Obviously we’re burning through these blog entries the same way we burned through Canada, but it’s about to slow down a bit, so stick with us.
Saskatoon was quite a bit cooler than expected. We walked around in a few different neighborhoods and had a couple of decent beers and some poutine! What could possibly be better than potatoes, gravy and cheese? There was even a cool bookstore on Broadway called Changing Tides or something. That night, we stayed at a campground called George Howe that advertises being “downtown”, but really it’s just outside of the city. It was nice enough, though.
Next morning, we decided that it’s time to hit the TCAT again. So we did some internetting at a coffee shop to jot down a few notes about the trail and hit the road around noon. Stopped in a small town about an hour south of Saskatoon for provisions (food and wine) and set out onto the trail.
[PIC - Hitchhiker on the TCAT]
This is the part where it slows down a bit. The blue line on the Garmin, representing the TCAT, took us to a dirt access road that followed a rather large and deep irrigation channel. At first glance, the dirt seemed dry, almost dusty. Driving on it proved otherwise. The deceptively dry looking mud had us slippin and slidin within inches of the drop off into said irrigation channel, and it was getting sloppier. We attempted to come to a stop and slid for a few feet when Brian said, “yeah, maybe we should turn around.” So we backtracked to the main road to find another route to access the trail.
A few miles up the road, we came to a point at which we could get back on the trail. From there, we drove roughly 50 miles in about two and a half hours. Most of the trail was gravel road or packed dirt. The rest was completely under water. Every road we took was either “Road Closed” or just disappeared into a lake created by the most recent storms.
We backtracked and turned around and took alternate routes so many times that we were literally driving in circles just to stay on the trail. Very frustrating. It was getting late, so we opted for a main road and a sweet little campspot at the Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park. There, we purchased the most expensive (but much needed) sick pack of cheap beer we will ever buy again.
As it got darker, the locals got louder. A few “ladies” were frequenting the bathrooms located roughly 20 yards away from our campsite. They were very drunk and very rowdy and one of them sounded like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. At one point, during one of their many trips by our spot, “Bill” shouted, “It’s not my fault you’re camping next to the toilet! That’s what we do as Canadians, we get loud!” It was like something from the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Saskatchewan. We laughed politely and waved.
But hey, look! Free firewood! Canada aint so bad.
Alright, let’s speed it back up a little bit. The next day we decided to take a day off, so we stopped in Medicine Hat at a nice bar with a great patio and legit IPAs on tap. Decided to have two and acquired a nice little afternoon buzz.
Booked a spot at a local campground and went out for a night on the town. Unfortunately, we struck out finding a cool spot for dinner and drinks, so we ate at a local establishment called Boston Pizza. Local in that it was only 10 min. away from where we were sleeping that night.
Bought wine and fire wood.
It immediately started raining.
Went to bed early.
Wake up and drive a couple hours to Calgary in search of beer and poutine for lunch. Found a great bar near downtown called Broken City Social Club. They had several craft beers on tap (something hard to find in Canada) and their poutine wasn’t bad either. With a half buzz and full bellies, we headed west.
We found a campground not far from Calgary, and pretty close to the TCAT, just outside of a small town called Bragg Creek. A handful of years ago, Bragg Creek experienced a “100 Year Flood” that wiped out pretty much everything. Then, last year while rebuilding, experienced yet another “100 Year Flood”. This small hamlet refuses to be washed away and is rebuilding yet again. New roads. New storefronts. New everything.
Our first morning at the campground, we woke up to lousy weather, cold and rainy. We decided to head to the local coffee shop instead of making coffee in the rain. The jeep was attracting quite a bit of attention parked out front and a couple of the locals decided to stop in and ask whose jeep it was.
They were Tom Walker and his son. Tom is a local photographer who does quite a bit of work for the oil and gas industry. Tom is also a fellow traveler and very personable. After talking for just a few minutes, he gives us directions to his house and insists that we camp on his property for as long as we like.
We spent four nights camping at Tom’s, parked next to a long retired Land Rover. These would be our only nights in Canada that weren’t expensive and our longest stop in the whole country. Tom filled us in on all of the local sights to see and how to find them. We took a day trip east to Drumheller, which is apparently one of the largest dinosaur fossil sites in the world. Hiked around there for a bit and went to the museum. Well worth the trip.
[PIC - Carley climbing up a very steep dirt hill.] [PIC - Largest Dinosaur in the World!]
On our last day in Bragg Creek, Tom took us out to do some cool shots of the jeep. He also wanted to get some shots with us in them, which we were not prepared for. Several days of no showers and same clothes does not make for a good impromptu photo shoot. We were grateful nonetheless and ended up with some decent shots.
From Bragg Creek, we headed north towards Banff. This was the part of Canada that we were most excited about. After several unsuccessful attempts at driving the TCAT we decided to abandon the trail until Vancouver Island. As we approached Banff, the city, we entered Banff National Park. The entrance fee was about $25, but if we were just passing through, we wouldn’t need to pay. We opted to just pass through the town of Banff, making sure not to stop at the risk of getting a ticket and then moved on. Then we passed by Lake Louise, and once again, couldn’t stop because we didn’t have a pass. Then we came to a checkpoint where we were forced to purchase a pass anyways, even though we were headed out of the park. Arguing was pointless; we had to pay.
After that, we decided to backtrack to Lake Louise and check it out. It was stunning, the brightest turquoise blue we had ever seen water. Lake Louise was worth the price of the pass alone. It made us feel a bit foolish for not paying in the first place and a bit lucky for getting to experience it.
[PIC - Lake Louise]
From there we headed north to Bow Glacier. The only way to walk out on the glacier is to join an expensive tour, but you’re still able to hike right up to it for free. There were markers along the trail showing how far the glacier had receded over the last 100 years, and it’s still shrinking rapidly. It’s obvious that the it wont be around forever. From there, it was North on the Icefields Parkway, past more glaciers and other stunning views.
There are very few places we’ve been where the natural beauty can compare with that of the Colorado Rockies. This portion of British Columbia is one of those places. The mountains and cliffs are a bit more severe and the color of the water borders on unbelievable. This is a beautiful place and shouldn’t be missed.
That night we made camp at the Rushing River Campground and had a very cold night’s sleep.
Woke up, made coffee, and headed to Jasper. We needed to do laundry and shower and knew there was a KOA in town so we decided to get one of their small cabins and catch up on the blog (that we then slacked on, which is why we’re sitting on a beach in Mexico writing about Canada).