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mommybryant Jan 12th, 2013 08:31 PM

Part 2 - Road Trip from Alabama to Glacier NP and Beyond -July 9 - 15, 2012
Day 7 (July 9) - How excited everyone was to drive across the border into the Canadian Rockies through Kootenay Natl Park to Banff, a relatively short drive for us of 4 1/2 hrs. Be warned...we were out of and tired of our picnic food and we did not find any place to eat along this drive....We had to wait til we arrived in Banff....Easy drive along the foothills of the Rockies after easy check in at the border with no wait at all...I cannot say enough about how neat this drive was...our destination was Banff for today and we had reservations at the Bow View Lodge..a fairly reasonable place to stay as prices are sky high in Canada! Note - the weather was still in the 80s and this hotel has no airconditioning....It is about two short blocks from town, an easy walk and we headed to the Ole Spaghetti Factory for dinner. My kids had this place picked out from the drive in. We enjoyed our late afternoon late lunch/early dinner meal. From our seats in the restaurant, we had a view of Sulphur Mountain! The town butts up against it! Banff is a lovely village that was fun to walk around, shop and just relax and the weather was perfect. The kids loved McDonalds there because of the free WiFI...we went there several times of the next few days, ha. Afterward, we rode the Banff Gondolas...We bought our combo tickets online to also include tickets to ride the Brewster bus onto the Columbian Icefield for another day....more on that later....It was a clear day and a lovely view of Banff and the surrounding Rocky Mtns....worth the time to ride the gondola (if it is not cloudy)...Afterward, we took the short drive to Johnston Canyon along the Bow Valley Pkwy. We were greatful that it didnt get dark until very late as it allowed us lots of time to explore. Unfortunately, we didnt see any animals....but the trail to Johnston Falls (both upper and lower) is not to be missed! ...It was an impressive hike along the creek. The Lower Falls were accessible, but the Upper Falls were not quite so easy. However, I totally recommend you hike both trails as they are not that long. The falls are difference in each place. One important point: Wear/take bug spray! We hadnt heard of the killer biting flies and were attacked all over our exposed body. Or wear long pants and long sleeves. The flies and mosquitoes that we encountered in some areas could have flown away with us! They were that huge and vicious!! I hear they are not always that way, just depends on the weather/wind, etc. Be forewarned! When we got back to our hotel, we left the kids/teens in the hotel room and went out by ourselves and enjoyed a break at Magpie and Stump, a local tavern. The nachos and beverages were delicious! We had to ask for utensils as they dont hand them out freely. A long but very fun day! We walked back to our hotel, a short 2 blocks and ran into another couple who had just seen a moose in the parking lot...alas..we missed him.

Day 8 (July 10) Today is one of the days I highly anticipated. We drove the Bow Valley Pkwy to the Icefields Pkwy!! I had read much about this drive and was very much looking forward to it!! A must see if you get anywhere close to the area! Words cannot describe the beauty and majesty of the mountains and glaciers you will see along this route. Until you get to the Columbian Icefields Welcome Center, you will not find any food, so I suggest that you keep a cooler full of drinks and food in your vehicle! Then you will always be comfortable! And save time waiting in line. There are many pullouts, hikes to falls and vistas along the drive...I recommend that you stop for as many as you can. We allowed a full day to drive the parkway (though it is only about 200 mi or so), so we stopped at most of them and had lots of time to explore on the was to Jasper for the night. The hike to Bow Summit offered a view of Peyto Lake...The color of the lake..bluish/greenish, turquiose, was difference than the others and that is about the only way to see it, unless you take a long hike down. Other cool places in route we Sunwapta Falls Weeping Wall, Bridalveil Falls and my very favorite...Athabasca Falls...near the Jasper end of the parkway. Since it was early July, the falls were full or rushing, swirling water from melting snow.. I have never seen so much water in my life! Hard to describe..just dont miss it! We spent several hours going through the museum at the Icefield Welcome Center and looking around. After a fun picnic (tables in the parking lot with view of the icefield) we got in line to board the Brewster Bus that would take us on the Columbian Icefield. This was the coolest bus specially made for this trek over the frozen ice. You will get a great narration from the driver as you go along. When you get to the end of the road, you will get off the bus and walk around on the Glacier (wear sunglasses! The sun is very bright!) take photos and drink water from a stream under the glacier that we were told could be anywhere from 100 to 400 years old. It is the best tasting water and very clear...we had heard to take extra water bottles and fill them up and now we have souvenir glacier water at home! That was one of the several things my teens enjoyed the most! They still tell their friends about it. This is such a wonderful drive. We arrived in Jasper and stayed the night at the lovely Athabasca Hotel. This is a boutique hotel we had reserved and it was quaint in every way. We were fortunate to have a Jr. Suite with two bedrooms seperate vanity bath, sitting area and TV for the boys to watch. Again, they chose to stay in the hotel room and watch TV while hubby and I went out to eat..We ate at a locally recommended place that was just a very short walk away. called Lou Lous Pizza. They had other things on the menu, but we had pizza and really enjoyed it and just sitting around hearing the local conversation. We took the kids some food on the way back. It was a nice peaceful evening once again. The downside to this hotel is that there is no elevator and we had to drag our suitcases up 3 flights of bell staff...But we were fine. It was very quaint and the lobby staff were helpful. The end of another great day!

Day 9 (July 11) Always a new adventure! That is what we all loved about this trip. Every day was special and unique in its own way and today was not different. As we finished breakfast and headed back down the Icefield Pkwy, we drove up Mt Edith Cavell to hike the Path of the Glacier trail. It is about 12 miles off the main road to the trailhead parking lot. We hiked this trail that was sometimes strenuous, but well worth it to see the glaciers up close. As we stood in awe, taking photos, looking and listening, we heard not one, but two different avalanches over the 2 hour hike there and back. I could actually see the snow falling as the avalanche was happening and heard the sound..It looked like a waterfall from a distance...then I realized it disappeared. It was so amazing to see this happen. At the end of the trail, is a glacial lake with bits of glacier floating around in it. Be sure to look up and see Angel Glacier...but do not hike close to it or allow your children to go under it as ice is constantly melting and dropping and avalanches are happening and its very dangerous. This has all been here so long, we were just amazed and thrilled to have seen it before it completely melts. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride back to Lake Louise and seeing the views from another direction. About 1 hr before we got to Lake Louise we saw a couple bears in different spots along the parkway. One we found ourself and the other bear we spotted due to the amount of stopped traffic. He was just rummaging for berries and roots and hanging out just off the roadway..Very easy to see from out car. I was afraid for some folks who got too close for that one photo in case they irritated him too much by getting in his space...but thankfully, nothing happened. We arrived in Lake Louise in time for an early dinner which we enjoyed at the Mountain Restaurant. No one was there that early in the evening so we had not wait and a lovely meal. Not too expensive..We checked in at Mountaineer Lodge where we spend the night before driving over to check out the lake and view from the Fairmont Chateau. The backdrop for this hotel is incredible....and the lake was very beautiful as we had heard as well. But we found it somewhat frustrating that it was such a touristy place..Very crowded with visitors and not peaceful at all. So we took a hike around half the lake and decided to go check out Lake Moraine. Lake Moraine was one of the prettiest lakes of all, and we have seen many beautiful lakes on our trip from Glacier National Park to Jasper, A. It has the Valley of Ten Peaks in the background and was just another amazing lake...We liked the view of this lake much better than Lake Louise due to the touristy/tour bus which resulted in crowds. After the long drive in from Jasper and the hikes and stops along the way, we went back to our room in the Mountaineer Lodge and went to sleep earlier than previous nights. The hotel was comfortable and adequate for our needs, not a luxury by any means.

Day 10 (July12) Today was somewhat sad as we knew we were having to end our wonderful trip to Canada...but not before we bought ski lift tickets to the Lake Louise Gondola! This gondola is open air as it is a ski lift in winter and goes over a bear habitat (no....we didnt see any bear, but were told there are some there). We got there in time for their breakfast was nothing special, but only about $2 more than the price of the ticket with discount coupon we had. So a no-brainer! We enjoyed the vistas from the top and the ride experience and afterward were on our way to Billings MT for the night. Another last minute decision was to stop at the Hot Springs in Banff since it was on our way and we had intended to go there earlier. We had our towels and swimsuits with us. We werent there long just a nice dip in the hot water and back on our way. We stopped once more and filled our cooler with drinks and snacks for the long drive ahead of us. We did make an unexpected stop at the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton. This was completely unexpected as we saw it off the main highway. It was worth the stop for sure. We stayed at the Western Heritage Inn and ate dinner at Taco Johns. The kids had been seeing the signs all along the trip and we finally saw a restaurant when we were actually ready to stop. The food was good and the price was right! The rooms at the Western Heritage Inn were nice and we loved the indoor hot tub! I love staying in original, locally owned hotels. This one also had a nice breakfast buffet the next morning which made everyone happy!

Day 11 (July 13) Our goal this day was to drive to Custer Natl Park (about 5 hrs away) and then drive the Needles Hwy and stop along the way. This was a perfect way to see Custer without spending lots of time there while planning to make the nightime show and viewing of Mt Rushmore nearby. The kids had fun climbing the rocks in Custer and I loved the western feel to the park. Wish we had more time there, but we can always go back another trip! It was warm, but very windy this day in the park. The drive was awesome with the vistas like none other of the abandoned old west. A fun place to stop for pie was the Purple Pie cant miss it...its Purple! And the berry pies were delicious! We made the nighttime viewing of Mt Rushmore and saw the Lighting Ceremony. Just a short drive away, we spent the night in Keystone, SD at the Battlecreek Lodge. The owner was very accomodating with personal touches in our room and the lobby. She also made the breakfast herself and waiting on every family that came in to eat. Highly recommend that you stay at the BattleCreek Lodge if you are in Keystone! Keystone was a fun, little touristy town most likely founded to accomodate tourists from the way it looks. Lots of nightlife if you are interested in that. I really enjoyed sitting out on our deck listening to the bands playing in the distance..It was not too loud, so dont let that bother you at all.

Day 12 (July 14) After breakfast, we went back to see Mt Rushmore in the daytime since it was so close by. We enjoyed our visit there and there is a nice trail of the Presidents that you can take around the site. Unfortunately, we didnt take the time to do that as we had other things planned and many miles to cover that day. After visiting Mt Rushmore, we headed to Badlands NP and did the scenic loop. We stopped and got out of the car at many viewpoints, but again, it was another very windy day. We made a short stop at Wall Drugs and then drove straight to Kansas City MO for the night.

Day 13 (July 15) Our final day...We drove straight in to Birmingham Al..the end to a wonderful trip not to be forgotten by us or our children. Yes, there are those who say we should have split it up and taken more time to see the sights and hike more in a casual manner...but I say, we exposed our children to many wonderful sights and they can go back and spend more time with their own families one day...Our children only have a few years of travel with us (and one is off to college now), so we gave them lots of great experiences and no one ever complained about the driving it took to make it happen. (thanks to a minivan with outlets and TV) I do hope to go back to some of those places one day and spend more time there. No regrets!

Myer Jan 13th, 2013 07:07 AM

Aren't the Johnston Canyon Falls something!!!

I'm glad you went to Moraine Lake. I assume you saw the view from the top of the Rock Pile. That's the view on the old Canadian 20 dollar bill.

Without a doubt it's much more spectacular than Lake Louise.

My problem with some of the Canadian National Parks (Waterton Lakes, Banff, etc) is that they are almost more cresort than activity oriented parks such as those in the US. I found Banff Townsite a tourist town.

I saw bears on Mt Norquay across the highway from banff Townsite and bighorn sheep alond the road around Lake Minewanka (sp).

We also saw a bear along the side of the road between Moraine Lake and Peyto Lake.

Did you hike Tunnel Mountain in Banff. That's Banff Townsite own mountain though rather small.

We didn't go beyong Banff into Jasper but I hope to do this at the end of this summer's trip to Glacier since I'm flying into and out of Calgary.

mommybryant Jan 25th, 2013 08:27 PM

Nope, didnt hike Tunnel Mountain this trip...So much wasnt easily accessible due to snow...but would love to do that hike the next time for sure. If you get back to would be fascinated by the Icefield Pkwy drive into Jasper...About a four hour drive, but we stopped a lot along the way...Many, many beautiful vistas and waterfalls! Stay the night and hike at Mt Edith Cavell in the morning...See glaciers up close there at Glacier Lake. Such a wonderful drive!

Myer Jan 26th, 2013 03:14 AM

I'm going back to Glacier (MT) with a friend in early August. Since we're coming and going to/from Calgary we'll spend a couple of days in Banff/Jasper.

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