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Beautiful Banff

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Never-ending views and not too many tourists here in the heart of the Rockies.     By Charlie Huisking   You have to love a town where the streets are named Buffalo, Muskrat, Otter and Lynx.   That’s the case in Banff, the tourist center of the Canadian Rockies for more than a century.   […]

June 28, 2007


Never-ending views and not too many tourists here in the heart of the Rockies.
 
 
By Charlie Huisking
 
You have to love a town where the streets are named Buffalo, Muskrat, Otter and Lynx.
 
That’s the case in Banff, the tourist center of the Canadian Rockies for more than a century.
 
Banff was our base for our final two days in the Rockies, before we boarded a train for a spectacular two-day journey to Vancouver (more about that in my next blog).
Banff is surrounded by dramatic, craggy peaks, from Mt. Rundle to the south to Mount Cascade, which seems to pop out of the blacktop at the northern end of Banff Avenue, the main drag.


Fireside chat: Barby and I warm up at the Rimrock Resort.
 
If that weren’t enough, the Bow River runs right through the heart of town.
In July and August, the streets are clogged with tourists from around the world. The congestion will be even worse than normal this summer, as Banff Avenue is torn up for the installation of underground utility lines.
 
In early June, though, the crowds were manageable. The wait was only a few minutes for breakfast at Melissa’s Misteak. Despite the cutesy name, it’s a delightful, homey spot for all-day dining. Don’t miss the Swiss-style apple pancakes.


The view of Banff from the gondola.
 
 I don’t understand why people would come to a gorgeous place like Banff and shop, but they do. Banff Avenue is lined with not only t-shirt shops and souvenir shops, but also high-priced jewelry stores and high-end art galleries.
 
You’ll also find businesses offering heli-hiking trips, horseback rides, white-water rafting and wildlife treks.
 
If you’re feeling more sedentary, take the Banff Gondola to the top of 7,000-foot-high Sulphur Mountain, where the views are spectacular, even on a cloudy day.
Even people who don’t stay at the Fairmount Banff Springs hotel make sure to visit the castle-like structure. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad, it’s been welcoming guests since 1888.
 
We had a meal and late-night coffee there, but it attracts too many tourists and conventioneers for me to consider staying there. We stayed further out of town at the stunning Rimrock Resort. Though contemporary in style, its public rooms are done in dark woods and rich fabrics. The hotel is built into the side of a mountain, so the views from all nine floors are terrific.
 
There’s a giant fireplace in the lobby that holds wood stacked several levels high. It wasn’t lit on our final night, but the staff happily struck a match when we asked. A good thing, too, since a storm moved in a half-hour later and the hotel, as well as the rest of Banff, briefly lost power.
 
You feel a million miles from the rest of the world in a spot like this. But we were quickly brought back to reality. A lovely young woman and her daughters started chatting with us by the fire. It turned out her husband was serving with the Canadian forces in Afghanistan. Suddenly, her cell phone rang. "Excuse me, it’s him," she said.