Exploring Banff National Park

This is part of a continuing series from my travels in Canada. You can read the previous blog post here. I'm currently writing this blog from a Starbucks in Canmore, a small town right outside Banff National Park. I'm listening to Tycho on my headphones, it's snowing outside, and warm inside. I don't drink coffee, I'm just here for the free Wi-Fi. Staying at Banff International Hostel for the next two days before continuing westward to Vancouver. After being detained at Canadian Border Patrol for over an hour based on allegations I was coming here for work illegally, I continued on my way to Calgary. The temperature gauge on my car reached a minimum of -20 degrees below! I made sure to grab food at Tim Horton's per the suggestion of a friend, and was not disappointed. I drove straight through the night to Calgary, Alberta and was easily able to find a cheap hotel, Canada's Best Value Inn. It wasn't anything special but provided a warm room, shower, and bed for the night. It's the creature comforts in life that matter the most. If money were no issue, I would explore the country in an RV and/or rack up tons of frequent flier miles traveling the world.

Early the next morning, I checked out of the hotel and began running errands. I noticed a strange burning smell coming from my engine compartment, so I took it by Midas, the guy opened the hood and immediately determined it was an oil spill. Better safe than sorry. I would hate to be without transportation in the cold. I picked up a few essential groceries at Safeway, a carbon monoxide detector at Canadian Tire for my propane heater, and continued driving towards downtown. I'd looked at photos of Calgary the night before and was determined to capture aerial photo/video of downtown. A bird's eye view of Calgary reminds me of Austin in many ways. It has a river running through downtown, similar buildings/roads, plenty of trees, and the population is roughly identical. I'll probably put together a promo video and send it to their tourism agency. I really enjoy being on the road! It's not always easy, especially when you're just scraping by financially, but there's always a new challenge you must conquer along the way. It teaches a person how to be resourceful and find clever solutions.

The journey to Banff National Park along the Trans-Canada Highway was absolutely beautiful! It's approximately a 1.5 hour drive from Calgary. The lady at the park entrance gave me a receipt for a stay of 5 days, 4 nights. I immediately checked into the hostel, which was booked for the night, so I stayed at Samesun Hostel for one night and then moved over to Banff International the next day. In the evening, I explored Banff Town and checked out a few small shops for warm gear. The sub-zero temperatures were bitingly cold, especially on the face. My hands would freeze after removing my gloves for a less than a minute! That night, I drove up the Upper Banff Hot Springs for a rejuvenating dip in the hot mineral waters. I immediately began chatting with this friendly German fellow. After roughly 15 minutes, there was an announcement that there was a floater in the pool and everyone had to evacuate. Luckily, I was able to get a raincheck and followed my new friend Mike to grab a beer at Eddie's Burger Bar in Banff. It was really interesting learning about what culture is like in Cologne. I will likely meet up with him later in Vancouver. I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do when I get there. Unfortunately, the Holiday Work Visa is not applicable to US citizens. My goal is to get sponsored by a tourism agency as a photographer.

The next day, I ate a delicious breakfast at the hostel and took off for Lake Louise. Upon reaching my destination, I was gazed upon a frozen white lake surrounded by towering mountains with an ice-skating area. It's normally turquoise blue in warmer seasons. Still beautiful in the winter though. I walked out onto Lake Louise and began taking photos. I met a friendly guy from The Philippines who graciously took a few photos of me. From here, I continued north to Yoho National Park, stopping numerous times along the way to take photos. The most stunning scenery was found at Emerald Lake and Natural Bridge, both of which were free of tourists. A photo is worth a thousand words... (click to scroll through)

I checked into Banff International Hostel, unloaded stuff from my car into the room, and cooked up some food. Unfortunately, all my canned goods were frozen solid since I'd left them in the freezing car. I dislike cooking with a passion, but budget constraints make it necessary. A friendly hostel guest saw I was having problems and offered me his leftover curry. My impression of Canadian people so far conforms to the "stereotype". They are super friendly and I already feel right at home here. Vancouver is the most moderate climate and most populous city in the country. The population is 2.4 million and it also has the worst traffic due to poor infrastructure, similar to Austin. The conversion rate for the Canadian dollar is .76 of a US Dollar. Everything is in the metric system, just like the rest of the world. Liters versus gallons, Celsius vs Fahrenheit. Well, I'm starving and must grab a bite to eat. Thanks for reading! Until next time...

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