Solo Banff & Jasper Trip

It is time my friends! Time to pack up my life and leave for my very first travel assignment in Northern Alberta. It’s going to be hard being away from home for two months but I am more excited than anything to get started on this journey I’ve been planning for close to a year now! Saying goodbye to my boyfriend Andrew was the hardest part. I cried on and off the whole way to Winnipeg on the first day and a few times since. It’s going to be rough being apart but I know we can stick it out and I think we have already chatted on the phone/facetimed 30 times since I left. Love you bubba. 😘

I think I did pretty good for packing for two months

Sid is keeping me company!

Anyhow! I have driven so much in the past week. 3500km to be exact! My car did so good and I am proud of myself for driving all the way here by myself. I had a lot of encouragement along the way for which I’m thankful. The first day I drove 9 hours to Winkler, Manitoba where my parents live. We had a nice dinner and watched a preseason Jets game and after a much needed rest I hit the road again the next day. Thursday was the longest day…10 hours to Medicine Hat, Alberta. The prairies are usually super boring because all I ever drive through is southern Manitoba. I didn’t realize how beautiful driving through Saskatchewan is! You may disagree but it’s fall right now and everything is in harvest plus the leaves are changing. As soon as I left Regina I was in awe of the clouds going on for miles and… hills!! There are actually hills in Saskatchewan. I’ve driven through here before but it was winter and I am pretty sure I slept most of the way while Andy drove. It was a nice surprise and before I knew it I was in Alberta and at my hotel for the night. I was exhausted from driving so I ordered in takeout sushi and had a nice hot shower and did a face mask while I watched the Grey’s Anatomy premiere and planned the next day. Being in a hotel room alone is super weird but I was so tired I didn’t notice. The weirdest part about travelling alone for me is eating alone in restaurants. I feel like everyone feels sorry for me but I’m actually having the time of my life. I can finally sit on my phone for an entire meal without anyone nagging me LOL! Actually though, the hardest part about travelling alone is when you see something amazing and go to say it out loud and realize no one is listening!

Day 3 was a shorter drive…from Medicine Hat to Banff. I adore Banff. It will always hold a special place in my heart because 1…it was the first big trip me and Andrew took together and 2…that trip was the first time I had ever seen the mountains! There’s just something about being in the mountains that makes me so happy. I need to move here. Good thing I’m a travel nurse! 😁

After 4.5 hours I reached my fave place and headed straight to Banff Ave Brewing Co. on Banff Ave. My dad’s love of breweries has apparently been instilled into me. I love craft beer though and pub food is always good! I’ve been to this brewery twice before in the one trip we took here and I love the Pond Hockey Ale that they make. I caught up on Instagram and Facebook while I ate a yummy meal and had a flight of beer (two pond hockey ales included). I wandered around Banff Ave. for a bit after then headed back to my car. Side note….Banff is amazing because there is free parking everywhere. When I stopped quick in Niagara Falls in August I had to pay 25 dollars and it was a way farther walk than what I found downtown Banff today!

Embracing the solo life

It was pretty cold out! I walked back to my car and drove the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Loop where I stopped at Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Lake Minnewanka. There was barely any people around and it was so peaceful driving and stopping where I wanted to take it all in and snap some photos. It was refreshing to be outside and breathe in the mountain air.

I got pretty good with my selfie stick/ tripod and remote! If you’re travelling solo I highly recommend getting a little tripod. Mine has a mini bluetooth remote so you don’t even have to set a timer! If you want to buy one clickΒ here. The colours of the trees are gorgeous aren’t they!? Next, I drove about 45 minutes to Lake Louise and I was shocked at how packed it was. Last time I was here it was -40Β°C and we skated on the lake. Here there was no parking so you had to shuttle it from 5 km away! Even though a bunch of signs said the lot was full, I felt ballsy and took my chances and drove up to the lake where people were directing all the traffic. A car pulled out of a spot just as I pulled up and the lady pointed at it! Woo! I got lucky. It was about 4:30-5:00pm so it must be a better time of the day to come here in the busy season once all the tour buses and cars are heading back to Banff. I walked the short walk up to the Lake and walked around for a bit enjoying the view. The sun was shining right above the mountains so my pictures didn’t turn out amazing. I wanted to capture the bright blue/green water better. They’re still gorgeous though!

Next time I’m here my goal is to go in a canoe! Kind of hard to do that solo. Now it was finally time to go see something new!! (I have seen all the above before in the winter time). In the winter, the road up to Moraine Lake is closed because it is very narrow and winding. The turn off is right near Lake Louise and 11 km up the road. I’m glad I was in my SUV because there were some pretty big bumps along the way. The little cars behind me definitely scraped bottom a few times. Oh I forgot to mention… at 4:30pm when I drove to Lake Louise, I passed the road for Moraine Lake and they weren’t letting any cars up the road at that time because the limited parking was full. I could see angry people driving away and instead of being one of those people I went and took my time at Lake Louise so by the time I headed back to Moraine, the road was accessible and I was one happy girl! Talk about good luck! And also…. holy $#!t this place is unbelievably breathtaking. I hiked about 15 minutes up to the top of the rock pile and was faced with the most beautiful scene I’ve ever seen. The Valley of 10 Peaks was behind and the colour of the water was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I’ll have to let the pictures do the talking.

How is this real life!? I met a nice guy at the top who had a fancy camera and I took a couple of pictures for him and we ended up talking a bit while the sun was setting. Believe it or not he was from Australia and this was his first time being around snow!! I’ve never seen someone smile so big and it made me even happier to be there in that moment. I hiked back down the hill and went right up to the lake for a better view of the ten peaks.

I’m shocked at how few people were in this beautiful place. Maybe it was the time of the day but it just made it that much more special. πŸ–€ How lucky I am to be in this place right now doing something I love and I am so proud of myself for being independent and doing it solo. It is very empowering and I highly recommend it if you have the opportunity.

I drove back to Canmore on the other side of Banff and checked into my hotel room… a king size bed and a huge ensuite bathroom. This is weird having all of this to myself! This made me miss Andrew and wish he was with me so we chatted quick on the phone and then I felt a lot better! I’m going to enjoy this huge bed and lay like a starfish all night!! I walked about 10 minutes to my most favourite brewery ever and I was happy that their new building was complete. Its huge! Grizzly Paw Brewing Co. in Canmore… the best! I had pumpkin ale which was delicious and the best charcuterie board I’ve ever had….even better than Paris!!

YUM! I walked back to my hotel a bit tipsy only getting lost twice and had a wonderful sleep! I woke up feeling refreshed and set out on what would later be one of the coolest experiences of my life! I finally get to drive the famous Icefields Parkway!

I don’t know if I will be able to describe the greatness that is the drive from Banff to Jasper. I wish I was a better writer so that I could do so. The best I can do is take pictures and show you that way. Basically, the entire time I was gasping and asking myself if this was real life! There are mountains everywhere and lakes fed by glaciers that are so blue. Ugh!! The first big lake was Bow Lake!

It’s really cool that this one was completely snow covered and then further up the road, there was barely any snow. The next stop was probably my favourite because it’s a lake that me and Andrew had tried driving to last January but had to turn around because we didn’t feel comfortable driving on the icy road. Peyto Lake! It’s the same bright blue colour as Moraine Lake yesterday! It’s about a 15 minute hike up hill to get to it. One part is pretty steep and I saw some older people struggling but it goes by quickly. I was definitely out of breath when I reached the top…more so by the breathtaking view!

There was a huge group of kids up at the top who must have been on a class trip and I sat and waited for them to leave before I could get a good picture. I hiked back down then kept driving! I stopped a few more times to take some more beautiful pictures!

I just drove down there!

And now we are officially in Jasper National Park! The next stop along the way was the Columbia Icefield. On the right was the glacier that you can walk on that you pay for and also the Glacier Skywalk. On the LEFT is the Athabasca Glacier and I just drove right up to it and took pictures. Farther up people were walking on the glacier but I was running out of time so I decided not to walk out to it. The water was so blue!

In the middle of this picture is the glacier people are walking on

I continued along the Icefields Parkway and was abruptly stopped all of a sudden. 30-40 cars were pulled over and traffic was completely stopped. Some cars pulled over and others just stopped in the middle of the highway. I thought maybe an accident had happened but when I finally got through the traffic I saw a poor little bear on the side of the road. Everyone was standing around it taking pictures and I felt so bad for it! People are so disrespectful to the national parks and the wildlife in it. It’s like they’ve never seen a bear before! My next stop was Athabasca Falls which I arrived to the exact same time as a huge tour bus. I fought for a few pictures through the crowd and got pushed and shoved a few times so it kind of left me a bit irritable. The falls were really pretty though!

And now finally we are approaching the town of Jasper! I parked by the train station and walked around some shops for awhile. I found the Jasper Brewery and tried the Blueberry Vanilla Ale that I’ve been waiting for! Delicious! I love Jasper. It is so much quieter than Banff and I felt like I was the only one there. I had to drive about 45 minutes to my hotel for the night and the sun was starting to set so I quickly drove out to the Fairmont Jasper Lodge and on the way back I was able to see the sunset which was gorgeous. And THEN on my way out of town, I saw 3 elk walking down the river and I pulled over to the side of the road. They came right up to my car and kept on walking! It was so cool!!!

More elk!

And there you have it… the end to my beautiful solo trip. I drove to my hotel in Hinton and then left for Bonnyville the next morning where the real adventure will begin! 3500 kilometers! I can’t believe I did it and I am so happy that I decided to drive up this way. I hope you enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful mountains. If you have the chance to drive out this way, I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading!

Xoxo

Hales

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