On Canadian soil and the Cowboy Trail led us to a great little campsite! Plenty of locals were out and about enjoying the lovely wilderness camping available which was no surprise given the scenery although the weather enroute was rather awful.
We even pulled over for a while to let the worst of it pass as did a few others. However, many continued through torrential rain and huge gusts of wind with their 5th wheel caravans doing their best to track behind their tow vehicles at no less than the speed limit (maybe it’s a target) no matter what the conditions. When you have to get to the campground, you have to get there as quickly as possible I guess. Hahaha
We spent a little time loosely planning our onward journey for the next few weeks! Unfortunately, the US considers Canada (and Mexico for that matter) to be the US! They might not say as much but they continue to count your visa time in Canada as time spent within US borders! So we needed to allow enough time to enter Alaska and make it back into Canada before our initial US six month visa expired.
Anyway – enough bleating! The rules are the rules and yes we are always versed on those agreements in advance but sometimes you just have to shake your head and wonder what it’s all about really…
Pushing north a little harder now we made for Calgary and arrived at David and Alison’s stunning home just after lunch!
So who are these people? Well, we really have been lucky when it comes to meeting friendly, hospitable and like-minded souls along our journey and we’d met these guys at Overland Expo!
They had made the trip down to Arizona for the event as a research opportunity for their own overland travel aspirations and invited us to visit should we be in their hometown!
After a few messages back and forward on “Whatsapp” they informed us of the fact that they had 2 spare tickets to see Peter Gabriel and Sting live in Calgary and thought we might like to join them!
That sets the bar at a new height for anyone else we meet looking forward! Hahaha…
This kindness was added to by an amazing guest quarters for us to relax in for a few days! We are thinking about changing our email and phone number however, as how the hell will we ever top that experience should they wander down under???…
The concert was amazing, we were treated to sightseeing trips, stunning food and the loveliest of company and departed a few days later indebted once more to the kindness of people met along our journey!
Out of Calgary late in the afternoon we only travelled about 100km and began campsite hunting eventually finding a sneaky spot to squirrel away in!
Very cold and raining all I wanted to do was jump into the camper but as the Patrol sat idling she began running rough and the check engine light came on!
Always a pleasant experience late in the day…
Anyway back in Colorado we suspected we’d picked up a dose of bad diesel. We had had some rough running associated with power loss and white smoke, generally at higher altitude – an indicator of a fuel issue!
At that time, I hadn’t changed the fuel filter as the situation cleared itself and I was being a little tight as I’m not in possession of many replacement filters in my stock of spares!
Cutting to the chase, now I had to change the bloody thing when I was less than in the mood but a beer took the edge off (just the one!!) you can see from the photos that we certainly had taken on a dose of bad fuel! It has to be said that in over 80,000km across 40 odd countries, I never expected to have a problem with poor quality diesel in Colorado!!!
There is a main tourist route that runs through Alberta and the Rockies and it starts with the town of Banff! A typical tourist town – picturesque and appealing with alpine architecture and many stand out character buildings.
I imagine a few days spent here in winter, with nights around the log fire, a nice malt and a little skiing (not in that order!) would be rather pleasant! Not really the destination for us on this visit however with only a fleeting transit and a stop at every pedestrian crossing in order to let the endless stream of Asian tourists pass by as they wander en masse from souvenir shop to souvenir shop!
Like penguins in the winter – I suppose none of them wants to be on the outside of the group for fear of getting cold or possibly being picked off by a predator! They are funny to watch and in some ways, more entertaining than the wildlife…
Continuing along the Bow Valley Parkway, we spotted big horn sheep and our first Canadian bear, which turned out to be an elusive Grizzly!
In peak season, there is not a snowballs chance in hell of finding a campground with any space along this National Park route which to be honest didn’t really bother us!
We have to confess to being camp snobs and hate being in close proximity to generator riddled plastic fantastics that drown out the sounds of nature with the noise pollution that comes with campground life.
I’m not actually that negative on campgrounds although I certainly sound like it I guess! We do use them when they suit or there is an attraction requiring their use but deep down we really do prefer our own space and solitude! Certainly the national park and forest campgrounds are way ahead as far as a more rustic nature experience is concerned whilst commercial campgrounds often resemble glorified parking lots right on the side of the highway.
So it was that we headed west from Lake Louise in an attempt to find a campsite outside the park, listed on one of our navigation and camping apps, at Wapta Falls. Long story cut short, the GPS coordinates given, compared to the actual location, were woefully inaccurate as were the written directions provided so with darkness approaching , we gave up and camped in an average spot for the night!
With a fresh start the following day we managed to locate the Wapta Falls campsite about 1.5 km away and worth the effort it most definitely was! We had ignored the obvious sign the previous day, as its location was so at odds with the Internet info. Just goes to prove that you can’t believe everything you read on the net!!! Hahaha
Long weekend descending on us, we decided a few days relaxation was in order to relieve the hassle of campsite hunting when all the locals are trying to do the same. Not to mention that we were not going to find a more stunning camp!!
Shortly after our arrival, solo motorcycle traveller Marshall arrived. He had just finished setting up camp about 15km away, in a pretty average location, and upon seeing what was on offer in our locale, he was back on his bike and off to break camp and relocate. Whilst gone we moved some of our gear to a site suitable for him, hence securing his real estate. And just in time it was, as a steady stream of campsite hunters began wandering through!
“So where are you from Marshall?” (We expected an answer from one of the lower 48 states…)
Well I wouldn’t have picked that and I doubt you would have either!
With the wobbly pops flowing, we all settled in for a few days of great conversation and laughs, with interludes from other travellers coming from near and far.
Wapta not only provided us with a respite from the holiday crowd, but also provided our first fleeting glimpse of the Aurora Borealis! Peering over Marshall’s shoulder late in the evening around the campfire and there it was, a feint curtain of white shimmering across the sky! I won’t bother elaborating because in a follow up post we have photos of the Aurora in all of its true beauty.
All of those who came and went over the next few days, generally wandered into our site as we had, by far, the most outstanding views of the falls and conversations were generally started by those who visited!
I must recount one of the latter between Jen and some Indian (dot not feather) visitors!
Visitors – “Have you seen any wildlife?”
Jen – “Not much but there have been some sightings of Grizzlies in the area!”
Visitors – “Are they dangerous??”
Jen – (in disbelief) “Well yes – you need to be careful around them!”
Visitors – “Like if you touch one or pat the cubs!”
Jen – (again in disbelief) “Ahhh well they will probably kill you in that case…”
If it weren’t a truthful recount I’d think it was a comedy skit! Almost topping that exchange was when they told us they live in Calgary! Some people shouldn’t be allowed out…
We ended up spending nearly a week at Wapta Falls before hitting the road north again!
Due to the overwhelming lack of available campsites in the National Park, our option for the next night was a ski lodge carpark! Ended up camped with Shanti and Kasia who were also at Overland Expo and who we had since crossed paths with at Glacier National Park – small world! Another great night of travel stories as we wasted the hours relaxing in their camper and solving world problems!!
We intended to visit the town of Lake Louise but quickly gave up on that idea. I can only describe the traffic chaos by comparing it to driving home after the Sky Show on Australia Day!
Moraine Lake was our real destination and that involved a wait of about 30 minutes, queued at the start of the 14 km drive in to the lake due to the fact the carpark was full!
Still travelling north within Banff National Park, we needed to exit the Park again in order to find a wild camp for the same reasons we’d headed to Wapta – it’s just a pain in the arse trying to camp within the park! So off east along the Saskatchewan River and with a little bit of exploring found another great site.
A quick 50km detour then had to be undertaken in order to find a phone signal so that we could send our location to Alison and David from Calgary. They had decided that as we’d not moved north more than 300km in the 10 days since we’d left them, they would head on up and camp a few nights with us!
Re-entering the national park, the “Icefields Parkway” drive was next enroute to Jasper
We arrived in Jasper and it was as busy with tourists as all the other sites enroute and after restocking, it was quite late in the day to be looking for a campground where there aren’t any vacancies! Fortunately we’d heard from a Swiss couple met on the Hwy that we could sneaky camp right in the dead centre of town at the cemetery – we had it all to ourselves!
Hinton next and a quick visit to the local visitor centre revealed an Aussie behind the counter originally from Broken Hill! As with most of us sarcastic Aussies, she relayed some hilarious interactions with tourists!
Questions such as “what time do they let the animals out?”
“What time do they turn the Aurora on?”
A few days later we arrived in Dawson Creek, Mile “0” of the famed Alaska Hwy!
One interesting campsite was Inga Lake, not so much for the camp itself (which was very nice) but for the three First Nation folk that stopped by our site! It turned out that they had been camped in the same site a week earlier. One of their group thought he’d seen the Wildlife Officer coming and had therefore hidden his rifles and a bottle of Captain Morgans in the bushes near the camp just in case an inspection occurred!
Unfortunately when they had left the next day, he forgot to retrieve them!
Of course it didn’t help that, by his own admission, he was “really drunk” at the time of the stashing and those synapses that should have connected in his brain to record the location of said stashed firearms and alcohol had failed.
It was all rather humorous for us as he retold that and other stories whilst he spent more than an hour knocking back amber ale and his counterparts looked under every shrub in the vain hope of a reunion. It was not to be. Probably for the best really???
Next we make for the Arctic Circle.