Monday, July 14, 2014

Canadian Rockies and Montana

First a couple notes about Canada for those who haven’t traveled there.  Chuck called it “international lite” because it isn’t very different than being in the US except for a few things.  First: the metric system, speed signs in kilometers.  Also gas prices in liters and Canadian money, making it hard to know what the actual cost is.  But we think gas came out to about $5.50 TO $6 a gallon.  Everything in Canada is more expensive by about 25 to 30%.  Even at the Dollar Tree everything cost $1.25. They don’t have pennies, everything is rounded to the nearest nickel.  Dollar and two dollar coins are called loonies and toonies, there are no paper dollar bills.  Also, all packaging is in English and French even though western Canada doesn’t seem to have many French speakers.  But it does have lots of beautiful scenery. 
When we left Calgary, we headed into the Canadian Rockies which are a couple hours west.  At our first stop, the town of Canmore, we ran into some friends that live a couple blocks from us who recommended a good restaurant.  Later in the week we went there, and Chuck had a bison burger, I had an elk burger, both excellent.  We stayed in a condo just outside of Banff National Park.  The mountains there are indescribably spectacular!  We bought a pass for four activities that we did over the next couple days.  The first day we drove up the Icefields Parkway that goes along the continental divide and into Jasper National Park.  At one point they built the Glacier Skywalk that just opened in May, and is a glass floored observation platform that arches out high above the river.  We also took the Ice Explorer, which is like a bus on steroids, with huge tires to drive out onto the glacier.  There were lots of mountain goats along the way to the glacier.  We were able to walk around a bit and even get some fresh glacial water to drink.  On the drive back we stopped to photograph a large grey wolf that was standing on the side of the road.  He eyed us suspiciously but did not move until after I got his picture.  We also stopped at Lake Louise and saw the beautiful hotel there.  The lake was still mostly frozen over from the very cold winter they had, so we didn’t get to see its turquoise color that it is famous for. 
The next day we went on a lake cruise on Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in the Canadian Rockies.  After that we went on the Banff Gondola.  The views from the top were spectacular.  We also walked around the town of Banff, a very cute touristy place. 
We concluded our time in Canada by driving west into British Columbia and through the western side of the Rockies.  We stayed a couple days in a cabin in the woods outside of Whitefish, Montana.  The deer outside the cabin were beautiful, the mosquitoes not so much fun.  We went to Glacier National Park where we drove the Road to the Sun.  It was only open half way up the mountains because of snow, it opens all the way sometime in July.  We took a short hike through the wood there.  Leaving Whitefish we drove along Flathead Lake which is about 30 miles long, the largest freshwater lake in the western US.  Then we joined the I-90 at Missoula and made a stop in Deer Lodge.  There we visited a nice car museum and the old territorial prison.  We spent the night in Butte, then finished the drive home.  
along Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park

Canadian Rockies at Banff National Park

Glacier Explorer

us on the Athabasca Glacier

Mountain goat

Athabasca Glacier

who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Saskatchewan River

Lake Minnewanka

Longhorn sheep by lake

view from Banff tram

hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana