Day 10: Banff, the last day

LAST DAY! Our flight out was at like 6pm or something, so we had a few hours of Banff exploration which was nice. We checked out after another self-made breakfast of leftovers in our hotel room. Then we drove to Bow River, walked around the park near it, explored the nearby Cascade Gardens then walked down Bow River and reached Bow River Falls. The main thing of the day that I had not planned on going to (but had read about!) was Cascade Gardens. It didn’t sound impressive in my research but when I saw it I was like OMG BEAUTIFUL!

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It’s a big garden for the Banff Park Administration (or maybe it’s the Canada Park Administration?) and was realllyyyy beautifully landscaped. And importantly, free. We spent a LOT of time here and took A TON of pictures. Everyone was very happy.

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We finally set off and left Banff though, all with the intention of eating Costco lunch, filling up on Costco gas, and then going to the airport. I found the Costco, turned in and … CLOSED. LABOR DAY. AHHH!! Pandemonium since my mom was at this point bursting to use the restroom and had entered panic mode. We drove to a gas station, she jumped out to pee … GAS STATION CLOSED!!!!! MORE PANDEMONIUM!!!!! We drove to a KFC/Taco Bell and she went to pee. So did my dad. While waiting, I looked out the window and saw a Nando’s and decided though we had peed here, we would eat there.

We drove the car over to Nando’s and … GIANT LINE! We decided to get take out as at this point, our flights seemed to be getting closer and closer to being missed. Unfortunately it took FOREVER to get our take out food. We got our food, ate it in the car, and set off for the airport. At first I was bummed I hadn’t ordered more so that we could eat in the airport. However, I didn’t realize they’d put us through immigration before security, so I’m glad I wasn’t carrying a giant bag of chicken while we were waiting in the long line.

Then … flight home. VACATION OVER! $30 Uber ride home, ridiculous.

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Day Nine: Yoho National Park

I’m really blasting through these. I’ve written three posts so far and reposted the prior entries with better quality pictures. Apparently when I uploaded pics during my trip they were terrible quality! Ugh wordpress.

Anyway, close to done! This day was originally planned to be my Lake Louise Everything Left To Do day. But my mom seemed like she really enjoyed Yoho National Park when she went a few years ago, and it seemed like a pretty good day trip option. It’s only about half an hour away from Lake Louise, and there are a manageable number of stops that would make the trip worth it.

First we stopped at the Spiral Tunnels, where you see tunnels built into a mountain for trains to travel through. Theoretically very cool, but from that particular viewpoint you couldn’t quite see anything.

We then continued onto Takakkaw Falls, which was a very high waterfall. Lots of visitors. You could walk straight up to it but we didn’t go all the way up close. It was a nice, easy walk from the (very full) parking lot up to the waterfall, so it was a good start to the morning.

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Then we went toward Emerald Lake but stopped in the small town of Field beforehand. I bought some tacos from a bbq place in that town, which were VERY heavy on the sauce which was a little gross. It was a nice excuse to sit outside on their picnic tables and eat our food though. We even walked around the town because the houses there were pretty cute. A great stop! One of those things you can do when you’re not short on time.

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On we went, stopping at the Natural Bridge first, which was pretty cool. Then Emerald Lake! Of all the things from her Banff trip, my mom thought this was the prettiest lake that I just had to see. I wasn’t terribly impressed to be honest. My favorite body of water this trip was Mistaya Canyon, but my favorite lake was the one below the Valley of Ten Peaks. Well, we walked all along Emerald Lake Lodge which is quite extensive. I then opted to do a full loop around Emerald Lake, despite the slight drizzle. Unfortunately, my mom’s iphone battery died before I could get to the side of the lake that wasn’t in shadow, and my camera doesn’t take pictures that well 😦

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After that, on we went back to Banff! The thing we didn’t do was Wapta Falls, which was considerably farther away though still in the park. Oh well.

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We arrived in Banff at a good time, I think around 5pm, since Lake Louise is only about half an hour from Banff. The lodging for our last night in Canada was farther from the center of Banff than our first three nights in Banff, but still less than a mile away which was the perfect amount of walking for us, since we hadn’t done much walking this day. We walked to a restaurant I had yelped, a Southern place, but once we got there, I saw that there was a Subway just across the street, and we ended up eating there. Oh well, sometimes it’s actually easier on everyone to just eat simpler food where my parents are more comfortable. Everyone’s spirits are noticeably lifted when my parents are eating sandwiches and not awkwardly sitting in a sit-down restaurant.

My dad then walked back to the hotel by himself, but not before my mom and I drilled him on how to get back because neither of us fully trusted that he had any sense of where he was. “Which hotel is it?” “What room are we?” “Do you ever cross the street?” Luckily he was in the room when we got back. My mom and I decided to walk around Banff at night which really meant just going from souvenir shop to souvenir shop. There was one market, like a gourmet market, that we went into and I bought a chocolate milk because the glass container was SOOO CUTE. I drank the milk the following morning, the first time in a long time I’ve had chocolate milk, and it was DELISH.

ONE MORE DAY!

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Day Eight: Glaciers and Icefields Parkway

We left Jasper the next morning, and decided to walk around Jasper and get Subway for the road before leaving, as we now knew there would be very little to eat in Lake Louise and on the road back south. I’m glad we did this second Jasper walking tour, because we saw more stores than the night before, and it was nice to take more pictures with the sun out. We also stopped in a grocery store and picked up some delicious pastries. Had we known what our lodging would be this night, we probably would’ve gotten more stuff, but oh well.

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We then set off for the Edith Cavell Meadows hike. I had really debated whether or not to do this, because it was supposed to rain, and I didn’t want to be caught out in the rain while on a hike. I’m really glad I opted to do this though, because my parents seemed to love the glacier views, and it didn’t rain much, and now I feel like I won’t need to make the drive up to Jasper again if I decide to explore Banff a second time because this was my #1 place I wanted to hike in Jasper

For this hike, you do the Path of the Glacier hike, which puts you along Glacier Pond and right smack dab in front of a giant glacier. We heard ice crack and fall down which sounds like fireworks/thunder and makes you realize how small you are in the grand scheme of things. It kind of makes me want to go out to the poles and hear the ice cracking there too.

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My dad ended up turning around after we walked past the Glacier Pond because he was getting tired of the switchbacks. I’m glad he did this, and my mom and I continued onto the meadows part of the hike. My mom once again was in fear of bears, as well as the rocky footing, but she continued on and sounded very happy with her choice thereafter.

This is one of my favorite shots of the hike but I do kind of wish I had tried a few more shots. I was perched on a pile of rocks and I kept thinking to myself “I’m not actually certain what this pile of rocks is sitting on and whether it will cave and fall down into the giant glacier pond below…” so I chickened out and got back on the trail pretty quickly.

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We got back to the end and surprisingly, my dad said he had just gotten to the same spot not very long ago. He had taken his time on his walk back and did a little more exploration near the parking lot which my mom and I didn’t do. Again, I’m kind of relieved that we could all go to the same place, and occasionally go off in separate directions but still do our own thing happily.

With that, we continued on back to Lake Louise. This was essentially the “let’s do everything we didn’t have a chance to do!” drive back. Selfishly, I planned things so that we could skip certain hikes closer to Lake Louise, because there’d be more of a chance of me doing those if I came back again. We stopped at Athabasca Falls, which is a much bigger tourist spot than I expected. Though it was all white tourists, not Asians, I think because this was a farther destination than most Asian tours go to.

It was very pretty, but my main memory of this place was unfortunately being caught behind an European tourist who smoked and if you know me I am filled with RAGE whenever anyone near me smokes. I made a not very subtle move of burrowing my face into my jacket sleeve to breathe.

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We had just about reached the end of the Athabasca Falls area (there is a main area everyone stops at but you can continue on and explore more) when it started pouring. Bummer, I think my family would’ve spent another 45 minutes just taking pictures if it weren’t for the rain. I missed what would’ve been an amazing shot of a couple drenched in water and taking wedding photos.

Then we continued on … the rain stopped … and we stopped at Sunwapta Falls, which was nice but very hard to capture on camera. The only thing I tried but could never find was the the Weeping Wall. See here for a listing of attractions http://icefieldsparkway.com/highlights/points-of-interest

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We did a random stop at Big Bend, which I really liked. I asked a guy to take a picture for our family, then offered to take one of his group which he said yes to and then the three of them took a hilariously gangster wannabe pose, but they were doing it in complete seriousness.

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Because of our late start from Jasper, it was dark and raining when I ended in Lake Louise, which was a little stressful. It also dipped down to 6 degrees celsius while we were driving in the dark, which was crazy and also terrifying because I was picturing us getting into an accident and getting stuck outside in 6 degree weather. WE MADE IT THOUGH!

I had booked one night in Lake Louise Inn, which my mom kept marveling that I had the foresight to book in Lake Louise and not in Banff, which would have been quite a bit farther. The inn gave us a free upgrade upon arrival, from a 2 bedroom to a condo loft! My dad was thrilled and thought this was incredibly luxurious. I personally thought it the loft was a little dingy feeling, but it was still nice. SOOO many beds! We laid out our whole spread of food on the living room table and made a dinner out of a packet of ramen and our bread. I feel like whenever my parents can make tea to go with a meal, everyone is much happier.

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Another very restful night here. I had the whole top floor to myself; my parents took a downstairs bedroom.

Day Seven: Maligne Canyon

Oh lord it’s October 8th, more than a month since this actual vacation day happened, and I still have four days of this Canadian trip to blog about!!! I can’t say I remember much of this vacation anymore… I can probably jog my memory.

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We started out the day eating breakfast (aka our collected food throughout the trip) in our hotel room. I actually really enjoy the fact that our family can happily do this, because it is kind of a drag to have to look for restaurants for every meal. Sometimes it’s relieving to know I could sit in a hotel room while my mom prepares all the assorted food (Costco cinnamon bread… apples…) and my dad will heat water for tea and we can sit in the comfort of our hotel room. Also on the plus side, since this was a business conferencey kind of hotel, we had a very long desk to eat off of. On the down side, our windows faced into the hotel and overlooked the dining area in the center of the hotel. Since the lodge is only so many floors up, we had to keep the curtains closed. And I knew people could look straight into our rooms if we stood too close to the windows because I could see into others.

The plus side of staying here is that we were almost immediately on our way for our day trip to Maligne Lake & Canyon. The Canyon part comes first. There are essentially six bridges throughout the Maligne Canyon, of varying amazingness. You can start at either end but the one furthest from Jasper has a big restaurant and souvenir shop, so I started there. We went pretty far, but my parents turned back before reaching the final sixth bridge because it got super muddy. I had on my hiking boots, so I chose to continue on. Again, listening to my podcasts, though I can’t remember now what I was listening to at the time. I know on my way back I listened to another Bowery Brothers podcast on the Chrysler Building…

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Anyway, I’d say Maligne Canyon was another great spot. I thought the full hike was worth it, but if short on time, the first three bridges are the most stunning. You can do a loop trail, which I did. It was nice to have walked along two different trails, but the trail back was SUPER boring because you weren’t near water at all and the views weren’t terribly impressive.

I found my parents pretty quickly after that, and we decided to eat lunch in our car. I went and bought a wrap from the restaurant though. The guy serving me was SOOO nice. I at first said I wanted a tuna sandwich, then as he was preparing the bread, I went “actually can I change my mind and get the wrap?” and he was like “of course!” He was very nice and subtle and definitely knew I chose to get the wrap because I’d get way more value out of it, because he said “I’ll make you a GIANT wrap! The wrap is better than a sandwich” and proceeded to make me a wrap that puts Chipotle burritos to shame. I was delighted to bring it back to my parents, who were all like WOOWWW!

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After that, I drove onto Maligne Lake. This was quite a drive, and I thought I had missed it because it seemed a lot farther than the directions said. I probably wasn’t paying attention to the odometer though, because we eventually got there. All the postcards you see of Maligne Lake include Spirit Island, but you can’t see Spirit Island unless you pay to get on a boat. We opted out of this, and ended up just walking around the lake. It was pretty, though maybe not the most impressive on our trip. But it was flat, easy, and probably a nice change from the intense hikes I sometimes surprise my parents with.

Oh yes, the drive to the lake is very pretty, one of my favorites because the fall foliage reached here earlier than Icefields Parkway. There was one particularly gorgeous shot of the changing colors, but I couldn’t get it because I was driving.

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We drove back to Jasper, got a pretty great shot of a moose, and then went for dinner. We decided to park and walk around Jasper, which meant about an hour of my mom stopping in EVERY. SINGLE. SOUVENIR SHOP. We finally got to Subway, my parents’ favorite food destination. I opted to get my elk meatloaf from the Jasper Brewing Co we had gone to the night before, and then we drove back to the hotel to eat it. Another delicious meal.

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Day Six: Icefields Parkway

So I did five of ten days of vacation blogging … which is pretty much an F for effort. HA. The thing I hate about wordpress is, since six years ago when I first started using this site and now, they’ve added a lot of features and I never had the time to figure it out, and now when I post pictures, they’re completely unproportional to my site! Nothing here seems intuitive to me. I don’t have the time to make this visually appealing though, as I barely have time to even post. Maybe ONE DAY.

Anyway, the sixth day involved getting up, leaving Lake Louise and headed toward Jasper along the 93N aka the Icefields Parkway. There are a ton of stops along the way, as well as hikes. The weather also seems to be generally colder and rainier as we go up north, which was the case almost immediately once we set off. What had been beautiful blue skies quickly turned into grey rainy clouds, as if we had stepped through a portal.

Some hikes I wanted to do but did not get to do included Bow Glacier Falls and the Helen Lake/Crowfoot Glacier. We stopped briefly at the Num Ti Jah lodge, but it was pretty much pouring at this point and none of us had proper rain gear, though my parents really shouldn’t be out in the rain regardless of rain gear.

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I drove to Peyto Lake, where there was a short walk to view the Bow Valley/Peyto Lake, and it was still pouring, but at this point I was like, let’s just stop and sit because the weather report said it’d stop raining in about half an hour. So we just sat in the car … and sure enough the rain slowly let up. My mom and I decided to go out, now in the sprinkling rain (my dad refused), and it was just a ten minute walk up to the viewpoint and once we got up there, no more rain! By the time we came back down, my dad had gotten out of the car (though he still wasn’t interested in looking at the viewpoint), and after yet another bathroom break, we set off, now with considerably better weather than an hour before.

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The next major stop was Mistaya Canyon, which might be one of my favorite stops the entire trip. It’s a very narrow but deep canyon, with very interesting ridges along the side. I walked down to the edge (I’m not quittteee sure if you’re supposed to or not, but I don’t remember any railing preventing us from walking out).

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We stopped to do a picnic lunch at a place called the Saskatchewan Crossing which is where … I think people walked along the river back in the day to traverse the lands. Very few people stopped at this spot, so it was wonderfully peaceful to look out and imagine old fur traders walking below.

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A nearby stop, named the Crossing, is one of the few places to get gas along the parkway, though we didn’t need any. It was a huge rest stop looking area, and it was kind of nice to have real bathrooms even though all the bathrooms at all the stops in the park were so clean.

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The main hike of the day was Parker Ridge, which is described as “easy” but has a lot of switchbacks. It had amazing views, though admittedly it’s kind of the same view the entire time. I didn’t think the summit would have anything interesting, but a family we passed said it was well worth it. WRONG. Haha, my parents decided to head back down after reaching the top of the first half, and I told them I’d continue onto the summit just to look out. I remember listening to my Bowery Brothers podcast, it was an episode on the Times Building. We had been told the summit would be an amazing view of the glacier nearby but it wasn’t an amazing view … or maybe I just am not particularly interested in looking at a glacier? The fun thing was that I ended up catching up to my parents on my way back, which is kind of fun to be able to have my own alone time while hiking, but still be on the same schedule.

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As I’m writing this, I kind of can’t believe how much we fit in a single day! We continued onto the next main stop which is the Icefields Center. Here you can pay to go out onto a glacier via a special glacier traversing bus. You get out and walk around and collect glacier water. It is quite expensive for what sounds like a bus that goes out on what will just look like snow, so I declined. In any case, we arrived so late that we wouldn’t have caught a tour anyway. We still walked around the center and took SO many pictures regardless. There was a little more mist in the air and even a rainbow, but visibility of the glaciers was poor. We stopped here a few days later on the way back, and the sky was much clearer that time.

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I don’t think we stopped after that again, and it was actually another 1+ hour to our hotel so I was eager to get to our hotel before it got very dark. VERY few cars on the road at this point. We were staying in Jasper, which was a much bigger town than Lake Louise though I don’t think as big as Banff. Jasper is essentially just a very long drag of town and our hotel was the very last one. I really liked our hotel, though I think it might have been the most expensive. It was the Sawridge Inn at Jasper and seemed to primarily serve as a business conference center. It had hands down the best amenities I’ve ever had from a hotel, meaning their shampoo and conditioner smelled great and their soap was great. Also, it had the best internet I experienced on the trip.

That night we went to eat at a place called Jasper Brewing Company, and the food was AMAZINGGGG. We shared the following (SO DELICIOUS): Toasted Reuben Sandwich, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Classic Burger, with fries, sweet potato fries and a really amazing salad that had much fresher ingredients than I had expected. I also saw an elk meatloaf on the menu which I was tempted to try. We were so stuffed that I was really bummed that my parents were not willing to extend their bellies to try their Apple & Berry Crisp (the menu description is “Vanilla bean ice cream, Rye Whiskey Sauce”). Doesn’t that sound intriguing?! Other things on their menu: Kale Spaghetti, Seared Beetroot & Quinoa Burger, Elk Carpaccio.

We walked briefly around the street, but it was bitterly cold so we got back to our car and drove the one mile back to the hotel… and I think I finally had my first full, restful night of the trip. SUCH COMFORTABLE BEDS! My parents had at this point decided that I would sleep in my own bed and they would share (usually I share with my mom) and I remember being very annoyed about something so I did it this first night. And we all slept so well that this sleeping arrangement continued throughout the trip and worked VERY WELL for all of us.

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