Rockies Road Trip

Executive Summary: Carla, Josi, Roland did lots of driving, visited Illecillewaet campsite in Rogers Pass, Lake Louise, Cory Pass in Banff, the Calgary Zoo, Ha Ling peak just outside of Canmore, Banff Springs Hotel, and Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. Smoke was annoying but did not seem to pose a health risk. Pictures were taken.Had a nice trip. Lots of driving. Scenery. Smoke. Penguins. Mountain sheep. Rabbits. 

Last year Carla and I drove East almost to Saskatchewan, and it was fun. We thought we’d try it again.

August 9th: We start. Left the house pretty early, drove to North Van to get Josi, then hit the highway. Serious forest fire smoke was worst near Kamloops. In Rogers Pass we got a campsite at our favorite Illecillewaet Campground ($21.50) and tramped around for a while, taking in the local trails and history and looking for a good view of Mt Sir Donald. Back in camp they told us that a grizzly had just wandered through, but we missed it.

August 10th: To Canmore. We considered climbing something, but we had a new frying pan we wanted to try out, and some pancake mix, so instead we spent about three hours doing breakfast, then drove off. Next major scenery was Field BC where Josi went swimming in the pond in front of the visitor centre. No skinny dipping points were awarded, but several tourists were enticed to go wading. At Lake Louise we photographed the tourists photographing each other; most everybody has selfie sticks. We walked part way around the lake, then went up to Fairview Lookout, then got into the car and drove to Canmore. Phyllis’ condominium in Canmore was to be our headquarters for the next several days, and Phyllis cooked dinner for us as we were too used up to do much.

August 11th: Cory Pass Day. This is one of many places you could hike to in the Rockies; a rather steep trail that gets you into some spectacular scenery. We did a ca 15 km loop (8-9 hours) which included hiking through a family of about ten mountain sheep, including two young ones and one with a low voice and curly horns who appeared to be the boss. Dinner at A & W.


Mountain sheep on trail


Cory Pass, finally


On the way back down

August 12th: Penguin Day. First thing, we got Josi’s drone and took it down to the playground and flew it over the Bow River, attracting a small group of polite kids, some Phyllis’ grand-kids and some not. Phyllis left us to drive home to Medicine Hat. Driving long distances is what Albertans do.


Drone, as seen by the kids


Bow River, as seen by the drone

Josi is attending a directors school in Germany, and needed to photograph penguins because she’s making a film about penguins having a sinister plot to take over the world. The Calgary Zoo has a world-class penguin display, so we drove to Calgary. Josi spent a couple of hours filming penguins while I admired the tourists photographing the penguins and Carla tested the Calgary rapid transit. FYI parking at the zoo is $10 and two admissions, a further $55. Then we spent a couple of hours just walking with Carla’s brother Jim, sampling random bits of Calgary, drinking coffee, etc. Then we drove back to Canmore. Dinner was assembled with ingredients from Save On Canmore.

August 13th: Mt Ha Ling Day. The plan was to fly the drone but the weather wasn’t nice enough. Eventually brother Jim drove in from Calgary and we set off to climb Mt Ha Ling around 11 am. Big mistake. We got about 100m from the usual summit and a big storm rolled in, complete with thunder, hail, and torrential downpour. Oh well, our clothes needed washing anyway. By the time we were half way down, the storm had wandered off and the sun came out, so Josi launched the drone and took some more pictures. Because the day was only half used up, we drove into Banff and spent a couple of hours in the Banff Springs Hotel, seeing all sorts of fancy architecture, conference rooms with conferences, ball rooms, suits of armor, health spas and hot pools that were “members only”, and rather a lot of polite but obviously wealthy tourists. Josi checked the cost of a room in the Banff Springs; it’s around $700 per night, but it’s only $400 in the winter.

August 14th: Icefields Day.



Where did the tourists go?

This required lots of driving, back to Louise and then north towards Jasper. Still plenty of smoke in the air. At the visitor’s centre three coffees and three chocolate bars set us back $19 We wandered up towards the glacier and took some more pictures. We couldn’t launch the drone because they aren’t allowed in a national park. We read all the signs with graphic descriptions of what would happen if you fell into a crevasse or if your kids fell into a crevasse. We weren’t allowed to get near the glacier, but we could have paid a guide to take us onto the glacier, or paid to ride the snow-cat, but we can do better than that on our own, at home. I told the story about how a small group of VOC skiers once decided to ski past the tourists in the parked snow-cat, and just for additional value they decided to do it nude. Lots more driving, back to Canmore.

August 15th: Back to Vancouver. We were getting dangerously short of giant marshmallows, the date loaf was more than half depleted and we were down to only two muffins. We figured we should start heading west and maybe camp somewhere on the Coquihalla, but we under-estimated Josi’s driving ability. She’s just a driving machine, and apparently drives way too much in Germany. She needed time in Vancouver to edit the penguin film, plus a few other films, so we ended up driving all the way back to Vancouver.

Conclusions: It’s possible to do the Rockies on the cheap, but it’s difficult. Usually you are too tired from being a tourist to cook, so you just buy stuff. Having a relative to loan you her condominium is really first class.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the rabbits. It seems that Canmore is ideal rabbit territory. There’s lots of rabbits in Canmore. Something was done about this and then there were fewer rabbits, but now there’s lots, again. They are quite cute.

Cotton does not actually kill in the Rockies. I found that a cotton t-shirt plus sometimes a down jacket was ideal and fairly fashionable. Rain coats can be good too. Don’t assume that just because it was 30C during the day, that you don’t need a warm sleeping bag at night.

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