After spending nearly 3 weeks in Great Falls, Montana prepping the RV for the Alaska trip, we finally headed north on our big adventure! We reached the Canadian border on a Sunday evening about 6PM, in Sweetgrass, MT. There was only a single car in front of us, and the border crossing was easy-peasy. After a few standard questions about how long we were staying, firearms, and how much alcohol we had on board we were on our way. Took less than 5 minutes. We feel fortunate, because several of our RV friends crossed the border from Washington State and had a much lengthier process, including a full RV search for one couple. Not fun.
The last thing we had done before leaving Great Falls was to call Verizon and add international calling, texting, and data to our phones for the trip up. Texting is unlimited, there are 100 minutes of talk time, and a whopping 100 MB of data. Big whoop! So we turned off our data before we crossed the border, and have been using it very sparingly. Now, for 2 people who spend a lot of time staring at screens of one type or another this is a big deal! We just didn’t realize how bad it was going to be until we got to our first stop in Canada, the town of Lethbridge. “Hmmm, where will we stay tonight? Let’s check the inter…. d’oh!” “Where’s a good place to eat? Let’s pull up Yelp…. d’oh!” “Wonder what that landmark is? Let me Google… d’oh!” Our hands were shaking and we were sweating there for an hour or two! We immediately found a restaurant with free WiFi and felt better after a quick fix.
With our free WiFi, we discovered that Lethbridge had a good ol’ WalMart so we headed there to overnight. This is my first visit to Canada and I don’t know what I was expecting, but I really did not expect to see so many of the same stores: WalMart, Home Depot, Denny’s, the Gap & Old Navy, etc. etc. To tell the truth, I was a little disappointed that things looked so familiar (I guess I really do have the travel bug!) but then we had a Tim Horton’s for breakfast which greatly improved my outlook. As soon as we finished our donuts we headed off for Banff!
Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park and is in the Rocky Mountains west of Calgary. After being in the rolling grasslands of Wyoming and Montana for so many week, the views of the snow-covered Rockies were stunning. We decided to stay at Tunnel Mountain Village I campground. It’s a beautiful campground with tall spruce and fir trees, and lots of wildlife. In the first few hours we were there, we saw elk, Columbian ground squirrels, and a coyote which ran right by our campsite! We ran into the little town of Banff, which is something of a mix between Telluride and a village in the Swiss Alps.
After a restful night, we headed north on the Icefields Parkway, arguably the most scenic drive in North America. Stunning views of the Rockies, clear mountain streams, and lakes so many shades of blue and turquoise that they put Caribbean waters to shame. Peyto Lake below is still mostly covered in ice and it’s early June.
There were so many beautiful stops we could have made along the way, but we elected instead to drive on to Jasper National Park and get settled in at Whistler’s Campground. While checking in, we were given a very serious lecture that we should stay away from elk in the park because many of them had newborn calves, which they are very protective of. As if an over-protective elk weren’t bad enough, a few days prior a grizzly bear had attacked and killed an elk calf: just one more reason to leave baby animals alone! We saw so many elk in the campground that it was difficult to avoid them on our walks around the park. Tomorrow we’ll drive back down the Parkway in the Jeep (much easier to park!) and explore to our hearts’ content – post coming soon!