Alberta Staycation in the Rocky Mountains

With rain in the forecast and the rathe of covid still lingering around the world, our choices for celebrating Clive and JT’s July birthdays were limited. After some back and forth on what to do and where to go, we decided on an Alberta staycation and headed to Banff National Park. Doesn’t get much better than enjoying some great meals, the beautiful views, a couple of hikes and whitewater rafting.

First of all, I was super impressed with everything the community of Banff has in place in order to help prevent the spread of covid. The main street was closed to vehicles allowing extra space for visitors to walk and tents for restaurants to accommodate patrons wanting to dine. Stores were equipped with hand sanitizer to use upon entering and guests were respectful of physical distancing. As a bit of a germ freak, I hope that after covid leaves, I hope the hand sanitizer at establishments, stays.

Thanks to the ‘All Trails’ app, we started our adventure with a 10km hike up Tunnel Mountain Road called ‘Hoodoos from Bow River Trail’. The hike is classified as moderate and had an elevation change of 305m, not nearly as challenging as what we did at the Grand Canyon last year, but the scenery was breathtaking and the hike was very enjoyable.

The weather was gloomy and cool which made the trail less busy and lucky for us, the forecasted rain held off minus a quick light drizzle. The hike up tunnel mountain wasn’t as nice as the hike down. The first couple of kilometers had us walking on the shoulder of the road which made us wonder if we were in the wrong spot. However once we hit the trail, the hike became more interesting, and at times steep, but nothing unmanageable. At the very top we had a view of the Bow River and the hoodoos. In our life before kids, Clive and I actually hiked up onto the hoodoos and we have a great picture to prove it. This time though, all I could hear was my mother’s voice saying, ‘Don’t you dare take your kids up onto that!’ So, needless to say, we didn’t… at least not this time.

The hike down was very enjoyable. Lots of plush greenery, wild flowers, the fast flowing river and an unexpected little beach. Numerous memories and 15000 steps later, we were back at the hotel. Thank goodness the rain held out for our adventure, fingers crossed it does tomorrow, too!

On my first trip to Banff many, many years ago, a colleague told me about the famous Banff Candy Store and that it was a must stop with her family. Since that first trip, it has been a must stop with our family, too. I still remember the look on Cara’s face the first time we took her there. Her eyes went big and her jaw dropped. Who am I kidding, so did mine and Clive’s. All of our favorite treats from our childhood, plus 100s we have never heard off. Today’s visit to the candy store set us back $37, but I like to think it was money well spent.

With many people still feeling the effects of covid, we decided to change things up for JT’s birthday this year. Instead of the usual party, we surprised him with whitewater rafting at Chinook Rafting on the Kananaskis River. If you’ve never been whitewater rafting, you need to give it a go.

The route we picked had level 1-3 rapids and was a lot of fun, especially for the kids who sat in the front. I was nervous about how Cara would handle the waves as she’s not a fan of amusement park rides, but she killed it. Our Australian guide Luka was quite knowledgeable and a good sport putting up with Clive and JT’s constant paddle splashing. At the very end of the adventure they let you jump into the glacier fed lake and swim ashore. Clive, Cara and JT immediately jumped in while I opted not to subject myself to unnecessary cold temperatures. Haha. From the minute JT jumped in the river, all we heard were high pitched screams. We need to get this boy into acting. Everyone had a good chuckle because he was all talk a few minutes before. That’s our boy!

On our last day we headed east of Banff to the Grotto Creek (Canyon) Trail. Like our hike earlier this week, the hike was classified as moderate and had an elevation change of 310m. We arrived at 9am to a quiet parking lot that was overflowing when we returned 3 hours later.

The 8km hike takes you back and forth along a rocky river bed through a canyon, past a waterfall, an Inukshuk Garden and to a cave. The waterfall was pretty but it was the 100+ inukshuks that got my attention. From inukshuks balancing between boulders, to inukshuks of all sizes, inukshuks were everywhere. We couldn’t leave without adding a family inukshuks to the sea of others.

Our last stop on the hike was at a cave just past the Inukshuk Garden. When I heard about the cave, I admit that what I expected, was the farthest thing from what it was. This cave was in the middle of a hoodoo that seemed about 50 – 80 meters up. As tempting as it was to at least give it a try, there was no way my knee would survive. Thanks to covid, my surgery is on hold indefinitely!

After a few failed attempts, JT climbed all the way to the top. *Don’t tell my mom! JT said coming down was harder than going up, however as a spectator, I’d say going up was harder to watch. Lol!

All in all, it’s been a great 4 day staycation in the amazing province we call home, Alberta.

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