We left Yellowstone at about half twelve on Saturday, after finally getting to see it with blue skies and sunshine. Truly a beautiful place. Our next destination was Glacier National Park, pretty much straight up from Yellowstone, in Montana.
We began driving and it was going to take about three hours to reach the Two Medicine entrance on the east side. When we arrived at the entrance gate, we showed our pass again and collected the map. We pulled over into a lay by to have a look at the map. This wasn’t a park you could drive round, no. It was a park you could drive around the edge of of take the Great Sun Road, the 50 mile road connecting the west and east side of the park.
It turned out that the Two Medicine entrance just led to a campsite and some hiking trails. We turned round and exited and began driving west towards Apgar. This is where the Great Sun Road starts. The drive was literally right around the edge of the park and as we hit Apgar, Nathan wanted food so we headed south to find some. I also booked us into a hotel for the night so we could finally have a shower! That and my hayfever was dreadful so camping probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
After a cheeky Taco Bell, we made it to the hotel and I went straight to bed. Thankfully my hayfever seemed to subside after a nights sleep in a bed and we were ready to get back to the park. The weather wasn’t too bad for a Sunday morning! It was the first time we had managed to get waffles for breakfast in a long time too! Things we looking up!! We were entering through the Apgar entrance to then drive across the Great Sun Road and exit on the east side. Or so we thought….
As we pulled up to the booth to flash our pass we asked about the Great Sun Road. It was shut after only 16 miles at avalanche because they were still clearing snow. That was not what we wanted to hear. Nevertheless we drove the 16 miles there, only to then turn round, drive the 16 miles back, and to top off a successful morning, we then drove all the way back to the Two Medicine entrance in order to head north! Had we known the road was closed we wouldn’t have bothered and saved a lot of time and gas!!
Anyway, we drove round to Two Medicine and then continued heading north. We weren’t far away from the Canadian border so we thought ‘why not?’ And continued driving. Our phones suddenly lost internet and changed network provider, and the satnav appeared to show the roads coming to an end! What was happening? Was it Canada or were we entering some sort of twilight zone! We saw the sign for customs and had absolutely no idea where we were going or what we were doing.
Thankfully the RV in front of us did. No no he didn’t. We followed them to a point that almost skipped customs when a border agency guard ran out to stop us and beckoned us over to the correct line, whoops!!! He asked if we were travelling with those in the RV or just following their poor decision making. Ouch. We got proper told off. Luckily the lady in the booth was lovely. We just handed over our passports and driving licenses as we still had no idea what we needed! She asked how long we were staying in Canada and what our plans were and then sent us on our way with a stamp in our passport 😊🇨🇦!!
We had entered Alberta. The road was very long, and seemed even longer as we had no way of telling where we were going! There was nothing around either just fields and fields of grass dotted with the occasional cow. What were we going to do? We didn’t even know what we wanted to do in Canada, just that we were close enough to pop over the border to say we had been there! Amateurs! We eventually came to a sign that said visitor information in Cardston. Maybe they’d have a map?
We located the visitors centre which thankfully had toilets and a wifi hotspot!! We googled to see if our phones would work on the ‘feel at home’ scheme in Canada. Nope. We looked for a map. Nope. What sort of visitors centre doesn’t have a map?? My next brainwave came in the form of a gas station. They always have maps right? A short distance down the road and we found a gas station.
Not only had we no internet and no sat nav, the distances were now in kilometres, the speed in kilometres per hour and gas stations used litres!! Could this trip get any more confusing? I mean seriously, it’s like we were being tested on everything! All I knew was there’s 1.6 kilometres to a mile. We knew we had a ten gallon tank but what on earth was that in litres? Throw in a different currency too and we were stumped!! At least we had a map!The downside to the map was it was going to be me giving directions. I’m crap at giving directions when following a sat nav or google maps let alone an actual paper map! Thankfully, the road we were on took us straight up to Calgary and as we passed each town I circled them on the map just to make sure we were going in the right direction. Then as we hit Calgary we missed the turning! Haha it was inevitable! We figured we would just keep driving until we saw something I could pinpoint on the map. We also needed food. There had been nothing but subway since the border. We wanted somewhere with wifi, and needed it as yet again we had no plan and no place to stay!
Chili’s screamed at us from a billboard but neither of us saw what junction to come off of whatever road we were on. So we kept driving. And driving. Still we had no idea where we were, but out of nowhere, another Chili’s billboard saying it’s located in Southcentre mall. Not on the map so we just took the next turning right. Ended up in a car park that was nothing to do with southcentre or a mall or Chili’s so we went back out followed the road we were on round and there it was! We parked and entered the mall. We even had to use a map to try and find Chili’s!! I thought I knew where we were going, but when we got to where I thought it should be, it was just a clothes shop. Turns out it was outside 😂! Outside we went and there it was.
Finally. Food! We signed up to their newsletter to get a free starter then ordered food. We argued with Three about why we had been charged for internet service despite turning our data off at the border, managed to get our accounts credited and also found somewhere to stay up in Canmore. It’s all well and good knowing which place you’re staying in, but it wasn’t on the map. Once we had eaten, we ended up getting lost getting out of the mall with only two minutes to spare before it shut. What an eventful day so far!
The hotel was about seventy miles away along one main stretch of road. I had connected to google maps before we left Chili’s and it managed to get us most of the way there until it just decided to stop being helpful. We arrived at our hotel at the worst time, when a coach load of people had arrived at the same time. Check in was chaotic to say the least with their tour guide having collected all their keys and just stood shouting in whichever language they spoke for them to collect them. I had to actually fight my way through to the desk, they gave us a free upgrade and we headed up to our room, not without fighting our way to the stairs first. We actually got hissed at by an old woman!!!
The room was lovely. The shower powerful. The TV in mostly French! Still, it allowed us time to figure out where we were going and what we were doing. The best part??? The beds. Oh my god. They had massagers installed in them so we sat there having head back and foot massages all night as well as manoeuvring the head bit and foot bit. It was a-mazing!!!! Eventually we were sent to sleep by the soft vibrations of the bed….
Nathan has downloaded a new alarm that wakes him in his lightest sleep. It worked! This morning it went off and he was up half an hour before me totally ready! Only took 8 weeks for that to happen…our first stop this morning was to be Banff National Park. We were naughty and had McDonalds for breakfast where they did the wraps which were incredibly tasty! Much better than in the US! Banff was only seven miles away so we got there in no time.
This year is Canada’s 150th birthday. That was great news for us, because it meant we got into the national parks for free!! Yaaaay!! The lady explained that to us then we headed in. Banff is a quaint but rather beautiful mountain town. There are hundreds of places to stay, eat, shop. We also visited the visitors centre to get a map of the national parks as ours doesn’t give us that much detail. We found a souvenir shop and a post office then we headed on our way.I managed to tell Nathan to go in the wrong direction out of Banff and towards the park but it turned out to be a good thing as we stumbled across Bow Falls. A waterfall, a crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains.Once we had taken a few photos we headed back the way we had come and again, we were heading in the wrong direction. Whoops! Quickly I told Nathan to turn left and then we finally got back on track. From here on it was plain sailing!
As we continued driving we saw a black blob on the side of the road. Then it moved. A bear!! So close to us too. We couldn’t stop quick enough before it ran off into the trees. It’s safe to say we love bears! We continued driving past Vermillion Lakes up towards Lake Louise. Cars were pulled over as we passed these horned sheep.As we were driving along, we came across hoards of people pulled over on the side of the road. Clearly we had to investigate so we too pulled over. Cameras at the ready we headed to where everyone was stood. More bears! A mummy bear and two brown cubs! They were so close to us too!! Just playing in the field on the side of the road! With no time to stop everywhere, we decided to continue driving and head up the Icefields Parkway.The first part of the park we came to was Herbert Lake. It was stunning and looked more like a mirror than a lake! You could see see perfect reflections of the towering mountains in the water. No wonder there were so many cars stopped here!Further along the parkway was Crowfoot glacier. Another beautiful part of this mesmerising park! It was sitting high in the mountains overlooking Bow Lake. There weren’t hundreds of places to stop along the roads through the park but the stops they had put in were incredible!Moving forward closer to the Colombia Icefield, we passed more and more glaciers of different sizes. Another we stopped at was Stutfield before we hit the jackpot at the Icefield. Colombia mountain is the highest in Alberta towering at 3747m high. Here the temperature plummeted and the wind picked up. We pulled into the parking lot at the bottom of the glacier and actually had to put trousers, a coat and hat on it was that cold! The only way to warm up was to be to hike the steep mile long trail to the base of the glacier. The icy wind made it harder to breathe and I’m sure people at the top and bottom could hear me panting as I made my way up the stony track. It didn’t look as steep from the car park! There were people using hiking poles to help them too! Eventually we made it to the top and after a few deep breaths followed by coughs I was fighting for again! No photos can do the Athabasca Glacier justice. They don’t capture the sheer size of it. It was absolutely huge and an incredible part of nature to see!Since 1885 it has lost 60% of its volume which equates to 350 million cubic metres of ice! Imagine how big it used to be!! They offered tours to go hiking on the glacier too! We would have done it if we weren’t on a timescale! Still, it gives us reason to come back and we would definitely want to come back to Canada!
The rest of the journey took us to Jasper where we exited Jasper Nation Park along the yellowhead highway, past Mt Robson which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies standing at a whopping 3954m high! The cloud had covered the whole sky by now so trying to work out which mountain was which turned out to be difficult because most of the Peaks were shrouded with cloud so they all looked the same!Our next destination was Vancouver, some 800km south west of where we were. The scenery throughout the whole journey was just breathtaking it really was. Cute little towns such as Kamloops sitting atop a hill overlooking the river and downtown and highways that passed through the hills around us. We stopped in Kamloops briefly to borrow some wifi and eat so that we had somewhere to stay tonight. Our motel is in Langley, about 25 miles east of Vancouver.The scenery around us has been spectacular the whole way. I was just glad that by using the map, I managed to direct us to our hotel and this time we didn’t get lost! Admittedly it’s quite easy when it’s just motorways but shhhh…credit where credits due…Looks like we have driven a mountain…1300km later and time to relax before we head back into the Us tomorrow. We’ve decided against going to Vancouver as we wouldn’t want to rush it. So at some point we will be back and will also venture up to Alaska…