Leaving Jasper and after a 9 hour drive which took us through Mount Robson and Greys Provinical Park we ended up back on the east coast, in Pemberton (about 60km from where we first resided in Squamish!) perfectly located so Whistler was accessible.
Looking at the snow reports we were in for a fresh dump of snow – it didn’t fail to deliver. For four solid days we skied fantastic champagne powder conditions and on two of the days we got bluebird! Great runs, great resort – a vast improvement from our first visit!!
Our abode was in the form of a quaint little wooden hut, overlooking the mountains – it was truly idyllic. The weather was good so we managed to BBQ and light the fire pit – a great way to unwind after an exhilarating days skiing.
Home to one of the World’s largest Dark Sky preserves, Jasper by day offers a universe of outdoor fun in a wilderness playground and at night, Jasper is a stunning wilderness of stars.
Blue skies in the day led to a brilliant clear sky at night, doing a spot of research we discovered that Pyramid Island was one of the best places to take in the constellations, so we headed there. After heading down to the lake and adjusting my eyes, I looked up – WOW!! I was in awe… it was a truly spectacular diamond sky – I felt honored to have seen such a majestic night sky… On some nights you can even see the milky way, and the Northern lights have been spotted from here many times.
Unfortunately we couldn’t capture the scene on our camera, even though I’d read up on the settings etc – however I’ve included some images other people have taken so you can get a feel for what we saw…
Today, we took a walked, The Valley of the Five Lakes in Jasper National Park, known for being one of the best valley bottom hikes near the town of Jasper. Whilst walking we passed ‘you guessed it’ five lakes, the lakes themselves were striking in their beauty and the ones that weren’t frozen varied in colour, from emerald blues to turquoise clear glacier waters.
At a loss for words as to how breathtaking and rewarding this drive was, the words “Scenic” or “beautiful” don’t give it proper justice. It’s by far the most spectacular drive I’ve ever been on, and is without doubt the best I’ve seen in Canada – Stretching 232km through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, the journey offered access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers and broad sweeping valleys.
The snow had fallen over the last two days and it made for beautiful but cold (-9C) scenery – snow covered trees as far as the eyes could see, mountains with snow that looked like whipped up marshmellows, frozen lakes and majestic glaciers made it look just like a scene from a Christmas card, better still, the sun was out and we had blue skies for the entire length of our journey!
I think the drive took us close to four hours, as there was so many places to stop and soak up the many vistas along the way – pictures don’t do it justice, but I’ve included a few below…
We didn’t get to see Elks, Wolfs or Grizzly Bears, however we did manage to see a heard of Horned Mountain Sheep just leisurely strolling on the road…
On Good Friday we left Banff (where we stayed for one night!) and headed West. On our travels we stopped at Lake Louise, a glacial lake, considered by many to be the most beautiful setting in the world of its kind, sparkling turquoise waters surrounded by lush green pines… or that’s how it is in summer. As expected, it was completely frozen, which was still pretty spectacular! It’s also home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America, so we’ll be back to ski/board next week!
Leaving Banff National Park and entering Yoho National Park, we arrived at Golden, our destination for Easter weekend – On Saturday we woke to snow, these last few days we’ve had quite a cold snap, however it’s expected to warm up next week, anyway thermals on, we took a drive to Emerald Lake, as expected it was frozen solid, still, was fun walking on the vast white canvas – our first time walking on ice!!!
From the lake we took a short hike up to Hamilton waterfalls, it was enchanting walking through the carpet of snow that covered the forest floor and Christmas scented pine trees. To get to the waterfall, we walked straight up the frozen river, which was still flowing underneath the deep ice – pretty impressive!
Easter Sunday saw us set the alarm for 6am to venture the 75km back to Lake Louise for a full days skiing/boarding as we’d heard the conditions were good – and they didn’t disappoint. Fresh powder, blue skies followed by further scattered snow showers throughout the day = happy ski day!
The drive from Cranbrook to Calgary, which saw us cross over from British Columbia into Alberta was stunning, we traveled up route 22, which is known as the cowboy trail, owing to its sweeping arid fields, long straight endless road and snow capped Rocky Mountains which dominate the backdrop, it truly was breath taking.
Calgary was literally a two hour flying visit, and then onto Canmore in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Everywhere you look is a perfect picture from a glossy travel book, the rockies are stunning and majestic, awe inspiring and just plain gorgeous – no picture will do it justice
We stayed in Canmore at this amazing penthouse condo with views looking out to the Rockies for a week and provided us with the perfect base to go out and explore Banff National Park (one of the most famous parks in the world). During our stay we walked Ha Ling Peak, a steep and popular hike to a mountain summit in the Bow Valley Corridor above Canmore, it took us about 4-hours, with the terrain proving difficult, ranging from black ice and thick snow, however the view from the summit was something else.
Took a trip out to Johnston Canyon, a spectacular walk that gives fabulous views of the Johnston Canyon, past the lower falls and to the breathtaking upper icefalls. (again the walk proved hard as we were walking on sheet ice – note to self, definitely need crampons)
Another day we rented ‘Trail Fat Bikes’ and set off to take on the mountain trails through the woodlands, noting the warning signs for pumas and lynx’s and how to defend yourself against them. On the other days we headed to the slopes of Sunshine Mountain for some skiing, it didn’t live up to its name, visibility was poor and the sunshine was non-existent, but the ski and the runs were good! The following day we went for a gentle stroll around Lake Johnson, it was so peaceful and quiet, it was like seeing double looking into the lake and seeing the mountain reflection.
One night we decided to walk from the condo for a few beers in Canmore, it’s a 10 minute drive, so we didn’t think the walk would take long, we were wrong, it took us an hour and a half… on arrival at The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, having worked up a thirst and a bit of an appetite, we decided on the sample tray, where we sampled ten local craft beers and ordered up a plate of ‘Poutine’ a dish originating in Quebec, Canada, made with french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds (comparable to English chips and gravy, with a rubbery like cheese) it went well with the beer.
Leaving the bar and dreading the long hike home, Tom suggested we hitch a lift, we put our thumbs up, two SUV’s went buy (by the way pretty much everyone drives SUV’s/4×4’s), but the third vehicle stopped, a guy, also called Tom picked us up, went out of his way taking us right to our door – the people of Canada are so friendly!!!
From Kelowna, we ventured through Gladstone National Park, through Castlegar and onto Nelson, where we had a brief one night stopover. Despite our short stay, Nelson was really picturesque, the first place we’d come across that had some sort of resemblance to a quaint high street away from the unsightly retail parks, complete with commercial fast food chains.
Having spent most of our travels eating in, we decided to venture out to Smokewood BBQ, which serves up great authentic southern BBQ food. We shared a combo box, consisting of heavenly pulled pork, melt in the mouth sliced beef brisket and ribs, served with homemade BBQ sauce, southern style beans, mac & cheese, coleslaw and cornbread – it was amazing, we left feeling humble and pleasantly filled! (we’re already contemplating a return visit, when we make our way back to Vancouver)
The following morning we headed up to Cranbrook, where we stayed in another motel, this one outdid the last one, we even used the kitchenette facilities, where I knocked up an all time American favourite, packet mac and cheese.
Now contrary to believe Kraft mac and cheese is not nice, after one mouthful mine ended up in the bin, Tom’s did after four. Will NOT be buying that again…
Having spent the night in Salmon Arm we headed on through Vernon, down to Kelowna – fully immersing ourselves into the American road trip, we decided to check-in to a motel (say Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn!!) and my god what a hovel that was…. just as well we were only using it as a base to drive to Big White each day.
Big White Mountain 2317m provided us with three great days of skiing (unfortunately for me only the one, as I twisted my knee and had to sit out the other two.. booo!), plenty of nice runs through the trees and lovely blue sunny skies, followed by a fresh snowfall on the last day.
On one of the nights we bought tickets to watch a Western Hockey League game, where we saw The Kelowna Rockets take on The Vancouver Giants, not going to lie, me and Tom didn’t really have a clue what was going on, but it was fun to experience and absorb some American sports, better still the home team won..
After Squamish, we headed the scenic route, engulfed by dramatic snow-capped mountains up the highway 99, passing through Pemberton, Lillooet, stopping to capture the landscape, frozen lakes and emerald blue lakes – Seton Lake at Lillooet was beyond idyllic.
After an eight hour drive we ended up in Salmon Arm, a city in Shuswap Country of the Southern Interior, which sits on the shores of Shuswap Lake and is famous for millions and millions of British Columbia’s famous Sockeye Salmon returning each October to the nearby Shuswap and Adams River Salmon run, as they make their way up the river.
After teary goodbyes, a long drive to Gatwick, followed by a 10-hour flight, we finally arrived in Vancouver on the 17th March 2015 to sunshine and warmth, much warmer than we expected! Having stopped off to pick up our chariot for the next month, a sturdy blue Nissan (probably the smallest car on the roads of Canada), me and Tom started the journey following the breath taking coastline over to Squamish, BC where we spent three nights pretty much recovering from lack of sleep and adjusting to Canadian life…
Excited for the snow on our second day we headed over to Whistler for a day’s skiing, however it was somewhat disappointing, slushy, rainy and made for a lacklustre day on the piste – however the hot tub and a few bottles of Dos Equis back at the place we were staying made up for it.
Now it might sound cliche, but for me nothing beats that exciting feeling of planning your next adventure, absorbing the scenery, devouring delicious new cuisines, whilst capturing it all through photography, be it a city break, a weekend camping in the UK or a destination far away. Now I don’t know if this is true, but I was once told, that the average human only sees a mere 6% of the world, now I am sure you can do the math, but that’s a whole 94% of the world that goes unseen – crazy I know!!
This statistic has always stayed with me, so it comes as no surprise that myself (Sarah) and partner Tom, have finally taken the plunge, rented the house out, sold our trusty car, eBayed the majority of our prized possessions, and are finally (after what seems like a stressful few months of consistent organising) ready and waiting to pack our final few belongings into our bags, get on a plane to Canada to start our 8-month journey through the Americas, all the way down to Ushuaia.