Day Five: Lake Louise

I’m currently in our Jasper lodging and this is the second of three posts I need to make to catch up to current day. Currently my parents are doing a small breakfast in the hotel room since there was no free breakfast included in our Jasper lodging. (Recap: I last left off blogging from Lake Louise, where we stayed two nights, before heading up to Jasper). I had done my lodging search with one criteria: FREE HOT TUB. Now it turns out that I need to add FREE BREAKFAST as well for my parents for maximal parent happiness.

So two mornings ago, we had our breakfast at our Lake Louise lodging which was decent though very carb heavy. They had a waffle station, where I made two waffles before they ran out of mix and I ran out of patience. Then we set off pretty early for Lake Louise, like possibly 9am? The place we stayed at, Mountaineer Lodge, was very convenient to Lake Louise and it was right across the street from what I initially thought was a small collection of shops and turned out to be the main village.

We got early enough to the Lake Louise parking lot (which is really the Fairmont Chateau parking lot) to have our pick of parking in the second half of the lot. We walked around the main Lake Louise area first, then did the hike to the Lake Agnes teahouse. It includes a stop at Mirror Lake…

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Which sadly looked like it had visibly receded in water level. AHHH GLOBAL WARMING!!!

Once we arrived to the Lake Agnes teahouse, we sat and had a lovely pot of tea and some assorted pastries that the teahouse offered.

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NOT. If you believed that, you don’t know my parents at all. We ate our carried meal of cinnamon raisin bread, bananas and water. 7 CAD for a pot of tea?!?! 4 CAD FOR A COOKIE?!?!? NEVER!

If I were alone I would’ve wanted to do the continued hike to the Plain of Six Glaciers where there is a second teahouse. It would’ve made for a very long day, but maybe next time…

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I did do the Big Beehive hike though, which is super steep. My mom started it with me and turned back because she could tell it was going to be an exposed hike and did not want to be in sun. So then I had the pleasure of listening to my Planet Money podcasts and was VERY HAPPY. I reached the top, and got this shot which might be the most precarious I’ve felt taking a picture because it was a steep drop down from where I was stooping and my legs were feeling pretty weak. But here I am…

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I made it down slowly and carefully, found my parents waiting in the shade, then we decided my parents would start the descent back to the Fairmont and I would do the Little Beehive before doing the return back on my own. The Little Beehive looked out over the Fairmont Chateau and the Bow Valley. Views were better at the Big Beehive but it was considerably easier to hike the Little Beehive. My main memory is delight in listening through a ton of Planet Money podcasts.

Got back, found my parents, and took some pictures around the Fairmont Chateau which is where all these hikes start from and where the main parking lot is and where every tour bus stops. Then headed back to our hotel! I was able to get two tiny little wraps from the nearby restaurant which we had for dinner. I must repeat, food options in Lake Louise are SPARSE. My mom and I also got to walk around the village; the best part is the visitor’s center and you can do a walk around the Bow River. The thing is you can tell there is a lot less water running in the river, I’m not sure if it’s just the time of year or if it’s GLOBAL WARMING!!!

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Next day, drive up to Jasper!

Day Four: Bow Valley Parkway & Moraine Lake

Ok I’m a few days behind because the internet at the last place in Lake Louise was not very good so it was difficult enough to send pictures from my mom’s phone to myself; I didn’t even want to bother trying to post to wordpress when I had to wait for something as simple as google maps to load.

With my parents on this trip, I did not spend very much time (ok basically none) looking up where to eat. If it were a vacation with friends or a solo trip, I definitely would’ve already yelped and bookmarked my favorite spots and the THRILLIST’S TOP TEN MUST EATS by now. When my parents are happiest buying bread from costco and eating it every day, I have to lower the bar quite a bit. The downfall for this was that Lake Louise ended up being a much smaller town than I anticipated. There’s a map that our hotel gave us and while at first it looks like a “best hits” of Lake Louise, I later realized every location in that town had been given a point on that map. Strangely enough, the gas station ended up having the best deal in terms of food for value: a surprisingly fresh tasting deli sandwich! We bought two.

Anyway, “today” we left our Banff lodging and headed to Lake Louise. We had our last breakfast at the place (goodbye, delicious eggs, sausage, yogurt, multi-grain toast and tiny cups of OJ!). Then I took the 1A Bow Valley Parkway which is like the Redwood Freeway in that it runs parallel to another more efficient freeway but is much more scenic and therefore much slower. With my parents, it was VERY SLOW. We were stopping at every possible stop, even if I was like “I’ve never heard of this in my research…”

We did the Castle Cliffs viewpoint (meh)

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We did Storm Mountain which overlooked a railway and the Bow River (pretty cool but I don’t know how we spent thirty minutes here when every picture we took looked exactly like this)

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We did Silverton Falls, a very short 1+ mile hike up to a pretty, three-tiered (I’m not using real topology terminology) waterfall that overlooked forest and mountain (worth it!). We encountered zero people on the trail though, and my mom was very paranoid that we’d run into bears.

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We then stopped at Baker’s Creek, BOTH SIDES of the freeway. The first side was really just a bathroom, and the less pretty end of the creek. Of course we still spent several minutes walking around there regardless of its lack of any actual scenic spot. The second side was a very pretty lodge with a restaurant, with the creek running beside it. We did a picnic by the creek of leftover chicken wings and our precious Costco cinnamon raisin bread.

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We did other things that aren’t even on the listing of Bow Valley Parkway attractions! This forty minute drive ended up taking us about four hours to complete. Go us.

We arrived at the lodge only to find out that check-in was actually at FOUR not TWO as I had thought. I decided to go to Moraine Lake, even though the receptionist said the parking lot was full. It was full, but it only took like ten minutes to get in, as they were doing a one car out one car in policy. You then drive another 11km (look at me talking in KM now) to get to the actual parking lot from the highway exit.

We took a ton of pictures of Moraine Lake which sits underneath the Valley of Ten Peaks…

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Then did the Moraine Lake Shoreline Trail which was fantastic. Water is such an interesting blue!

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Then my mom and I did the the Rock Pile trail and Consolation Lake trail. The Rock Pile trail is just climbing a bunch of steps to get to the top of … a pile of rocks.

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The Consolation Lake trail had a bear advisory and we ended up joining another pair who was about to head back until they saw us walking. They happened to be two young Chinese people who had moved from China to Canada and my mom talked to the woman the whole way. I initially assumed they were two recent college graduates and it turned out they have a 2 year old son and own two houses in Canada. They were a pretty perfect pair to end up hiking with.

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We ended up hiking for about four hours and headed to the lodge to check-in. The plus is there is a free breakfast and hot tub here, my parents’ favorite thing. For anyone who plans to visit Lake Louise, my biggest advice is to bring enough food for meals without relying on eating out in town … because options are very sparse!

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Day Three: Sunshine Meadows

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My days consist of taking my parents on long ass hikes, and my nights consist of sitting in the hot tub (I can only handle about fifteen minutes before I feel uncomfortably warm) and then two hours of sifting through all of the photos I took on my mom’s iPhone and sending them to myself and her iPad. For some reason, her iPhone and iPad aren’t synced to the same Apple account. Even worse, she doesn’t have the same apps on the devices, and she has wechat on her phone and Line on her iPad. So to get her pics and send them back to her iPad, I have to send it to myself via wechat, then individually save all the pics because the app is idiotic like that, then resend it to her via Line. The point of this paragraph was, at 7pm tonight I was ready to blog but at 10pm now, I’m SICK OF LOOKING AT A SCREEN.

So today we started off our morning with our included hotel breakfast, SO DELICIOUS! I’m super bummed I didn’t get this place for our last night. I checked with reception and it’d be $100 more than what I currently have booked. Sooooo oh well. We then set off for Sunshine Meadows, only a 20 minute drive from Banff. It felt a little ghost-town like. Its main function is for skiing in the winter and in the summer it has a popular hike through its alpine lakes and meadows. Well, I don’t know if this is considered popular in the summer because there were SO FEW PEOPLE. Actually I take that back. We were constantly surrounded by people at the first half of the hike, but by the second half we barely saw anyone and walking around the shuttle area felt very desolate.

I initially wanted to save $29 and not buy a shuttle pass and instead, walk the 5km to the trailhead. I’m VERY glad I didn’t because the road looked terribly dusty, unshaded, boring, and VERY UPHILL. So, money well spent.

The hike was BEAUTIFUL. I’m bummed that we didn’t get to see the wildflowers in full bloom, because I could tell most of them had dried up by this time of the year. Still, we hit up Rock Isle Island…

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Then the Grizzly-Larix Lakes Loop…

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Then continued onto the Standish Viewpoint, which was a 1mi out and back to reach a wooden platform structure that let you see the valleys and lakes and distant mountain ridges…

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Then finished off the rest of the Sunshine Meadows hike, where I got some amazing blue sky photos.

IMG_3141.JPG We only saw a few little mammals. Our shuttle driver said there are bears roaming around and they do find elk/sheep carcasses so they’re out there! But luckily nothing crossed our paths. It seems odd to me that in US, I feel like the idea of bears is like “HOLY FUCK YOU ARE GOING TO DIE IF YOU COME ACROSS ONE” whereas here it’s very like “just make sure you make noise and let them know you’re around.”

We took the shuttle back to the main parking area and we got our leftovers from last night and ate it in front of the giant Sunshine Meadows gondola/cafe/shop area. I guess snowfall forces people to build things to last, because all the buildings looked like giant REI recent constructions.

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Tomorrow is Lake Louise! I’m honestly exhausted from this trip. I’m clearly very unfit and in all my photos all I can notice is my GIANT BELLY!!! But I’m not exhausted from just the hiking. Part of me wishes I were doing this vacay SOLO. So it could just be me and my podcasts…it’s not very relaxing when I have to put up with my mom and dad annoyed at one another or my mom constantly needing to pee or my dad being unable to walk downhill…

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Day Two: Johnston Canyon & Tunnel Mountain

I knocked out early last night but am going to attempt to draft a post while my parents get ready for breakfast. Despite the fact that I have had two terrible nights of sleep, I still really like the lodge we’re staying at and kind of want to see if they have more available nights for the last leg of our trip.

The hotel breakfasts here are pretty good – I wonder what a disappointment it is for travelers who come to US and go to the free breakfasts and it’s like … cereal, toast and bruised apples. Here there was eggs, sausages, bacon, yogurt, granola, lots of bread, cereal, fruit… My parents stuffed themselves and then we set off!

My first trip was a twenty-five minute drive to Johnston Canyon. Unlike most canyons I’ve been to, it was not hot, unshaded and dusty. Instead of walking on the rim of the canyon, they built a catwalk so you can walk along the canyon wall, which provides a lot of shade and puts you right by water and greenery. The waterfalls weren’t terribly amazing. But the canyon was!

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My mom loves any shaded hike with a lot of greenery so she was pretty thrilled. My dad turned around after a decent amount of walking. We had already hit the Lower Falls and the Upper Falls, the first two destinations on the out and back hike, but my mom and I wanted to complete the rest of the hike and see the Inkpots. However, my mom ended up needing to use the restroom and since the hike was so populated, she couldn’t just go off trail and go behind a tree. She says she didn’t want someone with a camera to capture her and then everyone would judge her and say “Look at that Asian lady, Asians are so disgusting!” So we turned around not much after my dad turned around. I think we hit the best spots anyway.

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On the way back to our hotel, there was an amazing viewpoint just off the freeway. Great expansive views!

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Then we headed straight to Tunnel Mountain which has been billed to me as an easy, very popular hike in Banff. I should’ve interpreted “a trail of switchbacks” as difficult for my parents though, so it’s my own fault. I felt kind of bad for my dad, but he ended up making it all the way to the top and it was a rewarding view. I wonder what he thought that night, after our first day of hiking. Like “oh god what have I gotten into.” My parents did very well though!

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Then we did dinner at a pizza place and ordered WAY too much food; we had two pizzas, chicken wings and garlic bread. We have an entire pizza leftover and some of the garlic bread and half the chicken wings. Well now we have our lunch prepared! I left the pizza outside on the balcony so that it wouldn’t stink up the room. Luckily it doesn’t look like any animals got into it, though I’m not sure if it iced up in the night.

Day One: Banff

I’m going to try to make an effort to resurrect my real-time blog posts when I’m on vacation … because I actually kind of enjoy writing them and posting pics in a non-Instagram format! I am remembering why I failed to do this the last few vacations though … it’s 11:49pm and I’m EXHAUSTED and probably need to wake up pretty early tomorrow and why am I writing about my day again? Oh yes, posterity’s sake.

My flight to Calgary departed SFO at 8:45am. I was super nervous about the idea of relying on Uber to take me to the airport at 6am on a Saturday morning. I ended up going to bed VERY LATE like 12:30am and woke up several times during the night. I kept checking Uber to see if there were cars in my neighborhood, which there were even at like 3am. Naturally, I started hitting my deep REM cycle and my alarm rang at 5:30am.

My Uber came within 6 minutes. To which I say, YAY UBER! I mean, I don’t know why I thought a taxi would be any more reliable. Having to rely on a taxi to take me to the airport used to fill me with great anxiety as well.

Nothing eventful at SFO. The plane to Calgary was tiny, like, tinier than even Southwest planes, though not the smallest plane I’ve ever been on (that would be some tiny Alaskan Airlines flight I took to Portland). Nothing eventful at Calgary either. I waited for my parents’ flight to get in, went to get the rental car, was VERY delighted that they had an available Nissan Altima and requested that model, and got a GPS which I’m super thankful I paid an extra $56 for. I don’t know why I ever thought I’d be able to survive without a GPS.

The first stop was … COSTCO. Which was truly a delight! My parents LOVED eating at the food court for lunch, like it was the best thing that could have ever been planned. We bought some fruits, jerky and the softest cinnamon raisin bread I’ve ever eaten, I got some cool chocolate bars I have never seen in America … and ninety minutes later we finally set off for Banff.

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Meal for champions

Bummers of the day:
1) I never called the Canadian National Park office as I intended to, and now I kind of regret it because I assumed I could use my AAA card for a discount at any location but the ranger told me I would’ve had to do it at a certain location. The discount alone would’ve made up for like … 1/3 of the AAA membership cost. LE SIGH
2) I forgot to pack/stupidly refused to pack and now heavily regret it: Vitamin B, waterproof pants, an umbrella, an auxiliary cable…3) I forgot to bring my basil and mint plants into the house so they’re definitely going to be dead when I return.

Driving on Canadian highways feels very slow. Once we passed into Banff National Park territory, a thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere and just started pouring. Which is a major bummer because I had assumed it would be sunny this whole time!!! Turns out my family was pretty unprepared for rain.

The first place we’re in is booked for three nights and the room is a delight. One queen bed and two single beds! Separated by the bathroom which is awesome. There is a really cool outdoor hot tub area. My mom, unfortunately, caught a glimpse of an older male guest who thought naked hot tubbing was a thing around here. I kept incredulously doubting that someone would be naked and she kept going “NO. I SAW HIS PRIVATE PARTS.” Hilariously, we went to the receptionist to confirm that naked hot tubbing really is not a thing in Canada and she was so horrified to hear that this had happened. She went “Oh my god!!!!!! It must be a European!

Our dinner here was a little sad, though delicious and relaxing. It consisted of our Costco lunch leftovers, a package of something we picked up at Safeway called hot Alaskan pollack which I describe as a spicy fish nugget.  After dinner, all three of us went to the outdoor hot tub and had the whole place to ourselves. I kind of feel like there is NO ONE in this lodge but I also tried looking at rooms after I had already booked in order to price compare and it said it was unavailable! I guess everyone is quiet as a mouse.

Otherwise, my plan was to drive to Vermillion Lakes and do a quick walk around. My plan was foiled though because we got a ridiculously great spot in the parking lot and none of us really wanted to move the car and have to find parking again at night/in the rain. So instead, we started walking through town, ducking into souvenir shops because it was POURING. It finally let up a little though. I wanted to do the Fenland Trail which is supposed to be SUPER EASY but we were easily put off by a giant puddle obstacle and the fact that it just so happened to start pouring again when we reached the trailhead. We ended up just wandering alongside Bow River which delighted my parents even though I felt kind of bummed that my agenda had not worked out as planned. Oh well. NOW IT’S TIME FOR BED.

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Banff’s road sides have this cool design on the back