This year the nature of our mid-winter break was more commensurate with our newly-minted status of grandparents. From the moment little Elena was born in Calgary, there was only going to be one destination. Fortunately Calgary is an hour’s drive from the Rockies and it’s only a little further to Banff and Kootenay national parks, the latter across the provincial border in British Columbia. Heather, our daughter, and Dirk organised a couple of trips to the mountains and this post presents a taste of what we experienced – for those who are interested.
Our first outing to Grassi Lakes near Canmore coincided with the Canada Day weekend, which meant that the place was overrun with people. However, as we exited the car for the first time, a young grizzly ambled by in the trees about 50 m away – an auspicious start. Grassi Lakes Trail involves walking some gradients, so it was an opportunity for me to gauge recovery from the back op and muscle function in my right leg. It went gratifyingly well.
Next on the itinerary was a drive through Banff and Kootenay to the spa town of Radium Hot Springs in B.C. where we spent a couple of days. Ever adventurous, Heather organised a rafting trip on the Kootenay River and some ziplining. The rafting was quite gentle, although everybody was outfitted with dry suits and helmets. I couldn’t help but note that our guide was wearing shorts and T-shirt, so clearly this was not going to be a particularly “wet” run. The Kootenay winds scenically through a forested valley south of the national park’s border, its waters glacier-melt turquoise. Our guide, newly-arrived from Ottawa and quite garrulous but informative, pointed out how modern logging is more sustainably practiced by cutting a small area and then replanting with seedlings as opposed to the old method of clear-cutting large swathes of forest. I had felt some trepidation about subjecting my back to the seated-twisting activity of paddling a raft from the pontoon, but once again it went very well.
The valley zipline zigzags down a lightly forested, dry gulch towards the Columbia River Valley. The guides are young and well trained and extremely safety-conscious and the equipment seems to be the latest in zipline technology. It was an interesting contrast to the South African approach to ziplining, which is a bit more – for want of a better word – casual. In a Google Maps review, while being very complimentary about safety standards, I referred to the course as “not the most scenic I had done” only to be rapidly informed by the company that it runs “through an environmentally sensitive area, a wildlife corridor, old growth forest, plus you get views of the world-famous Purcell Mountain Range and the Columbia Valley Wetlands”. So there you have it.