Day 1: Banff National Park

Fair to say from Friday last week work was a bit crazy with a particularly nasty service issue gobbling up my weekend.  It was so messy I did not want to throw my stand-in under the bus so I didn’t take the day of the flight off in the end and ended up working from the Premier Inn.  I was worried I had forgotten something because I had no time to think about the trip at all!

The flight went really well, especially after being on conf calls in the airport all morning and even being in one boarding the plane.  9 hours sounds a bit brutal but watched ‘The Intern’ for some easy viewing and a few Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes which I could watch over and over again anyway.

I arrived in Calgary about 5:40pm and my coach to Banff national park was 18:30 so naturally I thought I was going to miss it, but Calgary Airport is a well oiled machine and I had my luggage and everything to get to the coach with time to spare.

After my 9 hour flight, it was time for a 1hr 45 coach to Banff National Park.  It was pretty dark so I couldn’t see much of the amazing mountains as I was heading there.  When I arrived (pretty knackered) I managed to catch the third period of a great Isles win and then slipped into a coma.

In the hotel is a grill so I grabbed a class North American breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausages, egg and a load of maple syrup.  I love that breakfast so much but I always tell myself I am not allowed to have lunch after having it.

I have not much time in Banff National Park but just stepping outside and seeing the Canadian Rockies blew me away.  No time to ponder yet though as I had booked Dog Sledding in Canmore for first thing in the morning.  The bus collected me and off I went, all in my ridiculous skiing gear I had bought before going.  When in NYC I always make mistake of being too cold and it spoils it, so I went full on ski gear (eBay – Brand New) as recommended on the site.  I had the ol’ long john’s on, ski trousers, ski jacket, new Isles hat that covers the ears and my new hiking boots bought for South America at the end of the year.

We got taken to Canmore up the mountain, only around 6,000 feet I was told and got all the instructions and met the dogs.  They were so cool, but much smaller than expected.  I decided to drive the 2nd half and spend the first half in the sled taking photos.  They taught us the calls and tones to go with it ‘Hike’, ‘Woooah’, ‘Easy’ and ‘Gooood Puppies Wahooo’.  The scenery is just unreal up there and the dog sledding was absolutely incredible, if not slightly terrifying at the start.

I forgot to mention on the way we drove right by a full grown Elk with a huge set of horns which was amazing.  On the actual sled, we passed a Moose which is what I really wanted to see.  We couldn’t stop for a photo because the dogs may freak out but it was still amazing to see.

Sledding over a massive frozen lake with the Canadian Rockies around you is something I won’t forget in a hurry.  The second half driving was very cool.  The dogs looked like they could have done it 5 times around more and they all love the attention afterwards.

I had 2 hours dog sledding and it went so fast! Afterwards we had a fire, warm cider and some cakes and I bought the two photos the photographer had taken.  We then headed back and I got dropped off to the hotel.  I asked the driver where to head and he advised me although he said on that particular trail, I’d need to be careful as afternoon progresses because Coyotes and Cougars are not uncommon!  I was going to tell him only place I’d want to see Cougars was Flares but I doubt the Flares franchise had found its way to Alberta Canada to be fair.

I put a quick call into home as it’s my mothers Birthday today and then I set back off, going for a wander through Banff Avenue and down by the Bow River.  The Bow Trail was closed because it was so icy but I still got some great photos by the river.

Wandering around I saw people playing hockey and I would love the next 30 years of my life to be like this.  Doing amazing things in the day or working in a beautiful country like this, going out for great food and then going back and watching Ice Hockey on the TV… I would love that to be my next 30 years.

After doing some serious walking this afternoon, I headed back because I had a reservation at Grizzly’s.  Grizzly’s is a steak fondue place known for having some weird foods.  The Exotic Dinner Set I had contained Rattlesnake, Alligator, Shark, Frogs Legs, Buffalo, Elk and Venison.  For starters I had British Columbia trout, for main I had the weird and wonderful exotic dinner set and for dessert, their trademark Toblerone fondue.  I have to say, I loved all the meat except the Shark, that put me off a little.

I did a bit of browsing in the shops, trying to find my one weird purchase I like to make each trip but nothing got me in ‘must buy mode’ even though I did keep coming back to three things.

I got back to the hotel, caught a little bit of hockey and fell asleep.  Early start tomorrow with a 2 hour walking tour to see more of Banff and then straight on the coach to downtown Calgary for the Isles!  Randomly it’s -12 up here (who all Banff people say is warm) which is bad for them as apparently it shows winter is nearly over for them already (-12 FFS).  More oddly though is downtown Calgary they are bracing themselves for +17 degrees in February so I may need to swap my michelin man ski gear for some shorts!

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