Well the smoke returned with a vengeance. In fact by mid afternoon it was so thick we couldn’t see the mountains around town. Here’s a side by side of yesterday and today:
But that didn’t stop us from exploring Banff town. Breakfast was at the Coyote Cafe. We ordered Huevos Rancheros and they were delicious. I’m eating like a king with Michael here! We started off our tour of Banff town at the hot spring cave that sparked the beginning of Banff becoming a national park, and the entirety of the national parks system in Canada. The cave itself was kinda a let down (we have better caves and hot springs in Colorado) but the story behind the cave was interesting.
Long story short, in 1883 three railway workers heard about the cave from some of the local natives and went exploring. When they found it they knew it was something special. They immediately set up a small structure to collect fees for people to soak in the waters. Next thing they knew the entire area was turned into a national park.
After the cave we walked along the Bow river to the Bow Falls and the Banff Springs Hotel (named for another set of hot springs). It’s a stunning hotel that looks like a castle or magnificent European chalet. Built over 125 years ago, it’s gorgeous. They don’t build hotels like this anymore (it’s also $700 or more per night). We wandered through the hotel and then had a beer at one of the restaurants on the property.
This is what it looks like without the smoke:
After a little pretending to be part of the 1%, we headed back into town. The smoke had gotten really bad at this point and I wanted to go back to the bus to check on Pepper. Back at the bus we relaxed for a bit and showered for the evening.
For dinner we went to the Park Distilery. They have an awesome looking restaurant we’d walked past on the main road through town. Beyond the drinks, we’d heard that the food was out of this world too. The highlight of the evening though was the “Smoked Manhattan” where they smoke a cedar plank and then trap the smoke in the glass. The plank is removed upon serving the drink. Visually it was really awesome to watch.
Back at the campground we noticed someone with an illegal campfire (there is a full ban due to extreme fire danger). How anyone could be so stupid when all you can see in the air is smoke from the forest burning is beyond me. We called in the fire and the rangers showed up within minutes. Remember, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.
Oh, and by the way, due to budget cuts in the US, Smokey the Bear is working in Canada now too (seriously).