Across Canada – Golden, BC to Hinton, AB
Leaving Golden I felt refreshed after being stationary for a couple of days, though I did perhaps get a little carried away catching up on my junk food quota! My two nights at the motel allowed me to pause for a little while and take stock of my trip and I also appreciated having my own room. While the van has been working out ever better then expected there is no escaping the fact that it is a pretty small space and it was nice to be able to lounge out on the sofa.
After Golden I headed for the rockies, my first stop was Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Although quite a few other tourists near the car park I broke away from the crowds and took a stroll around the lake. This is a familiar pattern for me – trying to escape the crowds!
I was also lucky to arrive at the Spiral Tunnels just as a train was entering. To gain enough elevation the trains enter the tunnel (bottom right of the picture) go around a spiral tunnel in the hillside. So the train leaving the tunnel top left of the photo is the same one entering below.
Escaping the crowds at Lake Louise in Banff National Park was more difficult, but the mountains surrounding the mountains was stunning – so you can understand why it draws such a crowd… and two resorts.
Not far from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake, which is featured on a lot of postcards for good reason. As I turned onto the access road up to the lake I found out that the road wasn’t open for the season until next week. Slightly disappointed I parked next to the barrier across the road and got the map out to consider my options. Shortly after a family came down the road on bikes and I quizzed them about the road conditions and how long it took to get to the lake. Apparently the road was clear and it took an hour and fifteen minutes to reach the lake. As it was getting on in the day I decided to cycle up there myself the following day.
The road to the lake was all uphill but nearing the top there were some jaw dropping views and it felt good to work hard on the bike and get my heart rate up (it only took me 45 minutes!). The lake itself was still mostly frozen and so didn’t quite reflect the postcards – but what a lake! And the best part – I had it all to myself. There was still snow on the trail around the lake but I went for a bit of a stroll and ate lunch staring up at the impressive peaks that surround the lake. I felt really lucky that I could appreciate this place in such peace, the only noise being of ice cracking occasionally.
Taking the quieter, more scenic Highway 1A south to Banff I drove slowly to appreciate the impressive peaks visible from the road. I also got to see lots of wildlife along the road including two coyotes, lots of deer, elk (which are huge!) and black bears. It is illegal to stop in the road to take photos of the wildlife but lots of people do – even for deer which are as common as London pigeons in Canada! Driving along I saw a black blob from the road and spotting a pull-in I stopped the van and got to appreciate the black bear up close. Being quite near the highway he wasn’t paying much attention to the passing traffic not far away, or to me – so I wound down the window and was able to watch him doing his thing (sniffing around trying to find a snack and having a rest in the grass) for a good ten minutes. It was great to watch such a magnificent animal.
The weather had turned by the time I got to Banff and it was pretty miserable in the town. I had a wander around and went to see some hot springs but spent most of my visit sheltering in cafes. I went for a swim at the Banff Centre swimming pool which had excellent facilities (especially for $5!) and I was surprised to find just one other person in the pool when I arrived. The other person was an Australian girl who was in Canada taking an advanced jazz course at the Banff Centre and after we got chatting she invited me to a jazz gig later that night. The gig was a real treat and we even went to a jam session at bar afterwards with some other people on the course, which turned in to a late night.
The drive north towards Jasper takes you along the Icefields Parkway – a unbelievably scenic drive which I was lucky to take in parts of last year when I came to the Rockies with Richard and Karina. Unfortunately by the time I came to do the drive this trip the weather was atrocious with clouds, rain and snow blocking any glimpse of the mountains I knew were right there. As I was driving I considered trying to incorporate driving back this way when the weather was better, but with rain forecast for the next week the chances of doing the drive in good weather wasn’t looking promising. A bit of a shame – but I have been lucky with the weather until now so it was about time it caught up to me!
I drove through the bad weather and arrived in Hinton to pay a visit to Karina’s family. Bill and Rita had visited us in Comox last summer and we then visited them in Hinton not long after so I was looking forward to seeing them, and Karina’s sister Katty again. The following day the rain paused for a few hours and I went for a bit of a drive to take in the scenery, having been denied the previous day. Driving along Maligne Road brought back nice memories of our Maligne Lake canoe trip last year.
It’s been really nice to have some home cooked food and Bill and Rita have really treated me! The first night we had some of the best sausage I have ever had, so the next day I went to Yukon Sausage in Hinton to get some meat for my trip. I was recommended to buy some beef jerky, as it lasts a long time and apparently tastes yummy. I hadn’t tried it before but it was indeed a tasty treat so I stocked up. For my second night we had Alberta steaks cooked on the barbecue with lots and lots of trimmings – I don’t think I will need to eat again!
With more bad weather on the way I don’t expect to stick around in the Rockies for too much longer, so we’ll see what happens.