With the stunning beauty of the USA National Parks wowing us over the past 6 weeks we thought it was only fair to give Canada a shot so after a night at a crappy Motel in Calgary we headed west on Canada Highway 1 to Banff National Park.
Canada is currently celebrating 150 years of independence and as a gift to the people all National Parks in the country are free to enter for 2017.
The National Parks in Canada (the ones we visited anyway) are very different to the USA. They are more like the UK i.e. not stand alone areas, just protected land that encompasses the towns and villages within them. This is especially true when it comes to Banff as it is a very well known and popular ski resort come winter time.
Camping within the park was straight forward, we stayed at a self registration first come first served camp just north of Banff for $21.50 (CAD) a night which was more than good enough for us.
The next day we headed up to Lake Louise to do some hiking which was spectacular and ridiculously busy. We did the full loop of the lake and went up and around big beehive which took us a few hours to complete but the views made the effort worthwhile.
Moraine Lake sits a few km higher than Lake Louise and boasts some seriously clear Glacier water so we made that our second stop of the day - we did aim to go their first but they had already closed the road up due to too many people. On the way down we saw a few cars by the side of the road and as we passed I caught a glimpse of a big black bear running into the bushes which was cool, George didn't see it though!
We then continued west to the edge of the park and found another self registration campsite for the night for $15.70.
During our time in the US a few people had said that the haze in the mountains was due to the forest fires in Canada. I thought at the time it was unfair to blame your neighbours for your poor air quality, the US is not exactly the ‘greenest’ of nations but as we got further west the visibility had dropped to only about 100ft due to the smoke. We had planned to do a few hikes in Glacier National Park (Canadas version) but apparently something like 13 fires were still uncontrolled and had been burning for a over 2 weeks so the whole area was on shut down.
A little further west lay the town of Revelstoke with its own National Park area so we headed there hoping that the forest fires/smoke wasn't quite as bad. Luckily for us visibility was good so we made the long trip up the mountain to do a few small hikes around the lakes and wildflowers which had just come into bloom.
That night we headed to a free camp area deep in the forest. On arrival it looked like something out of a horror film, but when another couple arrived we felt a bit safer and it was all ok until the weirdest two men arrived late at night and kept howling and shouting about Donald Trump, that combined with the loudest song being played on repeat for about 2 hours was enough and at about 2am I'd had enough of the situation and drove back out to the highway and parked up next to some truckers in the first lay by we came across.
Knowing that George was going to have to put up with a lot of bike related chat in Whistler I thought it only fair to make a couple of hours detour to the Okanagan Wine region to visit a few wineries and sample their famous ice wine.
Kelowna, the nearest town was easy enough to navigate, we first visited a wine museum before setting off around a total of 4 wineries in the area for tastings including one which boasted a pyramid that apparently gives off special energy to the wine….. ok. George was made up sampling the unique ice wine while I went for a 2017 San pelligrino with a hint of lemon. Delicious. After a top day we headed back and found a campsite just south of Kamloops ($28) for our last ever night in Colin the tent.
We headed to Whistler for the Crankworx mountain bike festival and to say I was excited would be an understatement. I managed to secure a media pass to shoot and do write ups for wideopenmag.co.uk, a uk based mountain bike website so I was in my element all week. What i perhaps hadn't counted on was the sheer amount of events on during the week and the sheer scale of the whistler bike park and after a full week of early starts, full days on the hill and late night editing I was bloody knackered by the end of it all. The last day of the event held the slope style main event and as a birthday present George had got us VIP tickets to watch in one of the best spots with a couple of drinks and some canapés thrown in, it was a great end to the week. During our 8 days in Whistler we stayed at the Fireside Lodge in a double room and at the HI Hostel in the Olympic village in a four bed dorm (probably the best hostel we've ever stayed in). On our last morning we also got to witness a total solar eclipse (well 95%) which was very cool although it was a little too cloudy to fully appreciate it.
Sea to Sky Highway
Knowing that we couldn't take all of our camping gear with us we advertised it for sale in the hostel and online and George worked her magic while I was busy taking photos and sold it all to an English guy about to start his own road trip. We were both pleased Colin and our crappy sleeping bags and luminous camping chairs would make someone else happy and continue their adventure.
After the madness of Crankworx we only had a couple of days left before we had to be back in Vancouver to drop Tyrone off. Luckily the route from Whistler to Vancouver follows the very scenic Sea to Sky Highway so it was a good way to end the two month trip.
Along the way we stopped and did a ridiculously hard 3.5hr hike to the top of the sea to sky gondola just outside of whistler. We caught the gondola back down for $15 each. We also visited an old train wreck deep in the woods, hit up waterfalls and stopped by the town of Squamish for a scenic hot chocolate.
After an emotional farewell to our car, which took us across 10363km of the USA and Canada we had a couple of days in Vancouver to get sorted for the next leg of our journey, and do mainly boring things like posting some stuff home. However, with George being a lover of whales and Vancouver boasting an excellent opportunity to see whales we couldn't pass up a whale watching trip while we were there. After George had researched companies, we headed out with Wild Whales Vancouver on a whale watching trip which could last anything up to 8 hours! God help me! The company was excellent, the small boat was brand new and we headed out to some nearby islands as there had been sightings of orcas. Sure enough as we approached the area we saw the huge fins of a killer whale sticking out of the water, George was very emotional. After watching them for a while we headed round some other islands to look at the seals before heading back to the whales for another look. This time we got a real treat as one of the whales came right up to the boat, swam under then emerged the other side right next to where George was sitting. It was an excellent trip.
Before we had picked the car up (2 months ago) we also had a couple of days in Vancouver exploring. A highlight was the amazing Stanley Park. We couldn't believe the wilderness so close to such a big city and the totem poles were also cool to see.