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Lake Louise Cowboy Trail

5th June 2010

Banff and the Cowboy Trail

Panoramic View of Banff      (please use scroll bar)

Panoramic View of the Distant Rockies Looking Towards Banff      (please use scroll bar)

    I decided on a relaxing day today, it was Imodium Day. I dare not venture out onto long hikes, and besides, dark clouds were scudding overhead, at times depositing rain or snow dependant upon the altitude.
Mountain Sheep
    I drove into Banff, bought myself a decent pillow and pillow case, and took a drive up Mount Norquay to get a good view of the surrounding area, spotting a few mountain sheep on the way. I pulled into a good vantage point and walked out onto a large sloping grassy plain to take in the vista. I was standing on the sunny side of the Bow Valley, but across on the opposite side, the summits were being cloaked in a maelstrom of snow and rain.
    An elderly couple walked by with their dog and we got talking about the view. The chap spotted I was from across the Atlantic, uncanny that, and he told me about the multiple trips he had taken to Manchester and once to Birmingham. He had experienced difficulty in following the Mancunian accent, but surprisingly understood mine. I mentioned I had studied in Manchester in the late 60s early 70s, and my eldest daughter studied there 30 years later. Over that period Manchester had undergone a tremendous transformation kicked off by the IRA bombing that took place there. He had enjoyed the city, and then went on to relate to me visits he had to the football grounds and how tribal warfare was almost breaking out. He had also attended a rugby match and a cricket match, though the latter both baffled and bored him. But I thought good for him, he had actually made the effort. The couple were city people on vacation from the east of the country, and joked how it was cheaper for them to travel to London than it was for them to get across to this side.
    I headed back into Banff to visit a couple of museums. I would recommend the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. It contained an exhibition as a tribute to the spirit, vision, commitment and creative energy of one of the early pioneer families in Banff and the Bow Valley, the Luxton family. The family, who made their living primarily out of the media at the time, put Banff on the map and were leading figures in getting tourism established in the town through events such as Indian Days and Christmas Markets. The museum also included a section on fashion which I avoided, and an art gallery featuring amongst others, the work of Bern Smith, whose paintings captured the essence of the Bow Valley area.
Sibbald Residence
Moore Residence
    On my way back to the van, I passed the Sibbald and Moore Residences. The Sibbald Residence was a rustic home designed and built in 1915 by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Engineer, Harvey Wright. The home was typical of worker housing provided by the CPR prior to 1920, incorporating a gable hip roof, half-timbering of the gable ends, exposed rafters with projecting eaves, shingled exterior, fieldstone fireplace and post and rail veranda. From 1915-32, this was the home of Howard Sibbald and his wife Rettie. He was a member of one of the Bow Valley's pioneer families and Banff National Park's first Chief Park Warden.
    The Moore Residence was built by Philip Moore and Pearl Brewster Moore in 1907, the same year they were wed. In 1889 Pearl was reportably the first white child born in Banff, to dairy operators John and Bella Brewster.
    Banff was a thriving, bustling little town with a lot of cultural heritage to offer, as well as hiking and tourist oriented activities. I would gladly have stopped one more day to do some hiking, but I needed to get across to the Cowboy Trail. Just as I was leaving the town I called in at an information centre seeking literature on the trail. I mentioned the route I intended to take which skirted the eastern flanks of the Rockies for a while before joining the trail on Highway 22. It was just as well, I was informed that one of the passes was completely blocked.
    So, I headed east in the Calgary direction, and very soon I was driving along very straight, long roads with the surrounding countryside becoming gently undulating hills. I knew that past Calgary lay the prairies. Looking back west, it appeared as though the Rockies reared up as an abrupt boundary, a wall of defence against would be travelers heading west. They must have presented a formidable sight to the early pioneers and settlers. Before lay a blue sky with the occasional fluffy white cloud and dark cloud. Then I saw an event that I'd never witnessed before, a bolt of lightening between cloud and ground, with a blue sky background. On all other occasions I have seen lightening, it has always been in an overcast, gray sky environment. The contrast between the lightening bolt and the blue background was amazing.
Nodding Donkey
    I picked up Highway 22 just short of Calgary and worked my way south along the historic Cowboy Trail, nestled between the Rockies and the Canadian prairie. This 437 mile scenic driving trail in the Rocky Mountain foothills winds its way south along Highways 22, 6 and 5 from Mayerthorpe to Cardston. Many creeks and small lakes existed along the route, with cattle, sheep and the occasional horse peppering the lush green pastures.
    I came across several "nodding donkies" by the roadside, one of which I stopped by for a closer look. The smell left me in no doubt as to what was being pumped out. The road continually hugged the Rockies, keeping a respectful 5 miles or so away. Then, all of a sudden I was distracted by a long fence that followed the road for miles and miles. What was unique about the fence was that all the fence posts had hats on them. Predominantly they were baseball hats, but included were flat caps, Stetsons and even soldiers helmets. I could only imagine this to be some form of conceptual art on display.
    I passed through very few small one street villages with their quota of fast food outfits and small stores, the architecture of some resembling old cowboy towns.
Chain Lakes
    To add a bit of zest to the journey, the van charging circuit started playing up again. Hey ho. I reached my destination in the early evening, a campsite at Chain Lakes. This was a pretty basic site, just pit toilets. It was also the first self registering site I had come across: find an empty pitch, park up, write down the details onto an envelope provided of when you arrive, how long to intend to stay for, pitch number, vehicle registration number etc, put the fee into the envelope and post it into a box. A warden periodically checks who is around and have they paid. The lake itself was not the pristine, blue expanse I'd grown accustomed to in the National Parks, it was muddy due to the run off from the surrounding pastures. Cattle were mooing on the far shore. The play of light from the evening sun on the gentle undulations was enchanting. The distant Rockies peeping over the skyline were letting their presence be felt by a cool breeze blowing in from their snowy surfaces.
    I walked around the large site, most of it empty, and I came across a large group of what appeared to be regulars of the site. They had booked one of the big community huts and were cooking herds of steak for their party in the hut. I learned from them that this would be the last season for this campsite; government cutbacks were in effect.
    The sun dipped behind the horizon and the temperature started to drop dramatically. The skies were clear, it was going to be another cold night.
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Lake Louise Cowboy Trail

Uploaded from Starbucks, By 93 north of Kalispell, MT on 07/06/10 at 16:45

Last updated 8.6.2010