Summer has been pretty good so far as my parents and I just came back from our week-long trip to Canada. I had just finished 9th grade a few days before we left, so this vacation was a great way to get some R&R after the finals. Read on to find out what we did!
Our adventures began with a close call: the three of us had barely left our street when I realized we had forgotten to bring our music CDs. I figured it wasn't a big deal, but Dad insisted on going back to retrieve them. Upon returning to our house, we could not believe our eyes: the garage door was left wide open. It's a good thing we went back to get those CDs - heaven knows what would have happened if we hadn't.
The flight to Spokane was only about two hours long, so we had an entire afternoon free. The three of us rented a white Nissan Pathfinder at the airport, and it was time to hit the road. First on our itinerary was Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. This was actually two parks in one: Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. We took numerous pictures here as the views of the Rocky Mountains were just beautiful.
At the gift shop of one of the visitor centers, my parents bought an album called Going to the Sun by Orange Tree Productions. The tracks on the CD featured a combination of musical instruments and natural sounds. It was very relaxing; I'm surprised more people don't enjoy this type of music.
One of my old teachers once told me about a sulfur spring in Glacier National Park because she knew I loved thermal features. However, my parents and I looked everywhere and could find no such spring. I think Joan may have gotten confused between Glacier and Yellowstone because she visited both parks on the same trip - and that was many years ago - but we still greatly appreciated her tip.
As evening neared, the three of us arrived at our hotel in Lethbridge. It's been a busy day for sure!
Vegetarians and PETA members may want to skip this part: our first stop of the day was Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, located near Fort MacLeod. The name is a dead giveaway that this place was no Disneyland for buffalo. To be specific, it was one of the sites where the Plains Indians hunted entire herds of buffalo at once. The Indians did this by driving them off a 10-metre cliff, which broke their legs and incapacitated them. The buffalo were then slaughtered and butchered. Yeah, it's pretty brutal.
Back on the road, our next stop was Calgary. One thing that killed the mood when my mother ran over a prairie dog along the way. This didn't come as a complete surprise because there were a bunch of them darting back and forth across the road, and we had actually seen around eight or nine other dead prairie dogs. Those critters were everywhere. Still, Mom felt kind of bad about the whole thing. :-(
Our main purpose of coming to Calgary was to visit the Chinese Cultural Centre. The featured exhibit was the partial replica of the Terracotta Army that accompanied emperor Qin Shi Huang in his tomb. From what I've heard, the original Terracotta Army contained over 8,000 sculptures. It's pretty impressive, if you ask me. The three of us also went to Calgary's Chinatown, although we didn't spend too much time there as it wasn't that interesting.
I had also hoped to go to Edmonton to check out West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping centre in the world. Regrettably, this side trip was not possible as Edmonton was too far away. I guess that's something we'll have to consider should we visit Canada again.
Continuing on, we arrived in Canmore about an hour later. The light rain and the valley mist made it a very beautiful place. Canmore is truly one of the most special places I've ever been to. This was definitely the most memorable part of our trip.
Just west of Canmore was a complex of four national parks: Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay. The whole place was very large, but we still got to visit many points of interest, such as the iconic Lake Louise in Banff and Athabasca Falls in Jasper. I'm not a big fan of waterfalls, but Athabasca Falls was just amazing.
Another interesting feature was a cold spring next to the road. I can't exactly remember where we saw the spring, but it was probably in or near Jasper National Park. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the one Joan was telling me about. It was nothing more than a bubbling pool of mineral water, but I nonetheless thought it was a cool (no pun intended) sight. Call me weird, but I've always been fascinated by water bubbling up from the ground.
At one of the gift shops, my parents bought another CD by Orange Tree Productions called The Sounds of the Canadian Rockies. I personally liked Going to the Sun better, although this one was also very enjoyable.
Our hotel for the night was Sunwapta Falls Resort, located in the heart of Jasper National Park. The surrounding woods were just so peaceful. Mom thought this was the best hotel of the trip; I couldn't agree more!
The three of us woke up early in the morning, so we went for a short stroll around the hotel before heading back in for breakfast. The air was very fresh, which made it a great way to start the day.
Other than that, my parents and I mostly explored parts of Banff and Jasper that we hadn't seen yet. Because we had already been to most of the major stops, my family spent much of the day hiking on the trails. All of us love hiking, so it worked out perfectly.
Next on our itinerary was Kootenay National Park, which was very similar to Banff and Jasper. The highlight of the place was a group of natural springs called the Paint Pots. Unlike the cold spring we had seen two days before, these ones didn't really bubble. It would have been hard to tell they were springs if it weren't for the brightly-colored mineral deposits.
The three of us then headed west to Field. The weather was kind of warm, so we stopped at one of the shops for some ice cream. It was certainly a refreshing treat. Our next destination would have been Revelstoke Lake as we had planned to see the namesake Revelstoke Dam. However, the lake was much farther than expected, so Dad decided to turn back - but not before we stopped at a diner in one of the small towns along the way for dinner.
We arrived at our hotel in Invermere after another long drive. The route wasn't actually that long, but the many sluggish drivers we had encountered greatly slowed us down. The fact that there were few passing lanes didn't help the issue. There was this old guy who was so slow that even the trucks were gaining up on him. He turned away just as we got to the hotel, which obviously didn't help much!
My parents went shopping for groceries after dinner. As much as I enjoy going to stores, I was too lazy to drag my ass to the supermarket, so I stayed at the hotel to watch Titan A.E. instead. I had always wanted to see that movie, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Due to Invermere's high latitude and the date being so close to the summer solstice, it was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time the Sun went down. I could hardly believe the day was over.
I woke up with a bad itch. At first I thought it was allergies, but it soon became apparent that I had several bug bites. Not fun. Dad figured our bed wasn't fully cleaned, so we reported it to the hotel staff. However, the maintenance guy couldn't find anything in the bed sheets, and management just kind of blew it off. Dad is actually considering filing a complaint in the next few days.
In any case, there were still so many places to see, the first of which was the nearby Windermere Lake. It wasn't as pretty as the lakes in the parks by any means, but we still enjoyed strolling along the shore.
The three of us then headed to Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park. One of the main attractions of the park was Lussier Hot Springs, where we went in for a soak. It took quite a while to get there, but it was definitely worth the drive. The unpaved road was very uneven, and I was afraid the jagged rocks would damage the tires on the SUV. Much to our relief, the tires survived, and we didn't have to worry about having to explain to the car rental agency.
Fort Steele Heritage Town was our next stop. There were very few things to do here, but we still took some photos before we left. It wasn't long until we reached the Alberta-Montana border. Before going through customs, my family went shopping at the nearby duty-free store due to its low prices. I bought a box of maple creme cookies, which were quite good - albeit a bit sweet.
It was fairly late when we got back to Spokane, so the first thing we did after arriving was to go hunting for restaurants. One place we where initially decided to eat was a Chinese diner in a remote corner of the city. But the menu selection was very limited, so at Mom's suggestion, the three of us ditched the place and went somewhere else to eat. Mom felt a little guilty about this, so we left a small tip at the Chinese diner anyway.
This was the last day of the trip, but there was lots of free time as we got up fairly early in the morning. Our flight was in the afternoon, so we took the opportunity to explore downtown Spokane. We also window shopped at the airport stores while waiting for our flight. After everything was said and done, it was time to fly back to San Francisco.
Uncle Harrison picked us up at SFO and gave us a ride home. Mom was too tired to do any cooking, so my parents and I went to Mountain Mike's Pizza for dinner. This was certainly a nice bonus in addition to our vacation.
Canada is truly one of the most scenic countries in the world. As a nature lover, I enjoyed every part of this trip - minus the bug bites at the hotel in Invermere. I'd say my favorite part of our vacation was Canmore; it was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.
Canada would be among my first choices if I were to move to another country. The downside is that it doesn't have too many big cities, meaning it would probably get lonely from time to time. But at least it makes for great family trips!
Currently listening to: Going to the Sun by Orange Tree Productions