The Rockies

We arrived to Calgary airport and went straight to the rental car pick up where we were given the keys to a brand-new Nissan Qashqai (it only had 500kms on the ODO). We booked one night in an airbnb in the city centre. It was pretty chilly when we decided to walk into town in the evening. Calgary has the beautiful Bow River running through it, which we walked alongside on our way to dinner. The next morning, we checked-out and went to a nearby shopping mall for a quick shop and brunch before heading towards the Rockies. We came across an awesome cowboy/cowgirl shop …wish we had more luggage room and money to burn, because the boots were incredible!

Soon enough, we were on the road heading north. We took a detour off the main highway to check out some lakes…

Our home for the next four nights was in Canmore (20 minutes south of Banff). We had a private room in a pretty awesome apartment complex. On arrival, we were greeted by a new fluffy friend…

We were able to use our hosts kitchen during our stay, so that saved us a bit of money. And the hot tub was perfect after lots of hiking. Also, being in Canmore, we didn’t have to purchase the National Park pass straight away (Costs $20 /day) so that also saved us a little too. When we woke up the next morning, the mountains had disappeared under the clouds. It was forecast to be a cloudy and cold day, so we decided to venture around the Canmore area (also saving on park fees). Our first stop was the Quarry Lake Park, just on the edge of town. When we pulled up in the parking lot it was raining quite a bit and it felt like it should have been snowing. We sat in the car and watched all the locals brave it with their dogs. Eventually, we braced it with our raincoats. Thankfully, the lake was pretty small, so we did a quick loop then went back to the car.

Next up the road was Grassi Lakes Trail. This was our main plan for the day. Amazingly, the air temperature was a bit warmer – more like 5 degrees. The rain had also stopped, so we got going on the trail. We took the ‘less easy’ trail up. This was definitely worth it…

It was pretty steep in places, and although there were rock steps put in, they were quite slippery. We decided on the upward climb that we might treat our knees by returning on the ‘easy’ track. Eventually, we reached the top. We spent a while admiring the turquoise coloured Grassi lakes from the various different angles…

Kadin also captured this footage of a squirrel eating – we did not speed it up…

squirrel gif

It was at the topmost view point, where it was getting a bit cooler, that I noticed one of my merino gloves was missing! The only possibility was that it fell out of my bag during the walk up the ‘less easy’ trail… so we had to go back down the same way… Thankfully, my lonely glove was waiting for us on the trail and was reunited with its friend…

Back at the car, we decided we would continue up the road (Route 742) which on google maps appeared to go up through the mountains and do a massive 2-3 hour drive loop back around through Kananaskis area to Canmore, with many lakes along the way. It didn’t take long before we came across our next beautiful lake…

What made this trip extra special, was the fact there weren’t many other tourists. In fact, we hardly came across many cars at all. Further along the route, the temperature dropped and we arrived at Spray Lake… which was still frozen! While we were getting photos here, it started to rain lightly, which on closer inspection was actually very light snow…

Our next find was this awesome green lake…

A bit further down the road, we slowed down to take a photo of the sun shining through the clouds onto the valley. Then we drove around the bend… and… there was a black bear on the side of the road!

This road just kept on giving, within a couple more minutes we spotted some deer and we think a lonesome moose too…

Our final stop, before calling it a day was the Lower Kananaski Lake, which was completely deserted when we pulled up in the day use area. This was another very scenic lake with several camping grounds around the edge which I’m sure are bustling during the peak season – and added bonus of coming during the shoulder season.

The next morning, we made our first entry into the National Park, buying a pass to cover our next 5 nights in the area. We enjoyed a morning walk around Johnson Lake…

We drove in and had a quick visit at Lake Minnewanka but then headed into Banff town because it was time for lunch. There was also a market on in town, and we ended up purchasing some locally made berry wine.

After lunch, we headed to Johnston Canyon. This was a very picturesque walk. A bit packed with tour bus groups at the beginning, but eventually it thinned out and we had a pleasant time visiting the falls and looking down into the canyon…

On our way back, we stopped at the lookout over Vermillion Lakes, where we watched the evening train going past and small Columbian ground squirrels playing in the grass…

The following day, we did a bit more planning in the morning and had some down time. Then we decided to head back into Banff and just have a look at tourism spots in and near the town…

The next day was time to check-out of Banff and head to Jasper. It was a bit rainy and overcast again, but we decided we’d go to Lake Louise on our way past and then decide if we’d need to stop again on our way back (because the day we came back through would be a massive travel day, driving from Jasper to Calgary). Lake Louise is a very popular tourist spot, but being the shoulder season and a wet day, we managed to get prime parking. Also, Lake Louise was still frozen! You could hear the ice crackling and see chunks of it floating away. We walked around the lake as far as you could go (which turned out to be pretty far, especially when it started to rain a bit more). A highlight was spotting a trout swimming under the ice…

We had our packed lunch in our car with the heater on to dry off and warm up. Then on our way out, we noticed they’d started letting vehicles up to Lake Moraine -the road had only just re-opened. So, we drove up the freshly ploughed road and were surprised to find out we could walk out onto Lake Moraine…

Lake Moraine is famous for the intense marine colours from the melted glaciers … so here’s a photo of what you could see if you visit in a month…

beautiful-turquoise-blue-water-of-moraine-lake
(Not our photo – courtesy of Google image search)

We then commenced our journey along the Icefields Highway (over 200kms over stunning landscapes). At the entry point to this drive the park ranger gave us a pamphlet with all the stops – we ticked them off like a checklist (except for the places that were still closed/ferme <fer-may>). First lake highlight was Herbert Lake which provided a stunning reflection of the Main Range Peaks and Mount Temple in its green water.

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Herbert Lake – This is our photo

Further up the road, at the Crowfoot Glacier lookout, we heard a loud growling noise and we looked up in time to see a small avalanche of snow coming down the rockface. Next we were treated to another frozen lake… the Bow Lake.

A big highlight of the drive was when we pulled into the Bow Summit / Peyto Lake carpark and commenced on the ‘short’ hike to the lookout. It ended up being a much longer and difficult hike due to the whole trail being covered in snow and ice. It was very slippery walking – especially coming down… we had a blast!

We continued to pull over at all the stunning lookouts and take a heap of photos along the way…

Around 7pm we arrived at the Icefield Centre (the halfway point to Jasper) and also the location of the Columbian Icefield. We drove up to view the glacier and then decided to head to the centre for dinner. However, all the restaurants had closed for the day. Both feeling pretty hungry, we decided to cease all stops and drive straight to Jasper (as we could stop at the other spots on the return journey). But another 50kms up the road we came across an open restaurant where we treated ourselves to very pricey but delicious meals before continuing on and reaching our Jasper airbnb late that night.

The next morning, we drove to the Athabasca Falls. This was a fantastic spot with lots of small walking tracks along the old canyons created by the rushing water and neglected for new pathways…

After the falls, we went for a longer afternoon hike at the Valley of the Five Lakes. The first part of the trail went through a meadow and then the rest of the time was spent hiking through the forest. At the start of the forest trail a couple came towards us with their bear spray in their hands warning us of a massive black bear near the trail just a few bends away… as we got near, we were warned by another couple …but unfortunately, we never got a sighting. Was pretty cool (and a little nervy) knowing that a bear was so very near us. The walk didn’t disappoint though, true to its name, we saw five lakes…

The next day, we decided to drive out to Maligne Lake. On the way we had a very clear and close sighting with another black bear on the side of the road. This black bear was a bit smaller than the others we had seen…

And the wildlife kept on impressing us… Just after our bear friend, we pulled up at Medicine Lake to enjoy our picnic lunch. There were some park rangers there with their education stations; one all about Caribou and the other was all about Birds of Prey. The ranger who was in charge of the birds started to set up some telescopes …we then realised she was aiming for a nest at the top of a nearby tree. With Kadin’s camera we were just able to focus in on the Bald Eagle’s and their two baby chicks…

Along the road we also came across the big horned sheep…

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Big Horned Sheep beside Medicine Lake

We finally made it to Maligne Lake. The sun was shining, so we found our own little spot on the shore where we sat and read our books. Kadin perfected his stone skimming techniques. I filmed a few attempts, which he slowed down and counted over 18 skims for one stone. Some of the throws sounded pretty awesome because you could hear the splashes on the water and then a louder thwack as it found the icy surface in the middle of the lake. It was also incredible listening to the tinkling of the smaller ice crystals that would float by the edge as we read…

Kadin accepted my ice challenge and jumped into the lake for a quick dip…

On the way back home we stopped in at the highly popular Maligne Canyon. There were quite a few tourists and we only ended up walking to 3 of the 5 bridges…

We ended our day with a take-away dinner at Patricia Lake in Jasper. Early the next morning we checked-out and headed back down the Icefield Highway. We had our pamphlet out and ticked off all the locations we had driven past on the drive to Jasper. The Sunwapta Falls had an impressive amount of water going over them. Then not far from the falls, a Moose crossed the road ahead of us! So we pulled over and watched it for a few minutes…

Tangle Falls were a roadside treat…

We then stopped back at the Columbian Icefield. This time we did the 40 minute loop trail to have a closer look at the glacier -this included another slippery track through the ice…

We had a two night stay back in Calgary, with one full day to explore. So we drove down to High River (an hour south). This is a small country town which is one of the film locations for my guilty Netflix binge show, ‘Heartland’ (it’s the McLeod’s Daughter of Canada). It didn’t take long to walk around town and locate some of the iconic places from the show. Unfortunately, they weren’t filming while we were there, but I did find out that they’ve now confirmed a 13th Season (I’m still waiting for the 12th season on Netflix). All that aside, we also enjoyed a great meal at Evelyn’s Diner.

On our drive back to the city, we passed through Okotoks. Just out of town was a great geological find… the Okotoks Erratic; a large rock that had travelled to the area from the rockies during the galacial period…

In the fields beside the big rock were a heap of gophers popping up out of their little holes. There was also a bird of prey lurking… but it wasn’t successful while we were there.

When we arrived at the airport early the next morning, we returned our car with over 2000kms on the ODO and also covered in dust!

Have fun at work!

Gemma

2 comments

  1. Those cowboy boots looked amazing !!! Could have shipped them back home😆
    I’m pleased you found your glove mate. Also pleased you climbed successfully on the slippery hiking trails. I would have come a cropper.
    The variety of lake colours were beautiful.
    The weather here has cooled quickly from low 20’s during the day to low mid teens. The southerly winds are icy. Cardrona and other ski fields have opened over Queen’s B’day with happy skiers.
    Loving your adventures.
    Carol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Gemma, You are both really looking the part of bounty hunters in the mountains of Canada. Daniel Boon country ha ha…..Beanies, beard etc etc looks amazing. I loved the Rockies and the towns surrounding. It would have to be one of my favourite places. Do they still wear cowboy hats and the big belts walking down the streets of the towns. I remember Banff was big on it but that was along time ago. Your adventure has been amazing….Good luck and stay safe from the bears especially in Yellowstone Park, they seem to love the rubbish bins around the camp sites.

    Love Joy

    Like

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