From Camping to Comfort: Banff Rocky Mountain Resort

Annika and I went from sleeping outdoors in a two person tent to a two bedroom condo at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. We still don’t know how we lucked out seeing as other conference members we met described their rooms as having two beds basically on top of each other.

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For our first day at the resort, we met up with a couple friends and then Aaron (aka our personal Aussie tour guide) and his soccer mom van (Sheila) brought us to Johnston Canyon. This is a popular hike because of the spectacular waterfalls – and icefalls in the winter. We hiked to both the upper falls and the lower falls of Johnston Canyon. The trail was so icy and steep that we skated our way back.

Johnston Canyon:

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On a fairly random and negative note, one thing I noticed in Banff is there are only two radio stations and they both are pretty terrible unless you love top 40s or the worlds worst soft rock. As soon as you reach the outskirts of the town, both radio signals are lost resulting in a mix of Justin Bieber and static. This is what Aaron listens to in Sheila (the van). Bring an audio cable for your phone, people. Just bring the audio cable.

For dinner, we went to this fantastic Mexican restaurant called Magpie & Stump. It was dimly lit, completely constructed of wood, and you could throw your peanut shells on the floor (holy fire hazard)! The enchiladas were delish. Corona was $5. Apparenly, if you stand waiting for a table for too long the servers will lower a hanging sombrero and try to land it on your head. I was sold.

http://magpieandstump.ca/

We finished the night with a trip to the liquor store for cider and beer (ask for the local discount). Rock Creek is the go to cider of Alberta, for all my cider lovers out there. We played a drinking game where we watched the movie Happy Gilmour and had to drink every time a golf ball was hit or a punch was thrown. The next morning was rough and came too soon.

Luxury Winter Camping: Tunnel Mountain Village II

Annika and I started off our Banff trip with a 2-night camping trip at Tunnel Mountain. My aunt and uncle were the sweetest and dropped us off at Tunnel Mountain Village II – the section of the campground that remains open during the winter (see link below).

http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/camping/tunnel2.aspx

We started off as the only tenters and were called “brave” by the Parks Canada staff since it was suppose to be about -15degC that night. It wasn’t long before we sought out the heated bathroom (luxury 1). We set up Annika’s tent (MSR Hubba Hubba aka the cutest tent that ever lived) and shovelled the snow out of our fire pit. I went to put our food in the lockers provided and was greeted by Banff’s most friendly campground staff – a couple of deer.

In the evening, we went on a hike to the Hoodoo’s Viewpoint. This was an easy hike with stunning views of the Bow River and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel resting in the valley. It probably would have been a good idea to turn back before dark since we got somewhat lost on the way back and trudged through a forest while thinking about a recent cougar spotting on Tunnel Mountain.

When we got back to camp, it didn’t take long for us to open the Fireball – for warmth, obviously. Annika (aka Fire Queen) made a roaring fire and we cooked dinner Hell’s Kitchen style.

That night was cold! Not only did we not have a 4-season tent but neither of us had a very thick mattress. The best sleep was not had.

The next day we had a hardcore 3-course breakfast to make up for our not-so-hot sleep, including banana boats (bananas and chocolate), cinnamon buns, bacon, and porridge. Later, we hiked to the top of Tunnel Mountain and experienced the most beautiful views of the mountains and the town of Banff below. My aunt had given us a couple of oranges that froze overnight so we put them in our jackets to defrost as we hiked.

For our second night of winter camping, we weren’t going to make the same mistake as the night before. Plus, a couple of tenters arrived at the campsite and were mega showing us up with the amount of gear they unloaded from their truck. They even had a crazy gazebo tent for whatever reason. So we picked up our cutie of a tent and carried it into the 3-walled shelter provided at the campsite (mega luxury 2). The shelter had a wooden stove, picnic tables, and…electricity (amenities = luxury 3). We strung up our tarp to cover half of the open wall and block some of the wind.

That night, we cooked on top of the wood stove, drank the rest of our Fireball, and steamed our faces in our wood sauna (luxury 4)- we defrosted our firewood on top of the stove, which created the best face-steamer in Tunnel Mountain Village! We even arranged the defrosting firewood to form a boot-warmer.

After a much better sleep, we hiked to the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. Despite our luxurious camping, a shower has never felt so good.

*Weirdest things that froze on our camping trip: oranges, toothbrush, and hand cream (so necessary, it was so dry).

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Packing for Banff (Our Uber driver is going to hate us)

Last week, Annika (a fellow sea ice lover and future blog contributor) and I packed our bags for a 9-day adventure in Banff, Canada. We were attending a 3-day conference hosted by our theses funders and decided to take advantage of being in the mountains and extended our trip. Our planned activities included winter camping, hiking, and snowboarding in the mountains. I find packing hard enough but coming from Ottawa, we needed to pack for 3 completely different activities. Here is why our uber driver most likely hated us:

Winter Camping:

Camping in the summer requires a decent amount of gear. Camping in the winter requires even more gear to ensure our little bodies don’t freeze overnight. We were camping for 2 nights at Tunnel Mountain Village 2 – the only campground that remained open throughout the winter in Banff National Park. My pack consisted of:

  1. a -10degC sleeping bag
  2. a +7degC sleeping bag (didn’t use it, a thermal insert would have been better)
  3. a sleeping mattress
  4. a basecamp pillow (luxury)
  5. tarp
  6. first aid kit
  7. a nice little pot and pan set (Primus Litech Trek Kettle Pot from MEC)
  8. a spork, hunting knife, water bottle, thermos, and can opener
  9. a handy dandy homemade pop-can stove
  10. a couple garbage bags, duct tape, paper towel
  11. lint (for fire starting), matches, lighter
  12. headlamp
  13. hatchet, blue-tooth speaker (again, luxury – courtesy of my fabulous Aunt and Uncle)
  14. kindling, news paper, travel blanket
  15. A lot of chilli, soup, hot dogs, cliff bars, and tea
  16. FIREBALL (most importantly)
  17. Clothing – lots and lots of layers

Annika brought a world of other things including the tent. The best/most useful things we brought: the hatchet and fireball.

Conference:

We went from wearing full outdoor hiking gear including snow pants and winter hiking boots to black pants and blazers. Our conference gear consisted of mainly nicer clothes that didn’t take up a ton of room but still added some weight to the pack. Not to mention my fairly old-school MacBook Pro was weighing down my Osprey daypack. A change of shoes was the best addition since my insulated winter hiking boots would have cause some majorly sweaty conference feet!

Snowboarding:

After the conference we stayed in a hostel in downtown Banff and went snowboarding at both Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. We decided to bring our boarding gear, which created bag number 3. My snowboard bag consisted of:

  1. My snowboard
  2. Snowboard boots
  3. Helmet
  4. Goggles
  5. Snow pants
  6. Gloves
  7. Anything else that wouldn’t fit in my pack

Needless to say, both Annika and I had 3 bags each for 3 different activities. Photos below for proof!