A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

Canada - Three Valley Gap to Vancouver

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We were edging closer to the end of our road trip but we were still in for a treat. The Three Valley Gap town has a very good open air museum with original buildings and artifacts from British Columbia's early settler days in the 1800's. Trains, cars, old stores, workshops, you name it. A great stop off.

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After a night in Kamloops we headed back to Vancouver via 'Hell's Gate' with some spectacular scenery on the way. It's much drier in this part of British Columbia, so very different to the Rockies. The Thompson Canyon was very impressive and so was the meeting of two rivers in Lytton (check out the photo). Further along the Fraser River we arrived at Hell's Gate. A narrow passage which has been a popular salmon fishing ground for Aboriginal communities for centuries. In 1914 a large rock slide triggered by construction fell into the river at Hell's Gate, obstructing the passage of Pacific salmon needing to swim upstream to spawn. To help with this a fish way was built in 1944. Now there are huge volumes of salmon that travel 1,400km upstream from the Vancouver area! There is a cable car which unfortunately was closed when we arrived but we were able to scramble down via a trail to check out the bridge. Luckily this was the salmon spawning season so we could see up-close the masses of salmon swimming against the raging rapids. Quite a sight!

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We checked out the 91m long Alexandra bridge built in 1863 which was nearby and Yale before grabbing a bit to eat in Hope. Before long we found ourselves back in Vancouver. A great trip that we highly recommend!

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Canada - Golden to Revelstoke

sunny 18 °C

The weather was starting to turn as we departed Lake Louise and ventured towards Golden so our stop at Takakkaw Falls was a wet one! The third highest waterfall in Canada at 260m, a huge amount of water was gushing out of a fairly small spout creating masses of spray to ensure we were fully soaked. Arriving ravenous in Golden we stayed at the cosy Kicking Horse hostel and devoured a delicious meal at the very nice 'Island' restaurant. It was a fairly quick stop in Golden so we pushed on after checking out the famous Kicking Horse pedestrian bridge. There are mountains all around so it would have been great to get some mountain biking, perhaps another time! Skiing in the winter is also meant to be very good.

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Next up was the Glacier National Park. Very very scenic. The visitor centre was excellent, showcasing some of the large local animals and we learnt about some of the railway history in the area. It was a huge task to build the railway a century ago, over and around these huge mountains with the constant danger of avalanches. We did a few short walks that start along this stretch of road checking out the original railway on the 'Loop Brook Trail', loads of boulders on the 'Rock Garden Trail', and an old growth forest at 'Hemlock Grove'. Very nice.

We rolled into Revelstoke late in the afternoon and stayed at Poppi's Hostel - a very comfortable private room hostel which is more like a B&B. An historic town we had two nights in Revelstoke, wandered the streets and checked out the wetlands by the Columbia River where supposedly hundreds of birds can be spotted - all we saw was a snake! The railway museum was very cool packed with old steam locomotives and other trains, along with old-timers who use to drive them that now volunteer their time to explain what life was like.

On our final day we went to the Revelstoke National Park and drove to the summit of Mt Revelstoke for some fantastic views. There are loads of walks up there, a great place for lunch with a view. Even better? The 26km downhill ride back to town on the mountain bike, 1,200m altitude decent - brilliant!

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Canada - Lake Louise

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Lake Louise is perhaps the most photographed place in the country and rightly so, it is stunning. Typically most travellers stop for a quick look, en route to Banff or Jasper but thanks to a few tips from travellers we met along the way, we booked a night at the Hi Hostel in town. Well worth it, the hostel was again more like a fancy ski lodge and this place deserves more than just a glance.

The nearby Moraine Lake is arguably more impressive than Lake Louise. The turquoise coloured glacially-fed lake is bright blue due to the refraction of light off the rock flour, which is constantly deposited into the lake. Lake Louise on the other hand is emerald in colour as it contains more rock flour. You can canoe in both and make sure you climb up the rocks at Moraine Lake to see the turquoise stand out. We saw them both on overcast and rainy days...they still looked amazing.

The other highlights here are the hiking trails, in particular the 'Plain of Six Glaciers' trail. Walk to the end of Lake Louse, and just keep going. You'll climb and climb some more up to a view of six surrounding glaciers and towering mountains. You'll get a view back down the valley to Lake Louise which looks no bigger than a puddle. Yes it was raining, yes it was cold but that just made it more fun. Plus perched near the top is the 'Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House' (summer only) - a self sufficient tea house serving tea, coffee, hot soups and lunch right by an open fire. Brilliant!

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Canada - Banff

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Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banff epitomises the classic travellers adventure to Canada. A quaint town that is surrounded by mountains, forests, rivers and lakes. Breathtaking views are available just about anywhere. If you're travelling on the cheap, be cautious in this part of the world (perhaps bring a tent). Hostels are pricey however they aren't really hostels...Hi Hostel Apline Centre is more like a very good ski lodge with loads of facilities.

Banff has a ski village feel with endless gift shops, cafes and hotels - perfectly setup for the 'Trafalgar Tour' crowd! We jumped on the bikes and explored the surrounding area - the Fenland Trail leads to the three Vermillion Lakes with an abundance of wildlife. In the other direction Bow River runs through the town, brilliantly blue and leads to Bow Falls which has the towering Fairmont Hotel as a backdrop. The 'Cave and Basin' natural hot springs were fascinating, with bubbling muti-coloured water and that wonderful sulfur smell!

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On day two we took the Banff Gondola climbing up 698m to an elevation of 2,281m for some of the best views in the area. We were surrounded by mountains with great views of the town and Bow River. The mountain ridges and valleys can be seen for miles! The raised boardwalk across to Sulfur Mountain was also very 'Trafalgar' friendly, well worth it! It would be fascinating to go back in winter and see the whole area covered in snow. After checking out the Cascade Gardens we settled in for some tasty food on the balcony overlooking the main street at Athena Pizza (quality food).

If mountains and adventure float your boat, get yourself to Banff.

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Canada - Jasper to Banff

sunny 19 °C

From one national park to another, this region of Canada just keeps on giving! We made it to Alberta in Jasper National Park, an area renowned for it's wildlife including bears, elk, moose, caribou, beavers and more! What was the first thing we saw before reaching the town? No less than 3 elk hanging out by the side of the road. We were in for a treat.

The Hi Hostel Jasper was....adequate, but when you're tramping the rockies with your Mum, a 40 bed dorm is probably not ideal. It was a long weekend, accommodation in the whole town was limited, the 2 twin rooms in the hostel - booked out. Sorry Mum - but here's an experience for you! A tip, book well in advance (more than 1 month).

Jasper's a great little town, with nice cafe's, restaurants, shops and outside of all this is an abundance of mountains, lakes and loads of wildlife. We took bikes north of the town and explored Cottonwood Slough and the stunning Patricia Lake before cruising back to south of the town where there are paths that run by a myriad of waterways. The Fairmont Hotel and golf course (scattered throughout Canada) was also nice to check out. We rode deeper into the addictive wilderness - despite the bear warning signs!

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Having the car allowed us to spend day two visiting some really cool sights:
- The Maligne Canyon with sculpted rock formations which in winter has many frozen waterfalls.
- Medicine Lake, which baffled locals for centuries. It fills up during winter then empties during summer - without any connecting visible streams or rivers. It turns out, it actually drains like a bathtub through the world longest underground stream.
- Maligne Lake, most likely any post card from Jasper will feature this lake. We were lucky enough to spot more elk as well as a large grizzly bear feasting on some berries!

The road from Jasper to Banff is often referred to as the most beautiful drive on the planet, National Geographic rated it in their top ten. Our view? They were right. We probably stopped 50 times along the way, endless mountain ridges, valleys, waterfalls, mountain goats. Incredible stuff. Some gems were:
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Columbia Icefields - for some glacier trekking!
- Peyto Lake

If you get a chance, just go.

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