Waterton Lakes National Park

Monday, November 17, 2014

Well guys, that was Banff. Already can't wait to go back. I couldn't think of a better place to be stranded for a bit because our car broke down.

After dropping Helga off at a shop, we spent a night in Calgary at an Airbnb where we could shower and recharge all our cameras/phones/laptops. We swapped stories with the people who hosted us; they had recently taken a trip along the West Coast and had their old camper van break down in Washington, near our home. It felt good to laugh about it and know that everything was going to be okay in the end.

From Calgary, we took the cowboy trail to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, just across the border from Montana. It was gloomy all day and the scattered ranches along the way were like something out of a movie. The grassy rolling hills stretched in all directions and it was quite the change of scenery from the dramatic mountains in and around Banff. It was foggy and drizzly as we pulled into the park and we were blown away by the first sight of the Prince of Wales Hotel, against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful national parks. We stopped by to see the interior of the gorgeous hotel and decided to stay for high tea, where we felt like royalty sipping tea and eating tiny bites to the sound of a live harp. Quite the contrast from eating chili out of a can warmed over a campfire.

That evening we continued south on our drive, back toward the States. We spotted a fox who posed for quite a few photos, and that was the perfect way to say goodbye to Canada.

- Julia

P.S.
Exciting news—FlipKey by TripAdvisor included us in their recent post "Top 25 Couples Travel Blogs to Follow in 2014"! Neat to see so many couples traveling the world together.





Lake Louise and Lake Agnes | Banff

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

By far one of my favorite hikes ever. From Lake Louise (stunning lake) to Lake Agnes (stunning lake). Lake Agnes was still partially frozen and just as we arrived, it started to rain. Luckily, there was a log cabin tea house right there, serving a full menu of food! This tea house has been serving high tea to hikers since 1905. I can't imagine a better reward at the top of a hike—amazing view, a pot of tea, and warm apple crumble.

When we got back down to the bottom, the sun came out, just in time for our canoe out on Lake Louise. Look at how different the lake looks at the beginning and end of the post! When it was cloudy, the lake was a bright, milky turquoise, but when the sun came out, the color just wasn't the same. I'm glad we got to see it both ways.

Lake Agnes Teahouse Hike (source)


Time: 2.5-3 hours 
Distance: 6.8 km (4.2 miles) round-trip 
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 385 m (1263 feet) 
Starting Point: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Waterfall and Lake Moraine | Banff

Friday, October 31, 2014

Since this was our first time in Banff, we wanted to see all the classic lakes and views. I would highly recommend all the places we went, starting with the Tunnel Mountain Hike in the last post, Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon in this post, and Lake Louise and my favorite, the Lake Agnes hike in a coming post. I have no doubt that when we return, we'll have a slew of new hikes and lakes to see, but this is a good starting point.

We did a quick side trip to Johnston Canyon, which was a beautiful hike, or more like a walk, along a river. The rushing water has carved deeply into the rock around it over time. There are stunning foot bridges that hug the rocks and take you high above the river at points. When you get to the falls, you can go inside a cave that has a second opening to the falls. You are so close at that point, that you'll definitely feel the spray of the falls. So much so, that it's hard to take a photo because you'll instantly get water droplets on your lens. It's extremely loud and wet and awesome. Our photos don't do it justice. Also, it's worth mentioning that this is one of the most popular "hikes" in Banff so it's not very private, but it's pretty quick and worth a trip if you are passing by.

Moraine Lake was nuts. I think the most rewarding views are the ones you have to work for, at the top of a mountain, for example. At Moraine Lake, you can pretty much drive up to the view, but it's still nuts. I wish we had time to rent those colorful canoes and explore the lake more. We really enjoyed just being still on the dock and watching chipmunks race around on the piles of logs stacked up along the shore.

On the way to these spots, we took a scenic route along Bow Valley Parkway instead of staying on the main highway. This is where we saw our first elk in an open meadow with a stunning mountain backdrop. Scenic routes are the best.

Driving back to camp that night, we saw our second grizzly bear! Perfect way to conclude a really good day.

- Julia

Johnston Canyon Hike (source)

Time: 1 hour round trip (lower falls... what we did), 2 hours round trips (upper falls)
Distance: 2.2 km (1.4 miles) round trip to lower falls, 5.2 km (3.2 miles) one way to upper falls
Level of Difficulty: Easy/moderate
Elevation Gain: 30 meters (lower falls), 120 meters (upper falls)



Johnston Canyon Hike
Johnston Canyon Waterfall

Camping Made Easy for Girls

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Here's a look inside my toiletries bag for 2 weeks of camping and life on the road. I know a lot of girls don't like camping, and I bet this has a lot to do with it. These little luxuries help me feel clean and comfortable and it's worth putting a little time into packing the right stuff. I try to put products into smaller repurposed containers if I can, usually from beauty samples I have used up (the face lotion, the toner, and I now have a smaller spray bottle for the sea salt spray that's pictured).

I hope this is helpful!

MUST HAVE

- dry shampoo - because you can't shower everyday and your greasy hair will thank you
- homemade sea salt spray - no need for a blow drier, curling iron, or even a brush... just a spray of sea salt
- facial cleansing wipes - for easy washing up before bed in the woods without a sink + soap + water
- personal wipes (not pictured, but they look the same) - for staying clean between showers and hikes
- toothbrush - to remain somewhat civilized
- toothpaste - unless you can grind your own from plants 
- cotton swabs - because earwax
- rosebud salve - for dry spots, blemishes, rough cuticles, lips, etc—so many uses in one tiny tin
- deodorant - so you have no excuse not to hike (not pictured... it was hanging around in the car somewhere) 

NICE TO HAVE

- razor - still can't decide if this is a must have or not in the wild (depends how long you're going?)
- toner - helps get leftover dirt/makeup off + leaves your face feeling fresh 
- cotton rounds - to use with toner
- shampoo - if you're lucky enough for a hot shower
- conditioner - ditto
- face lotion - to keep your face happy and moist

*roll over image to see items labeled* 

Tunnel Mountain Hike | Banff

Thursday, October 23, 2014

After spending several days driving in a car, it felt really good to pump that blood around and do a hike.

If you have time for just one quickie hike while in Banff, or you're not crazy about climbing mountains, this one's for you. We walked to the trailhead of the Tunnel Mountain Hike from the center of downtown Banff. There are some pretty steep switchbacks for a bit, but it just means you'll get high up faster. From the top, you'll get to look out on both sides of the mountain ridge, see a great perspective of the town of Banff happily tucked in a valley, and a view of the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel surrounded by endless woods.

Our reward at the end of the day—hotdogs and tomato soup for dinner. Nothing better than a warm bowl of soup as daylight slips away.

- Julia


Tunnel Mountain Hike (source)

Time: 2-3 hours 
Distance: 4.3 km (2.7 miles) round-trip 
Level of Difficulty: Easy/moderate
Elevation Gain: 300 m (948 feet) 
Starting Point: In downtown Banff, from the southern end of Banff Ave., turn east on Buffalo St. (turns into Wolverine) to St. Julien Rd. Trailhead begins on north side of St. Julien Rd.


Camp Cooking

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I have to admit that one of the main draws of camping for me is the food. Simple food, cooked over a flame, and eaten outdoors sitting around a campfire.

One of my camp favorites is shish kabobs. I usually cut and marinate the meat at home and then just put it on sticks before cooking at camp. But since we were extended camping and meat from home wouldn't exactly last for long in a cooler, we actually bought these shish kabobs that were already marinated and on sticks in a grocery store deli.

As a side, we stuck some potatoes in the fire. To help them cook faster, I cut them into cubes, added butter, seasoning, wrapped twice in foil, then buried them in the embers of the fire. They came out soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, and so tasty dipped in BBQ sauce.

Okay, now I'm hungry. And want to go camping.

Around Banff — Part II

Monday, October 13, 2014

Almost every day of our trip, we were scrambling to get camp set up and cook dinner before it got dark. And days don't get any longer than in June. There were just too many things to do and see before retiring to camp for the night. Dinner was usually cooking around 9pm, when some of our more elderly camp neighbors were already asleep. After dinner we'd sit around the campfire, wrapped in blankets, reading books with the help of headlamps, and go to bed when our eyes got heavy.

In the words of John Muir, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

- Julia