I went on a big adventure road trip last summer, fulfilling dreams and plans from the summer before. This is the story of part of that trip. Settle into your favourite chair, this is a long one 😉
I left my home in northern BC in late June. My first stop was to meet my daughter and her family on Vancouver Island and go surfing in Pacific Rim Park near Tofino… Check! Oh and that was the number one item on my bucket list! For that adventure, read Goin’ Surfin’ in Tofino 🙂
The second stop was to stop to see more family and a long time friend in the Vancouver area on my way to Calgary… to see more family…. Check!
The third part of my trip was to camp in the Rocky Mountains for 4 days by myself, in my jeep…. big, happy, excited Check!
After leaving Vancouver Island, I stopped in Vancouver or a couple of days for some family time and of course, some required sunset photos at Sunset Beach.
The weather was absolutely beautiful through to the Okanagan to Calgary. The sunny southern British Columbia summer reaches temperatures of 40C+ and us northerners crave it and visit as often as we can. Since my jeep has a GPS system, I told it to take me to Calgary and then followed whatever route it took me! I ended up on interesting back roads that I’d never have found on my own! Thanks Fiona, for the scenic route! These routes are also the fastest ways to get from A to B and fortunately, considering the usual hectic summer driving, there was very little traffic. I stopped at pretty Mara Lake, at Sicamous, half way between Vernon and Revelstoke, for a leg stretch, take in the sights and continued on my way.
My favourite part of every road trip is driving through and stopping in the provincial and national parks. After passing through Revelstoke, I drove through Mount Revelstoke National Park, then Glacier National Park and finally, Yoho National Park, before entering Alberta. I’ll definitely be going back to these spectacular parks for more adventures!
A few hours past Glacier National Park, I arrived at Banff National Park. My goal on this day was to get to my Aunt’s house in Calgary, so I traveled straight through, knowing that I’d be spending 4 days in Banff and Jasper National Parks a few days down the road. The weather was sunny and hot and the top was off the jeep during the daytime as I was driving. It’s a great way to see more of the Rocky Mountains.
I arrived in Calgary around 5 pm and settled in, catching up with my aunt and uncle and various cousins who came to visit while I was there. I won’t go into detail about my visit, except to say that we had a fabulous family get together.
Four days later, I bid my family farewell and headed back to Banff. My heart was filled with excitement as I imagined the time I’d spend camping by myself.
I had met a couple through Instagram who live in Banff, Kerrie-Lynn and Larry Carter, who offered to show me around while I was visiting Banff. They are both amazing photographers so I was hyped to meet up with them. I arrived in Banff about 4 pm and in no time we were ready to roll on a sightseeing, photo snapping tour! We took off in their car and headed to the first destination, Castle Mountain.
We went to a few more common photo spots and at one area we hiked up to a waterfall close a particularly steep path that descends down to follow the creek below the waterfall. We had a lot of slips and laughs, almost feeling like tumbleweeds as we tried not to roll down the hill! Of course during this treacherous descent we had to stop, balance ourselves and our cameras to take photos of cute little flowers or fauna. We followed the creek pack to the parking area and headed to the jackpot photo spot, Moraine Lake. (Click for Wikipedia info)
Ahh, Moraine Lake… a piece of my heart lives in this jewel of the earth. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list. Go during the day, then go again in the evening, when the crowds and tour busses have all left. Or rent a cabin or hotel room at Moraine Lake Lodge and stay a few days to fully drink in the beauty. Before 2012 I didn’t know that Moraine Lake existed. I had been to Lake Louise in Banff and passed by Bow Lake on the way to Jasper, so I was aware of the stunning aqua waters of the Canadian Rockies, but had no idea that Moraine existed. I saw a photo on Instagram and was in instant awe of not only the stunning aqua coloured glacial water, but the towering mountains surrounding this little gem.
By the time Kerrie, Larry and I arrived at Moraine, the sky was just approaching dusk. Perfect light for evening photos. We parked and set out on the short hike up a rock path to a viewing area. Before setting up my camera, I had to just stand and take in the glory that was before me. I couldn’t even imagine that I was really standing in such a beautiful place. We all took a myriad of photos from different spots and angles until the light faded, then headed down towards the parking/hotel/cabin area and walked along the trail by the lake until we could see the sun setting in the sky opposite to Moraine’s peaks. We shot a few frames then headed back to the car. After shooting photos of the bright lake, the gentle pastel pink and purple sunset were soft and sweet. This evening was the pinnacle of my Rockies visit.
When our photography fix had been filled, we headed back to Kerrie & Larry’s apartment and they graciously cooked me a wonderful dinner. They both work at local hotels and Larry is a concierge at the Banff Fairmont Hotel and has the most awesome knowledge of the area, it’s his job! And lucky for me! We visited for a while after dinner, then I headed off to my campsite at Two Jack lakeside campground about 10pm.
Just as I pulled out of the side street and onto the main street, dreaming about the wonderful start to my Banff visit, Fiona’s headlights failed! OH NO! This was the second time this had happened, having stopped my travel back in Courtenay, on Vancouver Island. At that time, they flickered back on within minutes and I continued on my way. I hoped that they would flash back on again, but they didn’t. I was a bit beside myself and didn’t know what to do. My friends had headed to bed, as they had to work the next day, so I was on my own. I pulled into the back of a gas station/garage with a bright light up on the wall and checked the wiring. I had put in aftermarket HID headlights soon after I bought the jeep a year ago and they had been great until this trip. I didn’t see anything wrong with the wiring or the connection to the battery and was stumped. I couldn’t stay in town so I slowly limped out of town, relying on my not-so-bright fog lamps to see a portion of the road. I had checked out the campsite earlier so knew where I was going, but once I got on the road, I missed the sign and was unknowingly heading to the Lake Minnewanka loop road. I hadn’t been on this loop and didn’t know where I’d end up. After driving an extra 5 or so minutes I realized that I’d missed the campground and turned around. As I drove over a road construction area I hit a big bump and whaddya know, my headlights flashed back on! Relief flooded over me as I made my way to my campsite. That was a slight panic moment! But thankfully I ended up at my campsite and not lost! Time to sleep!
I had bought my jeep so that I could sleep in it and avoid using a tent, so I got ready for a good Canadian Rockies sleep in my jeep. With the back seats lowered flat, I have a area on one side with a mat, a couple of wool blankets and a sleeping bag. Canadian summers can sometimes get cold so I can just grab a wool blanket and pull it over top of the sleeping bag if I need. The other side has my suitcase and cooler. Everything fits perfectly! I don’t have a BBQ, if I need to cook anything, I use the fire pit and I also have an MSR rapid cook stove which makes my morning tea or coffee and anything I don’t have time to BBQ (with a handy dandy cooking set). It’s a fantastic system and I love using it.
I settled in for my first night of Jeep camping in the Rockies, in the campsite that I wanted so badly, Two Jack Lakeside. In planning my trip I really wanted to be camping near the crystal aqua waters of the area and booked my campsites online on the first day that online booking was available, May 1st.
As I was slipping into slumber, I was musing that I was checking off another item on my long bucket list. One more down, about a thousand to go…
I woke early the next morning to the birds chirping and the sun peeking through the tall trees into Fiona’s window. “Ahhhh what a great sleep” I thought, as I stretched to greet the new day. I just laid there for a while thinking about what I wanted to do that day. I had a few plans, but nothing solid. First thing, build a fire and cook some breakfast then go check out Two Jack lake, within view of my campsite, take a few photos and just drink in the beauty around me. I’ll never get tired of the aqua waters and the huge mountains, virtually right in my face. I walked into the chilly glacial lake up to my knees and felt the cold water sting my skin. I loved the feeling. It made me realize how alive I was and that I was finally realizing dreams that I’d been working towards for years. I slowly waded along the shallow shore of the lake, snapping photos.
I really wanted to float on the lake later in the afternoon sunshine, so I decided to go into Banff to find an inflatable floatie later that day. When I was done wading in Two Jack Lake, I walked the long way around the campground to my site. I had to change sites for that night so I packed up everything and headed into Banff, a 20 minute drive away. Larry had said that I could stop by the Fairmont Hotel where he worked to pick up a list of sights to see. I headed there when I got to town but getting from one end of town to the other was an adventure in itself! When I finally battled the summer tourist traffic and pedestrians, then the parking lot mayhem at the Fairmont, I searched the hotel grounds to find Larry’s station. Well, he was out with clients! So I picked up an easy to read sightseeing map and off I went. Part of that day was wasted stalled in traffic and trying to find parking, but I finally found a grocery store parking lot with one available space, bought some groceries, walked until I found a store that had floaties, bought it and headed back to the campsite to relax. Kerrie was coming to join me for a kayak (for her) and float (for me) in the lake, then dinner, since she and Larry had graciously fed me the previous evening.
I set up in my new campsite and got a fire going and relaxed for a bit. Kerrie showed up after work with her kayak valiantly atop her car, a big feat to accomplish alone. Larry was working that evening and wasn’t available to help her, but she succeeded! We got her kayak off the car, grabbed my floatie and off we went to play in Two Jack Lake. So, I’m not sure what I was thinking, wanting to float or swim in the lake, I just knew that I did. Well, it’s cold. Reeeeally, reeeeally cold! And I do not have a wetsuit. I had bought a floatie that had an inflatable rim and a net center so I could really be in the water. It’s a great concept for a warm lake like one might find in The Okanagan Valley of BC, but noooo, I wanted to feel that icy sting of glacier water on my skin… it really looked so inviting…
I helped Kerrie carry her kayak to the waters edge and then slowly got myself into the icy lake. Brrr! It was as cold as I imagined and colder but I was happy to be in the frigid waters, and started paddling around, trying to find the most comfortable position on the floatie. I ended up laying on my stomach with my chin resting on the head pillow and paddling with my arms. I followed Kerrie around a bit and then she went a bit farther out into the lake and I stayed closer to the shore. I was exhilarated, having floated and somewhat swam in Two Jack Lake. After about 15 minutes the sun started to slip behind the nearby mountains and I started to freeze up, called to Kerrie that I had to get out of the water and headed to shore. Although the water was warm close to shore, I could barely move once I got out of the water and laughed at myself as I tried to walk up the trail with frozen feet and limbs. Kerrie paddled to a nearby spot to take the kayak out and we headed back to the campsite to get warm by the fire. Once I was changed and we got Kerrie’s kayak back onto her car, I got dinner going over the firepit. We ate, chatted and had a nice relaxing evening, watching the fire crackle until just after dark, when she had to head home to prep for work the next day. I tidied up and prepped for another deep Rocky Mountain slumber.
Early the next morning I awoke to a chill in the air and the sun’s rays sneaking past the tall surrounding pines, in through Fiona’s windows. I slowly got up and made my way to the nearby shower… yes I’m only semi roughing it, these awesome campgrounds have showers, got refreshed and made camp coffee and cooked some breakfast on my MSR stove. Love that thing!
I was on my own this day, so I referred to my map and decided which way to go. I had to head towards Jasper where I’d be spending the next two nights and made a plan. I started by driving the Lake Minewanka loop, the road that I was lost on during Fiona’s headlight failure. It was a lovely drive to the edge of Lake Minnewanka where there’s a lodge and boats to take folks on tours on the lake. I stopped and walked around a bit and then continued to drive along the road. I came upon a couple of sightseeing and picnic areas, showing off the most amazing mountain, seeming to rise from the depths of the earth. I could be the back of Castle Mountain, I can’t actually remember!
I was all packed up and ready to head to Jasper but first I stopped at Cascade Ponds for lunch, a small day use area along the melt off from Cascade Mountain. It’s really pretty, with a cute bridge to an island and hikes along the ponds and river feeding them. After a snack, I walked and waded for a bit before hitting the road.
Along the way to Jasper, I stopped at Peyto Lake and Mistaya Canyon. For you road trippers out there, put the Icefields Parkway on your list of places to experience and take enough time to stop at all the side trails. So worth it.
I continued towards Jasper where I had booked a campsite in Wabasso Campground. I wasn’t sure where exactly it was, but I knew that I’d be passing Athabasca Falls on the way. My first couple of days in the Rockies were amazing and I had two more to go. The sun was shining it’s hot rays on me, Fiona’s top was down and I could see the tops of the mountains, unlike anyone with a roof. I was immersed in the glow of the Rockies as I hurtled along the highway to my next destination.
To be continued…