Published: June 27th 2012June 27th 2012
Finally we made it out of Vancouver! It has been pretty wet over here and along with the spring thaw, the result is all the rivers etc are swollen and flooding which has made all the waterfalls extra spectacular. HOPE
Our first stop out of Vancouver was a little township called Hope. We only stopped here to check out the Othello Tunnels in the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park
. These are old rail tunnels which were part of the Kettle Valley Rail system which is no longer in use. The five tunnels were a remarkable feat which most people claimed would be impossible to achieve. The walk through the canyon was very dramatic and picturesque. This is the area where parts of Rambo First Blood was filmed and is still a popular spot for movies to be filmed.
We realised that night that we had left our jackets in the motel in Surrey (120km away) so the following morning we had to backtrack to retrieve them before we could continue our journey. We then headed for Kamloops via the Fraser Canyon highway. This was a spectacular drive through the mountains. The highest point here was 1450m above sea level.
We had noticed some issues with the van on the way but she climbed the hills and got us through without issue. We decided not to stop in Kamloops other than for dinner and continued on another 120km to a small town called Clearwater on the old highway 5. We travelled about 600km on this day and it was a long day but the campground we stayed at that night was in the most beautiful spot on a lake which helped overlook the state of the facilities which were pretty basic. WELLS GREY PROVINCIAL PARK
This was touted in our Go Canada app (via IPhone) as a must see and we agree. It is a very pretty park with multiple waterfalls and a lake which was quite a drive in. Our first stop was Spahats waterfall which had plenty of water and a great view across the valley. Further along the road to our next stop we saw a bear grazing on the side of the road. Next stop was Dawson Falls which were obviously a must stop. These were not high but reasonably wide and the amount of water coming down the river was unbelievable. It was
raining (again) as we went through the park which just made it all the more dramatic. The last waterfall (Helmcken Falls) was in about 47km and on a windy narrow road which included a very rickety looking one way wooden bridge (over the very swollen river) but was worth the drive too. From here we headed up to another little town called Blue River for the night. MT ROBSON PROVINCIAL PARK
The next day we drove to Mt Robson Provincial Park. Mt Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and is mostly shrouded in cloud as it was when we were there. Being in and Alpine area meant the weather was generally not great but it wasn't terrible so we were able to get out and do stuff. There were no privately owned RV parks here so we spent the night in the campgrounds run by Parks Canada. These have proved to be a fantastic find - they are much nicer location wise than most of the private campgrounds although often (but not always) more basic. On our first afternoon we went for a walk to the Overlander Falls via a relatively unused trail were we
spied a very large pile of what we can only assume was bear poop. I didn't enjoy this walk so much as we saw no one else and I do prefer to do hikes were there is some other human activity. The next day we walked up to Lake Kinney which was a 14km round trip. This was a beautiful hike - we followed the fiver up to the lake which is Glacial fed. We lunched at the campsite by the lake (it is part of a multi-day hike) before heading back down. This was the first real hike we had managed to do and we throughly enjoyed it. From here we headed onto Jasper. JASPER
The Jasper township is nothing to write home about but its location in the middle of the Canadian Rockies is unbeatable. We had to buy a pass to travel through Jasper and Banff National Parks which was an unexpected expense. We ended up buying an annual pass as it is a nationwide pass and will be good for all other parks in Canada that charge a fee to enter. Again there were no private campgrounds right the way through so we stayed
in the Park Canada grounds which were great. We caught the tram/gondola up Mt Whistler which was a fantastic ride. The gondola climbed 2000m to a viewing station with a cafe and boardwalk. We could also climb further up Mt Whistler from this point which we did. It was hard work - the altitude really does a job on you. The views from the top were worth the hike though as you had 360 degree views of the Rockies. There were quite a few Elk in this area and it is calving season. The female elk become quite agressive and will charge you if you get too close to their calves. An Elk chose to calve right near our campsite (beside the main trail through the campground and next to our toilet facilities). We were unaware of this and Tane got up to pee in the middle of the night and the Elk stalked him down the trail to the toilets which freaked him out a bit. Luckily he had his torch which probably helped stop the animal from being too agressive as they recommend shining one at the Elk to keep them at bay. These are big animals, they
stand taller than us by quite a bit and can do substantial damage. The Elk made moves to charge me on my visit to the toilet in the morning which is when we found out she had calved the night before by one of our camper neighbours. She became quite the pest and did charge quite a few people that morning before park staff arrived to escort here to another part of the park. They basically have streamers on the end of a broom handle and wave this at the mother and calf to guide them away. While here we booked the van into the local Shell station for a look over. The mechanic here was great and made some minor adjustments which didn't completely fix all the issues but gave us the confidence to get over the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway is the road to Lake Louise and while we thought we climbed quite high on our drive through the Fraser Canyon, we climbed much higher on this road. The drive was superb and we climbed up over 2000m above sea level. We saw plenty of wildlife on the road, including wildlife that considers the road it's own
personal walkway. LAKE LOUISE
Both Tane and I thought Lake Louise was just the loveliest spot. Here we hiked up to the Plain of 6 Glaciers. This was a 5.5km hike one way - the first 2km around Lake Louise was a nice flat jaunt and then it was a hard slog up 365m in 3.5km. This is the best hike we have done so far - although it was nothing but up on the way in it was very pretty and once you got in a bit there was still quite a bit of snow around. We had to climb over quite a few snowy areas and were glad we had worn our tramping boots although there were people doing it in all sorts of footwear. It still surprises me that people will go into Alpine areas with nothing more than a bottle of water - no food or jackets. On the plus side though there was a cafe at the end of the track. We could hear the Glaciers cracking and moving from the lake, but also got to see lot of mini avalanches on the way up - one came down quite close to us
and we could see the effects as we climbed over the snow not far from where it finished up. The track rounded a corner at the end and you stepped out into a big clearing that apparently is a meadow in the summer time but was still completely covered in snow. Here a cafe is run on Propane stoves - it is a historic site as the cabin is very old. We treated ourselves to the best apple pie and tea cakes - these are all made on site - before having our boring old sandwiches we had packed. The supplies are helicoptered in once at the beginning of the season and then staff or packhorses bring in any additional requirements. Staff hike in and are on a 5 day on 5 day off rotation and have accommodation by the cafe. The trip back down was a much quicker and less strenuous affair. The Fairmont sits right on the lake and so on our return we stopped in here for a drink and to rest our weary legs. BANFF
We didn't think an awful lot of Banff. It is the most commercialised off the areas and the township
is blocky and congested. There isn't an awful lot to do here either. We drove out to Two Jacks and went for a walk up to Stewart Canyon around one of the lakes. The following day as the weather was meant to be awful we headed up to the Fairmont and had high tea which was just divine. The Fairmont here is what the chain should look like - all built out of stone and looking like a French Chateau. The inside architeture is amazing and it was nice to be pampered for a while. CALGARY
We have only stopped in Calgary for a day - we have the van in with a mechanic who specialises in them and he had checked it over and it needs a couple of bits and pieces. The throttle cable is frayed (which we knew) so he is getting us a new one which Tane can replace if necessary. The distributor is also faulty (partly which may be our fault by running the stereo without the engine going for periods of time) and also due to it being a cheap aftermarket one so we are having this replaced with a proper one.
He has repeated what the mechanic in Vancouver said - it is in good condition - so this should be the last time it should need to be looked at. In saying that it is 30 years old! It is cold and wet here. We checked out the Calgary Zoo today which was a little disappointing although it was rather novel to visit the indoor enclosures for animals we are used to seeing in outdoor settings at home (such as the hippo). Tomorrow we collect the van and head out of town towards Regina, Saskatchewan via Medicine Hat, Swift Current and Moose Jaw.
There are more photos below