A (Sort Of) Overland Honeymoon

dar395

Adventurer
Congrats! and nice wright up and photo's; BUTT! She's "My new co-pilot" get it straight just hand her the keys and move over to the co-pilot's seat, trust me it's better that way! I know after way more than 40 years! Thanks for the trip.
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
Congrats you two. Fantastic pictures.
Thanks! It was a great trip.

Congrats! and nice wright up and photo's; BUTT! She's "My new co-pilot" get it straight just hand her the keys and move over to the co-pilot's seat, trust me it's better that way! I know after way more than 40 years! Thanks for the trip.
Thanks very much!

Haha, thanks for the tip, but we don't really operate that way. She's happy being in that position and I'm happy where I am.
 

rover109

New member
My wife & I drove the Trunk Road in Sept 1978. I remember it as a wonderful drive, no other vehicles & great camping. I wish I could find the pictures (slides) of that trip.

You have inspired me to do it again!
 

shenrie

^^^ hates cars
congrats on getting hitched and great trip report! areas look amazing and your photography showcases these wonderful places so very well. thank you for sharing!
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
Huge apologies for the large hiatus on the report! Had some stuff come up, but I'm back to it now.

Our big stop was at the Icefields Discovery Centre next to Athabasca Glacier, on what is one of the most scenic sections of the Icefields Parkway. We wanted to get set up for the next day's activities, so we had to take the Icefields Parkway up north. After a little chat, we opted to forego driving up the Trunk Road to Hinton, as it would require us to backtrack and lose time. I'm content though, since between these two trips we have finished the route.

Picking up the Parkway at Saskatchewan Crossing, we filed north, in awe of the landscape that rose around us. On our last trip through this area, the air was hazy and smoky from fires burning in Glacier and Waterton. This time though, it was crystal clear, and absolutely stunning! We stopped near the Bow River to have a little lunch, take in the landscape, and prepare for the epic road ahead.



Shortly afterward, the road climbs and the scenery (somehow) becomes even more incredible. As you come over the pass that wraps around Parker Ridge, the landscape goes from boreal forest to sweeping alpine tundra. The trees thin, the landscape becomes rugged and craggy, and the views continue on for miles. We made a stop near Parker Ridge to take an often-seen shot.



From there, we continued north, driving up the valley towards The Icefield Centre. This route just beggars belief, especially once you come to the Centre itself. You'd swear you took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Nepal or Tibet. Before too long, we hit the Icefield Centre and tried to find a parking space. Much to our dismay, we arrived around lunch time, and the entire place was completely jam-packed. Literally thousands of people were milling around and taking in the sights. Remaining calm, we searched for a little while and were eventually able to procure a parking spot. We gathered our stuff and walked into the Icefield Centre lobby, where we had to wait in line to get our passes for the next day's adventures. Luckily, the staff there is awesome, and handled the crowds with great efficiency. Shortly after getting in line, we had our passes and decided to ditch the crowds here and push north to Jasper and our next sightseeing stop.

Hopping back on the Icefields Parkway, we thundered our way into Jasper, ready to get to our hotel and unload our fully-packed truck. We drove to the hotel only to find our room wasn't quite ready yet, so we took about an hour to wander the streets of downtown Jasper, which turned out to be a wonderful little town. We stopped in at a few on the millions of different trinket and t-shirt shops, picked up a few things, and started eyeing restaurants for dinner. Checking my watch, I found that our room should be ready, and we headed off back to the hotel.

Happily, our room was ready to go and we unloaded some things and rested for a few minutes, examining the local guidebooks and pondering what to do. It was going mid afternoon now, and we decided it would be a good time to check out Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. So we hopped back in the truck and made our way to one of the many stops at Maligne Canyon, which was, to our surprise, pretty free of people. Bringing minimal stuff, we took off on the walk down the Canyon.

Maligne Canyon is a beautiful place. The Maligne River, so named by a French voyageur in the 1800s who attempted to cross it and was nearly drowned ("maligne" is the French word for malignant, evil, or wicked), flows out of Maligne Lake and makes it's way down to the valley floor, eventually dumping into the Athabasca River. Along the way, the river passes over limestone rock. As such, the river has eroded it's way through the limestone, in some places only a foot or so deep, down to a maximum depth of about 160 feet. The Maligne Canyon Trail features several bridges one can cross over to see the depths of the canyon. It's a fun and easy trail that is very rewarding. The views are awesome too.





As we worked our way down the trail and down the canyon, the water cut deeper and deeper through the limestone, forming fantastic shapes and graceful curves.





My favorite overlook is like something out of a Tolkein novel.



After taking our time and breathing in this fantastic place, we hiked up and out, stopping at the nearby gift shop for a few bottles of water before going back to the truck.

Taking back to the road, we drove farther up the Maligne River, passing Medicine Lake along the way. About halfway past Medicine Lake, we had a small traffic jam where a group of Bighorn Sheep were on the road. It would have been a really cool sight, but for the Chinese tourists who had gotten out of their cars and were feeding them! I pulled to a stop, rolled down my window, and calmly explained that they shouldn't do that. The tourists gave me a blank expression, turned away, and continued what they were doing. At which point I tapped the horn a few times, causing most of the sheep to scatter off the road. The tourists eyed me with annoyance as we continued rolling on towards Maligne Lake.

When we arrived, we found a parking spot and decided to walk the lakeshore a bit. We particularly enjoyed taking in the sights near the boathouse. We lingered for quite a while, relaxing in this wonderful place and just enjoying our time together in such an amazing landscape.





Next time we're here, a boat tour of Maligne Lake is 100% on the list. With the shadows going long, we walked back to the truck. Even the views from the parking lot were great, so I had to stop to snap this one.



With that, we drove back into Jasper.

Arriving back in town, we selected the local Indian buffet for dinner. We savored the exotic flavors and the downtown scene for a little while. This was turning out to be quite the amazing journey. With the temperature dropping, we decided to turn in early and get some extra sleep in our awesome hotel suite. The next day would hold some truly unforgettable adventures.

We woke up around 7 AM the next morning to clear skies and calm winds, foreshadowing what would turn out to be a great day of exploring. Our destination this morning was the Columbia Icefield Centre, where we would be participating in a few awesome activities. The drive was mostly clear and we made good time. We arrived rather surprised to find almost no one there, so we killed a little time by checking out the gift shop and looking at the sights. Before long, it was time to catch our bus. We lined up and boarded your ordinary coach bus, which drove us across the highway and up a dirt road to something decidedly un-ordinary. Stopping at an intermediate station, we disembarked and boarded a massive Brewster Icefield Bus, sitting in 40-inch tires and sporting six-wheel drive. This bus would take us along the lateral moraine of the Athabasca Glacier before dropping down and driving us out onto the Glacier itself.

The drive to get there is an interesting one. The bus starts off by going up a minor hill while the passengers are introduced to some basic glacier information by the driver. Ours was excellent, and provided some great info that we didn't know. Then, there is a sudden right and the driver stops to engage the ultra-low range. Yep, that's right. From there, the bus drives down one of the world's steepest commercial roads, dropping down onto the glacier. The realization hit us that we were actually driving on a living, moving glacier. What a cool feeling! Before long, we reached the stopping point and hopped off the bus to spend some time on the glacier itself.





As you can probably see here, my right foot is wet. Why, you ask? Well, I found a hole in the glacier. I stepped in it and fell up to my thigh in the glacier, drenching my foot and my lower leg. My advice: don't do this. Your foot will be wet for hours, and it's kind of cold out there.



Here is the aforementioned hole, now marked by one of the tour guides.



Aside from that minor mishap, the views were amazing and the experience is one that will stay with me forever.

Some cool things to note. This isn't dirt.



This is actually pure carbon. The glacier is a natural collecting place for it from pollutants in the air, mostly the diesel exhaust from the glacier buses. Interesting.

This the Andromeda Glacier and Mount Andromeda, one of the taller peaks in the Canadian Rockies, standing at 11,320 feet. To give you an idea of scale, the glacier we are standing on sits at 7,300 feet, so standing at the base of it is exhilarating.



This is the Athabasca Icefall. Beyond that is the Columbia Icefield, which is sending ice over the icefall to feed the Athabasca Glacier. It moves at about 1-2cm per day.



The beautiful glacier water here is so pure and clean. And actually, it's totally safe and very healthy to drink. I filled my water bottle with it and was drinking from it for the rest of the day.



After about half an hour, it was time to get back on the bus and go to our next destination. Both Beret and I were sad to leave this amazing place, but ready for what was next. We boarded the massive bus and ogled the landscape as we lumbered back to what seemed like a tiny coach.

These are the buses. Quite a cool piece of engineering, these. Massive tires, 6x6 drive, and a dual range transfer case.







And this is the steep drop down to the glacier. Being avid offroaders, Beret and I weren't really affected by the angle the bus had to drive at to get up and down, but many of the other passengers were pretty alarmed.



Shortly thereafter, we arrived back at the intermediate station and got back on the coach, which would take us to a place that was sure to get our hearts pumping.

To be continued....
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
congrats on getting hitched and great trip report! areas look amazing and your photography showcases these wonderful places so very well. thank you for sharing!
Thank you very much! It was a great wedding and an awesome trip. I have a few more photos that I think blow these previous ones out of the water.
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
After the bus picked us up, we rode north on the Icefields Parkway, being educated about the history of Jasper the whole way by our French tour guide. Our next stop would be a little heart-pounding. The bus took us up along the side of a valley and deposited us at the fantastic Glacier Skywalk.

The Glacier Skywalk is a big walkway suspended out over the valley. At the apex of the platform, it hangs about 918 feet from the floor of the valley.



And surrounding the apex, it has a glass floor.



It get the blood pumping, that is for sure! It's a truly awesome place though. The views are fantastic in every direction. You get an awesome vantage point of Mount Athabasca to the south; and Mount Cromwell, Mount Engelhard, Mushroom Peak, Mount Wooley, and Diadem Peak to the north.





And a view of the huge drop to the bottom of the valley.



We stayed there, soaking in the views for quite some time. It was an awesome experience, and I really recommend both the Skywalk and the Glacier Walk if you're in the area. A little spendy for the both of them, but totally worth it. You'll have a memory that will stay with you. After we had finished admiring the scenery and doing a little bit of chuckling at some tourists who were afraid to walk out on the glass, we boarded the next departing bus and had a pleasant ride back to our truck at the Icefield Centre.

Once we arrived, we opted to go north and check out a place I was eager to see, Sunwapta Falls. But not before taking a little time to capture the mountains near Athabasca Glacier one more time.



As we departed the Icefield Centre, the winds had picked up to a feverish pitch heading south. As we pushed north, we drove through what became a fairly large thunderstorm with very heavy rain. We watched the lightning strike the mountains around us as we drove north, and before long we were out of the worst of it.

We arrived at Sunwapta Falls mid day, when there were throngs of tourists around. As it was raining heavily on us, we sought refuge in the gift shop. Unaware until that moment that we hadn't eaten lunch yet, we realized we were famished and decided to take a moment and have lunch in the Sunwapta Falls Lodge restaurant. I had an elk burger, which was really tasty. From there, we made our way down to the falls.

When we arrived, it was jam-packed with people. Everyone was taking positions on the bridges and overlooks above the falls, trying to get the best photos. Beret and I took one look and decided it was a bit too crowded for us, so we made our way back to the truck and drove a little ways down the road to the hiking trail that led farther down the river. As we were getting our packs ready with rain covers thanks to the heavy rainfall, a cheerful Australian guy had a chat with me about my truck. He thought it was very cool and very unique to see here in North America. We talked for a few minutes before making our way down the trail. We mostly completely avoided the big groups of people and pushed our way down as low as we could go. We finally stopped when the trail ended and I stopped to take a shot of the still very beautiful but much more serene Lower Sunwapta Falls.



We milled about for a while, but eventually it was time to hike back. As we set off, the clouds broke and the sun came out. We stripped off extra layers for the short uphill hike back to the parking lot, having a great time. Once we arrived back at the truck, it was mid afternoon, and time to make our way back north towards Jasper.

Along the way, we decided to stop at Athabasca falls, but we found it too crowded and we were a little too tired, so we carried on back to town.

Once back in town, we wanted a bit of time to rest. The constant exploring and adventuring was a lot of fun, but we needed a little time to recuperate. We relaxed in the room, took a shower, and absorbed some Canadian TV. We ended up eating at the hotel restaurant, which turned out to be one of the best meals we had in Jasper. I was very impressed, and the food was extremely tasty.

After dinner, we took a little dip in the pool and hot tub before retiring to bed. Our plan for the next day was for a big hike higher up in the mountains. The views here were supposed to be fantastic, and were even recommended to us by one of the staff at Rockies Heli near Abraham Lake. The hike was Edith Cavell Meadows, in the shadow of the monstrous Mount Edith Cavell. We decided that was the hike we wanted and went to sleep early.

When we woke the next morning, our prospects for hiking seemed pretty grim. I looked out the window only to see a thick layer of low clouds hanging above Jasper. Determined but concerned, we got moving and stopped in town for some of my favorite coffee at Tim Horton's before making the drive south to the turnoff towards Edith Cavell. We turned west and started driving up the winding and narrow road to the parking lot. As we climbed, the clouds got thinner and thinner until we broke through to bright, cloud-dappled sunlight. I had to stop to admire the view of the valley.



We continued up the road, taken aback by the beauty of the place. A little ways past the first turnoff, we came upon an awesome looking hostel. Even the view of the road ahead was spectacular.



After continuing for a short while, we found a spot in the parking area and got our backpacks on. We set off up the trail and were greeted with this great view.



Standing at the foot of Mount Edith Cavell was awe-inspiring. The scenery is incredibly huge, and it was a very humbling experience to stand so near to a mountain so massive. It was fantastic. We continued hiking up the trail.



At the top of the trail is an overlook where you can get great views of Edith Cavell Lake and the glaciers feeding it. The lake is this great shade of jade and you can actually hear the glaciers moving and cracking throughout the valley.



Here at the overlook, there are signs posted not to go beyond the overlook and not to approach the lake. Those are glaciers, and glaciers have pieces that break off and fall into the water. You can imagine what a very large, very heavy chunk of ice does when it splashes into a small lake. Despite this, several tourists were on their way down to the lake to take close-up photos of the glacier. What you can't see in the photo is the giant natural spillway that is devoid of plant life just below the lake. Apparently, it's pretty common for these glaciers to calve off and those pieces fall in the lake. If the glacier hanging on the mountain calves, the resulting wave from the ice falling in is massive.

Turning our attention away, we started up the trail towards a viewpoint I knew was there. The hike was almost entirely uphill, and it was a little long, but it's totally worth it. After walking up the hillside through the woods for a little while, the trail branches off to the top of a bald hill where we got a great view of the surrounding mountains.



While we were there, we met a couple guys from California, who were here on their annual hiking trip to see the mountains of the world. It was pretty cool to chat with some fellow Americans, and they told us a few stories of their last several days. They also told us they were at the Icefield Centre the day before, like we were, but had stayed later than we did. As it turns out, that thunderstorm we drove through turned into a pretty heavy hailstorm when it arrived at the Icefield Centre. After chatting for a bit, we moved on up the mountainside opposite Edith Cavell.

Once we left the clearing on the hill, the trees dropped away and the meadow became exposed. The wind was picking up a bit and it was a little chilly, but the view was great and the hike was a fun one. After about two hours, we arrived at the intersection where the trail goes back down to complete the loop, or splits off to summit the ridge opposite Mount Edith Cavell. As we were contemplating going up the ridge, the weather started moving in from the south, looking pretty nasty. After the previous day's thunderstorms, we decided it would be a good idea to make our way down before it got bad. But that didn't stop us from taking some photos at that amazing overlook.







This hanging glacier is known as Angel Glacier.



After taking my last few photos, we packed up the camera gear and began the hike down the meadow back to the treeline. Along the way, we were amazed by the mount of wildflowers there. Indian Paintbrush in colors we had never seen before, shooting stars, glacier lilies, all kinds of beautiful flowers we didn't recognize. It was gorgeous, and very special to see. Almost too quickly, we made it back to the treeline. As we traversed the switchbacks on the steep part of the hike, we could hear the glaciers cracking and creaking as they moved and split. We never saw them break off, but hearing them crack like that was fantastic. We arrived back at the truck, a little tired but in great spirits, riding on the achievement of the day. In great spirits, we headed back to Jasper for a late lunch.

To be continued....
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
Once back in Jasper, we decided to have some lunch at one of the restaurants we had passed during our walks through town. It was a little place called Something Else that served some amazing Greek food. We enjoyed the people watching and tasty food for a while until it was time to go back to the hotel and relax after the hike. On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped in to grab some ice cream at the small ice cream place off the main square. Then we headed back to the hotel for a while. As it turned to evening, we decided to make our way back to Athabasca falls so I could take some photos. It was much less crowded, and although the weather was a little cloudier, it was still a good scene to photograph. It was nice to linger without being hassled by excessive crowds. This waterfall is a very special place, and one I feel really exemplified the Canadian Rockies.







As the sun fell lower in the sky, we packed up the camera gear and drove back north towards Jasper. As we made the drive, I was in awe of the approaching alpenglow, and couldn't resist stopping to photograph Jasper in all her glory. What amazing views there are on the northern stretch of the Icefields Parkway. These are a few hours I won't soon forget.



This overlook here was especially impressive, and at this later hour, I had the view all to myself.





I'll be honest, between Jasper and Banff, I'd choose to explore Banff any day. But it's moments like this that will keep bringing me back. Jasper is a place of magic and unspeakable beauty. It has landscapes that are nearly impossible to comprehend, on a scale that is difficult to wrap your head around. On this, our final night in Jasper, my head was full of all the things we had seen, and all the things we had missed while we were there. We will without a doubt be back, as the call of her wilderness will never quite fade away.

We dined that night at the Jasper Brewing Company, which had fantastic food and even better beer. The service was great too. As we ate, we took the time to plan out some of the places we wanted to go after making our way south to Banff the next day. Our plan was to wake up early and catch the fantastic morning light so I could photograph it. Planning the trip while in the middle of it is liberating somehow, and it allows some leeway in the schedule. My favorite way to travel!

As we got back to the hotel, we packed up most of our stuff and went to bed early.

We woke early the next morning as the sun was coming up, in order to chase the light and watch the mountains come alive. I was a bit worried by the weather, with low hanging clouds covering Jasper in poor light, but as we drove south, the scenery sprang to life in a way I have never seen.







As we closed in on the Icefield Centre, the clouds opened up and created the most stunning things I've seen in all of my life. The light danced over the mountains and down in the valleys, showing off the unrivaled scenery. It was magical, absolutely magical. I was stunned beyond words.





The road rose up and passed by Tangle Creek Falls, nearly deserted at the early hour.



Then it dropped down to one of my favorite views along the Icefields Parkway. The valley opens up and offers up an absolutely spectacular view of Mount Andromeda and Mount Athabasca, made all the more special by the incredible light dancing around the snow-capped peaks. I parked on the side of the road and walked down by the river to take this photo. I lingered here for maybe 20 minutes, entranced by this blessed corner of the earth. This is one of my favorite moments of this trip. Silence and solitude in the early light, gazing on the splendid mountains of Jasper. Not a car on the road, my new wife asleep in the truck, just me and the river and the mountains.



We passed Athabasca Glacier and stopped at the Parker Ridge switchbacks to look at the fantastic Hilda Peak. With the summit surrounded by clouds, it was a phenomenal sight.





We made our way down south at a lazy pace, passing Saskatchewan Crossing and gazing out the windows happily. As we passed by Bow Lake, I caught a glimpse of a magnificent grizzly bear ambling across one of the parking areas, undoubtedly searching for something to eat and enjoying the warmth of the new sunshine. Not much farther down the road, there was a traffic cluster stopped to stare at a black bear up on the hill near the road. What luck!

Before too long, we made it to the day's intermediate stop at Lake Louise. We had a hike to do that was at the top of my wife's must-do list: the Tea House at Lake Agnes. However, as we pulled up to the village at Lake Louise, we realized we had made a "tactical error." We had arrived at Alberta's favorite tourist spot, in Alberta's most popular national park, on August 1st. Now, I know there are a few Canucks here that know what this means. For those of the American persuasion, August 1st is Canada's 4th of July. Yep, we had arrived at one of Canada's best tourism jewels on Canada's independence day. Oops. As a result, the signs told us we would not get to park, and we would miss out on the hike on this day. But after literally 45 minutes in line, we were directed to the lot where we were able to find a place to park. Success!

We gathered our stuff, strapped on our packs, and set off along the north shore of Lake Louise, destined for the Lake Agnes Tea House a little over two miles in. The hike is a good one, if a little strenuous thanks to the steep incline. After hiking most of the way and passing Mirror Lake, the trees open up and the scenery starts to stun.



Not long after, you reach a staircase at the base of a waterfall. At the top, you'll find the beautiful sights of the shore of Lake Agnes. We immediately headed for the Tea House, where we grabbed a table and ordered some tea and some lunch. Best Earl Grey and tuna sandwich I've ever had in my life.



The Lake Agnes Tea House is one of Banff's most interesting places in my opinion. The employees live there over the summer, hiking down every week to pack out the garbage and pack in the perishable supplies. The non-perishable stuff is flown in once a year by helicopter. The staff there was spectacular, very friendly and passionate about their surroundings. Probably one of my all time favorite lunch dates.



The best part of this place, though, as it is with most places in the Canadian Rockies, is the view!



We stayed there on the shore a little extra time, loving where we were.





These peaks are absolutely incredible, and being so up close and personal with them is fantastic.



We made our way down, riding on the achievement of checking this off our list. We were in good spirits as we returned to the truck and drove down to Banff. We planned on spending some time in the city, but as it would turn out, this was a more difficult proposition than it sounded.

To be continued...
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
Remember how I mentioned the "Tactical Error"? Well, once we got into Banff, it was even worse. The traffic was nuts. There was no, and I mean zero, parking. We spent about 30 minutes trying to find somewhere to park and get out, but it was without luck. We ended up going straight through town and leaving as quickly as we could. The crowds that had descended on Banff were huge. Guess that teaches me to not go to Alberta's biggest tourist destination on Canada Day.

A little dismayed, we opted instead to go hang out in Canmore, just a few miles down the road from Banff and the town in which we would be staying for the next couple of days. We found our hotel, the Holiday Inn Canmore, and checked in without issue. It's a really nice hotel that I would recommend to anyone. Well-kept, modern, good staff, and quiet. Once we got the truck unloaded, our next move was to check out Canmore. We strapped on our Chacos, put on light clothes, and headed out into the warm afternoon to walk the streets.

Canmore is a very cool city. It's eclectic, beautiful, and has a totally different vibe from Banff. It feels a little bit more like the wild west than Banff does. A little bit dirtier, less organized, noisier, but somehow just as exciting. We spent a couple of hours checking out local shops, including a tea shop, a book store, and a store that sold everything from camera lenses to fake Seiko watches to weed paraphernalia. Interesting place! We marveled at the number of shops, outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the landscape, and tasty looking eateries. Before too long, we were starting to get hungry and decided to find somewhere to eat. Somehow, it had escaped our minds that it was still a huge national holiday! We tried several restaurants. Every single one downtown was packed. We consulted one of our town guides and selected one a little farther outside of town. When we arrived, we could barely find a spot to park. We walked in, asked for a table, and were told the current wait was over 90 minutes. The hostess said we could try at the bar, and spotting two seats, we proceeded to sit down. A woman to Beret's left looked at us in disgust and told us her husband was sitting there. Irritated, my normally level-headed and patient wife grabbed her things and stormed out of the restaurant. It was only after we had gotten back to the truck that she had pointed out there was no drink or menu in the "occupied" seat, while the woman who had shooed us had a glass of beer and a menu in front of her.

Defeated, we drove back to the hotel and decided the only thing to do was sit down for dinner at the hotel restaurant. This turned out to be a great decision.

We arrived at the restaurant and were amused to find a minimal staff serving one other table. We were seated at a table and were able to have a good conversation with our waiter, a native of Calgary who was very friendly and very interested in our travels. Hell of a guy. We had a plate of amazing poutine, a delicious BBQ chicken pizza, and several pints of delicious locally-brewed beer before calling it a night and going back to our room with exciting plans for the following day.

We awoke early and grabbed our backpacks for yet another hike in Canada's mountains. We loaded our stuff in the truck and headed north along Highway 1 to Lake Louise. At Lake Louise, we turned off and followed the road to Moraine Lake, mine and Beret's favorite place on Earth. Moraine Lake is a beautiful glacier-fed lake surrounded by massive mountains and vast wilderness. It's a place of unparalleled beauty. Unfortunately, it's also a hug draw for tourists. We arrived fairly early, around 9:00 AM, but it was already getting a bit crowded. We wasted no time in parking and getting our stuff before dodging the crowds and taking off on a small trail leading east to a much more secluded view.

Thanks to the early hour, we were totally alone as we made the short hike to Consolation Lakes. The trail mostly winds through thick forest, except near the beginning of the trail where it's rocky and exposed. It's a little uphill, but mostly flat and meandering. It's a super easy hike that is totally worth doing, because the view is absolutely outstanding!



The last little bit to get to the lake shore is composed of rock-hopping. Most of the boulders are about the size of Volkswagens, and they take a bit of maneuvering to get over. As you can see in this picture, we're standing on one of the boulders.



We lingered for a while, drinking in the great view and the solitude so rarely found in the more popular parts of the Canadian Rockies. It was a great respite that we as Montanans were familiar with. Amazing scenery and total solitude, save for a few marmots.

After we had enjoyed the landscape for a while, we made our way back to Moraine Lake, where the crowds had increased exponentially. We decided to do something we had hoped to do for a while, and got in line to rent a canoe and explore the lake by water. The wait was long, the people in line were obnoxious, and it was kind of expensive ($75CAD), but it was completely worth it.





The experience was once-in-a-lifetime. Dipping my hands in the freezing cold, aquamarine colored glacial water is something I won't soon forget.





Being able to spend some time here on the lake, without being crowded by tourists and overcome by the din of other people, we found a small bit of seclusion in this epic landscape that we really loved. Plus, we spent a good amount of the time talking about how we really needed to buy a canoe and use it back in Montana.

After our hour had expired, we took the canoe back to the dock where we unloaded and walked over to the Moraine Lake Lodge to check out the gift shop. We bought a few things and decided to eat here for lunch. We had some sandwiches from their little cafe and savored having lunch outside in such an awesome place. When we were done, it was time to spend some time in Banff, our favorite city in Canada.

By pure dumb luck, we got back into Banff, which was much less crowded this time, during yet another farmer's market. Our first time in Banff we had been able to participate in one as well, and we enjoyed doing the same here. We shopped the local produce, eventually buying some baguettes and tasty Okanagan Cherries.







There was also this booth, run by people who made T-shirts with vintage advertisements for the Rockies on them. I, of course, had to pick one up.



The guy running the booth was a very affable gentleman. I had a good conversation with him about travel and overlanding. It turns out he was a weekend warrior offroader, so we got along very well. After a while, we had to go check out the other local flavors.







There were even some local musicians performing with some interesting traditional instruments. It was very cool to watch.





Having enjoyed interacting with the locals and tasting everything we could, we headed out onto the streets of Banff to do a little trinket shopping and sightseeing. Banff is one of my favorite walkable towns. So much to see and so much to do. I always enjoy it, even if it's just walking the streets. It's a blast. We stopped in at the photography shop, a little spice emporium, and a place to get gourmet olive oils and vinegars.

After having some time on the town, we decided to have dinner at a place we had always wanted to try: The Eddie. The Eddie is a cozy little place that serves up some of the tastiest burgers, poutine, and shakes I've had the good fortune to be able to taste. We gorged on burgers and poutine, washing it all down with some local beer and finishing with chocolate shakes for dessert. It was delicious. The Eddie is a place you should not miss if you're headed to Banff. It's a bit cramped, a bit noisy, and sometimes there's a bit of a wait, but the food is to die for and the atmosphere is very friendly. We talked at length with the bar tenders and our fellow patrons, telling stories of travel, food, and life. It was a great experience.

Satisfied with the day, we made our way back to the hotel and collapsed into bed.

To be continued....
 

2180miles

Endurance Adventuring
A few things...

1) Congratulations on the wedding. Best wishes for a lifetime of happiness together.
2) One photographer to another, your compositions are gorgeous.
3) I've wanted to visit Banff before, but these recent photos, I believe Consolation Lakes in particular, makes me want to get in the Jeep and drive there now.

A phenomenal write-up of an amazing adventure. Well done, and I look forward to reading/seeing more.
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
A few things...

1) Congratulations on the wedding. Best wishes for a lifetime of happiness together.
Thank you very much! Marriage is definitely my biggest adventure to date.

One photographer to another, your compositions are gorgeous.
Thank you so much. I'll be honest, it's really tough to get bad shots in this part of the world, but I'm super pleased with a lot of images I did on this trip.

I've wanted to visit Banff before, but these recent photos, I believe Consolation Lakes in particular, makes me want to get in the Jeep and drive there now.

A phenomenal write-up of an amazing adventure. Well done, and I look forward to reading/seeing more.
Haha yeah pictures of the Canadian Rockies tend to have that effect. Banff is an amazing place, and the landscapes are like none in the world. The people are fantastic, the city is fascinating, and the landscape beggars belief. Go as soon as possible, you'll never regret it. As additional incentive, this year is the centennial of Parks Canada, so admission to all their national parks is free for the entirety of 2017.

Thanks! More to come.
 

wreckdiver1321

Overlander
We woke that morning with some final things on our to-do list. The first thing on that list was breakfast at our favorite spot for waffles in Banff, Skoki's. They make delicious waffles, some with bacon actually cooked into the waffle, you can select your own toppings, and they serve it with authentic, tasty maple syrup. We took our time and savored the meal, knowing we probably wouldn't be back to Banff in a while. We had some Tim Horton's coffee and ate our waffles happily before heading back to the truck and on our way to the next spot.

Our next step was the hike in Johnston Canyon. There's a part of it I hadn't seen on my last trip and I really wanted to this time around. Getting there was easy enough, but by the time we arrived there was a huge crowd already formed, and the parking lot was choked with cars. We found somewhere to park and braved the crowds on our way up the walkway in Johnston Canyon.

The crowds were a little outrageous. It was very packed, so we took every opportunity to follow trails that branched off and became a little more secluded.



That being said, some of the main attractions are still worth braving the people for.



The place I was looking for was farther up the trail, on the way to the upper falls. There's a small turnoff that takes you down to the river, and you have to do a bit of scrambling to get down there. There's a cave that has been carved from the rock, a fantastic rock formation, and a beautiful waterfall. What's fantastic about this place is the seclusion. Down in the cave, you're only a few dozen feet beneath the main trail, which is choked with people most of the time. Down here, we only saw two other people in the 40 minutes we spent down there. It's really nice to have that kind of place to yourself.





We stayed there for a bit and enjoyed it.

Satisfied that we had been to this special place, we opted to avoid the crowded upper falls and made our way back to the parking lot. On our way back towards Banff, I just had to stop for the view of these mountains. I love these. The rock formations are really special in that they're made up of many distinct layers of shale and limestone. They're like no mountains I've seen in the US. I took some photos before we drove back to town.



The mountains on the other side of the valley aren't bad either.



Wanting to kill a little time, we opted to go somewhere we hadn't seen yet. We drove out to the historical site at Cave and Basin, which was Canada's first national park and the birthplace of Parks Canada. Walking through there gives you a great history of Parks Canada and the efforts of the department to maintain the beauty of their national parks. It's a very interesting place to visit, full of history. I recommend it on a rainy day in Banff if you'd prefer not to brave the weather too much on the hiking trails.

After Cave and Basin, we stopped by Cascade Gardens, where the Parks Canada Administration Office sits. It's a beautiful old building flanked on one side by the sights of Banff and the local mountains, and on the other side by beautiful beds of flowers. It's a very cool place to visit.









We spent a little time walking around the flowers and water features. It's a very serene place. After getting our fill, we decided to continue the relaxation and go out to one of our favorite spots to relax, Banff's fantastic Upper Hot Springs. It's an old establishment, and can be crowded, but when it's cool and rainy outside, I can't think of a better place to be in the Canadian Rockies. It's very relaxing, and offers a great view of the surrounding mountains. Soaking in the warm pools is so calming. There's something about the natural spring water and the vast mountain environment that is very special. It's like nowhere else I've been.

We stayed there, soaking in the pool for an hour or so, talking about the best parts of the trip and our hopes for the future. We talked about where we were going next, and our dreams for future destinations. It's such a great thing that my new wife is so excited about traveling, as I am. We share a passion for exploring the world that bonds us tightly and encourages us to get out and go. It's a wonderful thing, this shared wanderlust. We also talked about where we'd go the next time we made our way to the Rockies. It was our last day, but we were already planning our return. These mountains call to us in ways that few places ever do. We can't ever wait to go back.

After getting dressed and heading down from the hot springs, it was time for us to eat at the Elk and Oarsmen, our favorite restaurant in Banff. We arrived, for the third time in a row, on the day where all their elk menu items were only $10. We each ordered the elk burger, which is covered with pepper jack cheese and a sweet mango chutney. It's quite possibly my favorite ever burger. We washed it down with some local beer and watched the town of Banff go by from the windows above Banff Avenue.

As we gazed out the window, the light was changing. The clouds were breaking up, showering Rundle Mountain with dancing dappled sunlight. Wanting to see this unobstructed and maybe get some photos, we quickly paid our bill and got back to the truck. We left the parking garage and made our way to the Vermilion Lakes scenic drive. It wasn't very long before we drove out of the trees and found a place to turn off. With the rain stopping and the clouds clearing, we parked the truck and hurried down to the shore. I set up my camera and captured what is now in my top 10 most beautiful things I've ever seen.



Rundle Mountain was spectacularly lit, with light peeking through the clouds and dancing all over the northwest face. It was a sight I'll never forget, and one that we were very lucky to see, arriving just in time.



We watched the rainbow dissipate before driving a little farther down the road to watch the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen. What a fitting and spectacular way for the Rocky Mountains of Alberta to wave goodbye.



With that amazing sight filling our minds and the world going dark, we packed up our stuff and made our way back to our hotel in Canmore. The next morning we would drive out and cross the border back into the United States, already longing to return from this epic journey.

We'll be back, Canada. We'll be back and ready for more.

The End
 

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