This is the second recap of our road trip from LA to Alaska and back. You can find all my posts about our trip here.
After leaving Montana, we drove to the Canadian border at the Sweetgrass-Coutts crossing. It was extremely low key. I don't have any photos from crossing the border because I didn't want to raise suspicion or anything, but I wanted to describe our experience because I know I was super nervous prior to crossing. I had never driven through a border and didn't know what to expect.
It was the easiest thing ever. It look 3 minutes. We handed over our passports, they asked us to take off our sunglasses, and they asked us whether we were students and what our jobs are. We had come prepared with copies of Willie's rabies vaccines and small sealed bags of dog food in case they didn't let us take opened bags of food across the border, but all they asked was whether we were planning on leaving him in Canada. Haha!! No, we told them, he'd be coming with us into Alaska and then back to the mainland US. Basically, they just wanted to confirm that we weren't importing a dog; that we were just passing through.
Once in Canada, things actually felt pretty different right away! For one thing, the speed limit signs were in kilometers. That was confusing. Right after crossing the border we stopped at a rest stop for a bathroom break, and I was very surprised that when I walked inside an attendant was waiting to answer questions about Canada and offer free maps. The stereotypes about Canadians being really friendly was SO true (and has continued to be throughout our time here). The Canadian accents are also STRONG and I didn't anticipate how foreign I would feel. They can 100% tell I'm from "the States" (as they call it). Everything in Canada is just so clean and nice. It's awesome here.
After a quick stop in Calgary for more groceries, we made it to our campground in BANFF NATIONAL PARK!! Somewhere I had been excited to see for a very long time. And it did not disappoint.
We had reserved a spot at Two Jack Lakeside Campground (pictured above) about 9 months ago. It's so popular (and tiny) that you have to book that far out to be able to get a spot. Ours was right on the lake, with its own little footpath down to the shore. This was our view:
I was pinching myself that we got to sleep right beside this. We had site #24, which I had read online was the best site in the whole campground, and I have to agree! It was heaven.
Because it's the dry season, campfires were banned in Banff while we were there. We didn't have a lot of nonperishables (we bought some food that ended up going bad because we weren't able to cook it, but it wasn't the end of the world), so I made a "scavenger's dinner" that was actually pretty tasty.
The next morning, we woke up feeling cozy in our tent and so excited to explore the park!
Conveniently, we were staying in Jasper National Park the night after staying in Banff, so our sole itinerary for the day was driving the Icefields Parkway. It links the two national parks. It is known as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and I don't think I have ever taken a prettier one myself. I was just mesmerized the whole day.
Along the way, we wanted to stop and see a few lakes, waterfalls, and other sights. At first, I felt like our day might be shot because at our very first planned stop, the parking lot was totally full and they weren't letting anyone in. But it turned out to be kind of a fluke because we didn't have that experience at any of the other stops on our route. We were far from the only tourists, but it was less crowded than US national parks in my experience.
Our first stop of the day was at Lake Louise, which is one of the most famous places on the Icefields Parkway. It's where the photo at the top of this post was taken. Here are a couple more that I took, just for good measure (I can't stop looking at pics of it, even though they don't do it justice):
Yes, the water REALLY is that color. It's because it's glacier-fed (from what I've been told). It is even prettier in person.
Next, we cruised along the parkway for awhile before stopping at Peyto Lake. Peyto is nestled deep in a valley, so the only way to really see it is to hike up to the Bow Summit to get a good view. This was the most strenuous hike of the day by far, and we were out of breath by the end. But it was so worth it.
It was ridiculously pretty.
After Peyto, we decided to stop on the side of the road to picnic. There isn't a ton of traffic on the parkway (or at least there wasn't in early September).
There really isn't a bad view in Banff. You can look anywhere and it's stunningly beautiful. We just soaked it in as much as possible :)
Sometime after lunch, we passed into Jasper National Park. It is contiguous with Banff, so you wouldn't know you were in a different national park except for the sign. The landscape looks the same. Soon after getting into Jasper, we saw a glacier . . . such a cool bucket list moment for me! This one is called the Athabasca Glacier.
Our next stop was Grace's favorite overall, and definitely one of my favorites too. It's called Athabasca Falls, and it is one of the most incredible waterfalls I have ever seen (and I've been to Victoria Falls in Zambia!). Once again . . . pictures don't do it justice. But here are a few favorite shots from the falls:
Even just compiling all of these photos now for the blog, it's hard to believe that we saw all of these places in ONE day. I felt like I needed a week to process it all. Banff and Jasper are gems of North America, maybe the most beautiful places on the continent in my opinion (of the places I've seen!).
After Athabasca, we headed to our campsite in Jasper for the night: Wapiti Campground. We stayed at site A15, which was fairly private and had the Athabasca River running right behind it. Falling asleep to the sound of the rushing river was dreamy.
As we cozied up for our fourth night of camping on the trip, it felt so nice to realize we had really gotten into a routine. I had figured out how to set up the tent in about 5 minutes flat, and we were slowly becoming old folks with our nightly games of scrabble. It's been such an incredible escape from real life, where our days are marked by rhythms and not what time it is. Willie is the best trooper and we fall more in love with him every day.
But as much as we really do love camping, we were all super excited to stay in a comfy hotel the next night. We left Jasper pretty early in the morning. As we were getting onto the main Trans-Canada highway, we saw a HUGE MOOSE in the dim morning light! It was standing right in the middle of the road. We both gasped. Willie slept through it. It was only a few seconds, and I didn't get a photo because it was so fleeting and I wanted to just really see it. But I will never forget seeing such a beautiful creature. Here's hoping for more moose sightings in Alaska!
After a few hours on the road, we rolled into town in Dawson Creek, British Columbia (not related in any way to the 90s TV show) dirty and a bit tired. We left totally refreshed. Everyone including Willie got clean, we slept on soft white sheets, we ordered some pretty decadent room service, and we had a little impromptu spa night in our room. We stayed at the Stonebridge Hotel, which is pet friendly, and we really liked it. I'll leave you with some shots from our Instagrams/Insta stories:
Next, we're setting off across the rest of British Columbia and the Yukon to Alaska. I'm pre-writing this post and scheduling it for the weekend; by the time this goes live, we should be in the Yukon! I'm so excited to see it. Thanks so much for following along on our journey! I love recapping it and making sure I remember it all.