We spent Canada day, 1st July, at Canada place where there were huge celebrations for Canada`s 150th anniversary of independence from Britain. It was great to see the patriotism and happiness of the Canadians and we enjoyed being in the middle of it all as bands played and food and drink was served.
Whilst we were in Vancouver, we had another change of plan! We decided that we did not want to clock up almost 7,000 miles return to the tip of Alaska and back, so we have booked another cruise! This time it sounds like a more traditional cruise, with 3 gala nights (we don`t own any smart clothes!) and all sorts of entertainment! It will take us over 14 nights, up the inside passage of Alaska and back, departing from Seattle. When we return we will then head South through the USA.
With this date in mind-we decided to head into the neighbour state of Alberta and the beautiful Rocky mountains, to the national parks of Banff and Jaspar. We made a stopover in the Wine district and camped in Kelona, before arriving at our first Park Canada campsite in Banff. The scenery was spectacular-with beautiful blue lakes, mountains and trees. We were also firmly in bear country and there were warnings and information signs everywhere about bear encounters and how to keep a "bare" campsite! Well, as you know I have not yet got used to the idea of meeting a bear and am fully equipped with my bear bells, air horn and bear spray-all of which I took to bed with me every night! We had to make sure that our camping spot was clean of all food smells, cooking stuff, and anything else that smelled nice e.g. deodorant. Well, we had the cleanest camp spot in the whole national park as I cleaned every last crumb away!! We visited the glorious Lake Louise, which is a turquoise glacier lake surrounded by snow capped mountains and drove the Bow Park highway, again though the most beautiful scenery. There were many places to stop along the way, including Johnston canyon and other view points. We spotted a bear by the side of the road, eating some of its 25,000 calories a day. We did not stop and take its picture though, as the Park Canada staff were trying to discourage this as it is dangerous and stressed the bears out. We saw another 2 bears over the next few days and it was wonderful to see them in their natural environment, just getting on with searching for food.
We headed towards Jaspar national park, camping for 2 nights at Waterfowl lake which was one of our all time favourite camp sites ever! It was on the shores of a river and in between 2 beautiful lakes. We met Steve and Hilly here, a great British couple who now live in Florida. We drove the Icefields parkway, again through wonderful scenery making many stops along the way to take in the views. We walked to the foot of the Columbia glacier, which has receded drastically over the years but was still a great sight. in Jaspar, we headed to Maligne lake and took a walk along its shore.
I went on a bear walk with the park rangers, just outside of Jaspar! Its purpose was to educate you about bears, to reduce the fear and equip you with the knowledge of how to deal with them. I was so keen I was the first one at the meeting point and nearly got back in the landy when they told me a grizzly bear had been seen on the trail we were taking, earlier that day! The 3 hours spent on this walk, with the rangers, was just great and I was the most attentive and enthusiastic participant ever! They taught us how to use bear spray properly, how to look for signs of bear activity on the tree etc, and how to recognise bear pooh! They also dispelled a lot of myths about bears and taught us how they live, feed and operate. This was such a useful experience for me and it has definitely reduced my daft fears! For the next few days, poor Gav had to listen to my new found knowledge about bears!
We had heard that there were numerous wildfires in British Columbia and that it had been declared a state of emergency. We decided we needed to head back, and if we could not, we were going to drop into the USA and go to Seattle from there. We stopped to camp at a beautiful lake in Clearwater-where we could smell the smoke and saw helicopters with huge buckets of water, attempting to control the fires a hundred miles or so away. We made it back to Vancouver and headed back to Spanish Banks, where we had wild camped on my birthday. Our favourite police officer turned up again on his quad bile with 2 newbies and we again chatted for a while and he told us we were OK there for a couple of nights. We had a BBQ here with Penny and Dane, and said our farewells to them, hoping to see them again one day somewhere in the world. We visited Granville island market and then spent our final night wild camping and Matt from Vancouver joined us, a lad we met through facebook who has just bought a landy and wants to do an overland trip.
We headed off the next day and crossed the border into USA at the Peace arch. It took 3 hours in total, and is known to be a busy crossing. We will spend a couple of days just outside of Seattle, getting our stuff together for our Alaska cruise and trying to explain to Ruby why we are leaving her again!!
We have only scraped the surface of Canada and absolutely love it. The scenery, the people and the lifestyle have been incredible and we want to return one day and see a lot more.