There are many Canadian national parks, but perhaps the oldest and most well know is the Banff National Park, located 110—180 km (68—110 mi) west of Calgary, Alberta. Its large area (6,641 sq km; 2,564 sq mi) features many different landscapes including mountains, glaciers and ice fields, and forests. This beautiful park is knFown for its aqua blue streams and lakes, but, however dyed or cartoonish these bodies of water may seem, its color is actually naturally occurring from the different minerals the water picks up on its way down the mountains.
Although most national parks are usually filled with outdoorsy, nature-loving people, the tiny town of Banff, Alberta, right in the middle of the park, offers a great selection of retail shops, good food, and a whole host of fun activities perfect for accommodating the less nature-enthusiastic people. So, fear not, my city friends, this park has something for everyone.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a very big nature-type, but this park is astonishing. It is gorgeous on so many different levels that its beauty could turn practically anyone into a hike-ten-miles-up-a-mountain-just-to-see-the-view kind of person. Believe me. I know.
Before this, I never would have thought that I, city-loving, nature-fearing, hike-loathing me, would hike ten miles, uphill, to see the view of Lake Louise, when the sights at ground level were already breathtaking enough. But I did. Somehow, being surrounded by such beautiful sights and nature enthusiasts were enough to make me change my mind and start to become “one” with nature. And sure enough, I was high up in the mountains, at the place where it had just started to get a little cooler, when I looked down. Down at the tourists kayaking and taking pictures and it was the most awe-inspiring thing I had ever seen. If I thought at ground level the view was absolutely gorgeous, up there, it was infinitely so.
The summer I spent in Banff was like nothing I had ever experienced nor experienced since. There is a plethora of things to do from shopping to horseback riding to kayaking to swimming to visiting a glacier. In the summer, one can go from swimming in one of the many lakes to walking around on a glacier and trying fresh, unfiltered, mountain mineral ice water. The change and juxtaposition of warm to cold that Banff offers within the time frame of a few hours is astonishing. How quickly one can go from swimming, wearing nothing more than a skimpy bathing suit, to being bundled up in winter gear, exploring glaciers reminds us of one of the essential factoids of life: change. How quickly one can go from not being a nature person to voluntarily hiking ten miles up a mountain. For better or for worse, change is nature’s most defining feature and we are constantly reminded of it in the Canadian Rockies.
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