Mountain escape

Fine weather once again prodded us into exploring our new/home province. We donned our tourist hats, buckled the wee people into the vehicle and headed west to the mountains. The breath-taking, majestic rocky mountains. Our destination were the hot springs in Banff National Park. I was inspired to see the Cave and Basin National Historic Site while watching an episode of "This is Emily Yeung" where she went to the hot springs. Now this may be a strange source for learning about tourist destinations but remember my days are filled with entertaining a 4.5 year old and almost 2 year old. This means that most of the dvds I sit down to watch are found in the children's section of our public library. I'm just thankful I am not looking for a way to visit Elmo on Sesame Street.

We made our way to Banff Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain, bypassing the busy town of Banff and all the tourons shopping (a touron is a cross between a tourist and a moron, this term was created by some fellow exhibit interpreters when I worked at Heritage Park many moons ago). The kids were thrilled to be going swimming in a warm pool. Monkey boy's enthusiasm was infectious as he darted and charged his way up the short hill to the facility. We paid the admission price, wiggled into our swimsuits and headed for the pool. Initially I was a little disappointed by the small size of the pool and its upkeep (there were some parts in decay, poorly patched and blocked off) but that feeling floated away with steam. The air was cool and the mineral water temperature was 39 degrees celsius. It created a wonderful atmosphere of steamy air (even if it had a slight sulphur smell to it). It must be spectacular sitting in the hot springs pool while big snowflakes float down from the sky (hmm, maybe J and I could escape some weekend to Radium Hot Springs for some couple time this winter).

Monkey boy fell in love with being in the warm water and having a sense of independence in the shallow areas. Lil bug clung to me without relent for about 15 minutes (personally, I loved ever minute of needing her momma). Eventually she relaxed, enjoyed splashing me and watching her legs float. After about 45 minutes of sitting and floating, we departed the luxury of the pool and left subdued, sporting lobster legs and aura of the fully relaxed (although for some reason my lil bug was strangely energized and very animated for the next couple of hours).

We worked our way back around the mountain to the Cave and Basin Historic Site. We ate a small packed lunch supplemented with chips and a sandwich from the cafe kiosk before checking out the site. We ventured into the cave first. It was not a very far jaunt nor was it mysterious but it allowed us to smell the sulphur and see the original space that was discovered so long ago (and which initiated the start of our national park system). Monkey boy's attention span was limited. He just wanted to check out each place and then quickly move onto the next. This meant we didn't dawdle or check out every exhibit. However, we managed to enjoy seeing the place and foster his wonder in life. The basin is now a protected site for the Banff Springs snail. This snail only exists here. After carefully looking we managed to see a few snails. They are very small. So small that we were on our hands and knees peering over the boardwalk edge all the while trying not to touch or disturb the water. I think I was a little overzealous in my precaution and desire to follow the rules that I ended up becoming a bit tense during this section of our visit (despite my hot springs relaxation therapy) and was often halting the children's progress in leaning over the water.

The water in the basin was amazing. The aqua colour was beautiful and even the algae growing in it had a sense of beauty to it. You could see right to the bottom and watch the bubbles burst from the earth and travel up to the top. It was absolutely fascinating seeing the earth fart. (BTW if you don't know already know, I think "farts" are hilarious. It is the one form of bathroom humour that still brings out the giggles).

We ended our trip with a walk on the discovery trail. This boardwalk took us a short way up the mountain to see the top of the cave as well as the natural springs and waterflow around the area. It was such a pretty walk. The air was crisp and clear (though slightly sulphur-tinged), the colours were spectacular, and the place was quiet.

We returned to the vehicle, tired but sated. After tanking up with coffee for J and a chai latte (my beverage weakness), we travelled home through the glorious mountains while the wee people slept. Our next adventure...unknown but perhaps "This is Emily Yeung" will inspire me again (or maybe I can look up something on the internet).