I was feeling sad while leaving the Canadian Rockies.
Reaching the mountains had been my goal of this entire adventure and I’d accomplished it. They were everything I’d hoped they would be, and more. But what was next? I hadn’t put much thought into things I’d wanted to see or do after I explored Banff and I was feeling a little lost as to what I should try to tackle next.
One thing was certain; I was missing my tent. I was itching to pitch my tent as it’d been since the Tetons in Wyoming when I’d last enjoyed camping. Some storms in Montana kept me from tent camping in Glacier National Park and most of the campsites in the National Parks throughout the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Yoho, and Jasper) were all closed for the winter. So I’d been staying in shelter throughout my time in Canada.
I stayed a full week in an adorable cabin basement apartment called “The Gopher” during my time in Banff and grew to love my little home. With my location being walking distance to the Visitor Center, bars, restaurants, and grocery store located on Banff Avenue (Banff’s main street that runs the entirety of the downtown center), it was the perfect home base.
Aside from great hiking around Lake Louise, another thing I loved about the Banff area was the hot springs. Ever since my vacation in Japan with my mother and obachan (the Japanese word for “grandmother”) I’ve had a serious obsession with soaking in the hot springs.
The naturally hot mineral water from the mountains has a relaxing effect on the body that I feel all people should experience. Visiting the baths is a social experience in Japan and deeply apart of the culture with locals. It’s not unusual for the Japanese to go to the baths and soak every weekend with their friends, coworkers, or family.
Come to find out, it’s like that in Canada too. In addition to the many tourists (there were lots of us in Banff) there were plenty of locals at the Banff Upper Hot Springs, located on Sulfur Mountain. The biggest difference between soaking in Canada and Japan is nudity. I much prefer soaking naked (color me a free spirit). And this is only something I’ve found at the Japanese onsens (the Japanese word for “hot springs”) or other Asian style bath houses.
My stay in Jasper was equally as accommodating and provided me with warmth from the below zero temperatures. While in Jasper it was clear I was in relaxation mode but I did a bit of celebrating too. I could feel myself giving me a pat-on-the-back for accomplishing this huge goal (reaching and exploring Banff) that I’d committed so much energy, time, and resources.
Aside from the one night of boozing in Banff, I hadn’t ventured out to any of the bars near the US National Parks. So while in Jasper I became well acquainted with my new favorite beer (Blueberry Vanilla Ale from Jasper Brewing) and visited with locals and tourists alike. Becoming chummy with the half-Italian stud of a bartender kept me at the same bar stool for hours on end.
While my butt remained firmly stuck to the stool I’d call home through the evening, I carried on conversation with a couple of young guys next to me. Of course with me in my drunken state began a lecture on the importance of hard work, not selling drugs, and education. Clearly this was extremely sexy on my part because one of them, a 19-year-old Quebec boy, stole a kiss from me upon his departure for the evening.
After the young, newly lectured boys left, a couple traveling companions from Ontario took their places. We were old friends in no time and met up the following evening at the same place for comedy night. The Traveling Companions from Ontario enlightened me about Canadian culture and gave me an insider’s perspective I hadn’t had previously.
I learned from them that real estate in Canada is at a premium right now. Buying a lakeside cottage for weekend or summer trips was once a normal and expected tradition for Canadians but is now becoming unattainable for those newly out of university. I also learned about the impact the media is having on the opinions of Canadians in regards to the United States. Overall Canadians aren’t used to the gun laws that are in effect in the United States, and with the media painting a “Wild Wild West” type scene, have fears about encountering large numbers of Americans carrying guns in public.
My time in the Canadian Rockies was both memorable and fun! But all good times must come to an end and my adventure is far from over. There are plenty of beautiful, now snowy, sights to see on the road from Alberta to British Columbia, so I packed up my tubs (I no longer have luggage, I now cart around my belongings in plastic tubs and grocery bags) to continue my journey.
Taking the road north of Jasper proved to be an equally beautiful drive to the Icefields Parkway and I got to experience some winter road conditions as well. There are numerous signs stating mandatory use of “winter tires” to be in effect starting October 1, so during a routine all-traffic police stop, the cop asked me if I had mud and snow tires. After letting him know that unfortunately the only tires I have on me are the ones on my car, being from Texas and all, he ultimately let me pass. But I realized he was right in that I truly needed better equipped tires. On that east bound drive I faced sleet, rain, snow, and weird freakish fog (I could barely see 10 feet beyond my hood). Driving in the winter weather was dicey at times but it was also really fun. I discovered a love for a new favorite past-time…making snow yellow.