Our North American Trip - August and September 2006.
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Trip Report for Alaska, Canada & USA Trip – Week 2:    26 Aug – 1 Sep 06
Vancouver, Whistler, Jasper, Banff

(This will be updated as and when the opportunity presents itself, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Saturday, 26 Aug. 06
Woke up to a fine day and clear sky – temp 28-30 degrees C.

We had a very pleasant breakfast at the hotel – fresh fruit, cereal and yoghurt, toast etc.

Packed all our winter clothes at the bottom of our suitcases and brought our summer clothing to the top, now that we are likely to experience much warmer weather than we did up in Alaska.

G got a cab to the Avis rental depot nearby to collect our rental car and had an exceptionally helpful man serve him.  Most Canadians we have had any dealings with so far, have always been so pleasant, it’s been a delight.  Installed the GPS in the car – it makes life so much easier.

Departed the hotel around 10am and started to drive through Vancouver on our way up to Furry Creek Golf Course to meet up with friends we had been corresponding with on the Slow Travel website for some time who have been passing onto us some very helpful information on what we may like to see, visit, where to stay, etc on our trip.  G set up the GPS on the car dashboard, initially one wrong turn, the rest of the driving went well arriving at Furry Creek with plenty of time to spare.  The scenery along the Sea to Sky highway up Howe Sound was great, but unfortunately there were no ‘view points’ off the road to view it much better.

We found the Furry Creek Golf Course with ease and the six other Slow Travel people arrived and joined us – Sheena and Terry / Janie and Geoff from Vancouver (both met in Wellington and lived in Whitby for 3 years, 16 years ago), Ann & Scott who had driven up from Seattle for the lunch.  It was great to meet them all – they were very nice people and such hard cases, it was so easy to talk with them and we are so grateful for all the assistance they had given us while we were organising our itinerary for this trip.  So much talking about travelling we forgot to ask them for their surnames and what they did work wise.  We had a lovely light lunch and after a photo session we left for Whistler.  A great get together (GTG) with the ‘Slow Travel’ people in Vancouver and Seattle.

Janie & Geoff gave us some superb chocolates as well as some to take to Brenda in Jasper.

Arrived in Whistler around 3.45pm - found and checked into our B&B.  The owner was lovely and immediately made us a coffee and commented that it would be quicker for us to walk along the ‘trail’ to the village rather than attempt to drive there.  We walked to the village through the trees and over a river, passing skate boarders and mountain bikers using areas designed for them and some huge car parks (very dusty as the car parks were not sealed).  Once at the village we saw a huge number of mountain bikers taking a special lift up the nearby mountain (bikes on every second chair lift, then bodies on every other chair lift), once up the top they all biked down the slopes and over the bumps and jumps – quite spectacular.  We did notice that their bikes were the most sturdy mountain bikes we had ever seen, with springing on them and larger off road tyres.

Wandered around the paved village area (no vehicles allowed) noticing the ‘Bear’ proof rubbish bins – delightful area as it was crowded (being a weekend).  Found the ‘Zeuskis’ restaurant that Janie and Geoff suggested we have dinner at – had a pleasant and tasty dinner (Calamari in a tomato mix with a Greek salad).  While we were having dinner some young scantily clad ladies did some Greek dancing in the square close by, which was enjoyable to watch.  Managed to hold Graham on his seat!  We walked back to the B&B before it was dark to catch up on e-mails and diary before heading for bed.  When we arrived back the owner offered G a glass of Bourbon, which was so kind of her.

During the evening and early morning we unfortunately were awakened several times as there appeared to be a loud party close by.


Sunday, 27 Aug
Woke up to a fine day and clear sky – temp 28-32 degrees C.

Had a very pleasant breakfast at the B&B – juice; fresh melon & cereal; ham, cheese & relish omelette; toast & tea etc.

Our Whistler B&B hostess was very kind and gave us a slicker pad to keep the chocolates for Brenda cool (in our mini chilli bin) while travelling to Jasper. 

Left the B&B around 9am, purchased a sandwich, some nectarines and fruit juice from a supermarket nearby - departed Whistler for Clearwater

Stopped at the Joffrey Lakes car park - walked to the first lake to view the glacier above it – great view.  Didn’t really have time to walk on the trails to any of the other lakes.  Stopped at Duffy Lake to take a photo of the logs in the water that had blocked part of the water way.  We then stopped at Seton Lake to view the rail track around the edge of the lake (just before we got to Lillooet). 

During our trip from Whistler to Clearwater today we climbed two very high mountain areas, but when we were going down the second one the car started to vibrating quite badly – the brakes were fading and overheating, which was a little scary (evidently it did this slightly when going down the first long hill), so we stopped for a while to allow them to cool down a little (will discuss this with Avis when we reach Jasper).  We also had a film of spots on the front windscreen that affected our view quite badly when the sun was low in the mornings and evenings – scrubbed it with the window cleaner  brushes at a garage – didn’t really make any difference so G has cleaned it with dishwashing detergent, so hopefully that has removed it.

We arrived at Clearwater around 4pm.  Checked in at the Clearwater Valley Resort where we had pre-booked a motel room for the night - had dinner at their restaurant.  Purchased some blueberries on the side of the road at Clearwater to have as desert – yummy!


Monday, 28 Aug. 06
Woke up to a light cloudy fine day – temp up to mid 20’s today - had a very early continental breakfast at the resort restaurant. 

Left Clearwater for Jasper at 8 am virtually drove to Jasper without stopping as we needed to meet up with Brenda, another Slow Travel person we were to catch up with, around 12 noon in Jasper (with the time difference we lost 1hr on the way as well).  Arrived at our accommodation (Becker’s Chalets) @ 12.15pm – Brenda was waiting for us.

Just before getting to Jasper we passed Mt Robson (highest mountain in the area) then came to the entrance to Alberta and the National Parks – had to purchase an annual National Parks of Canada Pass (CA$54 ea for ‘seniors’ 65+yrs!!).

The three of us had a great lunch combined with a lot of talking, at the Jasper Park Lodge.   Very upmarket lodge with lovely grounds, a lake, and flower baskets hanging all around the main building.

Drove to Maligne Lake and went for a boat cruise on the lake to view the mountains and glaciers, stopped by “Spirit Island” to take some photos of the stunning scenery before returning back to the wharf.  On the way back we passed Medicine Lake then stopped and visited Maligne Canyon, which was a narrow deep chasm that the water had warn through the rocks – it had some pretty waterfalls and amazing rock formations.

Returned to Jasper and had dinner at “Evil Dave’s” which Brenda had been recommended, and it was a very nice meal.  Drove back to our accommodation so Brenda could collect her car.

Brenda has been amazing, with a list of the sights to see, and having a guide with a lot of local knowledge on board means we are learning and seeing a lot more than we would have on our own.


Tuesday, 29 August
Woke up to a light cloudy but fine day – temp up to mid around 17 degrees C today - had a very pleasant continental breakfast at the Jasper Park Lodge restaurant.

When Brenda arrived we drove down to the Athabasca Falls – rather spectacular – it would be great to see them at the peak of the ice melt period.

Drove to Jasper to have lunch with Brenda before she left for home at Fox Creek.  Had a very great lunch at “Earls” restaurant – G & B had desert to finish it off.  We were sad to have to say goodbye to Brenda as we had all had such a great time together but as she had a 3 to 4 hr drive ahead of her, she needed to get on her way.

Attempted to purchase some food items so we could make our own breakfast and some clothes washing detergent, but as the supermarket was very depleted in stock on some items and sold most items in bulk quantities, we were not able to purchase all what we wanted.

Soon after Brenda left some dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain – she obviously took the sunshine with her!!

Drove to “Lake Annette” and had a walk around it – nice walking path all the way around – cool to have a lake named after you!

Visited the Jasper Tramway, Top of Whistlers Mountain – arrived at 4.55pm and just made the last flight up (Flight 47) the mountain in the gondola.  This is the highest and longest tramway (we would call it a gondola as it is suspended from a cable) in Canada, is nearly 1 km long, and rises 973 metres to a height of 2277m above sea level up the tree lined and then rocky face of a very steep mountain – G had his eyes closed and held his breath most of the way!

We had dinner at Villa Caruso Steakhouse & Bar, where we shared a Tomato & Basil Soup and then only had an appetiser each, as we didn’t need a large meal.  The appetiser prices were very reasonable for what we got (A had 8 large prawns in a tomato mix, and G had 10 escargot with mushrooms and leaks with a pastry topping – both very good.  We did note though that the entrees (mains to us) were quite pricy compared to what we had seen previously.  The waiter initially appeared quite impersonal and grumpy, but mellowed considerably with time.

Now back at the log cabin doing a bit of washing and packing to move out early in the morning to head south into the Parkways Icefield for the day on our way to Banff.


Wednesday, 30 August
Rained during the night – cloudy & fine in the morning – started to rain as we drove south, temp got down to 1 degrees C.

Had a pleasant self catered continental breakfast with blueberries & banana in our chalet. 

As we packed the car we spotted a number of Elk walking around the grounds – more and more people appeared from other cabins to also take photos of them – we left Jasper @ 8am.  As we started to drive south toward Banff the weather deteriorated – rained heavier and the clouds came lower down on the mountains and it gradually got colder and colder as we climbed in altitude.

Soon after 9am when we arrived at the Columbia Icefield (1 degrees C) it was still snowing.  We purchased tickets for the Ice Explorer tour of the Athabasca Glacier and at 9.30am the ‘Snow Shuttle’ bus took us up to the Glacier, we then transferred to a special vehicle designed to be driven on ice surfaces (the Ice Explorer – top speed was 8 km ph).  It drove up onto the glacier, then stopped so we could get out and walk on the glacier, but unfortunately the cloud was so low we could not see what the surroundings close by were like.  We were surprised how mild the temperature was up on top of the glacier – colder back down at the office / accommodation area.  There were not many on our tour, as it was one of the first that morning, but after we had been up on the glacier for 20mins, three more Ice Explorers arrived, the two latter ones full of tour bus people!.  After we had had a quick lunch and were leaving we noticed that the clouds had lifted a bit and could see more of the mountain above the glacier.  A great experience not to be missed.

Soon after leaving the Columbia Icefield the rain started to get heavier and heavier.  It was still like this when we arrived in Lake Louise an hour later.  We gradually drove further south passing Mistaya Lake, at the summit of Bow Pass we walked along a track to Peyto Lake and glacier viewpoint – it was a beautiful deep glacier green colour.  Then passed Bow Lake - also a nice green colour.  Stopped at Lake Louise and had a drink at the “Fairmont Chateau” (huge old hotel – need a few $$$ to stay there) – Lake Louise was really nice with a glacier at the other end of it and the mountain covered with low cloud.

Arrived in Banff around 4.30pm, stopped by a goods train (lots of container wagons stacked two high).  A little early to check in to our B&B, so drove around Banff to view the “Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel” and the “Banff Upper Hot Springs”.  The B&B owner was very helpful and friendly – has a car park around the back of the house, which was better than being parked on the road.

Walked in the rain the main street and had dinner at “Guido’s” restaurant, walked around part of the town, bought a few chocolates, then walked back to the B&B. 

Here’s hoping it will be fine tomorrow son we can view some of the nice mountains surrounding this delightful area.


Thursday, 31 August
Woke up to a fine cloudy day – yippee.  This morning there was quite a crispness about the air as it had snowed overnight up in the mountains close by.

Had a nice breakfast at the B&B, then drove north to the Johnston Canyon and walked 5km to view the lower and upper falls and then each had a toasted BLT for lunch – Annette managed to walk up the rises with some support from Graham.  As the weather appeared unsettled with low dark clouds further north, we didn’t travel any further north today

Returned on the Trans Canada Highway to Banff (passed under two animal over-bridges) and caught the gondola up Sulphur Mountain where there was snow all over the trees and ground – the views were so pretty with all the other mountain tops also covered with a light covering of snow.  Evidently it’s not common to have snow falls here during summer.

Viewed the Bow Falls on the Bow River close by, then drove out to Lake Minnewanka – walked around the shoreline and came accross a very photogenic little island out in the lake, almost another Spirit Island like the one on Maligne Lake.  While walking we saw many Squirrels running down trees and along the ground – G managed to capture a few on the camera.

Returned and left the car at the B&B and walked up town to find a supermarket and then had dinner at ‘Earls’ Restaurant.


Friday, 1 September
What a difference a day makes!!  A cracker of a day today - no clouds, no wind and a clear blue sky.   

Had a nice breakfast at the B&B (cereal and fruit etc and ‘nested eggs’) then drove north on highway 1 (passing Castle Mountain on the way) to Moraine Lake and valley of the Ten Peaks – we walked 100m or so up onto the top of a pile of rocks (remains of a terminal moraine) to get better views of the lake and sheer mountains surrounding it.  The lake was a deep teal colour – rather stunning.  As we started to walk back down we bumped into another couple from Whitby in Wellington (Lou and Derek Oldershaw – other members of Plimmerton Rotary Club.  They were on a tour around the Jasper and Banff area).

Drove over to the Lake Louise sightseeing Gondola – went for a ride up on the gondola (enclosed gondolas and open seat chair lifts on the same lift) and at the top, we walked down to the view point.  Rode up in an enclosed gondola but came back down in the open air chair lift – a little breezy and cool but we had great views.  We could easily see Lake Louise in the distance and had great view of all the mountains surrounding the area – still had a little bit of snow on them .  Had a quick lunch at the gondola café then drove over to Lake Louise.  Much better views today (visited two days ago in the pouring rain) and got some better photos of the area this time.

Drove further north up Highway 1 & 39 into the Banff National Park missing the turn off up the Icefields Parkway Highway and instead kept on Highway 1 heading back into British Columbia again (the way we plan to drive out of Banff tomorrow) – oops, missed the correct turn again at the same intersection!!  The one time we didn’t have the GPS going as we knew where we were going!!  Back tracked and took the correct turn this time and headed north on Highway 93, through the entrance to the National Parks (where everyone has to purchase a Park Pass, if they don’t already have one) up to the Bow Summit (the highest point on the Icefields Parkway at 2088m – 6852ft) & Peyto Lake (with a glacier at the top of the lake) - once again the lake was a beautiful deep glacier green colour (not having to look at it from under an umbrella today).

On the way back we also called into Bow Lake with its glacier above it; viewed the Crowfoot Glacier then Hector Lake.  Late in the day it was noticeable that most of the snow had melted and disappeared from the top of the mountains, so it was great that we were fortunate enough to have seen the area as we did.

Returned back to the B&B around 5pm then went looking for somewhere to eat as it is a long weekend in Canada this weekend and there already were crowds of people walking the streets in Banff.

We leave Banff tomorrow and join up with the two other Rotary couples we will be on the Friendship Exchange program with for the next two weeks.