Before I get started on our Trip Journal let me just say this was one of our very best wedding anniversary trips! We had a blast the entire time, and cannot wait to return to the Canadian Rockies in the future!
Our departure from Houston on Continental Airlines was fairly routine - everything happened on schedule and no lost baggage (thank goodness!). One tip - we discovered some of Continental's planes do not have entertainment systems, so you might consider bringing your Ipod and/or a good book to keep you busy during the four hour flight to Calgary.
The drive from Calgary to Banff started out a bit frustrating. We ended up driving through the heart of town with a lot of construction, and what seemed like endless stop lights - not to mention a fair amount of traffic. It seemed like it took an hour just to get out of town! Once we were on the open road things calmed down and we began enjoying the rapidly changing scenary. You drive first through some plains, then foothills, and then you drive around a bend and can see nothing but mountains on your horizon. On this particular day the air was hazy so we could tell mountains were up ahead but could not see them very clearly.
We took our first pitstop in Canmore (maybe an hour out of Calgary not counting the delay getting out of town). Here we found the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, and tried their fish & chips and fresh brewed root beer. We were starving, since the breakfast on the airplane was spartan, and it was 2pm in the afternoon. The grub at the Paw was Great, and the root beer delicious. I highly recommend this place if you are ever hungry or thirsty in Canmore.
After filling our tummies in Canmore it was off to Banff, a short 30 minute drive north and a little west. On the way you enter Banff National Park and come to your first major expenditure for this trip. You must decide on what type of Park Pass you will purchase. Your choices are a daily pass, or the annual pass. Which pass is best just depends on how long you expect to stay in the park. In our case we expected to be in either Banff or Jasper National Parks for the next 8 days, so it was definely best to purchase the annual pass. The park ranger at the entrance booth will be more than happy to help you figure the best approach for your particular itinerary. Be prepared for the $100+ cost, as you must pay a fee per adult for every day you are inside the park. Fines are steep for attempting to evade these fees, so just plan ahead for this cost up front.
Once in Banff it only took a couple of minutes to spot our first hotel stop, the Banff Caribou Lodge, on Banff Avenue. We got checked in, freshened up a bit, and then headed for town on foot (about a 10 minute walk).