Day 48: Moraine Lake and Banff Town

I can’t believe this adventure comes to an end in two weeks from today. I feel like I’ve been gone a long time, and yet, not gone long at all. There’s so much more I want to see and do. It’s crazy it’s coming to an end. — We woke up early this morning (around 6:30) to get a jump on the crowds at Moraine Lake. There is very limited parking and even more limited parking for RVs. We arrived at 7am and snagged one of the last RV spots. Once the bus was parked we made coffee and breakfast. Our goal was to get to the lake and secure a parking spot. Once that was done we could relax a bit and spend some quality time exploring the lake area. As we are sitting in the bus drinking our coffee, watching the flood of cars roll in, we start to see cars leaving. We were confused. Why would anyone be leaving so soon? After our coffee we walked to the lake and discovered why. The entire valley and lake were completely filled with dense fog. You couldn’t see more than few feet past the lake shore. It looked like this:

We decided to wait it out and see if the fog would burn off when the day warmed up a little bit. To pass the time we hiked the lake shore trail to the backside of the lake. As we got to the end of the lake the fog started to lift. And as it did, we were rewarded with these images:

We walked back to the main entry area of the lake and up to a few viewing spots along the shore. The views were magnificent. The smoke had cleared. The fog had lifted. It was beautiful blue skies. We snapped a ton of photos both with my phone and with my good digital camera. Here's one from my phone:

After the hike it was time to head to Banff. We didn’t really have a plan when we got there, but knew we’d figure it out. When we got to town it was only 11. Too early to check into the campground. So we decided to check out the Banff Gondola. It’s a tourist gondola, but it goes tot he top of Sulfur Mountain at over 7,000 ft. In elevation and offers stunning views of the Banff area. Since it was such a clear day we were hoping to get some great photos! Pulling the bus into the parking lot was a challenge as it was super narrow and the space was barely wide enough for the bus between two other RVs. The lot attendant said my parking job was the best she’d ever seen! After that, we bought tickets ($65 CAN ouch!) and waited for our time slot (about an hour away). When our turn came we boarded the gondola and rode to the top. It was now 1pm and we were hungry so we sought out some food in the restaurant. While being more expensive than a restaurant in town, it wasn’t ridiculous. And the food was delicious. After lunch we walked around the viewing areas. We contemplated a hike to the summit and then decided against it for today. After snapping a bunch of photos and staring out into the unending vistas around us, we decided to head back down the mountain.

We drove over to the campground and got set-up in our campsite. We’ll be staying at the Tunnel Village 1 Campground for two nights. It’s a pretty standard campground, but luckily this time we’re closer to the bathrooms and showers. We decided to shower and then head back into Banff town. There is a free shuttle from the campground that picks up right near our campsite and takes us into town. And its only $2 to come back. Perfect. We head into town and it’s a pretty quick ride. Only about 20-30 minutes in the bus. Not bad considering it stopped for other campers along the way. When we get to town we walked around, got some ice cream, and did some shopping for souvenirs.

Then we stop into Banff Ave Brewing to have a couple of beers and some dinner before heading back to the bus. As we are walking into the restaurant we looked behind us and a wall of thick smoke from the forest fire was rolling back into town. The wind must have shifted again and is blowing the forest fire smoke back in our direction. That could change our plans for tomorrow.