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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Road Trip - Alberta, Canada


This past year Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!  The year we got engaged, and exactly a year before our wedding, we traveled to Alberta and drove the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then drove through British Columbia to Whistler, Vancouver, and back to Calgary via Kelowna.  It was a beautiful trip and we decided to recreate part of it for our 10th anniversary.  We traveled in September and it's taken me all this time to blog about it! 


If you've never seen the Rocky Mountains, put it on your bucket list.  We've lived our lives in Ontario which has plenty of natural beauty, but the Rockies are at a whole other level.  Whether you are an avid hiker or less physically inclined, there's so much to see and do in the mountains.  


On this trip, we arrived in Calgary on a beautiful early fall day. We explored Prince's Island Park, a wonderful urban oasis.  


We had coffee and played some board games at Hexagon Boardgame Cafe in Kensington Village.  


We had a very special dinner at Model Milk in Calgary with family.  We started with with wonderful cocktails, fricassee of calamari, scallops and grits and a baked oyster. 


For entrees we had lamb, rabbit and duck.  Dessert was an outstanding apple pie with cheddar crust.  I'd say this was one of the best meals we've ever had in a restaurant, and the service was great too!  


We also explored the town of Cochrane, Alberta, just outside Calgary.  They have a new brewery called Half Hitch Brewing that was just opening when we were there so we had to try it!


Then it was time to head for the mountains!  We left early in the morning to drive to Lake Louise. Seeing the foothills change to mountains on the highway is an amazing experience!


We arrived in Lake Louise and took the gondola to the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular. Lake Louise itself is always packed with tourists, but it's lovely.  You can rent a canoe here for an exorbitant price, but we moved along to somewhere even prettier. 


Moraine Lake is one of my favourite places in the Rockies. It used to be on the Canadian twenty dollar bill. It is less crowded than Lake Louise, and the glacial water is even more blue. There's a short, easy trail for different views of the lake. 


We stayed the night in Banff and had some food and drinks, but nothing memorable. The streets and restaurants were crowded with tourists.  I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 


The next morning we were headed to Jasper. We made a stop to hike in Johnston Canyon, then headed to the Icefields Parkway. 


In Jasper we stayed at the Mount Robson Inn, which was a great choice. We were so happy that Jasper was just as wonderful as we remembered. The townsite is inside Jasper National Park and is surrounded by mountains. Its not as busy as Banff and Lake Louise, but even more beautiful, in my opinion.  


It's also full of wildlife!  This elk greeted us on the road into town.  When we were walking home at night we encountered a female elk in someone's front yard.  It was rutting season when we were there, and we would hear the elk screeching in the night. It was very unnerving at first, but pretty neat once we realized what it was. 


Jasper is beautiful and there's tons to do. But even just driving around is enough to find some gorgeous sights. 


One of the best views was on the Path of the Angel Glacier. The road to the glacier itself was closed, but we had a fantastic view just off the road. 


There was a sign warning of bears, particularly one that does not yield the trail to hikers! But we didn't see any bears during our trip.


Back near Jasper we drove to Lake Annette (above) and Lake Edith for more gorgeous views. The weather was beautiful. We rented a boat on Pyramid Lake and walked to Pyramid Island for more beautiful views. 


Then we drove to Miette Hot Springs, and saw a herd of bighorn sheep on the way.  We made it to the hot springs right before a large school group, so we were lucky!  The drive was beautiful and swimming in the hot springs in the cool mountain air was a great experience. 


The next day we drove all the way to British Columbia to see Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountain is beautiful and so was the drive. 


We also visited Reargaurd Falls at the base of the mountain, an easy and pretty hike. 


That afternoon we headed back to Jasper and on to Maligne Lake.  It's an hour drive from Jasper but the drive is scenic, of course.  


We took a boat cruise to Spirit Island, a tiny island in Maligne lake that is one of the most photographed places in the Rockies.  


The boat ride was definitely worth it. On the way back we heard there are a lot of moose in the area and I was very excited hoping to see one. 


Well we saw three! First we saw a female laying in the grass.


Then we saw a male and female moose crashing through the woods at the side of the road!  We didn't get a good shot of the male.  You can just make out his antlers in the picture above.


But the female was very close to the car. 


It was amazing to see them so close.  The experience of a lifetime. 


On the way back down the Icefields Parkway we made one last stop at Peyto Lake.  It's a bit of an uphill hike, and it was snowing in the mountains, but it is stunning. 



We arrived back in Calgary and checked in to Hotel Le Germain for our last night in Alberta, which was also our 10th anniversary!  This is a much fancier hotel than we usually stay at, and it was a very special treat.  We loved the room furnishings and breakfast the next morning was fabulous!


For our anniversary we stopped by Catch Oyster Bar for oysters and sparkling wine, which was a decadent way to start the evening.  Then we walked to Proof cocktail bar for fantastic craft cocktails. 


Finally, we had our anniversary dinner at Charcut, a famous Calgary restaurant that was right inside our hotel.  I had butcher steak with chimichurri and wild arugula.  Matt had bison brisket with mushrooms and boar bacon.  And we shared poutine.  It was way too much food but so delicious!  


At the end of the meal they gave us a lovely dessert, even though we were too full to eat it. We had an amazing anniversary and flew home the next day.


The Rocky Mountains are amazing and I wish everyone in Canada could experience them at least once.  We were so happy that Jasper was still such a wonderful place.  Banff has more shopping and restaurants, but Jasper is friendlier and more beautiful.  I hope it won't be another 10 or 11 years before we return!  

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