Oh, Canada! Adventures in Banff and Jasper

We are back Stateside after a very up-and-down 2.5 weeks in Canada. We loved Canada. Canada, we joked, did not always love us back.

The Good

  • It is gorgeous. Just absolutely spectacular. The mountains there blow Colorado’s out of the water, and I never thought I would say that.
  • The exchange rate definitely works in our favor (As of this post, $1 CA = $0.78 USD)
  • There are so many cool little hikes and activities and things to see that we found a lot of after-work activities, which can be tricky.
  • Canada is a cool place that has a lot going for it. (Also, I love their Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, but that’s beside the point.)
  • The people were, for the most part, quite friendly and helpful. In Jasper, especially, we found a few shops that we were blown away by. Shout out to Totem Outfitters!

The Bad

  • We had cell service a lot of the time, and at every place we stayed, but it wasn’t ever enough to maintain a Skype call. Nik is going to write a full post on Internet in Canada soon.
  • You obviously have to cross the border. This wasn’t that bad for us, but it is a bit stressful. We were really worried about them giving us a hard time about Cheat, but they didn’t ask a thing going in either direction. People with firearms (we don’t have any) can’t bring them into Canada, so that might be an extra hoop for some full-timers to jump through.
  • Since we were in another country, we didn’t feel like we could “blend” as well as we can in some places in the states. We felt more like tourists, which we don’t consider ourselves to be. Part of this is because we were in tourist-heavy areas.
  • Banff is crowded. Really crowded.
  • We broke down twice in a one week period. Once badly, due to our location at the time, and once just a small unrelated issue that delayed us for a day in Kamloops, BC. This isn’t Canada’s fault, of course, but we joked that between that and the internet troubles, the country was sending us a pretty clear message. We joked that we should get out before the Canadian gods sent a bear for us or something. 😉

Canada Adventure Re-cap

We did much more in Jasper than in Banff, mostly because in Jasper, we were staying in a much more central place that let us get out more without the “commute.”

(In general, we have been meaning to write more short posts about individual adventures, but it hasn’t really happened yet. We’ll get there!)

Cranbrook/Fort Steele

We stayed here for a night or two after crossing the border. There were some pretty rivers and a really great trail system (complete with markings of green, blue, and black to indicate difficulty!). We had some sort of rude neighbors, though, who turned our lovely site into their own personal reunion grounds and dog park. Like, they would walk through our site frequently and let their dogs run all around us. That was less cool, but it’s a risk of free camping, I suppose.

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Family adventure time

Banff

  • Johnston Canyon– Cheat and I did this hike one day while Nik worked. It was crowded with tourists for the first bit, but cleared out the further we went. There were a couple pretty waterfalls, super clear water, and up at the Ink Pots there were neat little springs that created pools and wide open views of the mountains.
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Johnston Canyon, Banff
  • Icefields Parkway (Banff to Jasper)- This was actually a really nice drive. We recommend driving it, just don’t break down. 😉

Jasper

  • Maligne Canyon– This was such a cool place and one of our favorite sights overall so far. Maligne Canyon is a deep and narrow gorge. It’s carved by a river that pops up here and there from underground!
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    You can’t even see the water here
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    To give you some scale, that log across the gorge near the bottom is the size of a full grown tree.

    Upstream, Medicine Lake is formed like a leaky bathtub. All the water runs out from its bottom into a complex underground cave system. The water ends up above ground in lots of places, chiefly the Maligne River.

  • Athabasca Falls– Big, powerful waterfall with lots of walkways and bridges around to different vantage points.

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    Athabasca Falls
  • Mt. Edith Cavell– This was a mountain with several glaciers that you can hike fairly close to in a short distance, as opposed to in Glacier National Park, where they are typically harder to access or just far away. The coolest was Angel Glacier, which looks like, well, an angel (large glacier at top center with “wings” and “tail”). The “tail” melts down into an iceberg lake. It’s very beautiful, but like all glaciers, is shrinking rapidly and will be gone before our future kids can see it. 😦
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    Mt. Edith Cavell

    In August 2012, Ghost Glacier (it’s one of the ones on the upper left side) shifted. It caused a giant rockslide and ice avalanche and the lake at the bottom flash flooded. You can see the washout in the valley below (lower right side of photo). What’s crazy is that until that happened, the trail led right up the valley! Scary.

  • Exploring the town trail system– Jasper has a fantastic trail system, so we were able to bike and run all over the place from our campground. The elk rut was in its prime, though, so you had to be careful not to run afoul of the bull elk.

Kamloops

We only intended to stop here for a brief overnight in the middle of the long haul back to the states, but like I mentioned above, we added an extra day when our RV wouldn’t start. Not ideal, but we made the most of it by trying our hand at disc golf. Fun!

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Sunset over Kamloops from the disc golf course

Kamloops actually seems like it would be a cool place to spend a week or so and explore.

Jasper was one of my favorites so far, but it wasn’t easy to get there! 😉 If we were there under different circumstances, I would love to backpack around the area. Maybe some day!

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