Traveling Canada: Banff National Park, Day 2

Another early and tranquil morning in downtown Banff. The drive to Johnston Canyon for today’s hike was peppered with rain, but it moved through quickly like the weather here does. The trail to the canyon ran along rushing water, and it was a more relaxed pace than yesterdays. Passing a few waterfalls, the trail turned uphill and became more strenuous. Our lonely footsteps echoed through the forest. The quiet was infinite at times.

The path was skinny and fairly muddy as we neared the end. Our legs ached and throbbed. Then suddenly the scenery opened and the trees cleared. Before us was a series of small turquoise ponds (the “inkpots”) that glistened under the grey sky. We sat on a secluded bench and snacked on beef jerky, watching the brush sway across the sweeping mountains.

When we got back to our car, the sun was piercing in the sky. We made a quick decision to visit Lake Louise a second time before venturing onto Lake Morraine and take advantage of the rare blue sky. The lake was brighter and more striking today, inviting competition for those cherished panoramic photos.

Lake Morraine was more of a trek – 10-miles up a winding mountain road. Lake Louise gets all the hype, but Lake Morraine became a highlight of our entire road trip. We ventured up a rock pile that overlooks the lake, which was just a short climb. Informational plaques told us that the area was covered in ocean 560 million years ago, as proven by the boulders’ distinct ripples. When we reached the top of the rock pile, the sun peaked out from the clouds almost instantaneously. It enhanced the color of the water like it had been touched with an ink pen. I stared at it with such awe. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen something so intense and beautiful. I felt deeply lucky.

On the walk back, there were signs warning hikers to travel in packs since bears could often be seen snacking on nearby berry patches. We didn’t dawdle.

That night we investigated the rooftop hot tubs at our hotel (sweet perk) and then ventured out for dinner at Bison Restaurant, a bustling space with an open-air kitchen. After inhaling a bison trio (and the steak sampler at Chuck’s the night before), I officially needed a breather from Alberta’s famous red meat. We settled our overstuffed stomachs with a few pints of beer at the Rose & Crown, Banff’s “oldest” bar (built in 1985) and fell asleep to another sleepy mountain night.

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