|Alpenglow on Cascade Mountain|
Just before summer in North America faded away, visiting one of the world's most scenic national parks back in early September got me giddy with excitement. To top it off, I was reuniting with family members: my parents who I haven't seen since March this year in the Philippines and my younger brother (and his family) who I haven't seen in two years since he immigrated to Edmonton, Canada. Gorgeous views with loved ones make a trip truly special.
Thanks to Delta and its oft-maligned Skymiles program, I was able to get a free open-jaw air ticket to both Calgary and Edmonton (capital of the province of Alberta in Canada) after paying only $64 in taxes. Not a bad redemption really considering I booked the tickets just 2 weeks before the trip. After about 5 hours flying time, there I was at the arrivals hall of Calgary International Airport getting hugs - it might as well be the airport in Davao where I usually get such a treatment.
|Queuing at the entrance to Banff National Park|
While I've been to the east (Toronto) and west (Vancouver) of Canada, this was my first time setting foot on its "wilder" mid-section. Just an hour after driving away from Calgary, we were in a car queue to pay for our entrance to Banff National Park, Canada's first since being established in 1885 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mind you, this is one huge park in the Rockies - a major mountain range straddling Canada and the US.
The namesake town of Banff, right within the park itself, was where we based ourselves. To make our 3-day stay comfortable, I booked a 2-bedroom unit at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. At check-in, I was pleasantly surprised to find we were upgraded to their more expensive "2-bedroom Wolf Condo" unit which has all the creature comforts one doesn't associate with wilderness: 2 attic bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room with sofa bed, a full kitchen, an LCD TV, even a wood-burning fireplace.
|Banff Rocky Mountain Resort in the shadows of Cascade Mountain|
The resort itself is about a 5-minute drive away from town center which all the more makes it quieter from all the hubbub during a busy summer season. There were already plenty of things for the outdoor enthusiast to do right within and just outside the resort premises. But this being a family vacation, my usual speed had to be slowed down somewhat. To get us started, we did our groceries in the town center. My sister-in-law wanted to take advantage of the kitchen.
I first heard of Banff while visiting friends in Vancouver some years ago. The strange name got me curious. It turns out this mountain town - the highest in Canada at 4,537 feet above sea level - was named after Banffshire in Scotland (the birthplace of a railway company president who built the transcontinental rail tracks spanning between Montreal and Vancouver). Each time I mentioned "Banff" to others back in the US, all I get was a "huh?".
|Banff Avenue looking towards Sulphur Mountain|
|Banff Avenue looking towards Cascade Mountain|
|After attending Sunday mass at Our Lady of the Rockies church|
As we walked along Banff Avenue - the town's main drag dotted with hotels, shops and restaurants - my parents can't help but find themselves loving the alpine atmosphere (after just arriving from the heat of the Philippines). Shadowed by nearby towering peaks like Sulphur and Cascade, Banff quickly revealed its charm to us. We couldn't wait to explore beyond the town center.