Rockies Roadie

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October 2nd 2013
Published: October 3rd 2013
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Saturday 21st September


Cloudy and mild

Arrived back in Vancouver to an overcast day and back to the reality of having to pay for meals! The six of us jumped off the ship around 9am to get onboard our half-day bus tour of Vancouver with West Coast Sightseeing. We actually did this when we last visited Vancouver, but in the reverse order. This time we were boarding it at the ship so it could take us and all of our luggage, do the half-day tour and then drop us off at our respective hotels. We were staying at the St Regis Hotel, on the corner of Dunsmuir and Seymour St. We visited the usual haunts of Chinatown, Gastown, Stanley Park, Guinness Bridge, Granville Island markets and up the 180 metres above sea level Vancouver lookout. A few of the group were caught having a wee nap during the tour, suffering from a big night before. Actually, one was asleep within 20 minutes!

After getting dropped off at our hotels around 2.30pm we had a bit of a kip before catching up with Jen’s brother Richard at our hotel. We cruised down to Gas town to 131 Water Social House for a quiet beer and meal before ending our first night of the trip before midnight.

Sunday 22nd September


Raining and cool

Woke up to a rainy day so no great rush to get out of bed! Plan of attack today was to walk the streets of Vancouver and even in the rain this is still a nice city. Chilled out for lunch to watch the world go by on the corner of Robson and Thurlow St before meandering back towards the hotel. We all gathered at our friend’s hotel suite in Times Square on the corner of Denman and Robson St for a few pre dinner drinkies. We ran into a local who recommended a Japanese eating establishment called Guu with Garlic. What an awesome restaurant! Lots of waiters yelling orders, frenetic chefs, tapa plates flying everywhere and delicious food!

Monday 23rd September

Vancouver - Princeton, 290 kms

Drizzly and cool

The Rockies Roadie starts today! Started the day the healthy way by going to the gym before picking up the Hertz rental car down on Granville St. Picked up Jen, Richard and the 9 bags! Luckily had a decent sized SUV to load everyone in to. Headed East out of Vancouver aiming for our first stop –Princeton. The scenery made quite a dramatic change once we started to get into the hills. We stopped off at the Bridal Veil Falls provincial Park, near Chilliwack and Shaun and Richard went for a trek to check them out. Next stop was at the township of Hope – the town made famous for the filming of ‘Rambo’! We popped into the information centre to pick up a map and had fun driving around the town and spotting all the sites. Then on to Manning Provincial Park where we stopped to search for beavers and to avoid bears. Arrived into Princeton around 5pm and settled into the hotel before exploring the township. Chilled out for the night and caught up on paperwork.

Tuesday 24th September

Princeton - Osoyoos - West Kelowna 265 kms

Sunny and cold

The receptionist at Canada’s Best Inn in Princeton had said to us the night before that we may see wild deer in the car park feeding on the ripe plums but, alas, twas not to be. We were on the road by 8.30am heading for Kelowna. Our first stop was at Hedley, where we looked up at the mountain and spotted these small buildings clinging precariously to the mountainside. The gold miners at ‘The Mascot Mine’ dug 67 kilometers of tunnels horizontally into the mountain between 1935-1949, with their sheds clinging to the cliff walls hundreds of metres up. It looked amazing, if not bl**dy scary!! We continued following the lush, sprawling valley along until we spotted a cool little town called Keremeos. This is a very fertile area and had a huge abundance of pumpkins and squash, amongst many other produce. We were attracted to a road side stall that had dozens of antique tractors and cars lining the roadside, adorned with pumpkins in their wheels and headlights.

From here we were actually driving through Canada’s great Sonoran Desert, located in the Southern Okanagan Valley. We drove through the desert landscape until we crested a hill and the town of Osoyoos came into view, Canada’s hottest climate, and nestled on the shores of Lake Osoyoos – Canada’s warmest lake! The location is gorgeous – surrounded by mountains and desert and full of orchards and vineyards. We popped down to the lake and went out to the tip of Haynes Point, which protrudes out into the middle of the lake, and stuck our toes in to confirm the authenticity of this claim. Shaun then walked out even further into the lake on a sandbar to further check on the claim – the lake gets a big thumbs up! While we were down that end of town we drove about a kilometre further South to check out the U.S – Canada border crossing. Didn’t see any armed guards or gun towers present to stop the mass exodus of Canadians escaping to the ‘Land of Freedom’! Our next stop was at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, where we learnt about the culture and history of the Osoyoos Indian Band and were treated to a live display of the snakes found in the area – including ‘Goliath’ the Rattlesnake. We then wound our way alongside Okanagan Lake, passing through Penticton and Summerland before stopping for a late lunch at Peachland. We found a great little restaurant called ‘Blind Anglers Inn’ right on the waterfront, with its verandah overlooking a little marina full of lake boats. We enjoyed imbibing in a tipple from one of the local breweries in the area, with a hint of peach flavour- quite nice. We arrived at Kelowna, our final destination for the day around 4.00pm and dropped Richard off at his accommodation before heading back to our Best Western Wine Country hotel in West Kelowna (known to the locals as the ‘West Side’) to catch up with our friends driving up from Vancouver today. Soaked away the days driving in the hotels spa-awesome!

Wednesday 25th September

West Kelowna - Salmon Arm - Kamloops - Clearwater 375 kms

Fine and sunny and warm - 20c

Started the day with an early morning walk around the Two Eagles Golf Course and Academy across the road from the hotel. We got about three quarters of the way round the course before being stopped by the grounds-man as the locals aren’t allowed on the course. But he let us continue as we weren’t from around these parts. Beautiful golf course surrounded by large houses overlooking the fairways. While we were walking we spotted a coyote trotting along a fairway and we eyeballed each other curiously before it continued its early morning activities. Picked up Richard before driving North up the valley next to Okanagan Lake to Salmon Arm, where we met up with our friends for a coffee break and a wander around the town. This is nestled on the Shuswap Lake. This area is very popular for house boats during the summer as the Lake extends in several directions, covering an immense area and plentiful spots to heave-to in secluded inlets. We were advised that the Sockeye Salmon were running, so went to the Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park to view. We only had to walk a short distance from the car park to spot the Sockeye jumping up the river, a shimmering red dart in the fast flowing waters. From here we headed West to Kamloops for a late lunch before our last blast up the highway to Clearwater. We easily found the Gateway B&B we had booked in this small township before going down to the local bar to meet some of the locals and have a bite to eat, after a relatively big day in the saddle.

Thursday 26th September

Clearwater - Jasper 430 kms

Cold, clear and frosty - 1c

Our first frost of the trip greeted us this morning, with a temperature of 1’C. We were driving out to Wells Gray Park, situated high in the Cariboo Mountains, to view the 4th largest free-falling waterfall in Canada – the Helmcken Falls (2.5 times higher than Niagara Falls). They were only a short walk from the car park, but unfortunately the waterfall was hiding behind a veil of mist for the most part. We were there around 9am so the mist hadn’t had a chance to burn off properly. We also stopped at the Dawson Falls in the park before hitting Highway 5 for the small mountain village of Valemount for lunch. It is surrounded by three mountain ranges: the Cariboo Mountains, the Monashee range and the Majestic Rockies. We stopped by the info centre to soak in the views before checking to see if the salmon were running in the river. They weren’t, but we spotted a shy busy-beaver going about his industrious way. Next stop was at the base of Mt Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954m. There was a sign in the information centre advising that for 2012 there was only a 64% chance of seeing the peak. Nope, didn't see it today either 😊 Shaun and Richard completed a challenge to visit 6 information centres to get a free water bottle and carabiner - they completed the task in 2 days. Oh, the lengths we go to for free stuff! We arrived in Jasper and finished the day with dinner and a glass of wine at our digs for the night, The Sawridge Inn.

Friday 27thSeptember 2013

Jasper – Icefields Parkway - Lake Louise

Fine and cold - 0c – 11c

Another early start today so we could do a quick exploration of the township of Jasper. It was dark when we ventured out – taking the car the short distance into the town. As we drove through the streets we noticed an elk walking though some grass at the side of the road. Not ready for real photos at this time of day Jennie quickly searched for her iPhone to take a photo while Shaun had to stop to avoid the baby crossing the street in front to join its mother. We watched it feed from her briefly and then they wandered off – very cool!

We then went walking to find somewhere for breakfast. We chose Papa George’s restaurant for their breakfast special – poached eggs on toast.

After returning to the hotel and checking out we gassed up CAD$1.17L, and then collected Richard from his friends place. Departed Jasper just after 9am.

Today we are driving the Icefields Parkway. National Geographic describes it as one of the World’s Ten Greatest Drives. Stretching 230kms between Jasper and Lake Louise this journey offers easy access to a vast wilderness of ancient glaciers, diverse wildlife, waterfalls, pristine mountain lakes and broad sweeping valleys.

Our first stop was 30kms south of Jasper - Athabasca Falls on Hwy 93 just on the junction with 93A. A bridge and platforms gave views of these amazing falls. Some great photo opportunities and we saw a couple of squirrels too! Today must be the day for wildlife – here’s hoping.

We noticed Honeymoon Lake and Jonas Creek camping ground were closed and we understand this can be due to wildlife calving or migrating. There are numerous signs telling us to practice “driving for wildlife” – this is to assist with reducing road kills. Every few minutes we are at awe with the mountains towering above us and thousands of pines surrounding us. With an autumn sprinkling of snow the mountains stand majestic. The range called the Endless Chain Ridge really does seem to go on for ever.

With all the tourists on the road keen to identify wildlife a funny thing can happen. If one car stops for a photo then others follow - starting a chain reaction. We stopped to take a photo of a lake reflection and when Shaun started pointing at a marmot or other small creature a few cars stopped also. They were probably disappointed at the small creature when all anyone really wants to see are bears, elk and moose.

Along the mountain road that follows the Sunwapta River we observed the construction of a new lookout point over the Sunwapta Falls. It has a glass walkway and juts out suspended over the river below – much like what we have seen in brochures about the one at the Grand Canyon. It will be an impressive scenic stop once finished.

Our visibility was reduced prior to reaching the Columbia Icefield Centre as there was low cloud and we were driving through snow flurries. From this centre tourists can take a guided tour of the Athabasca Glacier. We didn’t take the tour due to the poor visibility and cold conditions. So after a brief comfort stop we were on our way again down the mountain

The second half of our route to Lake Louise took us through some more wonderful scenery – always on the lookout for wildlife. Many of the trees are turning colour indicating winter is not far away. The scenery is spectacular and we expect that would be true for any season.

We arrived into Lake Louise early afternoon, giving us a chance to look around the area before checking into our Hotel. We were booked into the Post Hotel and Spa at 200 Pipestone.

We drove out to Lake Louise and had a fabulous lunch at the Fairmont’s Chateau, overlooking the lake. Our window table in the Lakeview Lounge was worth waiting for and gave us spectacular views of the gardens and lake. A short side trip from there took us to Lake Moraine – another gorgeous lake that is featured on an older Canadian twenty dollar bill.

What a great day – topped off with a lovely spa and dinner in the hotel. Distance travelled 237kms.

Saturday 28th September

Lake Louise – Golden

Cold, mostly cloudy and some snow 0 - 9c

The day started with the gym. Richard met up with us from the neighbouring hostel and we planned on getting away by 9.30am. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be as we realised we didn’t have our “portable office” with us anymore. This comprises a large plastic storage bag containing a couple of folders with all our travel documents, airline and cruise tickets, accommodation details etc. etc. A little bit of panic ensued as we realised the extent of the material contained within the pack – including some passport and banking info as well!

The next two hours we used the hotel office to print duplicates of the documents required for the next couple of weeks. We also tracked down the pack in the hotel we stayed at in Jasper. We organised to have the pack shipped to us in New York.

Finally on the road about 11.30am we headed to the Lake Louise information centre to purchase our National Park day pass. It costs CAD$19.80 for a family pass. Next we headed west into the Yoho National Park. The park has 28 peaks over 3,000m in height, glacial lakes and one of Canada’s highest waterfalls – on the list for today. There were some road works so the going was a little slow.

We stopped at the Spiral Tunnel viewpoints. The spiral tunnels were carved in 1909 to avoid steep descents on the “Big Hill”. Still on the lookout for wildlife as we took the side trip to the Takakkaw Falls – a 15 minute drive inland off the Trans-Canada Highway 1 on the way towards Field. The falls are 254m high and Takakkaw means magnificent in the Cree language.

Being in Bear Country we always stay close together and make sure we chatter away as to alert any bears in the area that we are humans rather than their next meal. We observed a sign saying that when in Grizzly areas you must travel in a group of four people minimum and walk at a maximum distance of 3m apart. If these rules are broken there is a fine of $5k – perhaps they claim this from your estate should you disobey these laws?!

Speaking of food we stopped in Field for lunch. Driving through the cute little town we saw that almost all the accommodation was full. This area is renowned for its outdoor adventure tourism – in particular white water rafting, kayaking, golf, mountain biking, hiking, horse riding etc. We ate at the Truffle Pig in the Kicking Horse Lodge – enjoying some wonderful wholesome food amongst an active looking clientele.

We had intended visiting the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge up at the Kicking Horse Resort but unfortunately it had closed for the winter a couple of weeks ago.

Next stop the Natural Bridge on the way to Emerald Lake. We arrived to witness a wedding ceremony and then spent about an hour taking the 5.3km circle trail around its perimeter. The spectacular jewel-coloured lake was a brilliant green even under cloudy skies. It had many different types of ecosystems including the dry side, the wet side and an avalanche field as it gets avalanches every year. The only wildlife we saw were the birds; no bears today. We were very lucky with the weather as it was very pleasant and only started lightly raining as we hit the road again – bound for Golden 57kms West.

Golden is a tranquil town with a population of 3701. It is set at the north end of the Columbia River Wetlands. It sits between the Rocky and Columbia mountains and is a perfect base to explore Yoho, Kootenay and Glacier National Parks. Our accommodation was at Home Lodge, 869 Barber Road. This was the first luxury B&B of our trip and was just lovely. This large modern mountain house offers 5 luxurious ensuite bedrooms with a gourmet breakfast, hot tub and stunning indoor and outdoor spaces. The whole house is made available to the guests, with the host in separate quarters. We shared the house with another couple from New Zealand of all places!

We went into the small township of Golden for a wonderful meal at the Whitetooth Mountain Bistro – yum! We have been really impressed with the quality of the food we have enjoyed and in particular the wonderful organic produce and fresh salads offered almost everywhere. When leaving the restaurant we wandered the short distance to marvel at the Kicking Horse River Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada.

To end the day we spent a little time catching up on the blog and then the super king bed was very welcome after the much smaller doubles we’ve had the previous couple of nights.

Sunday 29th September

Misty and cold – 0c – 7c

Golden – Radium Springs – Banff

We woke to a beautifully prepared breakfast at 7am. We enjoyed homemade blueberry muffins, muesli and scrambled eggs. The property has bees, so also on offer was home-made honey!

We collected Richard from his hostel downtown and popped down to the Kicking Horse River to take some photos of the pedestrian bridge in daylight. Then we headed out towards Radium Springs at 8am. En route we saw some wild deer and some big horn mountain sheep – still no bears!

Radium Springs is in the Sinclair Canyon, surrounded by the Purcell and Rocky Mountain Ranges. Radium is in the Kootenay National Park and offers all the same adventure tourism activities. You could spend days here as well to enjoy the golf, hot springs, snowmobiling and cross country skiing. The scenery is once again gorgeous and our camera needs charging frequently due to its constant use.

We stopped for a quick dip in the mineral pools heated by the natural hot springs. Entry including towel hire was CAD$6.30 each.

Nicely refreshed we hit the road again bound for the Johnson Canyon in the Bow River Parkway - on the outskirts of Banff. On the way we stopped to take photos at the border of the Continental Divide – where Alberta and British Columbia meet.

Situated close to the Johnson Canyon Resort we parked the car and took the trail that follows the swift creek up to the lower falls. Walking in is along forest trails with moss covered rocks and on catwalks anchored to the limestone cliffs. This short hike to the lower falls ends by passing through a natural rock arch. It was quite busy for a Sunday with locals out walking their dogs and taking their children on a family outing. Very pleasant though, as the summer rush is now over. We noticed an interesting sign at the gift shop offering between 30% and 100% off! We were a little bemused by this but didn’t stop to understand it. Later when talking with friends we learned how it worked. Once the purchase was completed at the checkout a card was pulled from a deck of cards. A joker represented the 100% discount, an ace 50% and any other card was for the 30% discount offer. They pulled an ace so enjoyed a 50% discount off their purchase!

Next stop Banff - population 8,244, the highest town in Canada at an elevation of 1,383m. First impressions - a fashionable medium sized ski town. It is certainly trendier, larger and more commercial than the other towns on our roadie so far.

Being about 2pm we decided to have a look around and grab some lunch before our 4pm check-in. We drove up to view the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – known for its appearance as an impressive castle. It was very busy so we left for a bite to eat in town at rustic little Mexican place called Magpie and Stump.

A quick look around the shops for half an hour and off to the hotel to check-in at 4pm. Our hotel was The Fox Hotel and Suites, 461 Banff Avenue. It had a rustic feel to it as well, with an underground ghetto type pool area as a unique feature. We did some laundry, had a dip in the pool and headed out for our wildlife safari at 6.30pm to look for – yes, bears! After driving around some beautiful lakes and wetlands at dusk for about an hour we decided to give up on our mission. We would leave the Rockies without having seen a bear. You know what that means – we need to come back one day!

Dinner was at The Keg, just down the road with friends. Very nice again. Lights out around midnight.

Monday 30th September

Banff – Calgary

Raining 2c – 13c

Today we leave the Rockies and spend the night in Calgary before the next leg of our journey.

A stop to explore the interior of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel was first on the agenda this morning at 8am. It was pouring with rain as we left there and started our drive to Calgary just 143 kms away.

We had heard there was some wet and windy weather coming across Canada from the West and so we were pleased to be heading away from this by driving East from Banff.

The drive was standard highways and no sign of wildlife as expected, despite the odd warning sign.

The rain stopped and temperatures increased as we approached Calgary about 10am.

We dropped our luggage off at the Best Western Port ‘O Call prior to returning our Hertz rental to the airport. From there we took a #300 bus into the city. We purchased a $9 day transport ticket for the Calgary Transit system.

The ride into town took about 30 minutes and we arrived in time to grab some lunch. We came across their main shopping street Stephens Avenue and the large inside mall Devonian Gardens. On the top floor was a large food hall where we all found something to our liking.

Off on our separate ways we then explored for a couple of hours, meeting up again for a coffee and a walk around. We utilised our day ticket by taking the train up and down through town, taking in the surroundings.

Dinner was at an Irish Pub on Stephens Ave, with surprisingly good healthy food options. Once finished there we were back on the #300 to the airport where we took the free hotel shuttle back to our home for the night.

Tuesday 1st October 2013

Calgary – Montreal

Fine 10c – 22c

Travel day today. We left the hotel on the free shuttle to the airport at 9am. We all had midday flights – Richard back to NZ and us off to Montreal. After rearranging the loads in our bags to suit airline requirements we grabbed some coffee and awaited our boarding times.

The Air Canada flight to Montreal was very pleasant. Although seated at the back of the plane we quickly had the opportunity to upgrade to exit seats when the people seated in those rows were discovered to not have English as a speaking language. Shaun was quick to jump at the chance to sit there - volunteering us for the move forward about 20 rows!

They had entertainment consoles and free non-alcoholic beverages which made a nice change from some other major airlines across North America.

We watched movies, sorted photos and generally relaxed until we landed on time about 6pm (losing 2 hours on the way).

The taxi ride to the apartment was slow due to a big hockey (ice hockey) game on in the city.

The apartment is great – spacious lounge and two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Situated in Old Montreal it wasn’t hard to find a couple of great bars/restaurants to enjoy some drinks and tapas before finally calling it a night about 1am. Even though we are still in Canada it is quite different here in Montreal. The cobbled streets, stone architecture, the prominence of the French language spoken and written everywhere really makes it feel like we are in the middle of Europe rather than North America!

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3rd October 2013

loving the blog
Really enjoying your blog, great detail. Keep em coming! lots of love, tess, xx
3rd October 2013

Great blog and photos. Travel well as you go!

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