Grotto Canyon FAM Tour

Layla and I were lucky enough to get to do another FAM tour with Discover Banff Tours in mid December. This time it was Grotto Canyon.

Grotto Canyon is located just outside Canmore in Exshaw, an area made up of a number of plants and a small hamlet. 1The group was made up of around 25 of us and 2 guides, one of which also took us on the snowshoe tour of the Paint Pots.

We put on our snow cleats and walked through a stunted pine forest before coming to a viewpoint at the edge of the forest overlooking The Bow Valley. 23On entering the canyon the path changed from packed snow to ice and in places the ice wasn’t very thick. People’s feet were disappearing through the ice all over the place but thankfully the creek we were walking on was only 10cm or so deep.

Once deeper inside the canyon and more sheltered from the sun the creek became hard with layers of ice and footing was much stabler.  The canyon walls slowly became higher as we progressed and soon the walls rose high above us and trees clung onto the sides, the snow hanging off their branches.56At one point we were shown ancient pictographs on the canyon walls which were likely created by Hopi visitors from the Arizona region. The ochre used to paint the designs was most likely collected from the Paint Pots.811We stopped for lunch in a lovely area containing frozen waterfalls people were climbing. We ate Maple cookies, had hot Chocolates and watched the folks climbing, the squirrels foraging for food and took lots of photos. What a lovely spot for a break.10791213After our break we headed back through the canyon just as the sun came out and lit up the ice and the snow covered sides. It was just beautiful.1314

More info:

Who: DiscoverBanff Tours

Where: Grotto Canyon, Banff National Park

What: Hotel Pick up & Drop off, Ice cleats & hiking poles, refreshments

Difficulty: 4.2km, 100m elevation gain

Duration: 4 hours

Price: $74 Adult / $42 Child

 

 

 

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The arrival of friends and family

After being in Canmore only a matter of weeks it was time to host our first visitor.  Frankie, our friend from Bromley arrived at the beginning of September from New York and was our first guest. It was nice to still be off work and be able to show her around the area a bit. 

We went up to Norquay Gondola and after a wet and cold ride up and a hot chocolate in the restaurant at the top, the clouds cleared and we could see right up the valley and over the town of Banff. Got some great photos up the top.Fergus and I on top of Norquay Mountain

The weekend she arrived was also the annual Canmore Highland Games so we went down in the afternoon for a look around and some food and drinks. There were lots of stalls as well as a big beer tent and food vans. We watched some highland dancing, pipe bands and Irish dancing which was amazing! Had lots of drinks and listened to the various bands inside the tent. It was a great day and night. Frankie stayed with us two nights before moving on to the hostal on Canmore and then to Hi Hostal in Banff.Frankie, Sheryl and Fergus – Highland Games

On September 19th Kim, also from Bromley, returned to Canmore. She did a visa a few years ago and was here to do a second. I was working when she arrived so left her to explore the town on her own on her first day but later that same day my cousin Susan arrived from New Zealand! I told Kim Susan was arriving around 2pm and funily enough they arrived at my work at the same time! So I sent them off for lunch and a mosey around town before Susan returned to help me close the pet store.   

That evening we all met up for locals steak night at The Wood and a few drinks and a game of pool afterwards. Kim has now moved into a lovely flat in Canmore. 

The following two days Fergus and I had off work to play tour guide to Susan who was on a 5 week tour of Canada and the US. Unfortunately the weather on both days was rubbish and you could barely see the mountains through the cloud and on and off rain. 

The first day we went to Calgary airport to pick up my skis that I had sent over from London and then went up to Spray Lakes to do some wildlife spotting. Didn’t see a lot apart from some Chipmonks, rabbits and a deer. I guess the Bears had headed to higher ground to prepare for hibernation. Susan and I at Spray Lakes

The following day we were up early and headed up to Banff to look for Elk. We had been told they like to hang out at the Golf course so went for a drive around the course loop near bow river and we were not disappointed! We came across a male with a bunch of females and saw another 3 males trying to move in on the pack. They were making weird noises but we didn’t see any fights unfortunately.Elk at Banff Golf Course

Had a quick stop at Bow Falls before carrying on up to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake for a look.Susan and I at Bow Falls

Driving up the road to Moraine Lake was great, it had been snowing up there and small areas of snow lined the roadside. It was quite misty and we felt like we were miles away from anywhere, that is until we arrived at the lakeside lodge and saw loads of tourists milling about!

We climbed the small hill at the head of the lake and from the top, the view, even though we still couldn’t see the tops of the mountains, was amazing! The lake is a stunning blue/green colour and is surrounded by green forest and stunning snow capped peaks.Susan and I at Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake Panoramic

Had a look through the the gift shop at the Lodge before carrying on to Lake Louise. Again, it was crawling with tourists but it’s a very impressive place. The huge Fairmont Hotel stands at the head of the lake looking to the mountains and glacier in the distance. Again, we were unable to see the glacier or the tops of the mountins due to the low cloud.Lake Louise

Had some lunch in the small Lake Louise shopping area before heading back to Banff. Had a look around Banff town before dropping Susan off at her hostal and saying our goodbyes. The following day she got the tour but up to Jasper and we were happy to learn the weather had cleared so she was able to get great views for her trip. 

We are so lucky to have had so many visitors and new arrivals so early in our stay in the Rockies. It’s such a lovely part of the world to share with loved ones.

I hope it continues. 

 Work, work, work, work, work…..

We are now settled and both have work.

So much for the 4-5 months off I told everyone about back in London! We had 3 months off work, which in this day and age is fine with me. Watching your thousands of dollars of savings slowly whittle away is horrifying to say the least. I now wish we had couchsurfed throughout our whole trip but then we wouldn’t have met the wonderful AirB&B hosts along the way, namely our Bremerton friends. 

Hey ho, life goes on and we have to get back to the daily grind. One thing I have to mention is my commute to work. Gone (for now) are the 2 hour, multiple, frustrating train journeys into central London. They have been replaced by a leisurely 12 minute walk meandering through the trees while taking note of the overnight snowfall on the stunning mountains to my office at Howling Dog ToursI am a Reservations Agent/Pet shop attendant. 2 days a week I look after hamsters, mice, fish and lizards and sell pet supplies. Never in my life did I think I’d work in a pet shop, it’s hard work and I don’t like selling the cute mice to people to feed their snakes but I guess we all have to eat. The other 2-3 days a week I’m on the reservations desk replying to tour queries, booking tours and doing general office admin. I’m REALLY looking forward to going on a dog sled tour once the season starts in November! 

Fergus is working at construction /labouring company based in Banff and is doing 50ish hours a week. He will have his muscles back on top form in no time! He is currently working at Cascade Gardens which is at the head of Banff Main Street, the views from there, wow!

Settling in Canmore

Originally we had planned to settle in Banff but after hearing stories of how hard it is to get accomodation (most employers need to offer dorm-style accomodation for their workers) due to strict building regulations due to the town being in the National Park.

I had already set up 2 viewings for rooms in flats. The first one we went to was just beautiful but it was up off Benchlands trail and the walk to town was quite long. The second was at an old house in an area known as ‘teepee village’ an area the locals say isn’t the nicest part of town (compared to some parts of London it was paradise!). The lady who owned the very small flat was older and had 2 dogs, she knew almost immediately that we were not interested but offered to let us park on her driveway for a few nights and use her bathroom for a small fee. That evening we had a nice meal at a local English pub and continued to search.

Our first night in the car was quite comfortable, it was a little cold towards the morning and getting up for a wee at 4am wasn’t fun!

The next morning I recieved a call off the back of an advert I had put on Kijiji from a local guy looking for flatmates.We went to Banff in the morning for a look around and went to see the flat in the afternoon. 

It is in Kananaskis Way in a large apartment complex, with views of the surrounding mountains. We pretty much took the room on the spot. We paid $250 for the remainder of the month and $400 security deposit. We are living with Julienne and Sheryl, a couple, Nick, 2 Chihuahuas, some fish and a snake! The complex – 187 Kananaskis WayThe view from our bedroom window

Went and collected our stuff from Teepee village and moved into our new pad.

That first night we had a few drinks with Sheryl while Julien was at work. Sat beside the pool in the neighbouring complex and chatted. Settled in well.

A bit about Canmore