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Published: April 27th 2020
Not sure it is possible to get a more perfect reflection
Well, our first little one was almost here and Nikkie was really excited to go on a baby-moon (I mean as if we really need a reason to go on vacation, but I guess this was as good a reason as any). As always it was a struggle to decide what to do (not too far because Nikkie was about 7 months along). So ultimately the roulette wheel landed on western Canada - more specifically BANFF NATIONAL PARK
. Just all these National Geographic pictures of pristine lakes surrounded by majestic mountains with all sorts of wild animals running around. Just the normal "us" stuff.
So, after a quick stopover in Chicago we got into Calgary really late at night. From what I remember the airport was quite a bit out of town, so we drove into town and spent the night at the Four Points by Sheraton Calgary West
- clean and cheap. With a 7-month pregnant lady brunch/breakfast becomes the most important meal of the day (really all 3 meals, but especially this one). We actually found a little gem in the Diner Deluxe
. The breakfast poutine w/ poached egg, Quebec cheese curds, basil hollandaise, rosemary hash browns, double smoked bacon, and scallions was awesome. The maple-fried
Coffee and hot chocolate to start our babymoon
oatmeal w/ lemon curd, vanilla bean cream, grilled banana and fresh berries was even better. Yes, if you do not know the way we order yet - Nikkie orders her favorite and then I get her second favorite and then we split 50/50 when she does not like hers or if she really likes hers she will eat it all and have half of mine. The grilled grapefruit (a first for us and a pleasant surprise) was really good as was the hot chocolate w/ whipped cream and coffee. An awesome meal.
The drive to BANFF
was uneventful and before we hit the mountains there were plenty of little golden rolling hills and wide-open fields with lots of livestock. On the drive it was still very apparent that we were at the back-end of FOLIAGE so there were some really pretty spots with the changing colors, white peaks and flowing rivers/ glacial lakes. A quick stop in Canmore
was a nice distraction to pick up some chocolates, do local shopping and stretch the legs. The MOUNTAINS were in sight. Our plan was obviously to do as much as possible and to make it all the way to JASPER
Yes I ordered the poutine but when your pregnant wife with our first child finished her oats in record time you give up your brunch (or part of it at least).
back in five days. An unpleasant surprise was the $10 a day per person (it sounds too low so I am sure it was more) fee we had to pay for just driving in and through the park. I am never happy to pay for stuff like this, but oh well. Just supporting the local economy I guess.
Banff is a cute little mountain town (has a very ski-town feel to it) and we headed to BOW FALLS
immediately. Initially we were on the eastern side which is a short little hike downhill after which you are right above what I would really call some serious rough white-water rather than a waterfall. We saw some people on the other side so a little further upstream we crossed a bridge and got to admire the "waterfall" from right up front. Let's be honest here - this is not a waterfall, but I will say it is pretty cool to see how quickly the water drops.
I wear flip-flops year-round no matter the temperature and unfortunately I lost a flop during our shenanigans trying to get a good picture of the "waterfall". So, we had to go into town and find
Grilled grapefruit - a first for us and oh so good
flip-flops and do more shopping (no objection from Nikkie). Lots if cute local shops. We checked into the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort
. The room turned out to be fine after I had a little bit if a hard time finding a place to stay. The options were really very limited and it was either super expensive or super cheap (in this case the super cheap did not look good at all). The room was clean and there was a fireplace so I was really excited for us to get dinner over and done with so I could warm our room up the old-fashioned way.
Dinner was at Melissa’s Missteak
. We sat down and we were both really hungry as we really had not eaten since breakfast, but as soon as we ordered we just felt sick to our stomachs. Service was good and the food looked good. We started off by sharing the French onion soup w/ baguettes and swiss cheese (ok). We also got the mountain stew w/ beef chunks, red wine gravy and fresh vegetables and the dry ribs w/ garlic and spices. Both dishes really looked good, but we did not even make it halfway through the food before we
Just getting our mug and Starbucks for the last time for the next 4 days
called it quits. I guess just one of those things. I still got to make my fire and later on that night I think we both sat down and ate more of the food that we took home with us (clearly the issue was with us here).
The next morning we really only had one thing on our minds and that was LAKES and what better lake to start at than LAKE LOUISE
. On the drive there we did our usual thing and got off of the highway as soon as we could and found some beautiful train tracks surrounded by changing trees, small little lakes, and beautiful turquoise rivers (yes turquoise from all the sediment run-off). We passed by VERMILION LAKE
which honestly was quite disappointing. Lake Louise however had a view that did not disappoint. Lake Louise does have an associated LAKE LOUISE TOWN, but you hardly notice it on your way up the hill to the attraction people come near and far from for. The classic picture is this gorgeous glacial lake with the snow-capped peaks rising in the background (looking back from the other side you see a beautiful grand hotel watching over the lake. What an
Banff National Park
Let the "scenery and baby-bump" pictures begin
incredible scene. We did the walk-a-round, took some baby-bump pictures and admired the scenery before moving on to greener pastures. You may ask yourself - what do you mean greener pastures - isn't this the creme-de-la-creme of lakes. Well yeah believe it or not it does exist and it was a stone-throw away. Right after leaving lake Louise you hit a quick right and wind your way all the way to MORAINE LAKE
. And yes very hard to believe but an equal if not more picturesque lake than Lake Louise. The "valley of ten peaks" as it is known is this majestic mountain range with gorgeous pointy peaks (I'm assuming there are ten of them) and this beautiful blue-green lake. Unfortunately, it was a little windy so we did not get that "picture-perfect-no-wind-snow-peaks-reflecting-in-the-lake" picture, but nevertheless a scene we won't soon forget.
And just like that we were on to our next scene. YOHO NATIONAL PARK
is right next to Banff National Park. Definitely a detour from our ultimate end destination, but as is usually the case I found a pretty good deal on what I consider a really nice hotel so we made the detour. We still had some daylight, so
Banff National Park
Loving what we do on these trips
close to the TOWN OF FIELD (again not much more than an outpost it seemed like) we made a turn-off onto a dirt road that wound its way through hills and valleys with rivers flowing and wildlife all over the place. The price for this little side excursion - TAKAKKAW FALLS
- the second highest falls in Canada. From the parking lot it was a nice little hike to the base of the falls. The best part about all of this is that there was not another soul in sight. We skipped from rock to rock with fresh glacial water running between our feet. The closer we got the higher the falls rose. A beautiful waterfall with a couple drops and at the time an almost constant rainbow dancing in the fading light. It's always a thrilling experience being able to walk right up to a waterfall. What an incredible day spent in nature admiring our Creator's canvas.
Final destination for the day was the EMERALD LAKE LODGE
. A lodge with various little cabins overlooking EMERALD LAKE
that turned-out to be the "most-fairest-lake of them all". There is no parking on the property so you park a couple miles away, call them from
Banff National Park
Snow-capped peaks, glaciar-fed rivers, changing leaves and a train-track.
a phone in a little building and they come get you in a van. That was a first for us (I think). We got checked-in and had some time walking around admiring the lake that was completely surrounded by high peaks. There was some beautiful lighting as the last rays of the day faded away. There was no way we were going to go through the whole process of getting to our car and finding a place for dinner (I can almost certainly tell you there is no place within a 20-mile radius) so dinner at the lodge it was and definitely a wise decision. I got the caribou medallions (yeah baby) w/ sweet potato, pear and goat cheese ravioli (really looked more like a wonton than a ravioli) with a cherry glaze and veggies (yeah that was a mouthful and so was the food). Nikkie went with the grilled Alberta beef ribeye w/ roasted shallot mashed potatoes, tempura asparagus, a peppercorn reduction sauce and veggies (the meat was not the best but still pretty good). Coupled with a glass of wine for me (Nikkie hated me) and finished off with a lemon tower (a type of lemon cheesecake) we
Banff National Park
Views from the road
were very satisfied and rolled down to our cabin where I got to make a fire for the second night in a row (it took me a while to get it started, but I am very determined when it comes to fires so I finally got it going). All I remember from that night is we had the window open at a crack with cold air coming in and a hot fire right next to our bed keeping us warm. We slept like babies. If you have not figured it yet - fires make me happy.
We got up fairly early and truly got a sense of the incredible property, lake, and surroundings we were on. The lake is completely surrounded by mountains on all sides so there is hardly ever any breeze so the lake is this picture-perfect picture of quietness with perfect mountains reflecting in the dark waters. The quietness and serenity just added to the moment. Breakfast was a buffet at the lodge with eggs, meats, pastries, pancakes, juices, and coffee. We tried to get out of there at a somewhat decent time since it was going to be a long day of driving, but it
Banff National Park
We caught the tail-end of leave-changing season
was hard to leave such an amazing property and the sights. On the way back to the main highway we passed the LOWER SPIRAL TUNNELS VIEWPOINT. It is a viewpoint of the mountain where they built this railroad that switches back and forth down the mountain going through a series of tunnels. The train coming down or up is so long at times that it would be broken up in parts because of the tunnels so you would see what look like 4 or 5 different trains, but in reality it is just one train. We did not get the pleasure of seeing this, but I can imagine it would be pretty wild to see.
Well lake Louise was one of the reasons we were here. The other was DRIVING THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY
FROM LAKE LOUISE TO JASPER. From everything I read AUGUST THROUGH SEPTEMBER was the best time since it was less crowded than it is during the summer. So here we were. A drive filled with GLACIERS, ICE-CAPPED PEAKS, peaks and valleys, trees, turquoise rivers, pristine lakes, etc. It does not stop.
First up was BOW LAKE
. At first it seemed somewhat unimpressive but after stopping and taking
it all in it was pretty incredible to see the huge slopes of rock/ dirt rising from the lake with these towering peaks sitting on them. As we sat there if you looked over to the left you saw CROWFOOT GLACIER
creeping down the mountain with its glacial claws. We were kind of hungry, a little cold and really did not know what else we would find on this road since we heard it is pretty isolated with really not much in between Lake Louise and Jasper. So we pulled into the Num-Ti-Jah lodge
which was right on Bow lake. We picked up some sandwiches, snacks, and found some mushroom soup. Maybe we were hungry or just cold but the soup was pretty incredible.
Shortly after leaving Bow lake we ran into PEYTO LAKE
(one of the more famous lakes in the area). A little bit of a hike but we finally got there. You stand high up on this hill/ mountain and look down on this incredible turquoise colored lake. Looking at the color of the water it almost does not look real. What a gorgeous view. As we drove and drove the wheels just kept rolling as we followed a
A pretty cool view above the rushing waters
river winding through the landscape. We love ourselves a good WATERFALL and there were several small ones along the way. The WEEPING WALL
is this gorgeous rock face right next to the road that when it rains you see many, many little waterfalls running down this rock face - hence the name. Luckily for us it rained a couple days before so water was streaming down the rock face and it was a beautiful sight.
Up and until this point since Bow lake we have not seen a house, gas station or really any other sign of life (except a car on the road here and there). Out of nowhere a rest stop was in front of us which we were really thankful for (I don't believe there was gas so seriously you need to make sure you have enough gas before starting this drive). There were some tours onto a massive glacier from the stop but we decided to pass since it was already fairly late in the day. The STUTFIELD GLACIER VIEWPOINT FOR ICEFIELDS VIEW was not that much of a view. It was a little overcast, but I doubt even on a clear day would you be
Black and white version
able to see much.
The drive must go on as we were probably a little more than halfway done with the drive which was going pretty slowly because the roads are fairly winding with lots of ups and downs and the scenery was so gorgeous that you really did not want to drive too fast anyway. At this point we probably started entering the JASPER NATIONAL PARK
(3rd park in two days). Next stop was SUNWAPTA FALLS
- a nice little waterfall split in half by a big boulder. We walked around and took some pictures before continuing the trip. Looking back I have seen some different pictures where people were able to get a little higher up and the real scenery is everything behind the waterfall where right before the falls there is a little island with beautiful trees that split the river in two. Last and final stop before Jasper was the ATHABASCA FALLS
. Again, a little less scenic it is just a waterfall with water streaming down this narrow gorge that comes out on the other side and empties into a river. At this point Nikkie was out for the day (for a 7+ month pregnant woman she did a
crazy amount). We got to the FAIRMONT JASPER PARK LODGE
right as the sun was setting. Anything with a Fairmont in the name generally means really nice and again I was able to get a really good deal on the hotel so we booked it. A very spread-out property and we finally made it to our room after circling forever to try and find a spot next to our cabin - yes this property was also more of a cabin style with rooms spread out over a massive property. As we drove onto the property and even right in front of our room there were ELK everywhere. Huge massive elk and right in front of our room one even tried to charge me. We wanted to just stay put on the property as their restaurant was pretty highly rated, but unfortunately it was closed so we drove into town and found the Downstream Lounge
. From the looks of it it was not that impressive on the inside, but the food was a different story. Beer and ice tea got us started and we each got an appetizer (very unusual for us) which probably just shows how hungry we were. We got the avocado Caesar
A wandering bandid looking for shoes
w/ romaine lettuce, avocado dressing, Parmesan, croutons, and double smoked bacon and the poivree poutine w/ fries, goat cheese, bacon, peppercorn sauce. The Caesar was different (but good) and the poutine was exceptional. I got the panko crusted salmon with grilled veggies and potato cake (the salmon was really good, but the rest not so much) and Nikkie got the bison short ribs in a cabernet sauce w/ rosemary, ginger, citrus with potato cake and grilled veggies (again the protein was exceptional but the rest not so much).
We rested well after a long day of driving and a Fairmont buffet breakfast was just what the doctor ordered - pastries, fresh fruit, meats, potatoes au gratin, eggs benedict, cold cuts, smoked salmon, cheeses, etc. We packed up and got ready for the drive back. Yes, we do crazy things. We drove around the Jasper area looking for wildlife and scenery. It was overcast and rainy so there was not that much to see. Around mid-morning we started heading back. It was like deja vu as we drove the exact same road with the exact same scenes less than 24 hours before. Again just what the doctor ordered for Nikkie
as she was able to just lay back and put here feet up as we slowly made our way back. The Weeping waterfall was especially pretty on the way back because it was raining and we were able to see so many more little waterfalls coming down the rockface. Final destination was Lake Louise. Yes - we visited there already but we felt that this was such an iconic place that it was worth a little more time. Unfortunately, the Fairmont right on the lake was out of our price range but I found the Deer Lodge
which was still pretty expensive, but it was a couple hundred feet walk from the lake. We got there pretty late so we just unpacked and had dinner right there at the Caribou Lounge. The food was actually really good. We shared a baby gem Caesar salad w/ anchovy croutons, Padano cheese, and double smoked bacon (good), the soup of the day (really good), and the ranch bison burger w/ home style bacon, aged cheddar, and a black garlic aioli (good). I do not believe there were even tvs in our room which we did not mind as we just crashed almost immediately after
Banff National Park
We missed the aspens
a long day of driving.
Breakfast was just at the lodge again with a buffet type style breakfast that was not really that great. The plan was to just pack our bags, load the car, and spend the day HIKING AROUND LAKE LOUISE. Can't tell you why but LAKE LOUISE JULY THROUGH SEPTEMBER was sort of the general recommendation (I guess it is because it is warmer) so here we were (I hear this place is gorgeous and incredible in the winter when the lake is frozen over however). It was a little colder so we got our coffees and some more gorgeous pictures before starting our little hike. We took it really slow and as always Nikkie was still game for this even in her pregnant condition. We made it all the way around before she let me go into the mud flats to take some pictures back across the lake. Only issue was that I did not really know these were mud flats (looked pretty solid to me at first) so after a couple easy steps it all just gave way and I was knee deep in the crap. I managed to get out and navigate the
Looking back across the lake at the hotel
rest of the way without any incident (with Nikkie just standing on the sidelines shaking her head).
It sprinkled a little bit during the walk and we saw some beautiful rainbows and misty clouds. You are able to hike further up the mountain but that was not for us on this day so we turned around and slowly made our way back. Lunch was at the Fairmont with views across the lake. Unfortunately the food did not even come close to the views and were actually rather disappointing. We got the chicken ciabatta w/ maple bacon, brie, apricot aioli and truffle fries (good), the French onion soup (not much broth so it turned out to be just a bowl of mush), and the duck flatbread which was ok.
And so we came to the end of another quick, needed, crazy, busy, babymoon getaway. The drive back was silent like all drives back to the airport is since it means back to reality. Good
- this scenery is as pretty as it is going to get
- it was refreshing to be at a major touristy spot and not be overrun by people Bad
- I know
It is a gorgeous sight
it cost money but $60 to just drive through a park is kind of steep I think
- hotels were almost impossible to come by and it really seems like you either stay at a super nice or super run down (nothing in between) Advice
- spend time at lake Louise and Moraine lake. These are incredible places
- the weather is crazy unpredictable so always have a rain jacket
- take your time driving the icefields parkway and stop a lot
- always look up prices for expensive hotels, because a lot of times they will run really good deals like we were lucky enough to get
- there truly is no gas on the icefields parkway so once you pass Lake Louise you are SOL if you need gas
- The lakes are at their best early in the morning when there is no one around and generally the wind is not up either
- Bow Falls were kind of neat even though I don't really consider it a waterfall. You can admire it from both banks which is definitely worth it
- there is truly some amazing nature scenes so get out of your car
The sun broke through right as we took the picture
whenever you can and enjoy the beauty.
And there you have it. Checking off another place that for the longest time always seemed more like a dream than a reality. A nice little quick getaway where we were able to take it slow but still see a ton of stuff. We crossed-off eleven items which is crazy considering the limited area we were in but is also a testament as to how popular this area is for travelling because it is covered so extensively in our books. Our items included Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, the icefields parkway, and hiking around lake Louise.
Til' next time from glacial blue lakes with perfect reflections
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