We head back to Arizona tomorrow -- and we still haven't seen a bear. I have mixed feelings about this. I would have sorta kinda liked to see a real, live bear, but preferably from the bus and definitely not during one of our morning walks.
Our first stop this morning is the Banff Gondola, just a few hundred feet further up the road from the Rimrock Hotel. "More mountains in a moment than most see in a lifetime" or so they say. We soared over the treetops to the Banff Skywalk, 7,486 feet up. Lots and lots of mountains. Little boardwalks lead from one viewing platform to the next. Mountain goats, but no bear. Xingxing has now experienced travel by air, bus, boat, train and gondola. What's left?
As we prepared to disembark from the gondola, there was an Australian girl snapping photos, which -- of course -- were for sale. And expensive. Even so, I thought it would be nice to have one. But you've got to get both of us in the picture, I told the girl. Me and the dog. Snap! She cheerfully beheaded us both. So I didn't buy it, which made absolutely no difference whatsoever to her. It wasn't her camera, it wasn't her business and she couldn't have cared less. But as I say, she was Australian. Most of the staff at the Rimrock seemed to be Australian, as well. I lived in Australia for 32 years, and I always recognize the accent.
Our next stop was Surprise Corner, where we were treated to a picture postcard view of the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is enormous. It looks like an enchanted castle, rising out of the forest. That's where we should have stayed, I told Xingxing. He wagged. He is a very agreeable traveling companion.
We saw the Hoodoos (oddly shaped rocks) and several more of those brilliant, turquoise and emerald lakes nestled among pine trees, and finished up at Minnewanka Lake, where we took a boat ride narrated by an extremely knowledgeable young forest ranger. The lake is surrounded by thousands of acres of virgin forest, and someone asked about forest fires. To our surprise, we were told that a forest fire was just what was needed, because the forest -- although magnificent -- wasn't really healthy, on account of the mature trees taking all the light and making it impossible for the saplings to grow. We always think of forest fires as bad things, he told us, but in fact, they are a part of the natural process. I suppose they are. I just never thought of it that way.
Xingxing and I had a late lunch of fish and chips in Banff and caught took the bus back up the mountain. We still hadn't seen a bear. The bears of Banff were obviously taking the day off! Or maybe there aren't any bears. Maybe it's all tourist hype.
Bears or no bears, Canada is beautiful. I hope we can go back, one day.