A Loop into Canada September 10-16, 2018
We received travel advice from our neighbors in Ilwaco: Go into Canada they said, go to Banff and Lake Louise they said. So….we did and this is a brief summary of our experience. We first had a nice visit with Butch’s brother in Pocatello Idaho. We had such a beautiful day at Scout Mountain where we had a picnic with a view.
We also had a wonderful meal out at the Fuji restaurant where your meal preparation is also the entertainment for the evening.
We decided to do something different this time after leaving Pocatello. Normally we would go maybe to the Tetons and Yellowstone but we heeded our neighbor’s suggestion and headed towards Canada. It was pretty much beautiful throughout our drive. This is a photo sometime before we reached our overnight destination in Kalispell, Montana.
So...after spending the night in Montana we headed north into British Columbia. The border process was pretty darn easy. The officer took our passports and asked us a few questions that had to be answered with more than a nod of our heads. (No weapons, bear spray, stun guns right?)
British Columbia, Canada welcoming us
So our phones are placed on airplane mode to avoid any international charges. This really made us appreciate our cell phones, particularly the GPS when driving. We actually had to write down directions at one point on a piece of paper! And of course we are now dealing with the metric system. Why can’t the US be like all the other countries in the world? The kilometer speed on our dash was hard to see so we just approximately went the speed limit. And finally of course the money isn’t the same. We used our credit card for everything, even a 3 dollar quickie mart type of stop. Therefore we did not do the ATM process and end up with Canadian money we couldn’t use.
One thing that was consistent throughout our drive in Canada was the sheer beauty of the scenery everywhere!
Traveling the road up to Banff in Canada
Now that is a serious water wheel!
On the way to Banff we saw the beginning of the Columbia River.
We stopped in Radium Hot Springs and had the unpleasant surprise of finding out the place was packed because of a car show in town. So much for our plans of staying there! So onward to the entry of Kootenay and Banff national parks. We figured that we would find some lodging somewhere in the parks or nearby. We stopped at the entry and paid our park fees but noted that many cars just went on by in the other lane. We later found out that a lot of people just transit through the park and therefore do not need to pay anything. We probably could have gotten by without the pass! It is the lack of information thing affecting us again. And needless to say our National Park passes for the US do not get us anything in Canada! Right on entry to Kootenay there were a few bighorn sheep posing for us.
We had a beautiful drive through Kootenay and Banff parks. The weather unfortunately deteriorated as we went through even resulting in some snow! I am sure it would be even more spectacular on a nice sunny day. As it was we were unable to see some of the highest peaks due to clouds. The water in some of the rivers was a beautiful turquoise color due to glacier runoff. By the way we crossed into Alberta during the trip - a first for us.
On a nice day the turquoise color of the water would show up better….
We headed to Lake Louise next. It was quite busy as this is a major tourist area. We checked out the famous (and expensive) hotel Fairmont Chateau right on the lake but found that they were booked. There were quite a few international tourists around as we discovered. We tried to find out about the walk to the lake and were rewarded with blank looks by a group of Japanese tourists. It turned out to be a short walk to the lake from the parking lot and we were rewarded with a snowy view of the lake.
Just compare - this is what Lake Louise would look on a nice sunny day. Beautiful turquoise water!
Oh well, you pick your dates and take what comes as far as the weather.
Really, all you can do is laugh at this point….
Since we couldn’t find any lodging in the Lake Louise area we headed south to the town of Banff. Because of the wildlife they have tall fences to prevent the animals from wandering into the freeway and provide handy “bridges” for the animals to cross over. On more than one occasion we saw bighorn sheep near one of these overpasses.
In the town of Banff we explored lodging and were greatly disappointed. They had pretty much just basic hotel rooms for a minimum of 200 dollars per night (most were 300 and above). So onward we went to Calgary and ultimately we found a Comfort Inn for $98 (about $70 US). We were happy as it was every bit as nice as some of the hotels we checked out in Banff. Apparently Canada does not have the rule of having the swinging chair to deposit the handicapped into the pool. Instead it had a great big slide which neither of us was interested in trying out. Fun point of interest: We had to go old school to find the hotel by writing down directions after hooking into Wendy’s wifi. We sure do appreciate the use of our phones for GPS!
After a much needed rest we headed out from the hotel and could not figure out how to get to Costco. But we did accidentally run into the freeway we needed to head south and then west to Spokane. The drive to Spokane was just beautiful and as an added bonus we were south of the bad weather.
We passed what used to be the largest truck in the world in Sparwood B.C. This gigantic dump truck was used around open pit mines.
We made it to Spokane and happily used our GPS to try and find Costco. Well except Costco had recently moved and the GPS was directing us to the old Costco site. Fortunately eagle eye Butch spotted the new one as we headed into town! After a nice night in Spokane we headed home without anything notable happening the next day. What a trip - a mix of good and not so good experiences!