The Canadian Rockies

The beginning of a new era in our travels, using our own car.

Once we got back on the road after leaving Nina’s sweet family we tried to forget about the tough farewell with them. Although we were sad to leave them we also got a bit excited to be on the move again, for the first time with our own car! Of course we had less interaction with people, but on the other hand we had more freedom, a more relaxed way of traveling and our own music!

We planned on crossing Canada’s prairies in one day, from Winnipeg all the way to Calgary, the major city of Alberta at the foot of the Rockies. About 1300 kilometers of driving, or in our Belgian way of thinking, roughly from Belgium to the North of Spain. The funny thing is though, it didn’t feel like driving all the way through France. I think this feeling was mostly caused by the very quiet highways in comparison to France and slower pace of traveling (max speed on Canadian highways is mostly 110 km/h). Anyway, I had no issue at all driving this distance.

We were warned by Jane and Rod, this portion of Canada could be pretty boring: only flat farmland for hours and hours. You could make two pictures, hours apart from each other, and basically they would look the same. Well, we mostly agreed with them, however we did not get bored of it the entire day! The enormous space of grassland, only broken by a few very slight hills and some scarce trees, covered by many amazing skies. We enjoyed it a lot!

With about 500 km to go to Calgary we picked up our first hitch hiker. Mark, an aboriginal in his forties (I think), was on his way to Calgary to find work. As far as we understood he was more or less homeless and had a wife and daughter in Winnipeg. Several months ago he was hit by a truck and had to recover long time before he could go back to work. So now he was back on his way to Calgary, hoping to find a job again. He was a friendly man but somehow we did not connect with him as much as we did with many of the persons who picked us up when we were hitchhiking. So even though we were very happy to be able to help him we could not help to feel a bit relieved when we dropped him off at the outskirts of Calgary.

In Calgary we stayed with friends of Jane and Rod. Yev and Veronica welcomed us in their beautiful house just outside Calgary with some amazing views on the mountains. Even though we only stayed for the night and arrived fairly late in the evening they welcomed us with open arms and provided us a delicious dinner and a nice bed.

The next morning, we finally arrived in the Canadian Rockies. Rod lived here for some months and so he gave us some great advice about what we could do during the few days we would be in the National parks of Banff and Jasper.

The first day we would do a pretty tough 14km loop near Banff, the Cory pass trail. We arrived there around noon and prepared for our hike. Nina was a bit scared for the bears and since she saw other people hiking around with a “bear bell”, I improvised a bit and made a “bear bell” with some carabiners and a metal water bottle. Soon after we started, the trail became very steep. It was pretty tough in the hot afternoon sun and soon enough, Nina forgot about the bears. With some effort we managed to get up to the pass. Our efforts were well rewarded though, with many amazing views all around. We Scrambled a bit over the rocks as we turned around Mount Edith to the Edith pass. Afterwards the trail went down again through a green valley. Through the woods and by means of an easy trail we got back to our car around 19h.

We found our way back to one of the many camp sites, Two Jack main campground. On our way we encountered our first black bear beside the road. Together with some other people we watched the friendly animal for a bit as it was eating berries.

Later at our camping spot we also saw a herd of elk passing by while we were at the washrooms. And even later, while eating dinner, a beautiful male deer showed itself pretty nearby.

Next day we were off to be  real tourists. We were warned by Jane and Rod that Lake Louise would be very busy with visitors. But nevertheless they advised us to go anyway, and especially hike up in the mountains to check out the glaciers. So that’s what we did! Approaching Lake Louise the road became very busy and people started to park along the road. As we are not very interested in overly busy and touristic places we were already doubting our decision. We decided to check out the parking near the lake and see if we would manage to get a spot. This seemed very unlikely, as we were trying to find a spot together with hundreds of other cars on a parking which was already overly full. Somehow we were incredibly lucky when a family left right next to us and offered us their parking spot.

So, we went off to Lake Louise, amidst thousands of other people. Especially down at the lake it was very busy. The higher we got, the less people we encountered. That is to say, the numbers dropped from thousands to dozens. Not exactly quiet, but at least bearable. Besides that, the hike was very pretty and we did enjoy it a lot!

We camped at the overflow campground (all other campgrounds were fully booked) which was basically a gravel parking without any facilities except very basic washrooms. Good part was that it was very cheap.

Our last full day in the Rockies we would spend mostly driving along the Icefields Parkway with a stop and a shorter hike up to Parker Ridge. Nothing very exciting happened during the day, but again, we enjoyed it a lot. We could not get bored with the amazing mountain views in Jasper National Park. So I will mostly let the pictures tell you the story.

When we finally arrived in the town of Jasper we had a beer and did some shopping at the local grocery store. We camped again at an overflow camping nearby. This one was much nicer with many trees and some real camping spots.

After a quiet night we set out for a long ride to Bridge Lake. There we would spend the following two weeks at a farm to help out in exchange for food and lodging. All about that, you can read in our next story.