Recently, on a Wednesday night my husband and I decided to beg our employers to give us time off so we could sneak in a trip as we were both feeling overwhelmed by life. After all, we had both been working like crazy, my sister and her family were driving us nuts as they had been visiting 2 months already, it has been super hot, and we have not had any time off for months and months. On the Thursday they agreed (with some conditions) and Thursday night we did some Googling and decided to visit the Canadian Rocky Mountains!
We wanted to go somewhere cooler due to the endless heat we have been dealing with and somewhere in North America as we only had 5 days. The online images of Banff and Jasper National Parks had us sold on the Canadian Rockies in minutes! I have also already been to Banff for a work conference and knew it was pretty amazing Since I had not really done much other than spend time at the hotel and in town, I was willing to go again with a focus on the national park this time. Here are the highlights of our trip:
1). Jasper National Park-This park is full of amazing mountain vistas! I was snapping pictures like crazy. There were also beautiful green and blue lakes that took my breath away. Unfortunately, they were also ice cold so we could only wade in for minutes at a time before it was too much. It was definitely a pleasure to hang out by such beauty for awhile though. Most of the tourists in the park and area were Canadians or Europeans, I noticed. The Europeans were very impressed with the “nature”. We saw various animals but our closest encounter was with an elk that munched away on grass and ignored us.
This park is also home to the Columbia Icefields. There were huge and amazing glaciers to look at on the mountains. A tour company that operated in the park before it became a designated national park has been allowed to stay open and offer tours of one of the glaciers. My husband and I jumped at this one in a life time opportunity and signed up.
A specially designed vehicle took us right up on the glacier. We disembarked and got to walk about to explore. I remembered my geography class lessons and recalled all the facts about about lateral moraine, how glaciers advance and retreat, etc. We drank out of one of the glacier streams (ice cold, of course!) and were able to explore to some extent (it is a bit dangerous due to possible crevasses and one person’s leg did go through into a slush stream). It was definitely an amazing and unique experience but it was very cold so the tour company does not give people much time to hang around. I was a bit sad to learn how the glacier is slowly melting but one has to keep in mind the whole planet was covered by glaciers during the last ice age and melt and change is natural. I guess the rate is higher due to global warming and that is the sad part!
The tour company also offered a visit to something called the Glacier Skywalk. This was basically a see-through walkway that hangs over a huge cliff and affords one a view of the glaciers-and the sharp cliff drop below! We went for it but as soon as I stepped on the see-through part my body needed time to adjust as it is against every human instinct to stand suspended hundreds of meters above the earth like that!! It was thrilling though. My husband and I both felt it was moving (which it was not) and people reported feeling dizzy and had to sit down. After awhile, we got used to it and enjoyed it. The view was amazing. A fun thing to do but not for everyone.
The park is also home to the town of Jasper. This is a cute alpine tourist town that is nice to visit but all the hotels were booked so we had to settle for a meal and some time hanging around town before heading to our lodging in Edmonton which was a good 350 km away! By the time we got there, it was late and we were exhausted.
2). Edmonton. This town is the capital of the province of Alberta and I have to say it is one of the cleanest cities I have ever seen! We did not spend much time here other than sleeping in a hotel and visiting West Edmonton Mall the next morning. This mall is the largest in North America and was founded by immigrant brothers from Iran. There is tons to do in the mall (which is probably good since Edmonton has a long long long winter and indoor activities are needed for many!). Attractions include movie theatres, skating, amusement parks, waterparks, mini golfing, sea lion shows, aquariums etc. We sort of wandered around for a bit and then left as shopping is not my favourite activity. Lots to see though and the town was home to women’s FIFA tournament this summer and recommended as one of the world’s top place to visit this year according to some famous travel magazine.
3). Calgary. Our next step was to drive down a highway to Calgary-the largest city in the province. On the way the landscape is all prairies so that was neat to see as I am not used to seeing the sky meet land directly! Puts those Little House on the Prairies books into some perspective. Along the way there were fields of canola which are used to make canola oil. I also spotted lots of oil pumps as the land has oil beneath it. Anyway, Calgary definitely had more life than Edmonton (also known as Deadmonton due to the lack of excitement around!). Calgary, from my understanding, boomed due to the oil or energy industry in the province and is also home to the famous Calgary stampede that takes place in the summer each year. There are many restaurants, bars etc to choose from. We ate at a pub on our first night in the entertainment district but really came to the city so we could visit Drumheller the following day.
4). Drumheller. This town (about an hour and a half east of Calgary) is full of dinosaurs! There are actually cute clay or plastic or whatever dinos all over town. The reason they are there is because the area (know as The Badlands) is rich in dinosaur fossils. The town houses the world famous Royal Tyrell Musuem. After watching Jurassic World earlier this summer we were eager to go and check out the dinosaurs. The museum was very busy but it was worth the visit. There are heaps of dinosaurs on display (most found from within a 25km radius) and so much to see and learn. A theatre showed a film that was very informative. We had a blast visiting this place. The town also is home to the worlds largest dinosaur. This replica is huge and one can climb inside it up to the top to have a view of the town from its jaws. We did not bother but did snap some cheesy tourist photos of it. Definitely no other place like this in the world.
Also in Drumheller, were government protected hoodoos. Hoodoos are geological formations formed by the effects of erosion caused by water, wind, and frost. Capstones at the top keep them from eroding completely. They are stunning and were a highlight of the trip for me. I was amazed that once you are beyond the protected area you can climb all over them. For kids it would be the best playground in the world! A bit dangerous though as you are coming down.
5). Banff and Lake Louise is where we headed the next day. This is a world famous area due to the famous Fairmont hotels (see the photos section of this website as I stayed in one of them before), gorgeous lakes, and skiing and more! There is plenty to do in this area but since I had been there we kept our visit short. We enjoyed some time in the town of Banff, visited the Farimont Banff Springs Hotel as I wanted to show my husband what is considered relatively old in western North America (126ish years this hotel has been in operation), and then we decided to leave. For anyone else coming this way, I would suggest enjoying the town and park for much longer. The town is very touristy but the park is amazing.
6). We then decided to end our trip by heading into wine country in British Columbia (the next province over) for warm weather, sun, and wine as the final portion of our trip. We went to Kelowna. This town is on a huge lake where a mythical sea monster is said to live named the Ogopogo. We rented jetskis and zoomed all over the lake enjoying some much needed adventure after all the driving but did not spot him! Our jetski somehow tipped over throwing us into the water. I had a moment of panic as it was very unexpected but it did sure cool us down. It was a very warm day. The rest of the day we spent visiting fancy wineries and tasting the local flavours before having our last meal at an Italian restaurant. Nothing like some good gnocchi (if you ask me) to soak up some of that wine!
We returned home exhausted but very pleased with all that we fit into our tight 5 day schedule. This vacation was so much fun and much needed. Every place in the world has so much to offer and this region was very impressive. I was also very pleased to spend so much time with my husband one to one after all the chaos that has been going on at home. I am so happy that I met him, married him, and have him to keep. No matter where you go and what you do in your life, it really is about the people you make memories with and for me, there is no one better. Feeling blessed!