The Banff tourist information was one of the major stops on our tour of tourist information centres and it sure was the fanciest. There was a queuing system for both camping and trails and there was even a cinema showing films about the area. However the information we actually received was probably the vaguest of the whole trip.
When we got back to the van we unanimously decided it was already time to leave Banff as everything was either closed or too expensive. We headed south to Canmore which was known to be less touristy but just as scenic. It was a mere 16km away from Banff but the Banff Tourist Information had no information on the place so our next stop was naturally Canmore Tourist information. Canmore, in contrast to Banff, gave us detailed information on both places all over Alberta as well as small local trails in Canmore. People in the town would even stop and give you help even when you didn't ask for it.
We drove on into town and did a walk along the river which showcases some stunning houses, spectacular turquoise water and, eh, a hydroelectric dam. Anne was raving about a French bakery in Canmore so we went there for our lunch and drove up to Quarry lake which was a nice lake and mountain view for our picnic.
After our turkey and cranberry sandwiches we drove up to the Grassi Lakes which were up a steep climb from a vibrant turquoise lake going in a unnatural gradient from green to turquoise then royal blue. We had run out of water by the time we got to the lakes and they looked so cold and temping. There were also several rock faces being scaled by professionals but that didn't stop us from having our own attempts. Other boulders were covered in pictographs drawn on by natives. On the walk back down we gave into temptation and went into the lake which was absolutely freezing - if very refreshing! Dripping wet we walked back down via an easier route and got back in the van after a lovely chat about UTIs.
Our onwards route was a three hour drive through some provincial parks which were pretty uninhabited as we passed more elk and Bighorn Sheep than humans and cars. The scenery was pretty stunning too and wouldn't look out of place in Greenland. It was getting late and we couldn't find anywhere open in the area to camp so we risked a drive further south and then to complete the loop the next day. Most campsites were still closed for the winter but we managed to fill up the water and do a sani-dump adding to our convictions for that day. If that wasn't enough once we got to the campsite of choice it didn't appear to be open but we drove on in anyway. We continued on with the vein hope that someone was about but also with the chance we might get off with another free night. However we spotted some fellow RVs which actually turned out to be the campsite owners so we paid for our first night of camping and had our first legal nights sleep. Disappointingly though we had more facilities last night!