Drew’s special day

Our grandchildren have been blessed with an abundance of toys, games, and books so when two of them had birthdays this spring, we decided to be creative. Our gift to each of them was a special day on their own with Gram and Grandpa once school was out for the summer. Yesterday was 11-year-old Drew’s day.

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We left his Calgary home early in the morning and headed for Banff National Park where our day started with a hike in beautiful Johnson Canyon. Drew was beyond excited when we spotted a black bear crossing a hillside shortly before we arrived at the trailhead. The bear was too far away to get a good photo, but the entertaining little ground squirrels (like the one shown above) and red squirrels along the trail certainly weren’t!

Catwalks affixed to the limestone cliffs make the canyon easily accessible to everyone and the 1.1 km trail to the lower falls involves very little change in elevation.

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At the lower falls, a bridge crosses the creek allowing both an excellent spot from which to view the falls and access to a water-formed tunnel through the rock to a closer viewing platform.

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The crowd thinned out a little as we moved on toward the upper falls, another 1.5 km up the trail. Spectacular views continued to surround us as we climbed.

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We knew that the water level was much higher than when Richard and I did the same hike almost three years ago, but I didn’t realize how much until I compared photographs. Considering how much rain Alberta has been getting this season, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising.

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August 2016

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July 2019

After reaching the spectacular upper falls, we stopped to enjoy our picnic lunch before continuing our adventure.

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As we started back down the trail Drew announced, “This is the best birthday present ever!” It was then that I realized that the day was as much a gift to ourselves as it was to him! It definitely filled my heart to overflowing.

In addition to the hike, Drew had been eagerly looking forward to relaxing in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. I love this photo of his “floating head”!

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After soaking our tired feet and muscles in the hot pool, we made a quick stop at the Bow Falls Viewpoint then ended our day with a delicious restaurant dinner and a browse through a few gift shops before bringing a very tired boy home!

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Tomorrow we have a completely different agenda planned for his 9-year-old sister’s special day.

Hiking Johnson Canyon

I first hiked Johnson Canyon, one of the most popular day hikes in Banff National Park, as a university student in 1974 and I’ve been wanting to do it again ever since. On Sunday, I finally did!

The parking lot was already full by mid morning when we arrived and the trail was packed with tourists. Catwalks affixed to the limestone cliffs make the canyon easily accessible to everyone and the 1.1 km trail to the lower falls involves very little change in elevation.

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At the lower falls, a bridge crosses the creek allowing both an excellent spot from which to view the falls and access to a water-formed tunnel through the rock to a closer viewing platform.

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The crowd thinned out a little as we moved on toward the upper falls, another 1.5 km up the trail. Spectacular views continued to surround us as we followed the crystal clear creek.

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There is significantly more change in elevation on the way to the upper falls and by the time we arrived at the bottom our two little grandsons decided that their legs had hiked far enough. Our son and daughter-in-law took them back to camp while Richard and I pushed on. It was a short climb to the top of the falls where we enjoyed great views of the falls themselves and the deep pool at the bottom.

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Beyond the upper falls, the trail leaves Johnson Canyon behind and climbs another 3.1 km to the Ink Pots, seven cold mineral springs that bubble to the surface forming small pools in an open meadow. These springs are unique in that they have a constant year round temperature of 4ºC and their basins are composed of quicksand.

I had not hiked beyond the upper falls in the past and wasn’t expecting the steep climb that was involved. Once we’d set out, however, I was determined to finish! The trail seemed to go on forever, climbing higher and higher. Younger legs passed us by, but we pushed onward and eventually reached our goal!

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My old knees were a bit achy the next morning, but a soak in Banff’s Upper Hot Springs was all they needed to recuperate!

Robin’s ride

After our day of dinosaur fun at Drumheller, we moved on to Banff where we camped at the beautiful Two Jack Lakeside campground. The main reason for choosing that destination was our daughter-in-law’s participation in the Banff Gran Fondo, a 150 km bike race/ride on Saturday morning.

Our grandson’s, Sam and Nate, slept in the trailer with us on Friday night so that Mom could get a good night’s sleep before her big ride. Before any of us were out of bed in the morning, she was already on her bike! At 7:15 am, we headed over to the campground entrance to watch and cheer her on. As the first wave of riders rounded the curve and came into view, excitement built and it was an emotional moment for all of us when Robin rode by. We are so proud of her!

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It takes a lot of determination for any young mom to prepare for something like this and even more so when she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis! She is definitely one of my heroes!

In addition to offering us a front row view of Robin’s ride, Two Jack Lakeside campground, just minutes away from Banff itself, was a perfect spot for us to explore the area from and just down the path from our campsite were the most stunning views imaginable.

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