Which one is the Rocky Mountain?

17 09 2009

So we picked up our hire car, a nice free upgrade to a Ford Focus saloon with leather seats, spoiler etc.. Was great to have our own car again – so much more freedom to go where you want, when you want and properly explore off the beaten track.

We headed south towards Calgary on day one, stopping only for a rather stressful 2 hour long grocery shopping session! The drive was great down to Kananaskis Country (misleadingly not actually a country), long rolling hills and ranches with big red barns everywhere. We were both on the lookout for wildlife as we got out into the wilderness, so much so that our imaginations started playing tricks on us – Zoë swears she saw a cow riding a horse and my initial excitement over spotting a black bear at the side of the road was dashed when Zoë pointed out it was a cow with a small head.

We pitched up our tent at one of the provincial parks, luckily getting one of the last couple of spaces as everywhere was full for the long Labor day weekend. Camping was a bit of a shock to the system after our few days of luxury – The tent pitches are rarely flat and almost always gravel and rock – no soft green fields camping here! Plus with clear sunny days comes freezing cold nights so we were no longer regretting bringing too many clothes!

We went for a couple of hikes on our first few days – no bear sightings thanks in part to the incredibly annoying bear-bell, which ruins all of the peace and quiet of walking through beautiful countryside! If I was a bear I’d track us down and rip us to shreds just to shut us up!

We visited Canmore Nordic centre on our way to Banff where lots of skin-suited people were skating around on roller blades carrying rifles on their back for Biathlon training! Everyone looked a bit Pro for us to join in with that so we had a go on one of the Orienteering trails setting a blistering time of 66 minutes Vs. the advised 20-40 minutes!

View of Banff

We camped on the outskirts of Banff for a couple of nights and did a few walks from here. As I was getting used to sleeping in sub-zero temperatures on rocks I started to get enough sleep to allow early morning photography jaunts. Some nice scenery but with the added bonus of lots of wildlife wandering around pre-dawn! It’s Elk rutting season at the moment and I came across several stags having a good old headbutt session by the side of the road. I wasn’t sure how close to get the first time I saw them – we’d read they’re not afraid of you or your car and will have a go at you if you look like you’re challenging them! Therefore I didn’t get any good pictures – pretty hard when you’re driving and trying to lean out of the passenger window at the same time and aim the camera at them while keeping a lookout for the other stags all eyeing you up for a fight!

Canoe on Moraine Lake

We had a day up at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake before going into Kootenay National Park for a couple of hikes and a soak in the Radium Hot Springs. The animal of choice around here is the Big horn sheep of which there are plenty wandering around the campsite. None of them tried to get us in the night though which was a relief after ‘either a squirrel or a moose’ had tried to get in the night before according to Zoë!

The next day we headed up the back roads to Golden (self proclaimed Town of Opportunity) where we stocked up on food and treated ourselves to a real pillow from the dollar store. From there we went into Yoho National Park and after some hikes to pretty impressive waterfalls set up camp near Kicking Horse. As it was getting cold again, Zoë thought she’d have a go at making fire which was quite amusing for me and all the Canadians sat around in front of theirs on the neighboring sites! After an hour of fanning smouldering paper she gave up on attaining her ‘practical scouting skills’ badge and came and joined me in the car for some sewing. I’d spent the evening cutting the pillow in half and then sewing it back together to make two small pillows – a much more successful venture!

The Sky at Night - Yoho N.P

After more hikes in Yoho N.P we stayed in Lake Louise for the night and then headed up the Icefields parkway. We stopped for a good hike around Bow lake and a look at the duck egg blue Peyto Lake. We also stopped for a look at the Athabasca Glacier and the Athabasca falls further up the parkway. It was here that we gave up on our camping hardiness and found a Wilderness hostel for the night to thaw out – awesome place, pretty basic with no running water etc.. but very cosy log cabin and we were very glad of the nice soft bed and blankets for a change! Nice to meet some like-minded travellers again too and get some tips on places to visit and stay on our journey ahead.

After Athabasca we continued on up to Jasper where we stayed for our last couple of nights. We did a couple more hikes around here adding Moose, Marmot and Caribou to our animal spotters list! We also got to see another massive fight between two bull elk, all about 50 metres from our tent!

Stag Fight!

We return to Edmonton today to drop off our hire car and get a Greyhound over to Vancouver where we’ll do another little road trip for a week or so.

We’ve been away 4 weeks now, only 48 left! We’re both getting back into the swing of travelling, we’re eating well, getting lots of exercise and the combination of sun and dirt is making us look pretty healthily tanned! No major injuries so far either – hopefully I can say the same after we’ve ripped up Whistler bike park for a day!

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