Our last stop of the day was at the Calgary farmer’s market where we did a scavenger hunt. We had a clue sheet with descriptions of the different vendors, and when we found the right stall we won some prizes. Especially noteworthy were the cookie from the bakery and fresh made clover honey. When the market closed for the day we went back to our hotel and had the evening open to ourselves. I went for a jog and then we went downtown to Original Joe’s for spicy beef nachos.
Vernon Volumes text
Saturday, June 24, 2023
Canadian Rockies - Adventures by Disney Summer Vacation - Shawn and Andrea
We got up early in the morning on Friday, June 16th, 2023 to get to the airport. We were awake by 2:45 and on the road for the airport by 3:30. Unfortunately, as we were driving down the highway, the car flashed an emergency alert, informing us that one of the tires was quickly losing pressure. I pulled in to a gas station and when I went to check on the tire, I could hear the air hissing out and could see it leaving the tire quickly. It went completely flat as we put in a request for an Uber and informed the gas station worker that our car would be sitting there for a little while.
Thankfully there were Ubers out and about early in the morning and we made it to the airport without any issues. Our first flight to Atlanta went quickly and I put in a request for roadside assistance through the Tesla application and they picked up the car and brought it to the dealer. Before we even took off from Atlanta, the new tire was on the car and I was relieved we didn’t have to worry about it.
Our flight to Calgary was smooth as could be and we got our transportation to the hotel after retrieving our bags. The hotel was a Fairmont in downtown Calgary and the room was spacious and comfortable. We both took a very nice nap and woke up refreshed and ready to explore.
For the rest of the day we walked around downtown, ate some nachos, and got some ice cream. The city was clean and walkable, although there were still quite a few mentally unwell people that looked like they were doing drugs around.
Saturday morning we woke up nice and early for Mountain Time, but wasn’t too early for our East Coast Time zone bodies. We took a long walk around the river area and park, and we watched a man propose to his girlfriend in a beautiful spot by the river with amazing decorations and a violinist. After lunch we went shopping and Andrea was excited to shop at the Rocky Mountain Soap shop in person as there isn’t one near us, and she often orders from them online. We went back to the hotel to meet our tour guides and then Andrea took a nap while I went for a jog.
In the evening we met the rest of our tour group and enjoyed our welcome dinner. Our guides for the trip were both charming and incredibly friendly. Jessie is a redhead that reminds us of Jessie from Toy Story, so her name was very easy to remember. Mike reminded us of our friend Tony from back home and we liked him immediately. The welcome dinner was delicious and we went to bed, excited to start the adventure.
On Sunday, June 18th, we woke up early and Mike remembered at breakfast to say Happy Anniversary before I’d even thought about it. This year is our 19th wedding anniversary and it was extra special to get to spend it in Canada. We boarded our bus and drove a short distance to the Bar U Ranch to learn about Canadian ranching. We sat around a campfire to hear one of the locals recount the history of their ranch while we enjoyed a homemade cookie and hot chocolate. Afterwards, we walked the ranch and toured the historic buildings. As we walked back to the bus, we could hear thunder rumbling off in the distance and could see some dark clouds rolling in. It was the beginning of some rainy days.
We rode the bus to the Eau Claire distillery and although the weather had gotten chilly, we ate outside. Andrea and I both had bison chili, and for dessert we had saskatoon berry ice cream and a saskatoon berry tart. It was possibly our favorite meal of the entire trip.
After lunch we went to the speakeasy next door and some of the guests enjoyed the locally made spirits while we enjoyed the mojito mocktails.
On the 19th, Monday, we boarded the bus in the morning and drove to Canmore for our rafting adventure. We were worried it was going to rain, but the precipitation stayed away and we had an enjoyable ride down the Bow river. Unlike many of our previous rafting adventures, the guide was the only one with paddles, so we just relaxed and took in the scenery. It was fairly short, but it was a pretty view and a great way to see the area.
For lunch, we were in our own, so we wandered around Canmore until we read most of the menus in town. We ate at Fergus & Bix, which also may have been our fav meal of the trip. We had a chicken sandwich that was like a French dip, spicy broccoli, edamame, and the best sweet potato fries we’ve ever eaten.
When everyone finished up with lunch and shopping, we boarded the bus and drove to Banff National Park where we checked in to the Fairmont Banff Spring Hotel. The hotel was beautiful and was essentially an old castle, which has been around for many years. Mike pointed out some interesting things, and my favorite factoid was about the ballroom in the hotel, which was used as inspiration for the ballroom on the haunted mansion ride. Our room was comfortable, but a little awkward as it was near a corner. We had dinner at the German restaurant, Waldhaus. Andrea had been craving a good burger, and although we were told that it was only available on the bar menu, she sweet talked our waiter and they made one for her. I had the schnitzel which was decent, but the burger was better. After dinner we explored the castle and ran in to our tour guides, who were having fun running around the castle with the junior adventurers.
Tuesday, June 20th, we woke up to a chilly and overcast day. Our tour started off with a bike ride and as we pulled up in the bus, Andrea and I both intended to skip it as the rain was steadily coming down. Everyone got off the bus and at the last minute I decided I’d go ahead and try it. I had my HH waterproof jacket and waterproof pants, along with wool socks, so I figured it couldn’t be that bad.
The bike ride was indeed unpleasant. I was able to put the helmet over my hood, so I stayed fairly dry underneath, but my gloves soaked through and the rain eventually got in to my shoes. I stayed warm, but it was not very comfortable.
We rode the bikes down some muddy trails near the river. Our first stop was at a waterfall and the bus met us there. One of the smarter bikers took that opportunity to quit, but I guess I’m too stubborn to leave something halfway done so I continued on biking with the group after everyone finished taking pictures. Our next stop was at an area with hot springs, which smelled very sulfuric. We climbed some wooden stairs up above the trees to take in the view, however the cloud cover was so low that there was nothing to see. We ended the tour at the beautiful gardens of the Canada House and then rode the bus to the gondola.
The gondola ride up the mountain was smooth and easy, and as we gained elevation the rain turned to snow. The entire top of the mountain was essentially inside a huge cloud and what should have been an amazing view was completely obscured. We had a buffet lunch at the Northern Lights Cafe, which was fairly good. I enjoyed the brisket, BBQ chicken and we both loved the banana cake. After everyone rode the gondola back down, we all went back to the hotel for the evening.
I dried off and then Andrea and I walked back to Banff Springs for some shopping. We’d already found a lot of great souvenirs on the trip, but we still wanted to see the downtown area and shops. We wandered in to a Canada Goose shop and I fell in love with a parka there. It was more than I ever intended to spend on a jacket, but Andrea was sweet about it and insisted I should splurge a little and get it. I’ve always loved Canada Goose gear and there isn’t a better time or place to pick one up, especially as the exchange rate is favorable at the moment with the US dollar it’s 25% off. Andrea didn’t love any of the jackets there for her, but did find an Arc’teryx jacket she liked.
After walking back to the hotel, I worked out, we packed up some of our stuff, and then we got a snack at the bar before heading to bed. Our bags had to be out of the room at 6:15 am the next morning so we went to bed early.
The rest of our evening was pretty rainy and cold. I took a screenshot of the weather app's radar, which showed a fairly representative view of what we'd been seeing on the app so far since leaving Calgary. Big blobs of rain and snow.
Wednesday, June 21st, was our earliest morning of the trip and we met in the lobby at 7:50 for our departure. We rode the bus North to Jasper to the Columbia Icefield. For the first time in a couple of days, it was sunny and beautiful. At the Icefield, we rode one bus over to a loading area and then boarded a huge six wheeled contraption which drove us out on to the glacier. The ride out on Ice Explorer was slow but super steep, with a slope of up to 32 degrees at some points. All the vehicles parked together on the glacier and we walked out on the demarcated area for twenty minutes. Our time was cut a little short because we were running a little behind, but twenty minutes was really plenty long enough to take some pics and see the ice. There were some tours available to hike across the glacier, but unfortunately that wasn’t part of our adventure.
Our bus took us to the Glacier Skywalk next, where we had the option to walk out on a U shaped glass platform suspended over a steep ravine. Andrea and I took a picture together near the platform and she stayed on the concrete portion while I made my way out to the glass section. The view was not much different off the glass portion, but it did add some excitement to look straight down to the bottom of the canyon between your feet. One of the teenage boys in our group decided it would be fun to jump up and down on the platform and it made my stomach lurch to feel it move.
We took the bus back to the Columbia Icefield visitor center for a buffet lunch, which was fairly uninspired and disappointing. On the way to our next hotel at Lake Louise, we stopped at Peyto Lake for some pictures and our bus driver Bob said it was the most beautiful lake in the Rockies. It definitely had an amazing rich color and was worth a stop to see.
In the afternoon we made it to the Chateau Lake Louise and checked in to our rooms. The building is the only one on the lake and had an amazing view of the lake and area. We cleaned up quickly and then joined our tour group for a family style Italian dinner. Our group was in a private room and we were served a variety of dishes including empanadas, pasta, steak, salmon, bread, squid, etc. Andrea and I took a long walk around the lake after dinner as it stays light until around 11pm this time of year.
Thursday, June 22nd, we got up fairly early to take a short bus ride over to Moraine Lake. We hiked up a steep path to the top of a rock pile and had an amazing view, possibly our favorite of the entire trip. Andrea and I took a hike around the area lake did some shopping before returning to Lake Louise for our boxed lunches and some free time.
We paddled around Lake Louise in a canoe before our afternoon hike, and thankfully we managed to keep it upright. Our group met for a hike up the mountain at 1pm, but we hadn’t quite finished our canoeing in time to join them.
After canoeing, we hustled up the trail and managed to catch up to most of the people in our group. The trail was much steeper and more difficult than many of the options available, but there were still a surprising number of people climbing ip the mountain. We gained 1100 feet of elevation in the ascent and after an hour and a half we made it to the top. We met up with the rest of our group at the tea house and thankfully Jessie was in line already and got everyone a hot drink and a snack. We took some pics and then headed back down, which was much more enjoyable and easy than our climb up.
We went back to the room, did some packing, washed up, and got ready for dinner. Our farewell dinner was in a private banquet room and we had a visit from a retired Canadian Mountie who talked about their history. We all shared our favorite experiences from our adventure, and then enjoyed the photo slideshow that our guides put together.
Friday morning we got up early for our travels home. We rode the bus to Calgary and to the airport. The Calgary airport was clean and comfortable and our first flight was on time. Uncle Ryan made it to Camp Pinnacle in the morning and we were thrilled to hear from the kids. Before we took off, we got to speak with each of them for a few minutes and it was great to hear their voices.
Posted by Shawn Vernon at 7:43 PM