What’s with that double “f” anyway? Perhaps you are supposed to linger on it when you say Banf…f. Anyway, Banff is the first major town of the Rockies if you are coming from Calgary. We came to it from the south, up snaking 66 to the Trans-Canada highway and then East into the start of the mountains proper. If you are in an RV, Banff is a bit of a pain to be honest. There is a sign for RV parking and after crawling through the packed Main Street you discover that there are indeed spaces for about seven RVs and they have been full since 1987. So you do what everyone else in an RV does and cruise around the neighbouring streets for a space big enough to park. We found one and walked back in for lunch.
Banff is every inch the resort town these days; modern buildings with plenty of stone and wood about the place to suggest “traditional mountain village”, but most of them selling t-shirts and tourist tat, interspersed with cafes and coffee shops. We like cafes and coffee shops though, particularly when they offer free wifi so we settled into one. I used the free wifi to download a free satnav map of Canada so that I can work out the rest of our route… @PhilippaNews put pictures on Instagram as did @TheSuperTomster which is a brilliant account you should definitely follow.
Thanks Tom, I am wresting control of the keyboard back now…
We were in full tourist mode so after lunch we found the free shuttle to the gondola which goes up Sulphur Mountain. If you are in Banfff this is what you do, so we were not alone. In fact the friendly young German woman at the ticket office told us the queue for the gondola was an hour and twenty minutes and the queue to come back down was an hour. So yes, it was popular.
But rightly so. The gondola whisks you over steep forested slopes in eight minutes to 7,500 feet and the summit of Sulphur Mountain.
The view is 360 degrees of mountain peaks jutting into the sky like a dentist’s nightmare.
Another fifteen minutes walk over the boardwalk along the ridge and you get to a tiny stone hut that was a weather station from 1903 to 1931.
Every two weeks Norman Sanson, who ran the Banff museum, would climb Sulphur Mountain to note the readings on the meteorological equipment. It was a journey he made a thousand times over his lifetime and during the winter it could take nine hours to get to the top. We peered through the scratched windows and saw his bunk and stove and a wooden table. What must it have been like stuck on that pinnacle with the snow falling and the wind howling…
On the way down a young woman told us all we needed to know about bears. She was a professional you understand, not just some random person in the queue. Tom compared his paw-print to that of a Grizzly…
Back at base camp we stocked up on a few more provisions, set the satnav (thanks free wifi) and pointed the RV north to Johnston Canyon. Setting up for the evening in our new campground we were startled by the urgent blast of a train horn a couple of hundred meters away. A freight train mumbled and clanked past on its way north through the valley. It’s such a great sound. But we are wearing earplugs tonight.