Friday, October 19, 2012

Canada, ye?

When I said I was going to spend the summer in Missouri, I lied. I should have said North America, that would have been a better answer.

Soon after Rodrigo left, my grandparents and I set off for a week long trip to the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada. We had a fantastic time together... beauitful scenery. good food. walking on glaciers. taking naps. bus trips. boat rides. walks in town. AND making memories with the best company a granddaughter could ask for!

We flew into Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and were greeted with much warmer weather than what we thought. The first morning we got a quick breakfast at Tim Horton's before boarding the bus to Banff, our first stop in the Canadian Rocky Tour.

I vividly remember our trip to Tim Horton's because it was my first (and last) visit. Probably ever. We were rushed to order and made rash decisions. It was super uncomfortable! We didn't realize that hash browns were easily added to the meal deals for a small fee, so while trying to figure out if we wanted them we were bombarded with offers for coffee. If you don't want the standard coffee, you have to pay more; come on Tim Horton, not everyone drinks coffee. That's a jerk move. But, if you want salsa, it's free. Two are free. No more, no less. But, jelly (not called jelly or jam but grape preserves) is not free... playing favorites, ye? And then we were asked about the dang hash browns again. Seriously, enough about the stupid hash browns. We said yes, and realized that was a mistake as they were horrible. Ugh, I was just happy to eat and leave. I was more stressed out ordering breakfast at Tim Horton's in Canada than ordering at any restaurant in Europe. And they spoke English!!!

After the disastrous breakfast, the day only got better. On our way to Banff, we stopped off at the Rafter Six Lodge, where team penning officially started. If you know my dad, you know he is an avid team-penner; I'm sure he was jealous I was at the mecca of team-penning. We just found it pretty hilarious as that is their claim to fame. The grounds were very pretty all tucked away in the mountains. We toured the ranch and saw memoribilia from the Calgary Stampede (the world's most famous rodeo!) and Indian tribes from the region. But the highlight of the visit? Seeing 20 Japanese tourists horseback riding and the world's only white male buffalo. Oh, and we got free coffee, muffins and water! :)
Rafter 6 Lodge
Dad, are you jealous? ;)
Hello there, not-so-little guy! (Buffalo in photo is much bigger than he appears here!)
Later in the day, we made it to Banff, the main city in Banff National Park. Interesting enough, you can't live in Banff unless you 1) own a business or 2) are a current employee at a business. The residents don't actually own their own homes since they are on National Park grounds. So, just don't go falling in love with the scenery, because you can't actually move there or retire there unless you're willing to buy a business or work. 
Banff, Alberta, Canada
A little shopping never hurts anyone... neither does the scenery!
Banff was really a quaint little town; the main street was full of shops and restaurants where we had lunch and several dinners over our two day stay. The street names were named after animals... and the decor seemed to go along with the street names. Buffalo St. had three neighbors with competiting buffalo carvings, artwork, and even buffalo heads! The views of the river that passed through against the mountains reminded me of Interlaken, Switzerland strangly enough. I think it was due to the galacial settlements in the water that turned it an interesting milky blue/green color. 
We were at Buffalo Street, Banff.
Beautiful view of Banff and my grandparents!
Near the town, there was a teleferico/gondola, that took you to the top of a huge mountain to let you have jaw-dropping views of Banff below. Grandpa and I went on it and even saw an elk at the top! The views were great, and we took plenty of photos to show to grandma who waited for us down below! 
Banff Gondola/Teleferico
View from the top of the Banff Gondola!
Hellooooo Banff and the Canadian Rocky Mountains!
Another day, we went on a boat cruise on Lake Minnewanka, just a short drive from Banff. We had pasted by the lake the day before, but day two we actually had time to go out on the lake. We heard stories of (fake) lake monsters and other marketing thrills to get people out on the boat tours over the years... I'm happy to say, no monsters were seen during our one hour ride, and I'm happy for that! 
Lake Minnewanka
Waiting for our boat!
Clear skies over Lake Minnewanka! Incredible mountains! Fun boat ride!
Out for an afternoon on the open waters!
Next stop on the tour: Jasper

Jasper is one of the most Northern cities in the Canadian Rockies. We spent two days here, and while it was smaller than Banff, we found enough to keep us busy. We had some of the best food here... and then were able to walk it off during our hike back to our hotel, about 15 minutes off the main street! 
Jasper, Alberta, Canada
The walk to the hotel was within a residential neighborhood, with yet again, more incredible views!
On our way to Jasper, we visited the Columbia Ice Field and walked on the Athabasca Glacier! We rode in these big ice explorer vehicles onto the 6 kilometers long, 1 kilometer wide Athabasca Glacier! We even went down a hill at a 35% grade... now, that was scary! We were pretty verticle, good thing we had big wheels on the 2 million dollar ice vehicle. (Just one tire costs $5,000 and takes 5 men to change.) It was an unforgettable experience to be standing on top of thousands of feet of frozen ice that was thousands of years old! We drank fresh glacier water from a free flowing stream that I nearly froze my hand off trying to get! (Don't tell anyone, I dumped out my sprite in the stream...) We heard some really interesting information about glaciers as we drove back to the building... word of advice: if you ever find yourself on a glacier without a guide, well, just find the fastest way off it! Some of the stories we heard were pretty scary. While you think the ice is solid under you, many times there are holes that you can't see due to an icy cover. And, yeah, then it's too late. Thankfully, we didn't find any holes! 
Meeting the other ice explorers. They give another meaning to "monster truck!"
Being tourists on a glacier.
With the flag, it made me feel like we were on the moon! 
The water running behind us is where I got out fresh glacier water samples from!
Tires as big as a person.
We passed by the glacier another day, and we snapped this shot!
Third and last stop: Lake Louise

They say Lake Louise is Canada's most photographed lake... and, yes, it is pretty... but I don't think it is the prettiest! We saw so many galacial lakes over our week in Canada, and on the second to last day, we saw the prettiest in Valley of Ten Peaks: Moraine Lake. They call it the "20 dollar view" because it's the old photo on the back of the $20 Canadian bill. I think it was worth much more than that... after we hiked to the top of a rock debris pile, we finally got our first views of the lake. I couldn't believe the color of the water! Wow, it was just the prettiest blue you'd ever seen. A lady nearby said, "If I had to describe the color of the water to someone, I would say it's the same color blue as your sweater..." And, judging by the photos, I'd say her statement was just about true! 
Lake Louise
While we didn't go for a canoe ride at Lake Louise, they looked super tranquil.
Moraine Lake, the "20 dollar" view. WOW!
Moraine lake is SO BLUE! How peaceful!
Around Lake Louise we visited other lakes and waterfalls... which were just incredible! By the last day, we were a little nervous to go see more lakes and things, but I think they saved the best for last, because the views of the Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, really took the cake! (The name just screams Takaataa - like the song!) You can walk pretty close to the bottom of the falls and feel the mist on your face! I'm glad we got to see Takakkaw Falls, because it's only accessable from June to mid-October. The rest of the year, the road isn't even plowed to allow visitors!
Milky glacier water!
Takakkaw Falls!
You could feel the mist on your face... ahhh! (Kinda cold though!)
During our week on the roads of Yoho National Park, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, we saw somethings that you just don't see everyday...

1) Bears and other wildlife. When cars were stopped along the road ahead you began thinking "what have they seen?" or "what are they looking at?" not "I wonder if there was an accident!" or "Get over to the far lane!" ...instead, we pulled up along side to get views of the animals. We saw black bears, grizzly bears, big-horned sheep, elk, and deer! 
The first big-horned sheep of the trip! Check out those horns!
Ahhh! A bear got grandpa!
Female elk. (or so they said, to me it's just a big deer.)
Then, some of these guys were just hanging out in the street.... with the tourists.
Then, they caused a traffic jam.
BEAR!!!!! We saw black bears and grizzly bears!
2) Animal crossings that went OVER the highway. Using surveillance cameras, they can see when animals use them, and believe it or not, they said that a mama bear has been seen teaching her cubs how to use them to cross the street! Along the highway they have tall fences, so when animals wish to cross the street they must use these special crossings! 
Animal safety!
Super cool!
3) Train tracks that zig-zagged through the mountains. Sometimes, the trains in the region are so long that you can see them go in one side of the mountain and come out another. Due to the steep grades and run-away trains, they made a train track system to slow down the trains by going through the mountains. 
In at the bottom, out at the top. Too bad there wasn't a train passing through!
4) Incredible views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I couldn't put my camera down; you never knew what was awaiting you around the turn or stop.
Views that made you saw aweeee!
As pretty as a postcard!!!
Flowers in full bloom!
When we weren't busy seeing mountains, lakes, waterfalls and wildlife, we were busy relaxing. Really, it was so laid back that sometimes we didn't know what to do with ourselves. We would check the guide books at the hotels and one of them even said "taking naps" was part of what people did for fun in the area. Well, we covered that one--several times! 

After leaving the Canadian Rockies, we were able to spend a day in Calgary, Albert's capital city. We went to the top of the Calgary Tower and walked out on the glass floor 626 feet above... I think I trusted it less because it was in Canada and not in Chicago! But, we survived! Calgary might also have the coolest man-holes I've seen to date... a lady's face? Strange, but highly unique! We enjoyed walking outside in the nice weather, only to enter a store and exit and find ourselves about blown away by cold winds and rain when we exited. We found our way back to the tram and back to the hotel. I hate when it rains when you're site-seeing! 
Exploring Calgary, before the rain came.
A face! Viva Calgary!
Calgary Tower - where we went up 525 feet and walked out on the glass floor!

Proof we were all out on it! I don't think grandma looked down!
View of the Calgary Stampede grounds from the Calgary Tower.

It was a wonderful holiday while I was on holiday... and I'm grateful to have been there with my grandparents! I had a really nice time with you both and while I might not always remember the names of all the lakes and mountain ranges we saw, I'm happy to say I'll always remember our week in Canada together!!! I love you both!