Day 1 in Banff

Great Divide

After a shuttle to our local airport, two plane rides to get to Calgary, and another shuttle to our hostel in Banff, we finally got to say, “We made it!” Because we started the whole traveling circus at 3:00am though, we arrived in Banff at around 2:30pm, exhausted and excited, but with plenty of time to buy some provisions and to do some sightseeing.

Our first order of business was to buy some bear spray and denatured alcohol. The bear spray was easy to come by. Pretty much every outdoor store sells the stuff, which comes in a rather large bottle, large enough that I was debating whether it was worth lugging around. The chances of actually needing to use it on a bear are very slim, but the security of knowing that we have it was worth it to us.

The next item to locate was denatured alcohol. After unsuccessful attempts to find it at outdoor stores, a hardware store, and a pharmacy, we determined that Canadians must despise any alcohol that cannot be drunk. We ended up finding a second-rate substitute called methyl hydrate. It’ll work in our homemade stove, but it’s no denatured alcohol.


Once we finished our chores, it was time to enjoy the town of Banff. Banff is the only city in Canada situated in a national park. It’s surrounded by steep mountain faces and divided by the beautiful Bow River. Despite the tourist traffic, Banff is quite the charmer. It has a large city park by the river and boasts tons of bike trails that meander here and there around the city. Live covers of David Grey songs rang from a restaurant as we made our way through the small streets and their hoards of ice cream eating tourists. It was a warm day, and the ice cream puddles were plentiful.

After a nice pizza and beer dinner, we walked back to our hostel to assemble our bikes and prepare for the following day. Just as we were settling in, one of the one thousand middle schoolers staying at our hostel must have pulled the fire alarm. A siren shrieked from just outside our door as we grabbed a few things before heading outside. This is when we realized that we were further north than normal. It was about 10:00pm and still dusk. We decided to go for a short walk while the hostel crew and the one responding firefighter shut off the alarm. We were dog tired but sitting in front of the hostel was just leaving us vulnerable to mosquitos.