North of Vancouver, we took the stunning Sea to Sky Highway, winding through mountains to the right and glacier blue sea to the left. We stopped at the pretty Shannon Falls, and the Sea to Sky Gondola, taking us almost 3000 feet above the amazing scenery to a cafe, nature trails, and a scary suspension bridge. We happened upon the National Lumberjack games and watched an axe-throwing competition, take that health and safety!
We spent a day in Whistler, though the ski resort looked a little different to the famous snowy pictures, as it was still roasting! We cooled down at Alta Lake and camped at an RV site with amazing views over the valley, and George stayed in an awesome tee-pee. The drive from Whistler up to Lilooet was mixed—the winding roads through the valleys were picturesque, but the 35 degree heat made the van feel like a microwave, and George felt a tad travel sick. The drive from there through Cache Creek and Kamloops was dull and dusty, more like Arizona than Canada. The scenery finally picked up near Valemount, where we were lucky enough to spot two black bears walking down the side of the highway! The drive to Jasper was incredible, past glacier blue lakes and the tallest peak in the Rockies – Mount Robson.
We stopped in Jasper and met up with Faye, spending the afternoon at Maligne Lake. We unsuccessfully tried to find Spirit Island, George unsuccessfully tried to row the dinghy, and we saw some mule deers successfully lick the remains of lunch off the picnic tables. From Jasper to Banff, the Icefields Parkway goes right through the Rockies, and is probably the most beautiful, breath-taking drive in the world. We stopped at several impressive waterfalls, walked on the astounding Colombia Icefield—as thick as the Eiffel Tower is tall, and saw the postcard-famous view of Peyto Lake.
We stayed in the pretty town of Banff for the next four days, spending a day at the stunning bright-blue Moraine Lake, made famous by the old Canadian 20 dollar note. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, it’s pretty cold up at Moraine, but me and Peb took the dinghy out and climbed a big pile of rocks for the world-famous view. On the way back down, Peb had to rescue a few people who fell in the drink.
For George’s birthday, we headed out early to the beautiful ice-blue Lake Louise and went on a horse-riding trek from Brewster’s Stables around Lake Louise, and got to take our horses through the river. I was little wary, not being a horse rider, so when my horse started stamping his hoof in the river, I asked the leader whether he was thirsty. She quickly dismounted saying, “That or he wants to roll!”. Thankfully, he just wanted to wash down all the flowers he’d eaten. We went up the Lake Louise Gondola to look for grizzlies, had a cuppa in the famous Fairmont, and spent the afternoon enjoying the heat in our deck chairs by the lake. For dinner, we had steak and DIY-fondue-breaded-mushrooms in the amazing Grizzly House in Banff.
Sadly, George had to leave us, so we spent a few hours checking out Calgary (disgustingly hot and not much to see), then said our farewells at the airport. With no specific timeline to cross Canada, we debated whether to stay in Calgary, or continue our journey east, then promptly headed back to Banff for “a few days”. Those few days turned into 14…
We stayed at Tunnel Mountain campground and chilled out. Faye was also in Banff so we hung out, watching the Blue Jays in Boston Pizza pretty often and the NFL preseason. We admired the glacial Bow River, looked down on Banff from Mount Norquay, saw Bow Falls and the Hogwarts-looking Fairmont, and discovered “Beavertails”—flat donuts covered in toppings, Canada’s best creation since maple syrup. Despite it being 30+ degrees the previous week, winter had set in in Banff, with a high of 6 and a low of -3. In Banff, it snows every month of the year, and sure enough it started snowing on the mountains just above us in August!
We drove the Bow Valley Parkway numerous times to look for wildlife, returned to Lake Louise to walk around the lake and made friends with some ground squirrels, and watched a herd of elk wander around our campsite. We also spent another day on the Icefields Parkway, so good it’s worth doing twice, this time stopping at the pretty Waterfowl Lakes and Bow Lake. One evening, we hung out in a car park (not as strange as it sounds) as it’s known for coyotes. Pretty quickly, we found ourselves stood 10 feet from one. He watched us for a while, then headed off. Surprised how big and how grey he was, a little Googling confirmed we’d actually been face-to-face with a lone wolf! Finally, the time came when we sadly had to leave Banff. It was hard to leave the Rockies—undoubtedly the most beautiful natural environment we’ve seen on this trip, and probably ever. As a farewell, a Big Horn Sheep, who had been otherwise elusive, popped up alongside the highway to see us off.