I got it in my head to drive to Canada in early June and so I did. After spending the 4th of July weekend in Montana, I thought heck I was almost there so I made a run for the border. Turns out Canada is much further than I thought!
Literally fleeing to Canada on Independence Day was fitting since I needed a break from the USA plus unlike America’s National Parks, dogs are allowed nearly everywhere in Canadian National Parks. I beelined it to Banff and got super lucky scoring a campsite at Tunnel Mountain Campground, which is only about a mile and a half from downtown Banff. I had the most lovely view of the valley from my site and wandered around the campground trails before crashing early in back of my Subaru setting my alarm at 4am with the goal of catching the sunrise at Lake Louise in the morning.
The sun rises early in July in Canada and I arrived at Lake Louise just as first morning light was hitting the lake around 5am. I was totally in awe at first glance of the lake. It was much narrower than I had imagined and the color and texture looked unusual almost milky like. The sunrise was sadly lackluster so I headed back to my car to make some coffee and pack for the day’s adventure.
With bear bells clanging, Roo and I headed up to the Plain of Six Glaciers seeing only one other soul the entire trip up who happened to be the owner of the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. She told me that in her 25 plus years in Banff she has never seen this amount of snow so late in the year. We had to traverse several snow fields to get up to the Plain making me thankful I had my trekking poles since the trail was slick. Roo also had to be on leash and he almost killed me like a hundred times.
On the way back we headed up to the Big Beehive for a view of the lake. At this point the trails were nearly bumper to bumper. The amount of people was actually quite unnerving, but it was gorgeous so it was understandable. I had hoped to enjoy lunch at the Lake Agnes Tea House, but there was literally hundreds of people milling about so I let Roo swim in Lake Agnes for a bit before heading back down to the car.
Lunch ended up being a 7 dollar Häagen-Dazs bar at Lake Louise and it was delicious. Plus that was Canadian dollars so I don’t actually know how much it was. I headed back to Tunnel Mountain Campground and got lucky once again. I set up my hammock and had the most glorious 2 hour nap waking up and finding Roo passed out right underneath the hammock. I spent the night wandering the streets of Banff and felt like I was in Chamonix. The mountain views are jaw dropping amazing and everyone is speaking French or Chinese and each restaurant has a patio despite the mosquitoes and there are people everywhere.
I rose early again and headed to the top of Sulphur Mountain where I again didn’t see a soul until I got the to top and then holy crap traffic jam. I kind of couldn’t believe how many people spent 50 bucks a head to take a gondola up to the top of the mountain when you could just hike it in a little over an hour for FREE. Seriously $62 Canadian dollars a person for a gondola ride!
Roo was getting a ridiculous amount of attention on the trails and it was like everyone in Canada had never seen a dog before. We were stopped on the hike down by a group of South Koreans that insisting on being photographed with my dog and then I was like hey I want a photo too. The man taking the photo said, “Say kimchi,” and I said “Seriously?!?” and almost fell off the mountain laughing. I came to the conclusion that all the people that choose to come to the mountains for vacation have a mountain dog they had to leave at home and just miss their dog. Two cute Australian girls tried to steal Roo and take him back to Australia where they said he belongs.
It was at this point that my luck ran out. I couldn’t find a campsite in Banff so I headed west into Kootenay National Park. Let me just say that the temps were still in the mid-nineties at 7pm and the mosquitoes were relentless and all the rivers were rushing so swiftly there was no way to cool off in the water so I pretty much hid in the tent at 6pm eating nothing but crackers and beer for dinner and praying for morning to come.
Day four and beginning the long trip back to America via Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton Lakes is Glacier National Parks sister to the North and oh my gosh was it one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I tried to go for a hike, but the 90 degree temps plus swarms of mosquitoes were more than I could psychologically handle.
I seriously lost my shit, but nothing a roadside field of wildflowers couldn’t fix. I was sort of hoping Canada would keep me, but they let me back into America without even wanting to see my passport. Seriously, I could have snuck anything or anyone back into the USA with me. Canada just had such a lovely feel, it was just so clean and organized and everyone was so friendly and the mountains were everywhere and I had barely scratched the surface.
I would love to go back to Banff, but absolutely not in July! I had forgotten about my aversion to national parks in general which was only magnified by visiting smack dab in the middle of summer. Being able to take my dog into the parks was GREAT, but made the trip more challenging since the temps were hotter than usual and we had a hard time keeping cool. I couldn’t just stash Roo somewhere and hide out in a bar all afternoon, which I would have loved to do in the heat. All in all worth the trip especially considering seeing Lake Louise was towards the top of my bucket list, but Canada… it’s just a little further than I thought 🙂