Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
44Trip End Jun 10, 2011
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Canada - the first foreign country of our trip. Well, perhaps it doesn't seem that "foreign," but it does require a passport to enter and the currency is different, so I think that it should count. Our destination is the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies (the contiguous parks of Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, and Jasper). It turns out that these parks are a bit different from their American counterparts. For one, the entrance fee is $20/day for a group of 2-7, which is comparatively pricey when compared to $20/week per vehicle in the US. Also, the food and services within the park are expensive (darn the weak American dollar).
American Rockies parks: 1; Canadian Rockies parks: 0
Another difference is that the towns of Banff, Lake Louise, Field, and Jasper are located within the park, not on the outskirts
Our first night in the park, we camped at a park campground. While the price was a bit high ($27), they had lovely campsites, free firewood, and very clean heated bathhouses with hot showers. Compared with our last camping experience in Glacier National Park in the US, where we spent $10 to sleep in a windy campsite with no water and only pit toilets, the Canadian system is growing on me.
American Rockies parks: 1; Canadian Rockies parks: 1
Our first hike in Banff was the "Plain of the Six Glaciers" hike around Lake Louise. The first part followed the shoreline of the turquoise blue glacial lake before heading up into the mountains to the glaciers. I'm not the biggest fan if hiking uphill in the cold, but this hike was so amazing that I couldn't complain. At the top of the trail, there is a teahouse (closed for the season) with a fantastic view of the surrounding glaciers. While we were sitting on the balcony of the teahouse enjoying the view, we heard and saw an avalanche in the canyon nearby
Jeremy came up with a new travel rule: If it is below freezing when we go to set up the tent, we should sleep indoors. Thus, out of our four nights in the Canadian Rockies, we spent three of them at hostels. Hostels are great because you meet new people and save money, however they do have their drawbacks: sleeping on the top bunk, sharing a bathroom, roommates who snore, and roommates who scream in their sleep. Our first night in a hostel, the girl in the bunk below me started screaming - a piercing, blood-curdling scream - at 2 am. Her boyfriend hardly seemed flustered by this, which makes me think that this is a normal occurrence for her. However, it would have been nice if she gave us some warning, something like, "Oh, by the way, sometimes I scream in terror while I'm asleep. Don't worry, it doesn't mean I'm being attacked or on fire." Getting back to sleep after that was difficult, but we did manage to get a few more hours of sleep in before the fire alarm went off at 6 am. Ah, the joys of staying in hostels.
The morning greeted us with snow - lots of it - cloaking the surrounding peaks. Despite the screaming woman, we were grateful for the hostel as it kept us warm and dry
American Rockies parks: 1; Canadian Rockies parks: 27
Sorry American parks, but you can't compete with the Canadian Rockies in the snow. Especially when the lakes aren't frozen over yet and you can see the peaks reflected in the blue waters.
Our hostel luck turned around with our next stop, the Fireweed Hostel in Field. More like bed and breakfast than a hostel, it had a lovely kitchen, fireplace with wood ready to be lit, cozy chairs and slippers, down comforters and bunks with full-size beds. Better yet, we were the only guests staying on the upper floor of the hostel, meaning that we had the place to ourselves. We opened a special bottle of wine and spent the evening relaxing. The next evening we talked with some new guests and one of the owners, Craig, who originally hails from Zimbabwe. He gave us advice on hikes in the region and our upcoming trip to Southern Africa. I would highly recommend this place if you are passing through Yoho; it is one of the nicest hostels I've ever stayed in.
Before leaving the Canadian Rockies, we did a few more hikes, including one around Emerald Lake and over Yoho Pass to Yoho Lake and another to Wapta Falls. Some of the roads that we wanted to go down were closed for the winter, which just means that we'll have to come back to this beautiful part of the world during the summer. I'm ok with that!