from the top and it looked a very sorry affair, packed with bodies lounging in the water and looking just like any tired small town Lido, all tiles and no character. We decided not to bother.
Instead, we had lunch of chicken wings and fries at the ‘English Pub’ and then drove to Vermillion Lakes on the other side of Banff and again took photos from one of the view points. Very peaceful. On our return to Banff we came across a traffic jam, as we slowly made our way to its focus we discovered that the source was an Elk calmly munching grass at the side of the road. As everyone was leaving their vehicles to capture photos of the animal, we did also. You could tell who the locals were as they remained in theirs cars hooting to frighten it away, but they were in the minority and the Elk seemed to enjoy being the centre of attention and refused to budge. A star in the making, possibly a relative of Elkie Brooks?
Parking again in town, we visited the supermarket and purchased sausage and mushrooms. We can’t fathom how they price their food items here, there is always two prices displayed and neither seem to apply, but it is always dearer than both, and no you don’t add the two together, it’s even dearer than that. Perhaps the lesson is always eat out and then you know what you are paying. Coming across a ‘Dollar Store’ Jamie bought a hot-water bottle ($4) to ensure his comfort during the night, it is a shame they aren’t edible.
We called in to see what films the local cinema was showing and were pleased to discover that the 10pm showing of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ was going to be half price. ‘Dory’, ‘Such’ and ‘Bridget Jones’ didn’t take our fancy.
After ‘hooking-up’ back at the campsite, Jamie made a very tasty dish incorporating all the ingredients we had previously purchased. With stomachs full we sat listening to the radio until it was time to drive back into town.
We drove into town at around 9.30pm and joined the 3 other people in Banff keen to watch a western at such a late showing. They had a bar at the rear of the auditorium so we purchased a couple of peach ciders and settled in our seats to watch. Not a bad film, plenty of grit but like the original requiring you to stretch your imagination as to what is possible. I guess it makes up for the endless news of murders and shootings by their neighbours to the south we seemed to observe every time we switched the TV on in Calgary!
After driving back to the RV site Jamie discovered that he had left his coat in the cinema. We would have to resolve that issue in the morning, as it was gone 1am it was too late to return and see if the cinema was still open. Jamie filled his bottle and we snuggled into our sleeping bags, easing into sleep by the distant wailings of ghost trains.
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