Banff or bust, part 5: Banff National Park

For those of you playing at home, no, the wildfire smoke did not magically drift away overnight. We had one full day in Banff National Park, and we made the most of it.

We spent the morning exploring downtown Banff.

Last night, after assuming it would be too hazy to really enjoy hiking, we booked two small excursions we figured we would enjoy regardless. The first was a boat cruise around Lake Minnewanka.

Below, the little dark spot in the highest tree is a bald eagle. We also saw bighorn sheep today.

I’ve tinkered with these pictures a bit, mostly to lighten them up or throw some much-needed contrast on the mountains, but I could not get the photos to show the pale green color of the water. The lake was gorgeous, but you’ll have to take my word for it. This one below gets closest, but in truth the color was more like light green ice.

Our second excursion was a sunset gondola trip to a mountaintop restaurant.

The food was passable but the view was pleasant, despite the persistent haze.

While having dinner, we noticed a tower that many people were hiking to. I declared that we were not going. Dan shrugged. I declared that we were going. Dan nodded. That’s as complex as most of our travel decisions tend to be.

I am so glad we made the climb — it was actually a very easy climb, no more than a mile over a set of very switchbacked stairs. At the top is a weather station and, I can only imagine, a breathtaking view.

That white complex to the left is our restaurant.

Below is my favorite photo of the day. Because I had to take such an idiotic angle to make the shot, Dan’s smile is genuine.

P.S. A close runner-up for favorite photo: the one I snapped right after Dan and I discovered BeaverTail pastries. They are fried dough, roughly in the shape of a beaver’s tail, covered in toppings. Dan chose maple and chocolate.

Tomorrow we are back in the car, Edmonton-bound!

Part 1: Jackson Hole 
Part 2: Craters of the Moon 
Part 3: Idaho Falls
Part 4: Kootenay National Park
Part 5: Banff National Park
Part 6: Calgary
Part 7: Edmonton Fringe Festival
Part 8: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Part 9: The Home Stretch

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