Our first destination in Canada was a campground very close to the town of Banff, which is a much larger town than we expected. It is very crowded and quite touristy but the setting is magnificent. We spent two nights there while we explored the area. The scenery is pretty amazing and quite unlike anything we've come across. Towering mountains and glaciers are reflected in numerous turquoise lakes.
We saw a lot of wildlife, including this baby bighorn sheep peeking out from the bushes - too cute!
Lake Louise and Takakkaw Falls
This area is in Banff National Park but different from the area around the town of Banff. Lake Louise is a much smaller town and the focus seems to be more on the outdoors than on shops and bars. The lake itself is that fabulous turquoise color and surrounded by glaciers and steep mountains.
We took a drive up to Takakkaw Falls, which is one of the largest falls in Canada. The water comes from melting glaciers and was shooting straight out at the head of the falls. Very impressive. Takakkaw in Cree means 'it is magnificent' and it definitely is.
The Icefields Parkway
Aptly named, the Icefield Parkway passes within viewing distance of seven icefields and about 25 smaller but still notable glaciers. It is roughly 140 miles long and protected by two national parks - Banff and Jasper. It is a leisurely drive with many pullouts along the way with scenic overlooks or short hikes to scenic overlooks.
Many seasoned travellers call the Icefields Parkway the most beautiful road in Canada and it is rated one of the top 10 drives in the world. We haven't been everywhere in the world but certainly rate it among our top drives. The entire length and surrounding area is a World Heritage Site.
We drove approximately half the length of the parkway to reach the Icefield Center at the Columbia Icefield. Here you can either pay to take a bus tour onto the glacier or hike to the edge of the Athabasca Glacier. We decided to hike. Along the way there are signs showing where the foot of the glacier was in various years. Sadly, we found the distance to be shorter and shorter as time went on. The Athabasca Glacier, like most other glaciers in the world, is rapidly retreating. Another clear sign of global warming. The sign in this picture is from 1982 - hard to believe the glacier was at that point just 28 years ago.
It's hard to describe just how stunning this area is. Very spectacular and well worth the trip - I'm sure we'll be back.
From the icefields to the desert. The Okanagan Valley lies at the north end of the Sonoran Desert and was quite a contrast to the temperatures we had experienced in Banff National Park. We saw rafters on the river and many many campers and boats on the lakes in the valley.
We stayed in Oliver, which is at the south end, very close to the border. It was recommended to us as a low-key place to stay while visiting the many wineries and we weren't disappointed. We went to several wineries and were very impressed with the quality of the wine we tasted. This is the premier wine area in Canada and the wines and wineries reflect that. The wine is only available in Canada so we weren't familiar with the vintners, but would highly recommend it to those of you who love good wine.
A trip to British Columbia just isn't complete without a stop in Vancouver, one of our favorite cities and home to some of our favorite people. Once again Matt and Roberta, friends from the Vieques days, were great hosts. As usual we ate way too much great food - Vancouver has to be one of the top places to eat with a huge variety of ethnic restaurants to choose from. We spent time at Granville Island and Stanley Park. It was a great way to end our Canadian adventure - I'm sure we'll be back.