Banff (Canada) - Summer 2004

We had 4 days of driving (2,100 miles) to get to Banff in time for Nili's Pathology conference, and they were actually quite pleasant. This included camping and riding our bikes in Jamestown, North Dakota and Swift Current, Sakatchewan. We are continuously amazed that small isolated towns are so bike conscious, providing well kept and elaborate bike paths. On the 4th day we made a detour to the "Badlands" of Dinosaur Park, where many dinasaurs continue to be discovered in the spectacular erosions. When we arrived in Banff on Saturday evening we went for a bike ride and a beautiful cliff hike along the Bow river.

In the 5 days that we stayed in Banff I would scout in the mornings while Nili was busy at the conference, and then we would ride together the wonders that I managed to uncover. This began on Sunday eve with the Fenland trail, a beautiful 2 km trail alongside the 40 Mile creek and Echo creek.

On Monday we biked 3 miles up Mountain Avenue (stopping for refreshing juice at the magnificent Rimrock Hotel while the doorman with white gloves, tophat and tails looked after our bikes), spent 2 hrs hiking 3 km up Sulphur mountain, came down with the Gondola, relaxed for a full hour in the Hot Sulphur Spring pool, and coasted back.

Tuesday Nili had the entire day free, so we decided to brave it and take the Bow River Parkway (which runs parallel to Highway 1) from Banff to Lake Louise (37.8 miles!) and then back again. We left at 7:30am, hoping to average around 7mph, spend two hours looking at Lake Louise and arrive back at 8:30pm, before dark. A totally crazy, unrealistic and impossible plan! Two things that we did not realise:

Anyway - off we went - very exhilarating and very beautiful. The Bow River Parkway has many viewpoints, rest stops, mountains, forests, exotic wild flowers, we even sighted a bear! First stop was Mule Shoe, where we had breakfast near a beautiful reflecting lake with ducks diving for fish, and an Aspen tree grove. Next we stopped for coffee and chocolates at Castle Mountain Chalet. Nili decided to call Michal and I marvelled at the new world - Nili called from a phone booth in the middle of the Banff National Park to Michal's Israeli cell phone while she was vacationing in Paris using prepaid minutes on ekit. Getting more and more tired we stopped for lunch at Baker Creek - a beautiful rapid flowing and had (pre-prepared) roast beef and sliced pickles on bagette with cherry tomatoes - and we began to realise the folly of our plan. We did in fact travel on the bike for 5 hours, but with so many increasing rest stops we arrived totally exhausted at Lake Louise Village at 3pm. Luckily Nili had a brilliant idea - leave the bikes at Lake Louise and take a bus back. I would fetch them (by car) the next day while Nili conferenced. This gave us enough time to do the 4 km hike up alongside Louise Creek to the truly beautiful Lake Louise, and Nili relaxed a while on the shore of the lake. That evening we bussed back, jumped into a hot jakusi, and to sleep - another wonderful day.

Wednesday - recovery day - we rode our bikes to the Banff Springs Hotel for lunch - a truly elegant hotel - excellent seafood chowder and salmon strips, beautiful building, gardens and magnificent view. We continued along the Golf course loop and Bow River Falls before returning for Nili's evening lecture.

Thursday we drove to the beginning of the 10 mile Lake Minnewanka loop. First a picnic at Cascade ponds ( in the shadow of Cascade Mountain) and then rode the 4 miles to the Lake Minnewanka dam. A very lovely scenic route, but the best part was the 1.5km riding/walking trail to the bridge across the Stewart Canyon. We then rode on the dam wall and kept encountering Bighorn sheep. We even saw a baby bighorn suckling! They seemed feerless of the passing cars and of us. We closed the loop and returned, too tired for anything, but were energised by John Kerry's nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. We later went for an evening walk to the hot sulphur springs of Cave and Basin - a lovely end to a lovely week in Banff.

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