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Trip Report My visit to Calgary, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise in early August 2010

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Who we were: A group of three couples who enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing, scenery and great food.
Where we stayed:
We flew into Calgary and did our first and last night at the Hilton Garden Inn very near the airport. This was a great choice for us. The location is quite convenient to the Trans Can, is easy to find, and was very reasonably priced. We were able to turn in our rental cars the night before we flew home and use the free airport shuttle. The hotel is clean, professionally staffed and the wireless was great. I used the pool and it was very nice. We had breakfast our last morning at the restaurant and it was well prepared and served quickly.
For our stay in the Bow Valle we chose Baker Creek Chalets. mms, a regular poster here, had recommended it to me. I saw great reviews on TA and received some positives from other posters so it was the choice. In the past we have stayed at Mt. Engadine and Lake O'Hara Lodge which I love but a few factors made my decision for me.
a. We wanted a base with easy access to hiking and alternative activities in the event of rain.
b. We all wanted individual cabins with kitchens (we love having breakfast together while we plan our day's activities).
c. We wanted some degree of isolation and privacy. Although the lodge is right on the Bow Valley Highway and has nearby railroad tracks, it was very easy to find a quiet place in the woods to walk and enjoy the scenery. We felt very comfortable there.
d. We wanted a manageable rate. Baker Creek ran about $300 per night for a cabin.

I have done a more thorough review on TA (same screenname) but my general opinion is that this is great family or couple lodging (I definitely do not recommend more than one couple per cabin if you are interested in privacy).

Where we ate:
I did restaurant reviews on TA (same screenname) of the following places we tried:
Diner Deluxe in Calgary-homemade raspberry ice cream...I was in love.
Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company in Canmore-really excellent. Very informed service, great local sourced food, and super good beer (love that Grizzly Paw).
Baker Creek Bistro-very mixed opinions. My dinner was excellent, but most of my friends were disappointed. Service was very slow.
Backdoor at Baker Creek-fantastic thin crust pizza with unique and delicious toppings.
Elk and Oarsman in Banff-accommodating (we didn't have reservations and in Banff that is an issue), pub food, generally well liked by the group.
Outpost Pub-crowded, slow service, casual, good food. A side visit to the main dining room for directions left a distinctly sour taste in my mouth. The rudest most condescending pompous maitre d ever (can you tell I didn't like him?).
Peyto's Cafe in the hiker hostel. Pretty much basic, inexpensive food of average quality. We were grateful to be able to be accommodated because we didn't have reservations. Service was very cheerful and pleasant.
Because we were there to hike and didn't want to plan our hikes based on getting back for meals we did not have reservations except the night we dined at Baker Creek. It limited our choices because many of the recommended spots were very busy. We really wanted to try Truffle Pigs in Field but were just never there at the right time. Maybe next trip. We had shopped (thank you, rivet, for the great information) at Sobey's in Canmore and had plenty of food in our cabins. Not only full kitchens, but bbq facilities and great porches for drinking wine and eating slowly with good friends. It's hard to beat!
Where we hiked:
We had one day at Lake O"Hara. Our first hike was Lake McArthur. It was cool and rainy but there were some short periods of sun on our outbound hike. Just as we got to the lake the sun broke through and showed that gorgeous blue color to the first timers. Wonderful. On our return the clouds started to gather, then it began to rain...and then the most godawful hailstorm I have ever seen in my life started. So our first hike was also our only hike at Lake O'Hara. Still I have to say it is worth the hassle it takes to get there. It is one of the most extraordinary environments in the area and just where I wanted to be when I had my birthday.
The hike from Lake Louise to the beehive and the teahouses is a popular one and was very crowded, but we enjoyed it quite a bit. It has some relatively strenuous parts but done slowly can be handled by most moderately fit people.
We loved, loved, loved the hike from Moraine Lake to Lake Eiffel. The first quarter mile was very busy, but after that it thinned out and we had a gorgeous day among the wildflowers and clouds. What a view!
We did the Emerald Lake hike but it was derailed after about three miles when one of our group got quite ill. As we got in the car to leave, the skies opened up. Good timing. I do not like to be on the mountains during a thunderstorm.

The weather wasn't great during our visit and we did not hike as much as we had planned. It made me grateful we had chosen Baker Creek as our base because we easily switched to alternative activities, going to Golden one day, up the Icefields Highway another, attending a ranger program on the spur of the moment (exceptionally well done. Parks Canada is top notch!) and an evening of wandering around Banff.

This was a return visit to the area for me. I fell in love with it twenty years ago and I find the passion still. It is truly spectacular. My pictures are posted on another thread. See for yourself. They will have to hold me until I am again "Alberta Bound".

Thank you to rivet, mms, Borealis,SusaninToronto, Linda and all the many others who assisted me with the planning. You were most gracious and helpful. Please let me know if I can return the favor to you.

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