On day three, we left Banff headed for Lake Louise for two nights. Originally we were supposed to spend two nights at a B&B in Field, BC – but when we contacted them the day before they wrote back after a long delay – stating that they had written down the wrong dates and we had no accommodations there for the nights we had planned. So we got online and found Post Hotel had some openings, and it was located in Lake Louise – which was not far from the things we had planned to see.
Before we left we grabbed some things and headed up to our first destination, which was recommended by the B&B hostess from where we had just departed in Banff: Johnston Falls, located in Johnston Canyon. She recommended taking the Hwy 1A, which paralleled the Trans-Canadian Highway, as it was a more scenic drive, so we pulled off the main highway and set off winding towards the canyon.
Once we got there we found that the lots were full, and we just parked along the gravel on the side of the road and walked in. It quickly became obvious that this was a very popular destination: lots of cars and naturally an unfortunate number of charter buses. We weaved our way along Johnston Creek towards the upper falls. It was an okay hike, maybe 2.5 km but it took forever because you were behind lollygaggers and people that didn’t pay attention to anyone around them and blocked the often very narrow walkway. Eventually, we arrived.
As you can see, it was one of the sunniest, and probably most clear days we had during our trip.
On our second day of our Canadian Rockies adventure (did you miss Day 1?) we woke up to a cool morning as we departed Radium Hot Springs for the entrance to the first park: Kootenay National Park (official) (Wikipedia). The weather so far wasn’t unlike what Seattle had experienced this summer: warm, dry days and cool, refreshing nights. After a tasty breakfast at the motel, we hit the road for the park entrance – it was less than a kilometer away.
The actual entrance to the park was unique in that it went through a canyon – Sinclair Canyon, to be exact – on its way to a valley where you could see cool alpine rivers and sweeping views of the valley and its bordering mountains.
On our first day, we set out from the Emerald City (Seattle…just in case you were unsure) and headed eastbound on I-90 around 0800 Pacific. I wanted to get through Snoqualmie Pass before the Labor Day traffic backed up, but we made it through with little to no problems.
Driving on the ‘dry side’ of the Cascades reveals a landscape that’s very….different (read: boring) than the wet side.
The landscape reminded me more of Texas or Oklahoma. Fun fact: most of WA is arid desert, with some irrigated farmland along a lot of the Columbia river. Other fun fact: Seattle’s climate is considered ‘Mediterranean’ (wet winters, dry warm summers) and the Olympic peninsula is classified as a rainforest. Three majorly different climates in one wonderful state!
We crossed the border at a very small crossing in Eastport, ID (or Kingsgate, BC). The Canadian border agent – asked few questions: “Why are you here?” and “Do you have any firearms in the vehicle?” (‘To spend a week in Banff’ and ‘I do not,’ respectively), he replied “Have a good trip.” Maybe it was the NEXUS (pre-cleared border passes) that limits the question or it’s just Canada being awesome, but whatever. I get fewer questions at border crossings with the NEXUS card (even at non-NEXUS crossings) than I did with the full passport.
We drove through many miles/kilometers of wilderness, even going past an active wildfire scene (with helicopters airlifting water drops into it as we drove past), we arrived at our first stop: Radium Hot Springs, right on the edge of the Kootenay National Park.
Every time I go on a trip where I rent a car, I am reminded of how shady car rental companies are. You think it’s all easy – you plan ahead and book the car ahead of time along with whatever else you need to prebook for your trip. And then you arrive.
Maybe you wait for your bags and then trek off in a shuttle bus to wherever the airport has relegated the rental agencies to, or maybe there’s a counter right there at the airport. On my last trip, we waited about an hour in the cold December weather at PHL for what the rental agency (after an annoyed call) said “we only have one bus running.” I wonder now if it was a tactic to just exhaust us into acquiescing to their tactics do once you get to their office (similar to car dealers who try to tire you into accepting their sub-optimal deals).
Upon our glorious and long-awaited arrival at the rental center we were offered every possible upgrade. Did we want a Ford Mustang? No. What about-No. Please, really, I just want the $15/day car I signed up for. I understand the insurance offering – that to me makes sense – and yes, I understand if I crash the car I’m liable, etc etc. Aside from the upsell attempts – which are annoying, yes – the slowness in the whole ordeal is amazing. All the typing and tabbing in what I imagine is a very old green-screen database, then the dot-matrix printing and the signing and then wandering out to find the car.
Renting the car is second only perhaps to the ‘convenient hassle’ that air travel has morphed into these days.