Trans Canada, Eh: Across the Continent

Trans Canada One is our road of choice as we road trip 2,200 miles across the continent. Snow and sunshine. Farmland and cities. Lakes and mountains. Each day is a new adventure. I’m embarrassed to admit I never knew much about “our neighbor to the north.” This trip has really been an eye-opener. The cosmopolitan cities, the friendly people and the stunning scenery has amazed and delighted us. Come along and enjoy the ride . . .

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Trans Canada, Eh: Calgary

IMG_3429To say Calgary was not what we expected would be an understatement. First of all, did you know the population is 1.3 million? It is Canada’s third largest city and the fastest growing — the population has increased almost 38% in the past twenty years!

The two things I knew about Calgary before we went were that it hosted a winter Olympics and that it was nicknamed “Cow Town.” Canadians also refer to it as the heart of the “New West.”  It was anything but the sleepy cow town we expected!

Calgary is a vibrant, modern city of skyscrapers and great neighborhoods. There is a lot to do and see and it’s easy to get around. Plus, it’s only three hours from Banff. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the snow, Frank and I could see ourselves settling down here (SOMEDAY!!).

I had planned to do just a couple small blurbs from each city and sight as we traverse  across Canada but Calgary deserved its own page. It was THAT impressive!

Trans Canada, Eh: Icefields Parkway to Jasper

Glaciers, glaciers and more glaciers. The 144-mile Icefield Parkway linking Lake Louise (in Banff National Park) and the town of Jasper in Jasper National Park has 100 of them! The road has been rated one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. An opportunity to see so many glaciers, along with canyons, waterfalls and turquoise lakes is a trip we will not soon forget!

Trans Canada, Eh: Banff

In 1883, three railway workers stumbled upon some bubbling hot springs. Little did they know that discovery would lead to the creation of Canada’s first national park. Today, Banff, in the midst of the Canadian Rockies, is a top travel destination. The area draws four million visitors each year! The park encompasses the town of Banff. At an elevation of 4,537 feet, it is the highest town in Canada.  Banff has been on my bucket list forever.

Arriving on a weekend, the town was packed with tourists. Our interests were nature and beauty over shopping so we didn’t spend a lot of time exploring the crowded streets of designer and outdoor shops.

The guy at the Banff Information Centre told us about a hike near Lake Louise that was stunning but warned us that the parking lots filled up early. (We had zero interest in overcrowded shuttles.) Frank and I arrived before sunrise and the crowds to Moraine Lake, where we took an early hike to Larch Valley and the Ten Peaks. The hike was strenuous with a very steep, 2000-ft. elevation gain. I felt like I was wearing cement shoes as I struggled upwards. The top of the trail was treacherously icy in spots. Had we known it was going to be so long and hard, we might not have done it. Once we got there, however, it was so worth it!! It was just the two of us. The sun was up. The sky was clear and blue — the perfect backdrop against the ten snow-capped peaks and the golden trees, which encircled us.

All too soon, the valley began filling up with groups of hikers. We started back. I’ll have to say, it was pretty empowering to face many hikers who enviously commented on our descent as they struggled to climb. “Is it much farther?” they’d ask. When we got to the trail head, we were further rewarded with views of beautiful  Moraine Lake, which was now visible (it had been dark when we left).

While we saw many gorgeous sights during our stay here, this hike was a highlight and will be what we remember when we think of Banff.

 

Happy Birthday Canada!!!

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Happy 150th Birthday Canada! And what better way to celebrate than with a road trip across the country?! Frank and I are heading along the Trans-Canada Highway. It’s one of the world’s longest highways, spanning ten provinces and 5,000 miles! Since we’ve been to and LOVED Vancouver, we are beginning this adventure near the eastern edge of British Columbia in Kootenay National Park. In honor of the sesquicentennial, Canada is providing free admittance to its national parks!

 

Border control was a breeze as we entered Canada north of Whitefish, Montana. Almost immediately, we were greeted by the jagged, ice-capped peaks of the towering Canadian Rockies. The road itself is visitor friendly. Speeds are slower, giving us a sense of safety and the opportunity to admire what we are seeing. Restrooms (albeit simple outhouses) and roadside “litter barrels” are plentiful.

About halfway through Kootenay Park, we begin to notice severely charred hills.  Like so many areas in the western United States, this summer’s wildfires have ravaged millions of acres. Lightning sparked a blaze that has scorched over 38,500 acres in Kootenay and neighbouring Assiniboine Provincial Park.

In contrast, we hiked the area around Kootenay’s Marble Canyon, a limestone gorge with stunning aqua waterfalls.

Glacier Park

“The jewel of the American Park System.” The “Crown of the Continent.” I’ve read and heard so much about Glacier National Park. Would it live up to the accolades?

We postponed our trip to Glacier by a week. We had hoped the cooler weather and precipitation would dampen the tragic fires that had closed much of the park. We tracked the park webcams to gauge visibility. Toward the end of September, we decided to go for it. Because the famed Going To The Sun Road was partially closed, our plan was to go to the west side of the park and then loop around to what we could see on the east.

Glacier National Park was named a national park in 1910. It is in northern Montana near the Canadian border and is the US half of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  The park is massive — 1600 square miles. It is known for spectacular mountains (including 6 peaks over 10,000 feet), lakes, and diverse wildlife. Of course, Glacier is most famous for its namesake — glaciers. But that might not be the case for long. Scientists are saying that the park’s receding glaciers could all disappear by 2030 — if not sooner!

So, did it live up to the accolades? Take a look, and you tell me.

 

Beautiful Bozeman

Most people associate Bozeman (and Montana, in general) with beauty. Vibrant images of Yellowstone, the gentle grace of fly fishing in “A River Runs Through It” and the thrill of skiing through deep powder at Big Sky bring to mind all this year-round recreation paradise has to offer. I confess to not being a “winter person,” although I’ve been known to enjoy my blue and green runs skiing Bridger and Big Sky and getting lost in a good book while curled up near a roaring lodge fire. But for me, Bozeman is best experienced when the weather turns warmer. From the blooming of the mountain flowers to the harvesting of the golden wheat fields, our summer in Bozeman has left us in a constant state of awe. Each turn of a trail delivered a unique perspective and the proud collapse at the top of a mountain was rewarded with stunning and ever-changing vistas. In closing out our 2017 adventure in Bozeman, I will attempt to share some of what we experienced. Although it’s hard to capture completely, I can best express our journey through some photos. Enjoy!