Our impromptu spring break trip to Canada took us straight into the romance of the Great White North. Banff National Park was a peek inside a snow globe that left us truly impressed.
Even for a directionally challenged loon like me there was something off about driving east to reach the great Rocky Mountains; considered Out West when growing up in Michigan. We drove through never-ending plains of white, past train tracks and tunnels that should have been part of a children’s play set and mountain peaks that looked like Kindergarten renditions of triangle mountains (mad-jestic in JD’s words).
Strangely, I was reminded of Namibia here. They are alike in their opposite extremes. There was the same quiet and same sense of smallness that comes from being the only humans for miles. Although exhilarating, there was also the feeling that we shouldn’t be there, as if we were trespassing on Mother Earth’s hallowed ground. The land was both too sacred and too brutal for us to cruise though in our temperature-controlled car.
I was further reminded of Africa when we passed through the very northern tips of Glacier and Yoho National Parks. From my usual frame of reference, these are parks whose southern entrances are way, way far north. Yet here we were viewing them from the other direction. It was the same giddy disorientation I experienced seeing Victoria Falls from both the Zim and Zam banks.
Along the drive there were so many tempting turnoffs; signs for waterfalls, hiking trails, canyons. We could’ve spent a week just exploring en route to our final destination. Being five months pregnant, I insisted we tour nearly every rest stop. But otherwise, we were disciplined in sticking to the original route with only one unplanned side trip to a wolf sanctuary. But as we drove my imagination was dancing. The names of the places we passed demanded a back story – Kicking Horse Canyon, Bald Mountain, Hoodoo Creek. The sign for ‘Old Bridge On Big Hill’ was less inspiring.
We stopped a night stay in Sicamous, Canada’s Famous (?) House Boat Capital in summer. It’s a bit less famous in the off season. Turned out even the ice cream store was closed until June. So, we carried on the next morning to Banff and its lovely watering hole. This whole trip had started when Justin’s friend suggested we go see the “pretty lake in Canada”. After a bit more pressing, it turned out this was Lake Louise. And, geez, Louise (had to), pretty it was.
We arrived on Easter and spent the next five days walking (let’s call it “trekking” to sound more rugged) to glaciers, through canyons and even across the frozen lake, herself. Our lodge had the kind of giant fireplace and creaky floors that encourage cozy. And then there was the snow. With next to no planning, we had packed for spring time hikes through fields of daffodils. At the last second, we threw in a couple sweaters for good measure. It was April, after all. Turns out Lake Louise had gotten her biggest dumping of snow in 30 years just before we arrived. It was everywhere! Gloriously fluffy and white and sparkly! The top of every building was wearing a silly thick tea hat of snow. Shaking a tree branch meant not just a light dusting but full boatload of flakes. JD and I never tired of this effect. We also never tired of trying to measure how deep the snowdrifts were and managed to get stuck each time. It was a visit to a magical, white world.
Our stay in Banff, as well as the getting to and from bits, was nothing short of spectacular.