Our Holidays

A Canadian  Road Trip

(The Canadian Rockies by Mustang)

I only said I enjoyed our New England road-trip and the next thing I know flights are booked, maps and guidebooks bought and plans being made.


Of course, this is never going to be a blue sky, shorts and tee shirt holiday but I did check the historical weather for the Canadian Rockies and we should expect some days reaching 8°C dropping to a little below freezing overnight with some snowfall on the higher grounds. It should all be very exciting!!




The rough plan was to spend a few days in Vancouver including whale-watching, drive to the Rockies stopping a few nights in several locations before heading back to Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Vancouver

After settling into our very pleasant room at the B & B in West 21st Avenue we had to keep on the move to adjust to the local time as quickly as possible.


We walked along Arbutus Street all the way to Hadden Park by the river and then on to Granville Island, where we expected to find bars and restaurants but both were in short supply and those on Granville Island were fish restaurants, hardly suitable for my vegetarian other half.  Eventually, we stumbled on West 4th Avenue and several places to eat, chose the burger bar, had dinner and meandered back to our B & B. On the way we spotted our first Canadian wildlife – a skunk, that was never on our list!!! But then again neither were humming birds which I really didn’t expect.


Day two, borrowed the equivalent of our Oyster cards from the B & B (pay back what you used in CASH was the instruction) caught the bus to Granville Street, hired bikes and spent a few hours exploring around Stanley Park. Spotted some turtles, black squirrels and a guy hand-feeding chickadees (think tits).

By the time we had finished exploring Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver we headed off to Granville Island to book whale-watching for the following day but we’d left it too late - only one space was available. Another whale-watching opportunity missed!!!)  Bugger!!!!


Our last full day in Vancouver and another walking day. Visited Canada Place (mmmm), Gastown and the Steam Clock (quite quaint) before heading to Chinatown (don’t hang around East Hasting Street – 3 recent murders, all junkie related). Either, we sort of missed Chinatown or it didn’t match our expectations. On to the City Library, built like the Colosseum but with grey concrete (should have been white).

Walked on some more ‘til we reached False Creek by which time I was footsore so grabbed one of the tiny ferries back to Granville Island and got my first senior citizen discount even though I was 3 weeks short of my birthday.


En route to Revelstoke

Collected our hire car, a Ford Mustang convertible, and when offered the GT and before Jo asked “what colour” I had shouted “yes!!!! Definitely the vroom, vroom version hehe!!!

I wondered why the car rental guy said “Oh it has summer tyres fitted” as we left but we soon found out.  Revelstoke is a 6 hour drive away but it wasn’t long before we saw the first road-sign saying that all cars must have winter tyres fitted after 1st October. Oh hell!!!

After Kamloops, the highway climbs toward the Coquihalla Pass, some 4000 feet above sea level. The rain swiftly turned to snow and by the time we reached the summit more than 6 inches of snow had fallen. A rest was needed and lucky for us there right on the highest point on the road was a rest area complete with snack bar. Coffee and great home-made samosas were a welcome treat. The snack bar owner had been there for 15 years and had never seen snow so early.

Perhaps a Mustang with summer tyres wasn’t the best choice – not that we asked for summer tyres.

Fortunately, as we pressed on and started descending the snow cleared and, eventually,  we arrived that our pre-booked hotel in Revelstoke.


En route to Canmore, Alberta

We had planned to book a hotel in Canmore that evening but viewing the weather forecasts and road conditions online we weren’t entirely sure Canmore would be achievable especially when the local news reported a “heavy dump of snow” in Calgary.


As it happened, and after a warning about Roger’s Pass and Kicking Horse Pass, the drive to Canmore was slower than hoped but uneventful apart from Jo spotting bears just off the road. I missed them but was sure we’d see more.


Canmore and about

Well, I’ve rambled on as usual so from here on in I’ll cut down on the words and let you, hopefully, enjoy the amazing scenery.


Our first Rockies lake hike, some 4½ hours - spectacular as the peaks were snow covered!!

The northerly part was through 4” to 5” of snow.

I’m not a hot tub fan but after all the time in the cold. Oh, it was ok while walking but as soon as we stopped the cold seeped in very quickly

But after all the walking and the cold it was very tempting and so alien to me but, soaking in 40°C hot bubbling water was relaxing and very therapeutic on our tired legs - mine mostly!!!

Canmore - day 1

Canmore - day 2

Banff, Bow Falls and the Hoodoos. Glad we stayed in Canmore but the Bow Falls were amazing. And the Hoodoos  - well, it was the pleasant walk!

Don’t snigger, it’s pronounced Minnewonka!

Another spectacular lake and our first large wildlife - mountain goats don’t count.

And so ends our days in Canmore before  packing the Mustang again for a short hop up to Lake Louise, just 50 minutes and some 50 miles.

We have booked just a couple of nights in the Deer Lodge so we’ll have plenty of time on the travelling day and the whole of the next to explore & hike.

Lake Moraine - the photos have not been enhanced or filltered.

Only thing wrong was the hoards of loud and arrogant Asian tourists pushing and shouting!!

By the time we’d finished our walks it was time to check-in at the Deer Lodge and what a disappointment it was. The location was good, just 400 m or so from the lake, and the outside was very rustic and the communal areas were very good, Our room was seriously lacking, the bathroom sink had a Massive “spider web” crack, the patio door threshold had been poorly repaired, the wing next to ours was dilapidated and everything was dark and dingy.

If I were the owner I would have been to embarrassed to rent the room to anyone, plus the suggested shortcut to our room passed the laundry room with piles of sheets strewn across the floor. OK, hotels need laundry rooms but have some self-respect and keep the door closed.

However, after more long hikes soaking in the roof top hot tub, as the snow fell, was a welcome luxury.

The plan for the day was simply a stroll along the shores of Lake Louise but passing a sign for Lake Angus, we changed our plan and headed to the lake.

This was the hardest hike, just 3.4km, relentlessly climbing over 1200 feet to reach the tea-house, this was equivalent to 65 flights of stairs)

To make it even harder the uppermost section was covered with compacted ice and snow. I wasn’t the only person to hit the deck!!!

And as you approach the lake you come to a waterfall and the final ascent up the stairs to reach the lake and the tea-house. Hot chocolate and cake were most welcome before the slippery slope back down.  

After our hard walk up to the lake, and down again to Lake Louise, we continued our walk along the shore to the beginning of lake until we reached the stream that fed it and could go no further, unless we were going to the glacier and was going to happen.

Back to the Deer Lodge for our final night at Lake Louise and another soak in the hot tub. Where we were joined by a young couple and their baby.

Tomorrow a 3 hour drive to Jasper, via the Icefields Parkway, visiting Columbia Glacier and the Athabasca Glacier Falls, (at this point think summer tyres again) which we be our final destination in the Rockies.

And finally we reach Jasper. Just going back a little to Banff, where we had coffee and booked the Deer Lodge, we also became aware that we would arrive in Jasper on a Saturday and as we were viewing places to stay the hotel we were looking at, Jasper Inn & Suites, suddenly was fully booked. We quickly found, and booked, the Bear Hill Lodge.

As it turned out the Bear Hill Lodge was next door to the Jasper Inn and, personally, I think we got the better deal.

Whereas the Bear Hill Lodge was set in grounds with lots of trees the Jasper Inn had destroyed all the trees and just had a massive tarmac park park and we upgraded to a larger room with a thermostatically controller “log effect” gas fire.

It’s now Sunday 6th October and we’re beginning our last week in Canada and still so much to see and do. Must book whale-watching for when we get back to Vancouver as we’ve missed the opportunity 3 times now, twice in New England back in 2013 and once on this holiday.

Today we’re going to Maligne Canyon and then on to Maligne Lake and I’m hoping we’ll see more wildlife. So far it’s a little disappointing with only mountain goats and elfs seen but the guide book reckons you’ll see much more in Jasper. Let’s hope so. Of course, I’m not counting skunks, turtles and humming birds in Vancouver, chipmunks, black squirrels and various unknown birds.



From Maligne Lake we continued to Moose Lake and on the way back we were asked if we had seen any large wildfire and we said no.

However, as we were heading back to the car we passed a couple with there young baby and after initial glances we realised it was the couple we had shared the hot tub with at the Deer Lodge . As we said your farewells I asked the same question that we had just been asked. “Have you seen any large wildlife” except their answer was totally unexpected “over by the park warden’s truck there’s a moose in the woods”. Wow!!!!  



That was definitely fantastic - seeing a whole moose family.

Back to Jasper for a warm up, pre-dinner drinks and hot showers before going out.

We were just looking at a menu outside a restaurant when I was tapped on the shoulder “Have you seen what’s behind you?” I was asked. Turning around and there in the central reservation was an elk not 20 feet away




It really is time we bought souvenirs for the grandchildren, so a couple hours spent around the tourist shops before heading to the Miette Hot Springs on a wet day. It’s raining with flurries of snow, the winds picked up and the temperature has dropped. After a miserable hours drive we arrive but as nice as these hot springs were it doesn’t beat having hot tubs on your doorstep.

After sunset clouds started rolling down from the mountain tops and in no time at all the rain was lashing down before quickly changing to snow and most restaurants were in downtown Jasper, a 20 minute walk, and we would have been soaked. Jo had a brilliant idea - the Jasper Inn had a restaurant and was, literally, just a few yards away. That solved that!!!!





The night continued wet as the temperatures dropped and the wind screamed like mad banshees around our building and things rattled.

In the morning the outdoor steps were snow covered and frost-rimmed as we set off for our last full day  exploring. Today we are going the the Valley of the Five Lakes and although the night had been wild, windy and snowy thee roads were all clear. But I still keep thinking summer tyres.






This is, without doubt, the coldest day. Temperatures barely scrapping up to 2 or 3°C and all layers of clothes were  donned.









After several hours walking around the valley and getting very cold we headed back to the Bear Hill Lodge. I haven’t picked up my book since arriving, so I’m going to warm up, read a bit and maybe even a doze.

That was til I finished a chapter and looked up, what presumably is Bear Hill, and spotted elks on the hill. Fire up the Mustang and head up to see them.





Having taken more pictures we on to Patricia’s and Paradise Lake before back-tracking to Jasper. As in was late afternoon when you’re more likely to see wildlife we headed back to Maligne Lake but never made it.

As we climbed up beyond the canyon and started descending towards the lake the snow and ice became thicker, and think summer tyres, we abandoned the idea.

But as we headed back to Jasper we noticed a Jasper traffic jam caused by everyone stopping to see a pair of elks rutting, probably 150m to 200m away but you could clearly hear the antlers crashing together. Still no bears though and we are running of time.





And on this highlight our time in the Rockies is over.

Tomorrow we pack and drive to Kamloops leaving, very sadly, the beautiful Canadian Rockies behind up but our route will take us to Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Rockies at about 13,000 feet.

We woke to  a rare and raw sunny day, brilliant blue sky not seen since Upper Kananaskis  Lake, but -14°C and I’m thinking summer tyres again.

Oh I’m rambling again. The drive to Kamloops was amazing as the valleys broadened and the autumnal colours deepened. It was very  reminiscent of our New England road trip back in 2013.

We arrived at our Riverside hotel for the night and I sighed with relief - we’re out of the Rockies with our summer tyres and I can breathe easy.

Talk about short lived optimism - as I joined a fellow guest, in search of the elusive ice-machine, who had just arrived from Vancouver. She told me how a lorry jack-knifed on the  Coquihalla Pass and her car was wrecked. Oh well here we go again.

As it happened the drive to Vancouver was pleasingly uneventful apart from an amazing, and unexpected, waterfall.

So a couple of pictures now of the Log Inn Pub , where we had coffee en route to Kamloops and the Bridal Falls en route on Vancouver.


 





We’ve rented an apartment in West 7th Avenue  as it’s only a 20 minute walk or so to Granville Island where we will join a group and spend several hours at sea and, hopefully, see some whales, at least one would be good.

After nearly an hour I was thinking this is going nowhere but suddenly “thar she blews” (she really DID say that) and in the distance you could see the water spout of a humpback whale…. And then 2 water spouts, their backs rising out of the sea.

During the day we saw several more and then we had incredible luck, a whale breached, not once but twice and, as we were told “ending with slight chin slap”.


 





A truly amazing day at sea but being a pessimist I half expected to be at sea on our last full and we hadn’t made alternative plans and our stay in Canada sort of fizzled out.

We went to Squamish and Whislter but with the weather turning rainy and a 9km traffic queue to Whistler we didn’t have the motivation to keep going.


 





Having read through this again I realise that I haven’t really described our feelings - Jo found the Rockies to be AWESOME and I thought SPECTACULAR. The early snow and summer tyres made driving a little stressful but it certainly made the mountains so beautiful particularly on those rare sunny days like the day we visited the Upper Kananaskis Lake and our drive from Jasper to Kamloops visiting Mount Robson.

And the Canadian people they’re so kind, helpful and patient and if waiting for some tourist to sort out their loose change, instead of being British tutting and impatient foot-tapping they were content to wait.

All in all,  it was one hell of a spectacular and AWESOME experience!!!  


 





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