RSS

Category Archives: Travel

Cross Canada- Day 15+16

Sat. Sept. 12, 2020
Iron Bridge, ON to Collingwood, ON

Breakfast was so nice and relaxing, sitting on the screened-in porch playing ACNH and eating the pecan danish I had (smartly) purchased the day before for breakfast. Even if I didn’t have coffee, which would have made it perfect. The guy in the cottage next door was out on the dock fishing even though it was raining. At the Timmie’s in Blind River I got a pumpkin spice latte and walking back to the car I saw that there was a produce stand across the street. I got potatoes, zucchini and corn. Alas they didn’t have leafy greens. The perks of driving home from vacation are that I can load up the car. We stopped in Sudbury at the Big Nickel but for some reason I did not think it was as cool as the big loonie, even though this one was actually made of the same material and more renowned. The Science Centre where the nickel was situated was also closed. The car was really struggling at this point, stressing us both out. We just had to make it back. We had one final stop at Tim Horton’s, where they had a DQ that was closed (argh!), before getting to Collingwood where we overnighted. Sunday Sept. 13 was spent driving home, going very slowly down the DVP and just hoping that the car would make it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel

 

Cross Canada- Day 14

Fri. Sept. 11, 2020
Schreiber, ON to Iron Bridge, ON

The pizza which we had haphazardly crammed into the fridge was too frozen for my liking. There was NOTHING on TV. At least I had a chocolate Pop Tart to assuage me. We stopped at Aguasabon Falls & Gorge. It was very pretty but the early sun was right above the horizon, the sun was right in our eyes. The pictures didn’t do justice to the view: the waterfall down to the river between the gorge and the lake off in the distance. We only had one activity planned for the day: see the giant loonie monument.

Playing ACNH in the car I realized that the previous day Redd had been at my island I had forgotten to go back for art, the game was starting to fade for me.

We stopped at Tim Horton’s in Wawa, I needed a big cup of tea. Even still, the driving slowly lulled me to sleep. As per usual I suppose.  We stopped in Sault Ste Marie for a late lunch and we picked up a pizza for dinner as well. We had no idea what our dinner options would be in Iron Bridge and who could say no to Toppers Pizza?  Especially when I could order ahead and just pick it up. Mr. Sub really hit the spot and I was becoming a convert. I was also craving ice cream but we had already passed two DQ’s and the timing had not worked out. I was seriously considering going into the gas station at our next fill-up to get an ice cream bar. My case was not helped by dehydration.

The loonie monument was in Echo Bay and it wasn’t much of a detour. It was good to get out and stretch, plus I am a sucker for giant things. We were staying in tiny lakeside cottages just outside of Iron Bridge. It just sucked that it was a smidge too cold for sitting outside. We tried for a bit but then had to retreat back indoors after we finished eating pizza. It was a classic cottage and made me nostalgic for Tiny, a small bedroom, an old plaid fabric couch, fake wood-panel walls and a curtain instead of a door. We drove to LCBO but it was closed, apparently small town LCBOs close at 6pm.

The sky over the lake at sunset was very pretty. I stepped out to look at it and take a picture but it was too cold and there was good TV on. We had Frasier, Jeopardy and Seinfeld. There was basketball on at 9pm so I switched over to ACNH because there was a meteor shower happening. I multi-tasked and read my book only clicking for stars and praying no scorpions showed up (unless I was looking, then yes please by all means step into my net). I tried to shower but it was horrible (classic cottage!), it was super hot then it was super cold. It was impossible to manage, add to that the fact that there were no towels. It was rough.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel

 

Cross Canada- Day 13

Thurs. Sept. 10, 2020
Thunder Bay, ON to Schreiber, ON

I woke up at 8:44am and rushed and scrambled- I needed coffee and breakfast was not served after 9am! I resorted to eating my yogurt with a fork because there was no spoon in the bag and I didn’t have a spare one in my purse. I was so glad I had stopped at that fruit stand, fresh fruit for breakfast was such a rarity on this trip. It was still too cold outside so we bummed around the hotel for a little bit, I had time to read and futz about on the internet.

We drove to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. We stopped at the parking lot of one of the smaller trailheads because the sign said we could get parking permits there (good thing we did, I saw them checking later). The trail was 11km one-way, aka no-way for me. I went as far as my legs would take me which was around 5km and then I turned around while Brent went on. On the way we had seen a small group of young ground birds (pheasants? grouses?), they were all walking around peeping, it was very cute. They weren’t sure what to do about us traipsing through. They were still there on my way back, still peeping. I saw a woodpecker doing his thing, hammering away at a tree, looking for a snack. I passed a squirrel sitting on a stump, as soon as he saw me, he just started screaming at me, he even started to run towards me. He was so aggressive. After a long while of walking I started to doubt myself, had I somehow managed to get lost on this turn-around-and-walk-straight-back-the-way-you-came trail?? I didn’t have cell service so I couldn’t bring up a map and just as I was really starting to doubt myself, I saw the entrance to the trail.

I settled down on a picnic bench, I had my notebook and the Switch and a semi-cold Okanagan cider. I could hear rustling in the woods behind me and there was a squirrel eyeballing me and I legit considered moving after my last experience. I really thought Brent would take longer but it only took him 4-hours round trip. That just cemented my “nope” feelings about the whole trail. Especially hearing about the steep parts later on.

Leaving the park, we saw a fox walking along the side of the road. Brent slowed down and rolled my window down but I was too slow grabbing my camera and I missed my opportunity. The fox, unafraid of people, was now approaching the cars on the other side of the road. It was sad to see. We stopped in Nipigon to (finally!) see the smallest Canadian Tire. I was unimpressed, it was bolstered on either side by a garden centre and an auto centre. That was cheating, I wanted one tiny squat building. It looked too big and was kind of a let-down. We stopped at the overlook on the edge of town. There was a staircase up to an overlook but it was those metal stairs that are more like grating and you can see through them. It was a slow panicky climb to the top. From the top we had a view of the Nipigon River and landscape that inspired the Group of Seven painters. They even had a fake easel set up in the grass with an information panel.

We didn’t pass any food on the way to Schreiber. Google said that there was a KFC + Pizza Hut combo in Schreiber but when we pulled up it was a motel. I was ready to give up but Brent pointed out that there was a Pizza Hut. It was a tiny little outpost sharing space with the motel lobby. THIS was more impressive small-size-wise than the Canadian Tire. There was no KFC but that was ok, their version of a “famous” chicken sandwich could wait. We ordered the meat lovers pizza but they were out of bacon so she offered extra pepperonis. It was also the busiest one-person Pizza Hut I had ever seen. We placed our order and headed down the road to check in to our hotel. Continuing in the small-town vein, our motel check-in was actually in convenience store adjoining the motel. At least I found cookies & cream Twix and birthday cake Hershey’s and some soda while Brent checked in, so it was convenient. From afar our motel looked more like the Pizza Hut (red pointed roof) than the actual Pizza Hut. We barely rolled into the parking lot. The car had started giving us trouble, randomly shutting off and flashing warning lights on the panel. We were so close to being done vacation it just had to get us back.

It took a bit of finagling to get the cable to work (I had to change some inputs on the TV). We were eating super cheesy pizza while watching You Gotta Eat Here about deep-dish pizza in Hamilton. It was borderline too much to handle, especially as I was getting full of pizza. After that we watched Frasier and Seinfeld, with reading during commercials. I finally got my tea fix, we had a coffee maker in the room and I had remembered to bring in my tea. The apple spice tea from Banff was perfect. It was frustrating but I finally beat Bowser in Mario Odyssey. A lot of swearing but in the end I did it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel

 

Cross Canada- Day 12

Day 12: Wed. Sept. 9, 2020
Winnipeg, MB to Thunder Bay, ON

Driving through Winnipeg, while it had some rough parts, was actually really nice. We drove by the legislature and through downtown.

We were almost caught up on Giant Beast Cast and Giant Bomb podcasts so Brent downloaded some Comedy Bang Bang episodes he thought I might like and so he tricked me into listening to the Monster F*ck. I was suspicious why he had chosen an episode that had guests I’d never heard of (as opposed to someone like Jason Manzoukas, who I like). It was only when they got to the song that I realized I had been played.

ONTARIO!!!

We stopped in Kenora instead of taking the by-pass. I finally got to see Huskie the Muskie. It was not what I was expecting, I thought it was going to be a replica of a real fish that had been caught. Not a “keep our lake clean” gimmick. It was not the legendary fish I had been hoping for. I mean it was a really pretty lake but come on! Searching for somewhere to have lunch I saw on the map that there was a place called Bob’s Burgers. We had to go there! We got there right at open and the tables were already filled and it was all locals. No distancing, few masks. It was a tight space and not that comfortable. My only thoughts were: the food is almost ready then we can get out of here. We had to get the “bob” burger, it was pretty good but Brent’s burger was way better it had lettuce and good smoky bacon. The fries were total burger joint fries, it made me nostalgic for childhood and going out for lunch.

On the Giant Bomb podcast, they were talking about how you can get a framed photo of your villagers in ACNH and I just kept shouting WAIT WHAT!? No one told me about this! I would have been nicer! I couldn’t resist, I had to play in the car. I had to get to the bottom of this. It didn’t last long. Sleep soon overtook me, apparently, I was even snoring? The non-existent Shell station dashed my hopes of Sunny D (my latest craving) and a quick leg stretch. Soon we were back in Eastern standard time, goodbye to those two hours we had gained on our trip.

It was a long day of driving and somehow, I was tired even though we hadn’t really done anything. Losing that last hour also made me (inexplicably) sleepier. We were staying in a literal courthouse, I thought that was just the name of the hotel but nope it had formerly been courts. We were staying I what I imagine were once judge’s chambers. We wandered around a bit and poked our head into the courtroom (now the dining room during normal times). The stupid vending machine was sold out of almost everything and I had to settle for diet Pepsi. The sun was starting to slowly set, right at angle to blast me in the face as I tried to sit on the bed. It was not good for my mild headache that I was trying to keep at bay. We ordered from Man vs Meat on Skip The Dishes, another best of. We split a Caesar salad, Brent had a chicken parm and I had a Christmas turkey sandwich. The turkey sandwich was ok, the stuffing was a bit soggy and the turkey was lost in the cranberries. The real winner was the Caesar salad (or I was desperate for veg?). Our TV had no guide and the channels didn’t match the descriptions. In the middle of watching something the channel became unavailable, it was irritating. I finished reading The Husband’s Secret (I’m ashamed how long it took me) and started on Pretty Bitches. I alternated playing Mario Odyssey but I got mad at the underground lava level on the moon and had to stop playing. It was a headachey sleep that night.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel

 

Cross Canada- Day 11

Tues. Sept. 8, 2020
Regina, SK to Winnipeg, MB

It was our last chance to say: “that’s it, back to Winnipeg!” I was going to walk to the Tim Hortons down the street but it was zero degrees outside- NOPE. I love coffee but it could wait. We were going to drive to downtown Regina, there would have to be a little coffeeshop right? The first one I googled had shut down. But there would at least be a Starbucks? The “downtown” was barely discernible from the surrounding area. We navigated to a Starbucks in a Hilton but it too was closed.  There was another one on the way to Spirit Sands Provincial Park in Manitoba. But it was in a grocery store and not open. At least there was a Tim Hortons in the same plaza so I was saved. They only had vanilla yogurt so I settled for a raisin bran muffin. We passed yet another Starbucks but it was a plaza still being developed… except the Starbucks was open! Ah well. We stopped at a gas station and got some road snacks: hot wings Doritos, peanut butter OMG clusters and Starburst duos.

MANITOBA!!!

We stayed in the same hotel in Winnipeg as we had earlier. I had forgotten the tea I bought in Banff in the car so I settled for the in-room English breakfast. We placed an order on Skip The Dishes for a burger, brisket sandwich and smoked rib chowder from Brazea Hall (which was on a best of Winnipeg list). The food was a bit heavy but the chowder really hit a spot, it tasted so Polish.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 10

Mon. Sept. 7, 2020 (Labour Day:
Calgary, AB to Regina, SK

At some point in the night Brent had gotten up and gone to sleep in the other bed. In the morning he had no idea why. There weren’t any good coffee options and I would have to hold out until early lunch when we planned on stopping in Medicine Hat at the mall parking lot where they had a Wendy’s and a Tim Hortons. Apparently, Wendy’s isn’t open at 10am. I was a bit confused at Timmies, why don’t they have the bagels visible? I had to ask what all my options were and soon as I heard cinnamon, I asked for it, having accidentally mixed it up with the French toast bagel that I actually wanted (but didn’t know if they had). They did the worst toasting job on that bagel ever. It was just warm enough to melt the butter but it had no crunch on the outside, just awful. The iced coffee was necessary, I was so sleepy. The apple pie Kit Kat was kind of weird but kind of good. On the way we had passed the world’s (or just Canada’s? just Alberta’s?) biggest teepee but we could see it perfectly well from the road so that was enough.

SASKATCHEWAN!!!

We stopped for lunch in Moose Jaw. We tried to go to Dairy Queen but it was closed- and they were ice cream only, no grill, so even if it had been open, we would still have to find another lunch option. Driving to the Moose Jaw tunnels we saw a Mr. Sub down the street- lunch plans saved! While we drove around Moose Jaw, I was wondering why I had no memories of it from earlier in our trip? Then I remembered: we had stayed in that hotel just off the highway and hadn’t gone into town. There were lots of nice murals around town and they had a really cute little main street. We could see nothing of the Moose Jaw tunnels, we weren’t even really sure where it was? In the old train station? No matter, it was time for lunch.

The turkey & cheddar sub really hit the spot, I was so happy (!!) to be eating vegetables. We drove across the street to Timmies, tea and a fresh blueberry donut. This was shaping up to be a great lunch. We drove to the Saskatchewan legislature in Regina. It was a very pretty building with beautiful curated grounds and gardens and across from Wascana Lake. The only downside was the cold breeze coming off the lake. It was single digits and I was not happy. On the way back to the car we saw Jollibee bags in the trash: dinner plans were settled. I mean, we would check for other top food options but I was pretty set in my choice.

We were staying at the Wyndham and when we checked in, they gave us a welcome package: a bottle of water, a mini hand-sanitizer, lip balm and a mini chocolate. It was a nice gesture. We settled in and watched Best Thing I Ever Ate All-Stars, it was great because chefs were talking about food and they had some contestants from the season of Top Chef we are currently watching. We walked to the liquor store across the street but the only single ciders they had were Somersby’s, the basic ones which is even worse. I couldn’t resist going to the DQ next door, I would finally have my Blizzard fix!! It was the perfect opportunity, it was right there and it was open. The snack size Oreo mocha fudge was everything I had dreamed it would be. I ate half then stored the rest in the fridge while we waited for our DoorDash order from Jollibee. The fried chicken was ok, the real winner for me was the spaghetti with cut up hot dog pieces (which sounds weird but is really good). Watching Frasier and drinking cider made for a great evening. The watermelon cider from BC was not good but the Scenic Road Cider Co. pear cider was the best perry I had ever had!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2020 in Travel

 

Cross Canada- Day 9

Sun. Sept. 6, 2020:
Jasper to Calgary, AB

I woke up at 6:30am which was before sunrise, yay! I would be able to get some beautiful mountain sunrise photos. By 7am it was still dark outside, that did not bode well for my plans. The sun was supposed to rise at 7:12am, it should not be this dark. The plan was to walk over to Bear Paw Bakery for breakfast and coffee. As soon as I opened our door, I saw why it was dark: it was raining. I ran back inside to change my outfit and leave my DSLR. I grabbed my rain shell from the car and changed into my waterproof hiking shoes. It was actually a pretty nice walk, the ground was wet but it wasn’t raining. They had fair-trade organic coffee which was so good! I couldn’t remember the last time id had a really good cup of coffee, probably the last day at home before vacation. I ordered a raspberry lemon danish and a chocolate croissant. The namesake bear paw looked too big and thick for a pastry roll and it was just unappetizing. It was only later while writing in my notebook that I realized why I had been so unimpressed, I had mixed it up with bear claw and I had been expecting something closer to a crueller than a mutant giant danish.

Last night we had researched Goats & Glaciers lookout to confirm if it was just called that or if there was substance to the name. Apparently, goats really do go there because there are naturally occurring minerals there and they go to lick the rocks. Now I was really hoping we would have luck: how great would that be to see goats licking rocks?! The chocolate croissant was meh, it was not buttery and did not melt in my mouth. The chocolate was rich but only concentrated in some parts so my bites were uneven. We stopped again at the lookout and you could smell the typical barnyard smell. As we approached, we were sure we could see goats. Maybe goats don’t like rain? It was a letdown.

We stopped for another view of the Columbia Ice Field because it was a slightly different angle and the scene was now different, instead of bright blue skies there were low hanging clouds. At the Howse Pass scenic overlook we saw the North Saskatchewan River and had beautiful mountain views with nice clouds- but still no goats.

The driving lulled me to sleep, which wasn’t hard given I had not slept too well (thanks cider, I had gone a little too hard with four tall cans and a regular- oops). I was twitching and my mouth was gaping open. The salted caramel Milky Way was what I needed to wake me up. I was in desperate need of a stop at a “human gas station” (that is how tired I was, that I wrote that in my notebook) aka Starbucks and refuel.

We stopped in the town of Banff. We had to park in a large parking lot that was a 10-minute walk away from the town centre. That was fine by me, there was a Starbucks in town that mobile ordering so it would work out perfectly. We stopped in at a gas station for bathrooms and snacks. I placed my order and we could immediately see why we had to park in that lot instead of in town. All the roads were torn up and being rebuilt, there were times we were walking on dirt.

The Starbucks was crammed full of people, it was like everyone had the same idea. Even with the ordering ahead, I still had to wait. We walked along the two main roads, all the storefronts were done in the style of ski chalets. I couldn’t resist shopping at the Rocky Mountain Soap Co, and at Banff Tea. On our way out of town we stopped at a liquor store (as you do on vacation) and they had a habanero cider but it was $13 for a bottle?! Way too much for something that might be atrocious. Back in the parking lot, the car next to ours also had Ontario plates and they cheered and we had a short conversation about travelling across Canada being just about the only thing one can do for vacation during these crazy times. They somehow had three and a half weeks of vacation!

In Calgary we stopped at a European deli because all of the other Polish stores were closed on Sundays. I didn’t find any sól ziołowa or Polish newspapers (for my dad) but I did find cukier waniliowy which I had run out of a while ago. They also didn’t have a bakery section so my dreams of pączki for lunch were dashed. We drove to Pearce Estate for views of the Calgary skyline and the Bow River but all we could see was the river, which was running alongside the highway at this part. Not very scenic. So far, I was not impressed with Calgary.

We drove closer to downtown and walked around a parkade which was nice because it was closed off to cars. But there was no one around, it was a ghost town (and I think it was pride weekend based on the banners and signs). While walking we placed an order for pickup from Native Tongues for some tacos and a burrito and guac & chips. They appeared on a bunch of best of lists so we had high hopes. It had been way busier in the neighbourhood just out of downtown, we had seen a huge line of at least ten people waiting to get into of all things, a spice store. It was bizarrely hipster. We passed by a David’s Tea and for a brief moment I thought it might still be open (they had recently shut down almost all their stores). It was not. By the end of our walk I felt like I had gotten my fill of Calgary and there was no real need to come back. I was not impressed and I didn’t really like it.

Continuing in the spirit of let-downs. The chicken taco was meh, the pork tasted like beef and the beef was too salty. Whoever assembled the pork burrito should not be allowed to assemble any more. It was the worst burrito assembly I had ever seen. All of the meat and the sauce were in the first half, causing a messy disintegrating soggy mess. The rice, guac and tomatoes were crammed into the little bottom corner of it. It was really awful. Even the tomatillo salsa was too salty. The only good part of the whole meal was the chips & guac, but it wasn’t outstanding by any stretch of the imagination.

We had reached the halfway point in the trip. Meaning it was laundry time. I was really mad. There were only two machines for the whole (airport) hotel. You would think there would be more? One person had abandoned their clothes, the other machine still had some time. I came back. They had not. I came back again, no change. So, I took the clothes out of the more recently abandoned machine and put mine in. When I came back, neither load had been claimed so I put the clothes back in the machine as if nothing ever happened. By the time I had come back for my clothes from the dryer, the first machine had still been forgotten. This person had left their clothes in the washing machine for more than two hours! That is just bad etiquette and so rude. On one of my many trips, I had passed some kids who were crying because their 30-minutes in the pool were up. You had to book a time slot to use the pool. Their desperate parents bribed the kids with the promise of a bubble bath back in the hotel room.

Laundry done, I could finally relax. We were watching a new show called Martha Stewart’s Bakeaway Camp. At first, I was not impressed but by the end I was taking notes of all the baking tips. Between that and Chopped and Wall of Chefs, it really made us appreciate what a good show Top Chef really is. I didn’t realize when I grabbed it that the Old Rosie unfiltered cider was actually from the UK, so much for drinking local. Soon our good run of TV ended, and we didn’t even get TLC or W Network and for some reason Much Music was actually a movie channel?? We ended up being too full for an evening pizza as had originally been the plan.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 4, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 8

Sat. Sept. 5, 2020:
Lake Louise, AB to Jasper, AB

I was sleeping so well, I slept in a bit later than usual. We packed up the car and headed down to Lake Louise for one last look. The in-room coffee was horrible, nothing can replace milk in my coffee. I even tried adding sugar to counteract the powdered CoffeeMate. I had a few sips to tide me over and dumped the rest in the ditch. There was no social distancing whatsoever and it was busier than the previous day. We had a quick look and got out of there. The lower parking lot was full and it wasn’t even 8am. Driving out of the area it was insane. There was a traffic jam going both ways, of people trying to go to Lake Moraine and then instead to Lake Louise (which is further down the road) but then having to turn back because it is full. We were stuck in the jam of people who had been turned away from Lake Louise and we slowly snaked along. Our lane was slow because people kept stopping at the entrance to Lake Moraine to ask about getting in. It was a good thing we had gotten everything done the previous day.

We had a three-hour drive to Jasper but it was along the Ice Field Parkway so no complaints here. We stopped at a scenic overlook to gawk at the Crowfoot Glacier, it was so awesome- I had not expected to see glaciers this trip. We ate two mini bags of chips and somehow, I was hungrier than when we had started. We stopped at Bow Glacier but it was no good for photos because there were cars at the lodge on the horizon. It was crazy to see on the info panel just how much the glacier had receded since the reference picture from 1918. Our third stop was at Mistaya Canyon. We had to go down a hill and I was already regretting the climb back up. This was supposed to be a roadside pitstop not a mini hike! It was worth it and my complaining was negated by the beautiful canyon views. You could see the rushing river down below between the open spaces in the rocks. Walking back to the car we heard a weird whooshing sound, looking up there was a crow flying close by overhead. He was so close we could hear his wings flapping.

We were keeping our eyes opened, this road was known for having mountain goats in view. Every once in a while, one of us would see a solitary white speck on a mountain side but it was impossible to tell if it was anything. We stopped at an overlook where it looked like the mountain was cradling the glacier like a baby, it was very pretty (the scribble in my notebook did not do it justice). The Athabasca Glacier was awesome, we could hike up to it for a closer view. Down below we could see a parking lot that would allow us to get even closer to the Columbia Ice Field (the next glacier over). Back to the car! We were racing another couple who had also spotted it. On the way I saw a weather station but neither of us had our phones with us to make a The Simpsons joke. The GPS kept yelling “proceed to the route, proceed to the route” and Brent pushed the volume button to quiet it down for a moment except that somehow translated to it staying quiet, no matter how many settings I changed or how high I cranked the volume. Even the trusted, unplug it and plug it back in, didn’t work.

The Columbia Ice Field was incredible. I really had not been expecting to see it, having only heard about it in science news. I was a little giddy about it. They had set up markers to show how much the glacier had receded, especially in the last couple of decades. Seeing it visualized like that really hit it home and bummed me out. Because of the receding we could see what fresh land looked like that had been covered over so at least that part was kind of cool. It was impossible to imagine the glacier at peak coverage, the signs said it stretched all the way back and across the highway. I did not enjoy the hilly climb to get up close. I was huffing and puffing, people were passing me while I crept along at a snail’s pace. It did not help that my hip felt a bit tweaked. Still, I was eager to get closer and have a good look at it. There was a crisp cold wind whipping down the glacier valley. It was refreshing but also, I worried about more windburn. On the way back we passed some serious hikers/climbers who were heading up. They had spiky shoes, pickaxes and a dog with little booties, a helmet and his own backpack (complete with a handle in case he needed to be lifted). It was too cute.

We stopped at Goats & Glaciers lookout. Surely there would be goats here, it was in the name! Womp womp, no goats. No glaciers either. I briefly wondered if maybe we were at the wrong lookout? Nope. I was so tired and achy but we hadn’t even done any of the hiking we had planned for the day yet! My hunger was not helping. I was verging on hangry.

The plan was to have lunch in Jasper. We drove by the Timmies that the GPS led us to but it was on the main street and there were no empty parking spots. It seemed it would be that way for all of our lunch options in town, so we parked a few blocks away and walked. The pumpkin spiced iced capp was the perfect transition drink between summer and autumn. And I finally got my pumpkin spice Timbits! The turkey cheese melt really hit the spot and revived me. Brent went into the liquor store across the street, apparently, they had a great selection so I noted it for a possible return trip later. Jasper was the first place we had been that seemed serious about masks. They were not just mandatory indoors, but outside as well. It was spray painted on every corner sidewalk.

Some dummies tried to go the wrong way on a very clearly marked one-way street and we just stared in disbelief. We drove to Patricia Lake but it was a lake on a private campground and there weren’t any clear signs for public access or a trail we could even take. Off to the next destination! Maligne Lake had been featured on the front page of Reddit the previous day, that combined with the fact that it was the Saturday of a long weekend made me a bit anxious. On the drive I fidgeted some more with the settings and finally got the (lovely, we missed her!!) GPS voice back. Inexplicably the car settings had set it to silent volume- neither of us had touched a single car button. Brent had just turned down the volume on his phone.

We passed warning signs about bears, elk and caribou- and we saw none of them. As soon as we entered the park, we saw a sign that said if you see a moose stay 100m away. I guffawed, yeah right, like we would see a moose. I was about to make a joke about when did we switch from caribou signs to moose signs. Brent tapped me on the shoulder and said look! I couldn’t see, there were people blocking my view. I shifted over and proceeded to curse quietly to myself. Right smack in front of us in the water (at a safe distance) was a young (read: antler-less) moose. I was gobsmacked. He was so chill, dipping his head in the water and munching grass. He was clearly not going anywhere, we got our fill and headed on the trail around the left side of the lake. We walked only park of the trail until we reached a nice lookout point. Along the way we saw a cute little songbird with a white neck and a grey belly. Then we saw a bunch more and suddenly it wasn’t as special. It was too far to try and circle, plus the trail had veered away from the lake so we headed back.

The moose had moved and now I had an even better vantage points for photos: mountains in the background, a rustic boathouse with the name of the lake, it was perfect! You would never know that there were 30-40 people milling around near me getting almost the same (but not as good??) photos. We started walking to the trail that went around the lake in the other direction and then we stopped dead in our tracks. There was ANOTHER moose up ahead of us! He was standing on the shore, eyeballing the first moose. We were in shock. For so long we had seen barely any wildlife (let alone “Canadian” wildlife) and here we were seeing two! We stood and watched, judging the idiots on the beach who were way too close to the moose. He may not have had antlers but he was still damn big. He also did not give a damn about the people and was not afraid. He saw the other moose eating a bounty and he wanted in. humans blocking his way be damned, he started heading right in their direction i.e.: our direction. It was a mad scramble as we all backed away and started heading up a hill- cameras out snapping away the whole time. I don’t regret it, I got an amazing photo that looks like a moose out in the wilderness. My heart was pounding the whole time. Moose #2 approached #1 and it looked like they were spoiling for a fight. Instead he just intimidated #1, who took off, proverbial tail between his legs), into the forest and towards the hill where we were all hiding. The park staff were yelling at us to back up and to go the parking lot. Except then the moose seemed to be heading for the parking lot. Lots of dumb people, lots of excitement and I almost reached the heart rate I would have if we’d been hiking a steep hill.

Now that our path was clear we could continue on our way. Except the trail didn’t really lead anywhere, it took us to a bridge overlooking the river that ran into the lake (making it a prime habitat for wildlife- no kidding). A bug landed on my glasses and refused to let go, which was not as exciting as the moose encounter. That was tops.

We were staying at the Tonquin Inn and there was a giant line-up of people waiting to check in. We googled the best pizza in Jasper and ordered from the Jasper Pizza Place online. Brent would wait to check-in, I would go get pizza. On the walk I met a super cute and friendly cat. At first, he sat down in the middle of the street but when he saw me crouch down and hold out my hand he walked over. He was rubbing against me and purring and I would have stayed there all day if I wasn’t so hungry. My purse wasn’t big enough to stash him so I had to continue on. I walked by a different liquor store on my way to yet another one (that few blocks radius in Jasper had a surprising amount of liquor stores), I had time to kill before the pizza was ready. I had forgotten to consult with Brent and see which ciders he had gotten me. In a panic I sent him a photo of the fridge, there were quite a few I had never seen before but most of them were in multipacks so that narrowed my choices. I also found a gin that was made with northern Ontario ingredients. I still had a few more minutes before my pizza was ready so I walked up the street beside the pizza place. I saw a bakery called Bear Paw and I had to go in, how could I ignore such a great name. For dessert I got a peanut butter cookie and a nanaimo bar. I also got a lemonade, because surprise! – I was super dehydrated (who would have seen that one coming?). That did not use up enough time. I was going to check the other liquor store but I had not grabbed a receipt at the first one. As luck would have it there was a candy store next door, who could say no to that? I hit a veritable candy bonanza: birthday cake, mint + dark chocolate and apple pie Kit Kats, chewy Gobstoppers (large) and a Reese’s Fastbreak.

Brent met me on the way back and grabbed some of my bags, I was laden at this point. I had barely settled in and already was devouring the garlic bread. The pizza had two different cured meats and basil, it was perfect and it had really good slightly spicy garlic dip on the side. The Rock Creek strawberry rhubarb cider that Brent got for me that morning had a really weird pop-top, leaving the whole top of the can open. It was nice to sit in the room and just relax with ciders (BC Tree Fruits Cider Co was so good, as was the Rekorderlig passionfruit- both of which Brent had gotten earlier). There was a new episode of Say Yes to The Dress on which made it all the more perfect. During commercials we watched yet another terrible episode of The Simpsons. Brent googled one of the birds we had seen earlier and it turned out we had seen a Canada Jay, but how was that possible?! It had such a beautiful song, so not squawky like all of the others jays we had ever heard!


 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 4, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 7

Fri. Sept. 4, 2020
Johnston Canyon, AB to Lake Louise, AB (Banff)

There was a skittering noise in the night that woke me up three separate times. In my delirious half-asleep state, I was convinced there was an animal in the room, but when I went to look with my phone flash light, I saw nothing. My back and my legs had ached all night and I woke up very congested. I was falling apart. We drove slowly down the road because apparently there was more wildlife around thanks to the road being closed to the public. All we saw was one deer, alas no bears. The morning light was beautiful and the moon was still out, I wanted to take pictures of the mountains but we were on a mission: to visit Moraine Lake, which apparently fills up fast, some people get there at sunrise. We saw signs saying that there was limited parking available, that did not bode well for our plans. As we pulled up, there was a huge line of cars waiting to get in. Pass. Instead we parked at our hotel and walked over to Lake Louise. It was also very busy and uncomfortably crowded. Apparently, safety precautions go out the window when it comes to beautiful views. Everyone was crowded around the one vantage point, even though further along you basically got the same view just way less crowded. The lake was a beautiful emerald blue-green and we still had the remnants of the early morning light. As we walked around the lake the crowds thinned out. Apparently, they only cared about that one view. We could hear the thunderous roar of avalanches off in the distance but we couldn’t see anything. There was a trail that started at the far end of the lake but we didn’t have the backpack and we already had other hikes planned for the day so we turned around. There was a cute dog standing in the lake drinking water.

The yogurt parfait had seemed like a good idea in theory, but in practice it was a mess. The granola had gotten all soggy because it wasn’t packaged separately. I mostly just ate the fruits. The bathroom at Lake Louise was closed, so we stopped in at our hotel before heading out on the road. We were headed to Yoho National Park to see Takakkaw Waterfall.

BRITISH COLUMBIA!! YAY! We stopped at the Spiral Tunnels overlook, the track took a spiral figure-eight through the Rockies and it was a total mind-f*ck. Even though we saw a train going through, and even with a 3D model of the tracks, I still had trouble understanding it. We would just have to take the scenic train one day so I could see it for myself. We were driving through a valley with a river running alongside us, it was all very pretty. There were some tight switchbacks but thankfully there were only three, it always makes me so nervous. As we approached the parking lot, we could already see the waterfall, turns out it was more of a nice walk than a hike. The surprise of seeing the falls after a walk was kind of ruined but it also made you realize how big the waterfall was. The waterfall was fed by a melting glacier on top of the cliff but we couldn’t see it from down below. We got to walk almost up to the base of the falls- at a safe distance. Unlike the dummies who ventured forward, climbing on the wet rocks. The view looking down the river was also beautiful with mountains in the distance. We could not confirm it we saw glaciers on the other mountains or it was just snow.

Driving to Emerald Lake, the parking lot was so busy. We parked in the ditch off the side of the road, there were enough other cars there to make it OK. It added about 10 minutes walking. (Or at least it felt that way). A lady went into the bathroom and came right back out saying she wasn’t sure it was a bathroom. I had just been in there, it was nothing fancy but it got the job done.

The lake was beautiful and lived up to its name. We learned that the colour was from glacier deposits. It was funny how many people there were at the start of the trail, near the parking lot, picnic benches, bathrooms and canoe rentals. As we went on, there were fewer and fewer people. In the side of the mountain we could see a path that had been carved by the glacier’s yearly avalanches. It was bare of trees unlike the rest of the mountain. At the other end of the lake (aka the halfway point) we could see that the lake is shrinking and there were new trees growing. The second half of the hike was completely different. This side of the lake was in the shadow of the mountain and it was more like a wet forest, it was wildly different. We could barely see the Burgess shale, I had no idea it was way up on a mountain. It was just a grey square. We tried to look at it via the mounted binoculars but it was hard to see because of glasses. Our hike around the lake was 6km, thankfully most of the time it was just a leisurely walk. On our way back we saw a scrub jay who would not cooperate in posing for photos.

On the way to Emerald Lake we passed a road sign for Natural Bridge. We still had time and nothing else planned for the day so we stopped in. It was cool to see Kicking Horse River and its strong rapids and then just a pile of rocks making a pseudo-bridge. People LOVED taking selfies here. It was infuriating trying to get nice pristine nature photos without bozos in them. We stopped at a lookout on the BC/Alberta border and stood between the two welcome signs, we were between provinces! No mans land!

We could see glaciers on the mountain tops and this time we were certain they were glaciers because you could the path, they had carved down the mountain as they slid in the past. We stopped at a Lake Louise liquor store, the selection wasn’t great but I got a Big Rock peach apple cider. I wondered if this was the no-named peach cider listed at the cafe the previous day? It had just said peach cider on the menu, no indication of anything else.
Driving by Moraine Lake the parking lot was still full. No worries, we were staying nearby and we could try later that evening and then again, the following morning. We tried looking up the hotel by the lake but it was closed because of COVID, so much for geniusing our way in again. There was no TV in our room, maybe I would get more reading done? Or would I just end up playing Mario Odyssey until I had to rage quit? It was a good mix of both.

We tried to get lunch to go from the lodge restaurant but because we were ordering off the happy hour menu the guy said we had to eat in. We weren’t even getting drinks which was the happy hour deal, we just wanted the food. He did offer that we could have the bison pepperoni flatbread for the price of the tomato flatbread from the lunch menu which was just weird. We stood there with a paper lunch menu, happy hour menu and dinner menu (we would be dining here again tonight) and debated. The lunch menu overlapped with the dinner one quite a bit. The happy hour menu had elk ribs, something wacky and new. Eventually we grudgingly settled on dining on the patio. Elk ribs and a flatbread with bison pepperoni were just too good to pass up. It was just the right amount of food for lunch. I got to try the Banff maple rye I had been eyeballing every time we went to the store. The maple old-fashioned made me feel a little better but it was still a tense lunch.

We settled back in the room, the plan was to head out around 6pm. Because of COVID we had to call the front desk and “order” coffee and ice for our room, it was a bit odd. I played a little ACNH and then we watched Top Chef on Brent’s laptop. Driving to the lake we were bot still anxious, could it still be super busy this late in the day? It was impossible to guess. Thankfully they waved us in and there were plenty of spaces. As soon as we entered I could see why fore all the fuss. It was stunning, a green-blue pristine lake surrounded by mountains and so serene. By the edge of the lake there was a giant pile of rocks that people just loved climbing all over and taking selfies. It was unbelievable how busy the park still was based on the earlier traffic. So many people! I guess it made sense given the park had only recently reopened and we were heading into the long weekend- but still!

We started out with the aptly named Rockpile Trail. Looking at it I was wary. I was supposed to get to the top? Of that rock pile?? I just assumed people had scaled it, I was relieved to see that there was a path and even stairs at some point. (What a rare moment: me being relieved to see stairs). I was still huffing and puffing but I much preferred it to scaling the pile of rocks. I was also getting irrationally mad at the dummies going off the marked trail. We saw a pika sitting on a rock and it was so freaking cute, I wish I could have scooped it up and taken it home. We also saw a golden-mantled ground squirrel, it was definitely not a chipmunk. We walked the lake trail. I tried to take a picture at the first scenic stop but there was a couple with their daughter at the next point over, ruining my view. They were taking forever, taking every possible iteration of a photo with varying combinations of family members, all using their own phones. It was a circus. I wanted to shout for them to move for one second so I could take one photo then they could go back for as long as they wanted. Brent made a comment about it and the people standing behind us (also waiting for a photo op) laughed. At the end of the trail there was a river feeding into the lake from the mountains. It looked really pretty because it was meandering among the trees. We also had gorgeous views looking back towards where we had started. There was a lady sitting and reading on a rock and I kept wanting to shush every person who talked (it was just us and a German couple, but still, the reading lady looked so peaceful).

We got back to the hotel about two hours later, tired and so hungry. We placed a to-go order with no problem (it was a different guy so maybe that’s why). Brent finally got his bison burger fix and I had the salmon with lemon potatoes. It was so good not to be eating fast food, I devoured and savoured every bite, it was a nice change of scenery food-wise. We watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations but I was so sleepy. Somehow my face was slightly sunburnt again. HOW?!


 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2020 in Travel, Uncategorized

 

Cross Canada- Day 6

Thurs. Sept. 3, 2020:
Brooks, AB to Banff, AB

I woke up at 6:30am and didn’t feel tired at all, maybe mornings aren’t so bad after all? I brewed coffee to add to the instant latte just in case, nothing wrong with a little extra caffeine. We were heading out early to get to the Johnston Canyon trail which apparently gets really busy really fast. It was killing me, we couldn’t stop and the light was that perfect morning golden light. All of the pull-offs were also taken over by trucks (I assume the drivers were still sleeping). Some of the other scenic viewpoints were ruined with industrial buildings. I finally saw the perfect highway turnout, the field had a haybale in it and the morning light… except so far they had all sucked and I didn’t think to ask for a stop until it was too late. Later on, we passed a curious baby cow sniffing a crow on a post, it was just too cute and added to my “I wish I could photograph this” list. As we drove, we could see mountain ranges up ahead, but we hadn’t even passed through Calgary yet.

The road to Johnston Canyon was closed so we backtracked to the other end of the road but that was also closed. Brent called the Johnston Canyon Lodge to see if they had availability and booked us a room. Now we could pass the blockade and we saved some driving time (our original hotel would have been 45 minutes back the way we came). Our 3.5-hour drive was already longer thanks to all the back & forth because now we had to drive back to the other end of the road again to show them proof of our hotel stay. Apparently, they had closed the road to the trail because it was too popular an attraction to safely open during the COVID-times. As hotel guests, we had access, the trailhead was right behind our lodgings. The other upside was that now we just about had the trail to ourselves (save for a few other groups). I could see why they had to restrict it (you could still walk or bike from the closures but it was longer than the trail itself). It was both very scenic and very narrow. Even the few people we did see were stopping for selfies and we had to wait to pass. It was so beautiful, canyon walls and waterfall after waterfall. The trail info said that people were not impressed with the inkpots past the final waterfall but that it was worth it to see the meadow. We had nothing else planned for the day and I wanted to see these underwhelming inkpots (which I kept calling flower pots, expecting something like the balancing rocks at Tobermory) for myself.

We passed by warning signs about bears, apparently it was berry (bear-y?) season. I was not afraid until Brent pointed out that it would be grizzly bears, not black bears. That got my attention. We started to wonder what we would do if we encountered a bear. My plan was to throw a full packet of Pop Tarts (preferably at the nose). The plan was threefold: the crinkly, noisy wrapper, the shininess of it and thirdly the smell of the delicious Pop Tarts inside. While the bear figured out what it was, I’d be long gone. Or passed out from fear. We saw a giant poop and I immediately thought it was a bear poop (we determined on the way back that it was actually horse poop). What if there was one just watching us from the trees? How close had we been to a bear?

We also learned on this hike that some of the chipmunks we had seen may have been gold-coated ground squirrels. Except now we weren’t sure and we were determined to see one to confirm. They look so similar, its understandable. One of the scenic overlooks on the trail was an alternate view of a waterfall, except we had squeeze through a small rock crevice, which was wet from all the waterfall spray. I was not happy about this. At least there was only one person who was just leaving, I imagine normally it would be an Instagram-fueled nightmare, selfie sticks everywhere. Later on the trail was a boardwalk along the canyon wall, I did not enjoy that some of the cement steps were a bit loose. As if that weren’t enough for those of us who were wobbly-legged, there was a steel-grate walkway out over the river for a better look at a waterfall, it was so far away from the supports that it was shaky. Which made me shaky. I walked out, had a quick look, snapped a photo and almost ran back. We had incredibly scenic views of the canyon and the crystal blue water of the river, you could see right to the bottom.

The uphill parts of the trail were rough. We continued past the higher falls to the meadow and the inkpots. I assumed we would go up in elevation and then the meadow and inkpots would be there at the top. I was wrong, instead we went up and then back down the other side. Crap, I was so looking forward to the way back being easy. Now I would also have uphills on my way back?! That wasn’t part of the deal! The people were wrong, the inkpots were so cool. It was worth it enough for the meadow views, with the river running through and mountains on all sides. But the inkpots were little ponds where you could see water bubbling up through the sand. It was a peaceful and serene place. The half-way point Pop Tart was so satisfying. We saw some chipmunks/ground squirrels. They move so fast it was hard to tell, we would have to check my photos later.

The way back was still much easier, despite the few uphills. We passed a couple we had seen heading back a while ago. They were struggling bad. Thankfully we did not see any bears on the trail. Although my heart rate according to the FitBit would have you thinking otherwise.

While Brent checked in, I went to the café and got a much-needed hot chocolate. I enjoyed it in a wooden Muskoka chair outside of our tiny half-cabin, overlooking the restaurant & café roof. Our cabin was tiny, yet it had two fireplaces. We had a small TV (but no cable) in the corner and a tiny bathroom. We could see the other cabins which had couches and kitchens, but for one night we didn’t need that much.

We went down to the restaurant to place a to-go order for lunch/dinner. We were starving, having not really eaten all day. We got drinks to go and had them in the chairs outside of our cabin. There wasn’t much description of the ciders, so I went with the one from Kelowna, BC. As soon as she handed me the bottle, I recognized it as one I had back in the room. She laughed because it was a 500mL bottle, kind of absurdly large. Brent’s chair had been stolen by a bug, so he stood while we debated what kind of bug it was. I said it was a citrus long-horned beetle (clearly, I had been playing too much ACNH). Google said it was a white spotted spruce sawyer. We also confirmed that the birds of prey we had seen sitting on all those poles were not in fact kestrels (another cross-out in my book) but in fact Swainson’s hawks.

The steak sandwich was supposed to be on a baguette but instead it was on white bread and it was just a slab of steak instead of strips. I had upgraded my fries to poutine, it was heavy and dense but so good. My sandwich came with a side salad, which normally I would be averse to it but this one had arugula, lettuce, cucumbers, walnuts and cranberries. After I picked out the offending cherry tomatoes it was the perfect salad, almost exactly what I would make at home! I devoured it. It was the first fresh produce I had eaten in almost a week and I relished every bite. I stole a bite of Brent’s burger, I was not impressed. It was supposed to be bison but it was clearly just the regular burger. Brent had to throw out the garbage in a giant bear-proof bin outside. We had initially planned to get food again later on, but the meal had been so heavy and filling that the plan was off the table. Our late lunch would suffice for dinner as well.

I realized that because we were leaving so early the following morning, I would have to get my breakfast before the café closed. I went down in my pyjamas to get a yogurt and granola parfait and I got some gummies and cookies to snack on (we had eaten all the snacks I got earlier with my hot chocolate). The walk down the stairs was kind of sort of brutal. Even with stretching after the hike, my legs were not happy. It may have been our longest hike ever? The FitBit said around 13km round trip. I did get a record number of equivalent flights of stairs which earned me a new badge. Probably the most painful one I have ever gotten? I played Super Mario Galaxy for a while but it was making me mad so I had to switch to reading. I was distracted by my screaming legs.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 26, 2020 in Travel

 
 
%d bloggers like this: