During last year's spring break escapade at the Banff Springs, we had purchased an annual pass for our National Parks, and since the roads were clear with only two days left on it, we elected to take the Icefields Parkway down to Banff. Sure, this added almost two hours to the trip, but if you've read Robert Pirsig's "Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance", you realize that vacation is a state of mind, not place, and it can begin as soon as you lock the front door of your house behind you, if you let it.
Just past the Jasper Park gates we encountered a herd of mountain sheep, and saw a tidy group of elk just outside the townsite as well.
The Icefields Parkway is one of my favourite drives, and we had the road practically to ourselves most of the way. We stopped about midway to stretch our legs and take a group selfie (since I have a phone that actually permits that now).
Although the highway was clear, the sideroads and visible bridges still looked icy and treacherous, which was a bit strange after having come from Edmonton where there is almost no snow to be found.
Turning on to highway 95 just outside of Banff, we were over the border into B.C. before too long, and rolled though Sinclair Canyon into the town of Radium Hot Springs about 6:00. I'd forgotten that some of the easternmost towns are actually on Mountain time, but we decided on a swim in the hotel pool and then walked over to the Horsethief Creek Pub for burgers and wings, and a black lager for me. Glory's spinach patty burger was a surprisingly decent option for increasing one's leafy greens quotient, but I was happy with the shrimp and crab on my Westcoaster burger.
Bighorn sheep and deer occasionally commute through this highway junction, unfazed by vehicles and pedestrians alike.
We stayed up a little later than usual for a weeknight, lightening the cooler and watching the sitcoms we otherwise never see, and strolled over to The Melting Pot the next morning for a late breakfast. I wouldn't say this restaurant has a chequered past, but it has had three or four names in the past ten years or so, so let me say this: FireD Up BBP (Breakfast and Burger Place), Hwy 95, Silver Palace makes a helluva breakfast, no matter what you call it.
Glory opted for banana-stuffed french toast with strawberries, Audrey got caramel apple french toast, and I chose that morning's special: grilled ham and cheese Benedict. It was all delicious, our server was friendly and prompt, and we went back the next morning for three different Bennies as well.
We took a shot walk over to a local attraction called The House of 1000 Faces, but it was still closed for the winter.
The hot springs proper didn't open until 1:00, and we got there shortly afterwards. It wasn't what I would call warm outside (probably 16 or so), but I have never found it easy to enjoy a hot spring in direct sunlight. (To be fair, I find direct sunlight objectionable at the best of times, what with my being committed to the troglodyte lifestyle.) Luckily we had purchased a day pass and intended to return after dinner.
A co-worker had recommended a German restaurant in town, and it turned out there were actually two, and both Austrian, to be precise. The Old Salzburg looks magnificent, but Helna's Stube had some very favourable reviews and despite being a tiny operation, actually facilitated online reservations, so we ended up dining there.
It was a wonderful experience that lasted over two hours. Audrey enjoyed her white wine while I had two pints of the Krombacher Dark they had on tap, and the crunchy rolls were warm when they brought them to our table, Audrey had duck in an orange and red wine sauce which was exquisite, while Glory's house salad was a meal unto itself, with grape tomatoes, cheese and Westphalia ham. My Madagascar schnitzel came with a green peppercorn sauce and spatzle, and the desserts rounded out everything nicely, especially Glory's strawberry dumplings and Audrey's Grand Marnier parfait.
The evening trip to the hot springs was far better than the afternoon's, even though it appeared even busier. The Radium pool is a very decent size, and easily accommodated the 140+ bathers I estimated present. Only as the sun disappeared behind the peaks did we notice the aquacourt's lighting changing colours.
Listening to the many languages and accents around us, I reflected on how lucky we are to have such mountain marvels within easy driving distance, when tourists from all over the glove choose to come here for them. Alas, the pool is only open until 9:00 on weekdays until the summer, so at ten minutes to closing, we made our exit to beat the crowd and returned to the hotel.