Bloggers and general writer-types will understand the “blocks” you sometimes feel when sitting down to document a trip – this particular one has resulted in a 1.5 month delay in posting. I could blame the pandemic for my flighty mind and fidgety typing fingers, and it wouldn’t be entirely untrue. But the reality is that sometimes we just can’t relax creatively enough to churn out a document, no matter how much we love the way it feels when it’s done. Sharing our latest trip, however, is worth a potential reduction in details due to my delayed documentation. Luckily, I am a skilled travel-note-taker while on the road.
We’ve been waiting for this trip to Canada for a long time. It was originally planned for September 2020 along with a friend’s wedding in California that has since been rescheduled twice. When they announced that borders would open on August 9 for vaccinated Americans, we planned out the entire trip in about 2 weeks – a road trip from Banff National Park, north to Jasper, and then west to Vancouver. By mid-August, we were on an airplane.
Our entire flight crew got food poisoning the night before we departed, resulting in a 6 hour delay. By the time we rolled into Calgary, we’d missed the pickup time for our rental car. The rental shortage we’ve seen in the U.S. has extended to Canada, and it was by sheer luck that the airport received a last-minute batch of cars, and we didn’t have to walk all the way to Banff.
We were delirious as we finally drove our little Kia Sportage towards Banff, catching a quick photo of the sun setting over tiny hills in the distance. The next morning was our first of three in Banff, a small but popular town nestled inside the national park. It was whisper quiet and overcast as we wandered down the street for some ham and cheese croissants, chugged some Gatorade (hydration is the key to altitude acclimation), and rented a can of bear spray for hiking. Not unlike our trip to Montana, the weather in Banff changes several times a day and impromptu sun showers abound. Wear layers and don’t trust the weather report.
Our first hike was “Little Beehive” which can be accessed near Lake Louise, one of those famous “Instagramable” sights. On this particular morning, the sky was fairly grey and eerie, but the milky blue water was strangely soothing. Little colored flowers cropped up along the shoreline and rocks shimmered in the sporadic bursts of sun. Early in the morning, it was still calm and uncrowded with only a stray red rowboat poking out from the shades of blue.
The hiking trail burst with the scent of fresh pine. It was a steep and rocky assent – an unexpected struggle after a day of flying and lounging, delayed, in various airports. The very end of the hike was a difficult push, navigating sharp rocks and loosely maintained paths. The summit was quiet and isolated. Graffiti adorned the stone of a fire lookout from the 1800s and puffy clouds drifted behind it.
On the way down, we stopped at the little teahouse nestled halfway between the summit and the lake. The rain poured down onto our shivering bodies as we shuffled in, digging into homemade vegetable soup and hot tea at old wooden tables along with other hikers and a few sleeping dogs. Chipmunks weaved their way in and out of table legs, snatching rogue breadcrumbs. The rain here starts and stops on a dime – by the time we left, the sun was shining again.
Dinner that night consisted of a savory “steak sampler” at Chuck’s (make a rez) and a chocolate and honeycomb dessert that was so good I could barely answer our server when they asked if we had enjoyed it. A windbreaker worn over my “fancy” dinner outfit for the walk was essential – the evenings get cool and blustery as the rain rolls in.