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By: John B. Joyce and John L. The intro to the films always shows the picturesque town of Banff in the twilight glowing like a Thomas Kindade painting. I always think to myself it would be cool to actually attend the festival for the premiere and selection of the films that will ultimately tour the far reaches of the world.
I walked out of the Carnegie Theater of Homestead that evening looking forward to taking my 15 year old son, John Leo, to the festival since he has a keen interest in filmmaking. I had never been to Banff or for that matter Alberta, Canada. For those unfamiliar with the film festival, it started when some Canadian mountaineers got together 40 years ago to share local films over a few beers. The festival has grown to become the Sundance or Cannes festival for outdoor adventure films and more recently books. More on festival later in this blog. I need to first get you to Alberta.
We started in Calgary by staying at an AirBnb run by Stephanie. Every trip has a surprise or two and Stephanie had a few for us. Travelling to Banff out of Calgary reminded me of Denver; as you drive west out of town the Rockies just blow up right in front of you. The town of Banff is a village that actually sits in Banff National Park. A minute drive past Banff is the gorgeous and world renowned Lake Louise.
But my research told me that driving another two hours through the Icefields Parkway to Jasper would be worthwhile. We saw very few cars. The drive is listed as one of the world Heritage Sites of beauty. We marveled at the mountains and glaciers and stopped from time to time to take in the views. We saw virtually no one. The Elk roll into Jasper each evening and munch on the yard plants like the whitetail deer do in Pittsburgh.
They leave their calling cards behind. On a whim, we spoke with a local fishing guide who kindly set us up with some rods and directions to some remote trout fishing spots along the Athabasca River. There was no human trail to hike into the fishing spots. Along the river bank we saw numerous bear, elk and deer tracks and a nice point whitetail. One track caught my attention. It was larger than any of the bear tracks but looked like a huge dog print bigger than my hand.
I realized we were looking at wolf tracks. There are wolf packs and grizzly bears throughout Banff and Jasper National Parks.
The icefields are also traversed by herds of Caribou. Unfortunately, the Caribou herds are declining quickly with global warming diminishing their habitat and manmade ro allowing wolf packs easier access to hunt the herds. John caught his first bull trout on the Athabasca.
His smile was priceless. The Banff Center for Arts and Creativity is made up of multiple buildings similar to a small college campus. The BMFF not only involves the films but top notch speakers on all topics related to outdoor activities.
The Festival lasts 10 days. During the day, there are lectures, storytelling, films, mini-classes for things such as yoga, writing, filmmaking and more. In the evenings, there are at least three theaters on the campus with speakers and a line-up of films. We enjoyed all of the events. There are too many films to cover in blog. During the day John and I hiked trails up the neighboring mountains with great views of the valley and town.
Mountain goats are regulars and Banff has a of resident mountain lions. Banff has a nice historical museum and lots of art galleries. There are two ski resorts near Banff and one near Lake Louise. The snow was so plentiful early this year I was able to ski Sunshine Village on November 7. The town of Banff caters to the resorts which is why the restaurants are excellent.
The people of Banff and Jasper are friendly and welcoming. Travelling back to the States on election day was a bit sobering. The hiking, fishing and skiing were an adventure in and of themselves and then taking in the fabulous films and talking with world class filmmakers and sportspersons took our little trip to another level of adventure.
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