A Trip Of Firsts. || Exploring Banff, AB
One of the goals I set for myself recently was to stop thinking about doing things, and just going and doing them. I've always daydreamed of exploring the giant rocky mountains of Canada, but the time was never right, or I didn't have my enhanced drivers license, or I just had some other silly excuse not to go. Well, the time came around, and I couldn't let my window of opportunity pass, so at the end of March, Rachel and I headed north to explore Banff and the surrounding areas!
It truly was a trip full of first time experiences. First time leaving the country, first time in Canada, first time staying in a hostel, and many others. Something about exploring the unknown get me so excited, and I've been feeling more adventurous than ever to have these new experiences. Here's a rundown of how our trip ensued:
Day 1: Driving day. We make it up to the border, crossed with no issues, and immediately were bombarded by confusion. Speed and distance is measured in kilometers, gas stations are confusing, and the currency is in mostly coins and they don't have pennies. As dumb as it sounds, I truly felt out of my comfort zone. It rained most of the drive, with the exception of the last hour, where we crossed through Kootenay National Park in a blustery snowstorm. We arrived at our hostel around 10:45, struggled to find street parking, and lugged all our our things a few blocks from the car to the hostel, to check in. If you haven't stayed in a hostel before, its quite the experience, to say the least! Think of it like staying in a college dorm room, but with more beds, and everyone is a little bit older. We each had the top of a bunk bed and shared a bathroom with about 10 other people. After a long day of travel, we were totally exhausted and overwhelmed, yet got little sleep due to people going in and out of the room all night.
Day 2: The good news about the hostel: the breakfast was free and totally not disappointing. We woke up early, got ready, had something to eat, and headed out for the day! We explored the Lake Louise area, almost completed a hike to Lake Agnes, then drove west to explore Yoho National Park for the afternoon. We walked across a frozen Emerald Lake, saw the incredibly blue waters of the river near Natural Bridge, and then finished our day off at Wapta Falls. We took the wrong road to the falls and ended up doing some Canadian off roading, which actually ended up being so fun! Once we found the right road, we overestimated our hiking abilities and hiked way too far on a closed road full of nothing but thick, slushy snow. Let me tell you right now: that part was absolutely not worth it. Would not recommend! We finished our day around 6:30, drove back to the town of Banff, picked up a frozen pizza, and planned to cook it back at the hostel. What I failed to realize was that our hostel didn't have a full size oven; just a small toaster oven instead. By some miracle, we managed to shove our pizza in that toaster oven and cook it, and I've never felt more stupid and American in my whole life. Canada truly is a learning curve. While our pizza cooked, we talked to some Australians, and listened to a group of French Canadians converse. I think the coolest part about staying in a hostel was all of the different people we talked to, and what their travel stories were.
Day 3: We had definitely slept better the previous night, due to complete exhaustion. We got up before the sun and caught the most beautiful (and chilly) sunrise at Vermillion Lakes. We then proceeded to hit all the little touristy photo spots in town, which included the city overlook, Banff Springs Hotel, and Bow Falls. We then grabbed some lunch and went to explore a chain of nearby lakes, including Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka. Two Jack Lake was easily my favorite, with perfect view of Mt. Rundle. Everything in the lower elevations is starting to melt there, too, so we even got to see some water! We spent the early afternoon hours of harsh (un-photographable) sun exploring the shops in town, collecting our souvenir shirts and other little things. Then we were off to drive up the Icefields Parkway! That place was easily one of the most beautiful and scenic drives of the whole trip, and possibly one of my favorite roads I've ever been on so far. (Going To the Sun Road in Glacier is definitely tied for first.) It took all of my will to tell Rachel to turn around and head south, as the Icefields Parkway continues north all the way to Jasper National Park. We turned around and hit our last spot of the day at Bow Summit. The short and easy hike at Bow Summit leads you to the postcard classic view of Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier! Photos seriously can't do this place justice; everything is giant, the lake is perfectly untouched, and the valley seems like it could go on forever. This was truly the perfect way to end our last day in Canada.
Day 4: I collected my fair share of ketchup chips (yes, those are a thing in Canada, and they are incredible) and we headed south for home. On our way, we stopped at Lussier Hot Springs in BC to soak and relax before getting back! This was the perfect way to decompress our sore hiking muscles and totally an experience I would recommend to anyone, despite all the people.
So, here's what I learned during my time in Canada:
- Canadians are super proud of their country; there's Canadian flags everywhere.
- Canadian border patrol are way nicer than US border patrol.
- Every snack comes in a ketchup flavor, and the ketchup chips are ridiculously good.
- Their gas stations are super clean and nice and totally not sketchy at all.
- Canada is just half Australians, working or visiting during their summer.
- They have $2 coins and you'll constantly feel like they're giving you the wrong change back.
- They're stoked on nature and think every hike is worth it. Don't listen to them unless you want to die on the trail.
- None of them know how to drive, they all speed and none of them use blinkers.
- They don't say "eh", but they do say "sorry" in the funniest way.
- Staying in a hostel is a wild experience, and I recommend everyone try it at least once.
- They know you're an American. You don't have to say it, they just know.
- Tim Horton's isn't all it's cracked up to be, but their coffee is super cheap.
- It's incredible there, and if you haven't visited, YOU NEED TO GO.
Below are all of my photos (with some iPhone shots mixed in) for you to enjoy! I definitely will be returning in the warmer months to see all those crazy blue lakes with my own two eyes.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
(PS: I also shot a vlog while I was there, so keep an eye out for that, coming soon!)