I was in Banff for a couple of days at the start of the month, for a conference with the eyebrow-raising title “It’s Time for a Student Health Revolution.” After a full day of speakers and workshops highlighting the somewhat terrifying statistics around children’s obesity rates, excessive consumption of pop and other sugary drinks, with a smattering of ideas on how to effect change, I decided to take advantage of the 2 1/2 hour break between the last workshop and dinner by taking a walk around Banff. My hope was to earn a smiley at
GC16HB4 Moneyed Waters, an earthcache published about 5 years ago that always seemed to be a little bit too far out-of-the-way whenever we’ve been in Banff.
I was encouraged by trailhead signage at the far end of the Banff Springs parking lot; it showed 3.3 km to the Cave and Basin. I figured a 6.6 km return walk was very manageable in 2 1/2 hours, even accounting for time to gather the necessary information to earn the smiley for the earthcache, so off I went.
About 10 minutes into my walk, there was a noticeable increase in wind speed. The strongest gusts caused the tops of the trees to thunk together. At times, the concussive thudding suggested Mother Nature was playing a solo on the timpani drums. I grew increasingly nervous about walking in the woods with such strong winds blowing, and my concern escalated when I rounded a corner and saw this…
Fortunately, nothing came crashing down on my head. Unfortunately, there were no further signs at any of the trail intersections and after a couple of false starts I abandoned the trails through the woods and took to the streets instead.
When I spotted the “CLOSED” sign nailed to the mileage marker for the Cave and Basin Hot Spring, I wasn’t overly concerned. I figured the actual hot springs pool was closed for the season but that I’d still be able to do the self-guided walk. As it turned out, I was wrong! The entire area around the Cave and Basin is closed off for extensive renovations. I’ve since learned the site is to re-open in December (or maybe early next year). In any event, I couldn’t use on-site signs to gather the information needed to answer the cache owner’s questions.
Holding out hope that I’d find another point of access, I continued along the Sundance Trail to the Marsh Loop trail. But no joy – at least in terms of access. I did see some beautiful fall colour on the valley bottom and managed to capture a decent shot of the dark clouds scudding across the sky.
With time before the conference dinner starting to run short, I was determined to log at least one smiley. Checking my GPSr for other nearby caches, I spotted a relatively new location for one of our all-time favourite geocaches – a grandfathered virtual that (so far) has about 600 locations that can be logged as found.
I walked quickly back towards town, past the old cemetery and then scrambled up a steep hill to reach my new objective.
After snapping the necessary photo, I galloped back down the hill and practiced my speed-walking technique all the way back to the Banff Springs, arriving just in time for dinner and having covered just over 10 km to earn a single smiley! It usually takes a hike in the mountains to expend that much energy for a single geocache.
NOTE – There are several other geocaches in the Banff townsite, include some placed by National Parks personnel. We found several while taking part in Banff National Park’s SnowDays Geocaching Challenge in January, and others during previous visits. Canada’s National Parks geocaching policy makes it a bit difficult to place physical geocaches in Banff National Park, but a first-time visitor to the townsite has about 10 geocaches to choose from (more if they also pick up the Banff townsite locations for GC43F3 – Alberta’s Brass Cap Cache).