We spent the next few days driving up East to Banff and then North towards Jasper. Writing this, I feel mostly tired but also overwhelmed by what we´ve seen. Smoke situation update: Sadly, there´s no betterment in sight. Some hours it´s better, some worse, but it´s always there. It would be easy to see and talk about the negatives…how it´s freaking cold, we haven´t had a blue sky, there´s always fog or smoke covering the mountain tops… On the other hand, I feel lucky to be experiencing all these wonders our planet has to offer. Additionally, it´s more likely to be pleasantly surprised when weather isn´t tourist-brochure-perfect, and I value the little things even more.
23rd of August
Again, breakfast is waffle-based…and again, I love it. To get our National Park adventure started, we drive to “Rogers Pass Discovery Centre” to buy a pass we´ll need to enter all the upcoming parks. Our mission for the day consists of one task: Hiking trail 13 to Asulkan Valley located in Glacier National Park. Let me begin with the positives. The trail is beautiful and diverse, we cross streams of crystal clear water, observe a kind of mountain squirrel and beavers, see waterfalls and a glacier and walk along paths that look as if they were straight out of “Lord of the Rings”. Oh, we also chat with two French messieurs whose English was the most movie-worthy French-English I´ve ever heard. In my entire life. Negatives: My feet are killing me and my brother´s feet are killing him.
Golden is our home for the night. As this tiny town doesn´t seem very inviting, and we´re being covered by ash rain, our evening ends at an Indian restaurant.
(Asulkan Valley hike)
24th of August
Certain tourists come to Canada with the intention of getting in touch with the wildlife. I´m not one of them. So, when we arrived at the Wapta Falls Trail this morning, I was slightly shocked to read a warning that said “It´s berry season. Bear encounters are likely.”. As we had no bear spray, we opted for the “make noise on the trail” option. Our safety measures must have been extremely effective, because we didn´t meet a bear. The morning sun coloured the leaves a golden green and made the hike seem more spectacular than it would probably usually be.
We then visit Emerald Lake, which, due to the lack of sun, doesn´t look as turquoise as in all the Instagram photos.
Yoho National Park is next. Our car is parked at the foot of Takakkaw Falls. We decide to walk to the Laughing Falls (4km one way) and then add the hike to the Twin Falls (another 2km one way from Laughing Falls) because the weather´s still good.
Back from the hike, Lake Louise awaits us. I don´t really want to talk about it. To avoid the parking chaos, we drive there in the late afternoon. Yeah, we find a parking spot right beside the lake (there are overflow parking areas with shuttles as well), but the lake is not blue or turquoise whatsoever, and it feels like minus 20° Celsius. The perfect example of Instagram vs reality. I´m softened by the cute Inn we´re staying in- Lady MacDonald Inn in Canmore. The house looks like it´s copied and pasted out of a movie and the interior designer must have been no older than 5 years old. We walk to “Thai Pagoda Restaurant” which serves us a delicious dinner and see rabbits on the green spaces along the road. I wish them a happy and LONG life.
25th of August
Waking up, I feel like a wreck of a doll in a far too cute doll house. I adore the lilac tapestry and walking over the fluffy carpeted floor feels like walking on clouds. At breakfast, my mum is quite surprised as she´s offered strawberry WAFFLES with pork sausage. But, of course, she tries it anyways. I don´t remember one time my family said “no” to food.
First stop today: Bow Lake. We walk up the Bow Summit Trail for a bit but decide that it´s too cold and there´s too much smoke to continue. The starting point of that trail is actually the highest point of this famous highway between Banff and Jasper. As we don´t want to queue to go to the toilet, we take an exit a few kilometres further up the highway. One aspect concerning tourist infrastructure I´ve come to appreciate are the toilets. They´re everywhere and there´s always toilet paper. How´s it possible that my university isn´t capable of supplying such simple necessities but every corner of the National Parks is? Anyways. Due to the weather conditions we eat lunch in our car, while watching people hike up Parker Ridge in the rain. Great for them!
We now approach the renowned Athabasca Glacier. It´s hard to miss, because there are tons of cars and busses. After asking ourselves why the majority of visitors park in the parking area that´s furthest away from the glacier tongue, we brace ourselves for the cold and hike up to the glacier. If you think it´s freezing when you get out of your car, just wait until you´re at the viewpoint. The view is impressive, even though only guided tours are allowed on the actual glacier. We get the mandatory family photo taken by a fellow German and head back to the car. On our way to Jasper, we visit two more waterfalls but thankfully without having to complete major hikes.
We just saw an elk at the side of the road! He was eating gracefully while more and more cars stopped to watch him. What an attention seeker. Update: My mum insists it was just a deer. Whatever, let´s just say it´s an elk.
(Wildlife beside the road)