Banff, Part I: Cruising Lake Minnewanka and Crying in a Gondola

Cailin and I first drove into Banff at 11 p.m. on a dark and stormy night. The rain was coming down in buckets and we were afraid of hitting wildlife, or each other. Our 10-hour drive from Regina didn’t allow us many stops, and we simply couldn’t race the sunset. I was hoping to drive into mountains with my mouth dangling open, but instead we were closed in on all sides by the night. I had never seen snow-capped mountains before.

Our rooms at Fox Hotel & Suites made up for it. Two levels, a full kitchen and living space, and big beds. Cailin wanted me to wait until she showed up at my door in the morning so she could film my reaction, but I leapt out of bed at 6:30 a.m. like a kid at Christmas and threw open the curtains. I kinda felt like I had been dropped into the middle of a movie set. Where the hell was McCauley Caulkin?

Two babes in Banff.

We were picked up for our Brewster tour at 8 a.m. sharp, and greeted by our bus driver with the most Canadian accent I’ve ever heard. We drove to Bow Falls, where the river had swelled to terrifying heights, visited the Hoodoos, and then took a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain.

I nearly shit my pants. I’m not kidding. The last place I have ever wanted to be was in a tiny metal box dangling from a steel wire thousands of feet in midair. I nearly collapsed on the floor of the gondola, squeezing my eyes shut against tears, while Cailin happily recorded my freak out. “I’M GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEE!” I screamed. The cute Australian who greeted us at the top laughed at me while I hurled myself out of the pod.

Then I snapped back into the present to realize “Oh hey, I’m standing on a mountain summit!” The view was obscured by fog and clouds, but it kinda just made the experience more surreal. Mountain. Summit. Plus there was a goat.


And then I cried all the way back to the bottom.

Boats, however, I can handle. I like boats. I feel like if my boat were sinking, I could probably swim. If my gondola crashed, however, I’d probably die.

Anyway, Cailin and I then went on a happy cruise around Lake Minnewanka, “Lake of the Water Spirits.” I hadn’t even heard of this place until Pam McNaughtan set us up on the tour, but it’s the only lake in Banff National Park you can cruise with a motor boat. We made our way through the mountains and forests framing the lake, where Trembling Aspen all act as one big living organism with interconnected roots. The water, like most other bodies of water in Banff, all have that special blue quality because of rock dust and sunlight. Plus deep beneath the surface is a flooded town called Bankhead, a place where divers still go to snap self-portraits sitting on deserted toilets.

I had actually planned to write about Banff all in one shot, but you know what? I could probably stretch this material for miles. DECADES. FOR YEARS. Or at least three parts. Next up: Banff as a community and why everyone there rocks (and not just because they’re all Australian).

  • July 07 2011

    “Boats, however, I can handle. I like boats. I feel like if my boat were sinking, I could probably swim. If my gondola crashed, however, I’d probably die.”

    I read this out loud, and we all laugh heartily.

    I’m so beyond jealous of your entire adventure. . . but probably the Banff parts the most. Mountains blow my mind.

    You and I should never ride a gondola together. I need someone who thinks I’m ridiculous for being afraid to keep me from completely losing my mind.

  • July 07 2011

    I literally live about 6 hours away from Banff, but still have yet to go there! I hear SUCH incredible things about it and its beauty, but have never managed to witness it first-hand. Funny how I seem to have absolutely NO problems venturing half-way across the world on a frequent basis, but have yet to see the majority of my home country. This post has inspired me to embrace Canada’s beauty and see it for what it really is! Thank you for that! Next stop- BANFF!
    PS- What a beautiful photo of “Mount DOOOOOM!”

    • July 11 2011

      WHAAAT! YOU MUST GO! Hahaha. NOW! But I’m glad this post inspired you, you definitely have to go check it out. :)

  • July 07 2011

    These are some of the most stunning photos I’ve seen here so far
    (and that’s really saying something, because you always post amazing photos, Candice)… WOW!
    I’d love to go on about that for some time, but did I just hear about an UNDERWATER TOILET PHOTO OP?! That is awesome! I wouldn’t even need scuba gear! I sink like a rock! All by myself. It’s a special talent. Now where did I leave my underwater t.p. again?!

    • July 11 2011

      Hahaha wow, thank you! Surprised by how much everyone loves these photos. Woo!

  • July 07 2011

    I’m pretty certain that I need to move to Canada. The beauty is breathtaking!

    • July 11 2011

      AGREED! And that’s just in one spot…

  • July 07 2011

    Wow! Holy view! This part of your trip is absolutely breathtaking.

  • July 08 2011

    Candice, wow, those were amazing pictures. And I just went to your friend’s blog and watched the video too. That was incredible, but soooooo high up. I wouldn’t have been able to do it. LOL. Kudos to you. And like Teacher Girl said, absolutely breathtaking!

    I hope all is well and that you have a fanstic weekend too.

    • July 11 2011

      Thanks CC, I’m glad you enjoyed!

  • July 08 2011

    can we move there soon please?
    mmmm k thanks!

    what date are you good to start our cross US road trip tour?? #CCCUS

    • July 11 2011

      #CCUS! Hells yeah, let’s do it! Haha.

  • July 09 2011

    Aw man am I ever missing the mountains right now.

    • July 11 2011

      Ditto! But I certainly missed the ocean.

  • July 09 2011

    Lucky you. I’ve been to Banff and I agree spectacular, even with killer gondola’s.

    • July 11 2011

      Killer Gondolas, dun dun DUNNN.

  • July 09 2011

    Great post. I’m glad you had such a great time in Banff. I went last year and only went up the Gondola. I’m definitely gonna try to make it back this summer.

    • July 11 2011

      But how did you get back down?! ;) Hehe. Jk.

  • July 10 2011

    Candice, those photos are out of this world!! I have never seen anything like that in my life. I have ridden in a gondola, though, several times – unfortunately – in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had to sit on the floor too at least once. It’s terrifying!

    • July 11 2011

      Ahhh, thanks Sabina!! I appreciate it, surprised by how many people love these photos. Wasn’t expecting that!

  • July 27 2011

    This post blew me away! Isn’t nature breathtaking???

    • August 03 2011

      Thanks, Jodi! Blew me away too. Being next to those mountains was surreal.

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