Winter Wonderland in Canada

What is a fantastic recipe for a whole lot of truthful travel? Traveling approximately 2000 miles from Seattle, Washington to Alberta, Canada in an SUV filled with three adults, two dogs, and a whole lot of snacks.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to venture North to my home and native land (yes, that was definitely an “Oh Canada” reference). My dad is here visiting, and my husband, my dad and I all love mountains, especially the ones in Canada’s Rockies. The Thanksgiving break provided us the perfect opportunity and time to finally explore them together.

After a weekend filled with beautiful sights, terrifying moments, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, unexpected weather, and a little white lie or two, here is what we learned:

Truthful Travel Lesson #1

Crisis mode makes you do strange things

We started our weekend at “Valley of the Five Lakes”, which, as you may have guessed, features five lakes. They are situated throughout a loop, all beautifully blue and green. The loop is 4.5 Km with a minimal elevation gain, and I thought this would be perfect for all of us.

We hiked through the forest, across a bridge, up muddy paths, and finally made it to the lakes. We saw one lake after another, all newly frozen.

Over half way done and just starting to wind our way around First Lake (we went from Fifth to First)  we came across a group of hikers. They casually said in passing they had just seen a bear, who gave them a warning growl. These calm people then continued on their hike, all nonchalant about the whole situation.

WHAT?! I have a few major fears in life: bears and sharks. Predators. Things that could possibly eat me.

Time wise it did not make sense to turn back, so we decided to push on, and potentially encounter this bear (not my idea at all, I would gladly have taken more time to complete the hike if it meant no chance of bear in the forecast). I asked my dad, who was in full camo gear, what we should do if we come across the bear. He said we should “lay down and act dead because we’re going to be anyways…” Not cool.

I decided the best course of action to scare this bear off from the path was to start singing. Really loud. The first thing that came to mind was “Jingle Bells”. And so I sang. We then took the wrong fork in the trail and ended up having to walk right back through bear territory. I switched into crisis mode and decided the only thing I was capable of doing for the remainder of the hike was singing Christmas carols. 45 minutes later, out of breath and on my 26th rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock”, we made it out of the woods. I apologize to all other hikers and forest creatures for probably having their hike disrupted by me and my off-key singing voice, and I totally understand if they never want to hear a Christmas carol again.

Truthful Travel Lesson #2

Animals rule the backcountry

Our next stop after we had caught our breath was Maligne Lake. We had a long winding road to follow to reach our destination, and hoped we would make it there before dark. With five minutes left to sunset we turned a corner and all our plans went out the window. There were two magnificently beautiful moose standing in the middle of the road, snacking on the road salt.

All three adults and even our two usually loud and boisterous dogs watched in awe as they went about their business. They licked the ground for minutes before even bothering to take a look at the creatures watching them. When they finally did look up, it was a look of pure annoyance. There was no way THEY were going to move for US.  Nothing could convince them to finish their snack, and so we sat and watched them until they felt like moving. We missed the sunset at the lake, but gained the most amazing memory. We have never seen moose in the wild, and boy oh boy are they huge.

*As an aside, we watched them from the confines of our car, trying our best not to disturb them. These animals are wild and unpredictable. When encountering an animal it is recommended to always leave a good distance, and back off at the first sign of agitation.

 

Truthful Travel Lesson #3

Weather does not care about your plans

Our travels the following day started off cold and sunny. We were excited that the skies were clear, because we would be driving down the Icefields Parkway to Banff National Park. The Icefields are 230 km of mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and all-around beautiful views.

It started to rain as soon as we got onto the Icefields Parkway. Not what we expected. We braved the first few waterfalls in the rain, and all was fine. I was so excited to show my dad the Athabasca Glacier, which sits at the top of a mountain pass. As soon as we started climbing that pass, it started to snow. By the time we got up to the glacier, the world was a snowy white. You could not see the glacier, or even an outline of it. The weather remained less than optimal for the rest of the drive. You can’t win them all.

Truthful Travel Lesson #4

A lie or two is worth the view

One of our last stops on our trip was to Lake Louise, one of the most famous lakes of Banff National park. The Fairmont Hotel sits at the water’s edge, and mountains surround the lake to make for an incredible landscape. The last time we were there we did a last minute, unplanned hike to an overlook of the lake and the hotel. It was a struggle for me.

We convinced my dad to do it with us by telling him it was only 1.5 km. Which was not a lie. We just omitted the fact it was straight up a mountain. After he caught on to the fact the hike seemed harder than he bargained for, I decided to tell him we were half way there. After saying that a few times he then caught on,  was not too pleased with me, but stuck it out and made it to the top with us. Go dad!

We have some victory shots of him at the top. He admits it was all totally worth it.

All hiccups aside, the trip was an amazing experience. I got to spend time with my dad (I live across the country from my family), and visit one of my favourite places in Canada. The pictures are unreal, and everything that went wrong made for extremely cool stories. Like usual it was all beautiful, truthful travel.

Until next time,

Samantha,

A Truthful Traveler