Girl’s trip to Fernie 2018

I have always wanted to ski Fernie. I know a few people who skied there last season and we had considered, at one point, settling there for our second winter season in Canada.Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia and is accessed from Banff via Radium and Cranbrook.

I had to work in the morning so at 3:30 Layla arrived at work to collect me. We loaded up the car with bags and ski gear and filled up in Banff before heading off around 4pm.

We headed up the Trans Canada and turned off onto the 93 at Castle Junction. This is another stunning drive through the mountains to BC, this one littered with the remains of wildfires that have scorched the land over the years leaving hundreds of acres of charred forests.We passed Vermillion Crossing and into Kootenay National Park and drove alongside The Kootenay river for a while before heading West towards Radium. The last kilometres before entering Radium are very impressive. Steep, rocky cliffs line both sides of the road for a few corners before you hit the town and the flat river valley.After a toilet break we turned left onto the 95 towards Invermere. We were travelling along past the Columbia river, Lake Windermere and just past Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and ski hill we crossed the valley and travelled down the side of Columbia Lake. Stopped at a lookout and got an amazing view down the valley to the frozen lake, the surrounding peaks and the flatlands beyond the lake. We turned off onto the 95a and headed to Kimberley.Kimberley is a small town situated on rolling hills below Kimberley ski resort. It must be a pretty wee town in Summer but the day we passed through it was pretty grim and we saw more Elk and Deer wandering around town than people which was a bit odd. We carried on down the Kimberley highway with the mountains to our left beyond the flatlands and the St Mary River to our right. We stopped in Cranbrook which is the largest town in the area with around 20,000 people to collect the $50 lift ticket I had bought on Kijiji. Even though we were at Tim Hortons we decided to carry on to get dinner in Fernie as it was nearing dusk.

We turned off and headed South East onto the Crowsnest highway and passed some oddly named towns such as Bull river and Jaffray. The sun was beginning to set over the mountain ranges behind us and the sky became a beautiful rainbow of yellow, orange and red as we travelled up and into the pass. The road got a lot narrower as we climbed, there were steep cliffs to out left and the river to our right.1After a narrow and windy road through the pass to Fernie, (made worse by a lorry right up our arse) we found our way to A&W for a bite to eat before heading to The Raging Elk Hostel. On check in we were happy to find out that due to our general manager knowing the hostel owners we had been upgraded to a private family room. Sweet!23We headed to the hostel bar after settling in for a few drinks and some pool. Disappointingly, the bar was really quiet and apart from a really annoying drunk Canadian guy and a couple of know-alls we beat in pool and who thought ‘Banff is so overrated’ there wasn’t anyone there worth talking to except each other.1.jpg

Day 2

Fernie isn’t as big as Sunshine or Lake Louise but to me it felt really big. The hill consists of 5 bowls all facing towards town. Cedar, Lizard, Currie, Timber and Siberia bowls. (Polar Peak was unfortunately closed due to avalanche danger).2.jpg2.jpgAfter a breakfast of pancakes for Layla and noodles for me we caught the little ski shuttle from outside the hostel for the 5 kilometre journey to the ski hill.

We began our day on the Elk Quad followed by the Boomerang Triple chair that took us over to Cedar Bowl on the far right of the mountain. We thought it would be best to follow the sun and Cedar was full of morning sunshine. We were really lucky with the weather. The day before we arrived had been a white-out and the day we left it was raining and horrible. The one day we skied was a bluebird day.12.jpgCedar Bowl was big, powdery and sunny. We took a blue run all the way down to the bottom where we took the Haul Back T-bar over the ridge back into Lizard Bowl. 4Lizard Bowl was my favourite. At the top was a huge steep face between Grizzly Peak and Polar Peak. It towers over the bowl and is quite imposing but beautiful as well. From the top of the T-bar we skied down to the Boomerang chair then to The Great Bear Express Quad which took us to the top of Lizard Bowl. 12.jpgFrom the top we took a cat track that stretched from one side of the bowl to the other. You could drop in at any time into the deep powder. We did a couple of runs in Lizard then headed down to the base for a drink at The Griz.1.jpgHad a couple of well earn’t Coronas and sat on the deck in the sun.1Next we headed up The Timber Bowl Express Quad which takes you to the top of Timber and Siberia Bowls to the Lost Boys Cafe. Decided to have our lunch up there and it was a bit pricy but the views were worth it. I had a bacon and cheese bagel and Layla had potato and bacon soup. 13Did a couple of great runs down Currie Bowl (Layla’s favourite) and took the Timber Express back up to the cafe before heading up The White Pass Quad to the top of Timber and Currie Bowls. This was the highest we were able to get with the Polar Peak chairlift closed and the views were amazing! 124.jpgSpent a bit of time posing for photos at the various signs up the top before dropping in behind the Currie Bowl sign, tearing down a steep black then down the blue run aptly named Currie Powder. 2.jpgShared a couple of Ciders while travelling up the Timber Bowl chair then did a run down Siberia Bowl. Siberia bowl had a few black runs running down the ridge but they looked hard to get to so we took the long blue all the way down. We lost each other for ages, I was way in front of Layla for a change but she eventually found me and we headed up the top for one more run. Went and got some free stickers from the ticket office before jumping on the shuttle and heading back to the hostel for a nap and a shower. We were very tired girls!

That night we opted to have dinner at a lovely restaurant called The Loaf on the main street. It was a wet and quiet weeknight so not a lot was open and it was very quiet compared to Banff on any night of the week. The restaurant was quiet but we happily chatted together about our fantastic day skiing. I had the Fettuccine Chicken Alfredo and Layla had the special Ravioli. Mine was great and very filling, Layla found a hair in hers so sent it back but enjoyed the second lot she received.1 After dinner we headed to the Pub Bar & Grill where I think the rest of the town was. The place was absolutely packed! There was a pub quiz in progress so we at down and ordered some dessert. It was quite funny trying to guess the answers to the pub quiz questions and even offering another team some answers (that turned out to be wrong! How embarrassing!) I had some chocolate moose which was pretty nice.

Day 3

The following morning we had breakfast at Big Bang Bagels which was really nice, great coffee and even better bagels. I felt like I was in a trendy Shoreditch cafe in London.12.jpgThe trip home was nice but once we got past Radium the heavens opened and it rained and snowed heavily all the way home. It was nice to see the snow covered trees once more but it was hard going for Layla driving with very low visibility. 345I couldn’t have asked for a better last ski trip away during my 2 years in Canada. The weather was perfect the day we skied and we had a lot of laughs!

 

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Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park is in southern Alberta, Canada, bordering Montana’s Glacier National Park. It’s known for its chain of lakes, including the large Upper and Middle Waterton lakes, flanked by the Rocky Mountains. Waterton was Canada’s fourth national park, formed in 1895 and named after Waterton Lake.

I have always wanted to visit Waterton Lakes, mainly to see the stunning Prince of Wales hotel but also because it’s a mere 4 hours drive from Banff.

During the Summer of 2017, the same time as the Verdant Creek fire raged in BC, close to Banff, the Kenow forest fire developed from a lightning strike in Southern BC about 10km from the Park boundary. In all, 19,303 hectares of the park burned and it’s a miracle the town survived.6The town of Waterton is very small and unlike Banff, is not overly busy in the Winter, it basically shuts down apart from one resort and restaurant that caters for snowshoe and cross-country skiing enthusiasts. The Summer season starts properly in June so it was very quiet when we arrived.

The drive is pretty cruisy, its mostly long straight roads through the Southern Albertan prairies. After leaving the Park we headed towards Calgary on the Trans Canada and turned South at the Cochrane turnoff and onto the Cowboy Trail. We passed through the towns of Redwood Meadows and Bragg Creek which were heavily wooded areas, the road lined with grand entrances to the various ranches we passed along the way, real Cowboy country!After heading East for a few kilometres, we turned South again at Priddis past green fields full of cows and patches of snow still melting after the long Winter.3At Turner Valley we took a wrong turn (I should say, didn’t take the turn-off) and ended up on a wooded area on the edge of town. As we went to turn around I looked to the side and saw a large brown figure in the woods. On closer inspection I saw it was a Moose! We stopped the car and jumped out to try and get a better look. There was a wire fence between the road and the large Male Moose, but we kept our distance all the same. What a treat! Moose are few and far between and I’ve only seen 3 since I arrived in Canada nearly 2 years ago.2Most of the towns were small, flat farming towns that were littered with farming machinery businesses with ranches and farms on the outskirts. Black Diamond is very pretty with all its storefronts decked out in Western Style. Heading away from some of the towns we passed through were large housing estates full of beautiful new houses on large plots of land. Although I personally prefer living in the mountains, I can understand why you would want to buy land out here. The prairies are stunning, and the land is vast and the views over to the Rockies stretching North and South as far as the eye can see is quite an amazing sight as well. I’d certainly appreciate that view from my kitchen window!1From Black Diamond to Pincher Creek, the last major town before Waterton Lakes, the highway is a long, mainly straight, 152 kilometre stretch heading South. The land down here is barren flatlands and rolling hills, the colour changes to a light, sun scorched shade of brown that rolls away into the distance meeting the grey and white peaks of the Rockies to the West.

At Pincher creek we stopped for gas, food and took photos of a very funny message we saw out side a church. “Blah, blah, blah, Just come to Church”4We continued down Alberta highway 6 another 44 kms to Waterton National Park Gate. Past the Bison Loop (just outside the park, which was unfortunately closed) the road passed through the marchlands and swamps beside Maskinonge Lake and then Lower Waterton Lake, The Golf Course (closed), Red Rock Canyon (closed) and finally to the magnificent Upper Waterton Lake.  We passed the historic Prince of Wales hotel on the left and headed down into the townsite.5There was a lot of roadworks in town, so we had to circle around our hotel before finding a way into the car park. I went to the reception of Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort only to find the front desk closed, luckily a staff member pointed out my keys in an envelope stuck to the wall outside reception. We found our Lodge named Red Rock House just out the back of the main reception and we were pleasantly surprised we had been upgraded to a suite with a full kitchen.7We unpacked and settled in with a beer or 2 and searched the internet for a place to eat. We had arrived just after 8pm so after showering we headed into town to find somewhere to have dinner. Unfortunately, even after checking online and seeing places were open, the whole town was dark apart from one restaurant that we managed to get into 30 minutes before they closed. The Lakeside Chophouse is one of Waterton’s premier dining establishments and a bit pricier than we were looking for, but it was a wonderful experience.  Fergus and I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich and Kurt and Zeke got the Prime Rib Mountain Burger. The Chicken Burger was HUGE! 3 big pieces of mouth-watering fried Chicken smothered in cheese, honey cayenne mayo and rocket, YUM! It was probably the best (definitely the biggest) Chicken burger I have ever eaten.8 On full tummies we wandered back to the resort and settled in for the night.

Day 2

The manager of the resort was on the reception desk when I wandered over in the morning, he was a charming man with lots of stories to tell from his time in the Navy and working at other bars and hotels. He told me a bit about the fires and the National Park and gave me a few ideas of what was open in the area.1I went to the only shop open in town that happened to also be a gas station and bought eggs, bread and milk for breakfast. Cooked the boys eggs on toast and made a pot of coffee everyone hated, luckily a trusty Starbucks was open in town, why am I not surprised?

We headed up to the Prince of Wales hotel for a look in the morning. The Prince of Wales is a historic railroad hotel located on a bluff overlooking Upper Waterton Lake, it was constructed between 1926 and 1927 in a Swiss-chalet style by the Great Northern Railway of the U.S. This stately hotel offers 86 guest rooms and a traditional British atmosphere complete with Afternoon Tea, the Royal Stewart Dining Room, Windsor Lounge, and the Princess Gift Shop.63The hotel had not yet opened for the season, so we were unable to go inside but the outside was spectacular. Swiss chalet motifs, including steeply pitched gabled roofs, intersecting gables, two-storey dormers, tiers of continuous balconies supported on large brackets, a lantern cupola, and the use of contrasting finish colours of green, red and yellow make it really stand out against the surrounding mountains.5The wind up on the ridge was unbelievable, why the 4 Big Horned Sheep we saw sitting up there thought it was a lovely place to have a sit down I don’t know, but the views were amazing. From the hotel you can see all the way down Upper Waterton Lake, over the township and back in the other direction toward Linnet lake and the prairies. The location couldn’t be better for a hotel.24We then decided to go up to Red Rock Canyon. The guy at the hotel had told us the access road was open but when we arrived there was a barrier across the road. It was about 14km to the actual canyon, so we decided to walk a little way up the road to see what we could find. We entered the trail that ran parallel to the road and the river and after climbing a small hill we came out onto a grassy area where we could see quite clearly over to the opposite side of the river to the golf course. 2Fergus was the first one to spot what liked like a Black Bear walking along a snowbank on the course and we all quickly rallied around to spot it as it walked along the snow. It looked quite large, so we were happy it was on the other side of the river which had steep cliffs on either side. After that Bear disappeared behind some trees we carried on up the pat a bit before spotting another 2 bears, one tan and the other a very deep brown, foraging on a grassy mound. These 2 were closer (still on the opposite side) and looked like big cubs. Seeing 3 bears in the space of 10 minutes was a bit much for us so we turned around and headed back to the car, we certainly didn’t want to meet any on our side of the river!3We carried on back out of the park to the Bison Loop to see if we could see any Bison from the start of the road. The view was cool but there was not a single Bison in sight! Boo! We went to the Bison Paddock twice to see if we could spot any but I later read all the Bison had been relocated before the fire. 6We decided to get mover provisions (booze) so headed back to Pincher Creek, a 30 minutes drive away. Bought some Palm bay and beer and Fergus bought a jar of Moonshine (When in Rome I suppose…) and we headed back to Waterton.7Went for a few drinks at Vimy’s, the bar and restaurant in the resort. We sat at the bar and had a few pints while watching sport and chatting to the friendly new barmaid from Ontario. Exchanged travel stories and enjoyed the sun on our backs through the sunroof.

In the late afternoon we went for a walk to Cameron falls which is right in town. The crystal-clear cascading mountain water rushes steadily over 1.5 billion year-old Cambrian rock, throwing off a mist that dusts your skin as you pass by. We walked up the easy paved pathway to the right of the falls to get a better view and take a few photos.1098.jpgThat night we decided to eat at Vimy’s so after an early evening nap we headed over at around 9:30pm. We were met with the waitress (not the one from earlier) telling us the kitchen closes in 20 minutes! Charming. So we just ordered poutine and a pint each. The poutine wasn’t great and had too much gravy and not enough chips or curds. When we got the bill, we had been changed for jugs and not pints, so we had to get her to redo it. Not the best service from a restaurant that is the only one open all year round!10.jpg

Day 3

After a breakfast of bacon and eggs we headed down to the lakeside for a wander. I had originally wanted to camp at the town campground right beside the lake but was a week or so too early. I’m glad that was the case as it was so windy down there, there were still big snowbanks scattered around, some as tall as me and it was pretty cold. But I bet its a fantastic place to stay in Summer when the weather is warm and the lakes calm. 1.jpg

2Walked along to some Red Chairs and got a photo before meandering with our thoughts back to the car.3The drive home was long and uneventful. It also seemed shorter as we knew where we were going.

The only stop we made was at the Longview Jerky Shop. We had bought Jerky from a garage in town on the way to Waterton and then passed the Jerky Shop a bit further up the road so said we would stop there on our way home.5 I haven’t been to many Jerky shops, I haven’t really had a lot of jerky but what I have had I’ve loved. This place had all kinds of flavours and different kinds of meats. From Chicken, Elk, Turkey, Pork and Bison jerky to flavoured Beef jerky such as mandarin/ginger, honey/garlic, teriyaki, maple beef and dill pickle. They had everything and for $6 a packed it wasn’t too bad. I picked up some Chicken and Teriyaki Beef to chew on on the way home.6Overall Waterton is a lovely place to visit but as I said above, I do regret not visiting in the previous Summer before the fires. But who’s to know what nature is going to bring?

 

 

5 important things to know when doing a season in Banff.

Housing / Work / Discounts & Freebees / Banff Ambassador / Leaving Banff

I did a heap of research after deciding on Banff as the base for my 2 year Canadian working holiday visa.

We travelled in the States and Eastern & Western Canada for a couple of months before arriving in Banff in September ready for our first Winter season.

Come June of the following year we left Banff and drove across the country to St John’s, spent a month in the UK and drove back to Banff ready for our second Winter in September 2017.

So all in all we have spent close to 20 months living in Banff in total, I must say it feels a lot longer than that.

There isn’t a town on Earth, even my own hometown of Dunedin, or London, that I feel I know as much about. This is partly due to working on a hotel front desk and having to know and advise guests, but also because I wanted to cram as much in to these last 20 months that I possibly could.

Living in Banff isn’t easy, whether you are fresh out of collage and on your first big overseas trip or, like me, you are a bit older, have travelled and lived in multiple countries and have been on good money. It’s hard for everyone.

So for people looking to make this beautiful piece of the world their home, I offer the following advice;

1. Housing

Finding a home in Banff isn’t an easy feat, or so I’ve been told.  We only looked at about 4 houses before finding one so it was very easy for us. The second time around we got right back into the same house. Easy peesy.

But, a lot of people are forced to stay at hostels and even hotels for months on end while trying to secure a place to live.  Arriving at the right time of year definitely helps. Late May to June is good because a lot of the Winter seasonaires leave, and equally, September to late October due to the Summer workers departing. 

Most workplaces offer staff accommodation at great rates, they have to, being in a National Park, Banff has very limited housing and new buildings rarely go up, if they do it’s because something else has been torn down. Staff accommodation is great but if you are arriving as a couple and work at different places it won’t work. Most staff accom is for a single person, in either a shared bedroom or an apartment shared with a colleague.

For couples, you’ll need to go private and there are a lot of options, just not a lot of rooms.

Don’t be fooled into going to a real estate agent looking for a place, they will probably laugh in your face. Most accommodation is either owned by a local or rented by a local and sublet to travellers.

The best places to look are on the Facebook page, Bow Valley Home Finders or Kijiji which is Canada’s Craigslist or Gumtree. Also knowing the right people helps and word of mouth goes a long way.

We got our room through a couple we noticed were replying to the same adverts on Facebook as we were. We teamed up and tried to help them find a room and vice versa, in the end we ended up living with them and made lifelong friends.

2. Work

There is tonnes of work in Banff, absolutely tonnes, if you arrive at the right time.

As each season starts, help wanted signs appear in all the store and restaurant windows and this is a great way to find work. Make sure you have a lot of hard copy resumes and get walking.

I work in recruitment and tried to get a role doing that but unfortunately the well paid, non-hospitality jobs go to locals. Early on I made the mistake of applying for professional roles I could do standing on my head but they probably knew I would expect too much money or roles that only locals would get due to visa restrictions. I understand this because I know the cost of the recruitment cycle and to hire someone who will only leave to travel after a few months is not productive for any company.

So I had to go back to my roots and get something in hospitality. I didn’t want to do serving as I had done that for years and didn’t want to constantly work nights. I didn’t think it would look good on my resume either. 12 Years of corporate recruitment work to only go back to what I’d done 15 years earlier. No.

Also suffering a broken arm only a year ago I didn’t want to be lifting heavy trays all night.

But serving is actually where the big money is in Banff. Tips are huge and depending on where you work can be a lot, lot more than your wages.  I know people who worked 3-4 nights a week, did 5 hours shifts and made twice as much as I do.

It’s different here in Canada as well. The host seats you and gives you your menu then the server takes your order, the runner brings you your meal and the server gives you the bill. Back in Australia, when I worked in restaurants, I did all of that and barely made $10 a night in tips! And that is working in a fine dining restaurant! Yes, if you want to make money in Banff, work in a restaurant.Anyhoo, I ended up working at the Front Desk of a hotel in town, I love it and I get commission for ski rental, selling tours and the occasional tips. It pays the bills, enables me to ski 3-4 times a week and also save a bit of money.

My boyfriend managed to get gardening work during the few months there wasn’t snow covering the ground and labouring work during Winter and he was on great money.

Again Kijiji is a great place to look and also the Banff Resource Centre is a great help.

I know resumes, I look at them all day but I still had to tweak mine a lot for Canada. The resource centre will help you to understand how to do this and what employers are looking for.

Additional to this, most large companies such as the Fairmont, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Caribou Properties have job fairs at the beginning of each season. Go to their websites; see what’s available and pop along. Meeting you face-to-face is a great start and a lot of people get jobs this way.

3. Discounts and Freebees

As a Banff local, you get treated rather well. Yes, it’s an expensive place to live but the town knows that and looks after the dedicated people who choose to live here.

Many retail outlets and restaurants will offer you a ‘locals discount’ and you will get to know these places in time and only shop there.

Banff Food Rescue is a godsend for people who are struggling and those who want to help the community. Alanna Pettigrew, the founder, started just before we arrived and her and her team of volunteers now give out free food to over 50 people a night. They collect food from local stores that cannot be given to the food banks and give it out to anyone who lines up at her door. It’s perfectly fine and their motto is ‘keeps good Food from becoming Food Waste’, Just amazing!

Snowtips/Backtrax, a rental place in town was voted the locals favourite and give great discounts on ski & bike rental and purchases for locals.A lot of places offer discounts if you have a seasons pass for the ski hills, this is all on the Big 3 website, take advantage.

Discover Banff Tours offer a big discount to locals on their tours, 45% I believe.

The Taxi Mike website and brochure is the locals bible. Taxi Mike provides an up to date list of all food and drink offers all week, all season. Save it to your favourites and grab a brochure, you will refer to it the whole time you are here, believe me!

Nesters is a place you will frequent a lot. It’s a supermarket in town and they offer a points card that is actually very good. Each time you visit you get points which accumulate and can then be used to buy groceries. Get one as soon as you arrive in town!

If you are lucky enough to work on the front desk of a hotel, you’ll also be offered FAM tours, I’ve been skiing, snowmobiling, ice walking, snowshoeing and horse riding, all for free!

4. Banff Ambassador

I touched on this in a previous post but it’s a MUST do when you first get to Banff!

1. Go to the library, upstairs in the conference room, you don’t need to book, just turn up. Here, you’ll sit down with a bunch of other newbies for an interesting talk from the Discover Banff Tours representatives about the town, history, housing, wildlife, jobs and other fun stuff for an hour.

2.You get a discounted Discover Banff and its Wildlife 3 hour tour to some of Banff’s hotspots, learn a heap and have lots of fun.3.You then get a discount card, valid for a year with over $500 worth of discounts. This includes Canoeing at Lake Louise (worth $105), gondola tickets, hot spring tickets an heaps of other cool stuff.

They do this so you are all set to advise on tours and attractions, whatever your job may be. It’s a fantastic introduction to Banff and you’ll met some fab people along the way.

4. Leave Banff sometimes

When you arrive, you’ll think ‘I’m never leaving this place!’, well I did anyway.

But it’s important to leave once and a while. You will get into a little bubble of work, home, partying and the places you frequent with your mates and it’s easy to get into a routine. That’s what you came here to get away from though.

There are so many amazing places to visit not too far away.During the ski season do a road-trip to Fernie, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Panorama or Marmot Basin.  They are all amazing ski hills and quaint little towns with heaps to offer. You can get a discount with your Big 3 Pass or buy cheap tickets on kijiji. Have a look before you go, I never paid full price for ski tickets!

Calgary is also only 1.5 hours away and loads of big bands go there. I saw Kings of Leon, The Arkells and Frank Turner at the Saddledome. And don’t forget Hockey, you HAVE to go and see a few games, it’s so amazing!If you are a gambler, take the free shuttle to the Stoney Nakoda Casino, loose all your tips or go to the $30 Lobster & Steak buffet. Yum!

When you arrive back in Banff you are thankful, you feel like you are returning from a great mini holiday into another. Life is great. Until work starts!

Two more groups you need to join on Facebook are Banff Buy and Sell, everyone buys and sells their stuff on here! And Banff Lost and Found, Banff is the town of disappearing jackets, phones and keys. If you loose of find something, join this group!

So, that’s it. Come to Banff, have an amazing time, live your dreams and make lifelong friends.The writing below used to be written on the wall of the ladies toilets in Mels before it was painted over and I think whoever wrote it is spot on.

‘Banff Life is a good life, never forget this place’

Revelstoke 2018 – Part 1

Our annual ski trip away was a bit smaller this year and despite inviting all 9 people in the house only Kurt, Zeke, Tate, Fergus and myself were able to go.

This year we chose Revelstoke Mountain Resort which is located on Mount Mackenzie, just outside the town of Revelstoke in British Columbia. We chose to go there not only because its an amazing mountain but also because with our Big 3 passes we get a whopping 50% off lift passes!

Revelstoke impressively, has the longest vertical drop of any ski hill in North America and at 5620ft, you really notice this when skiing all the way from the very top to the base. It`s just huge! The mountain has 3 lifts, The Revelation Gondola, The Stoke chair and The Ripper chair and has 1214 hectares of skiable terrain.Our trip started on a sunny Friday around noon and after packing the car up with gear and attaching skis and boards on the roof (and after quick stops for fuel and Tim Hortons) we were off!We drove North up the Trans Canada highway and turned West just after Lake Louise township to enter British Columbia and Yoho National Park. The road between Lake Louise and Golden is beautiful but in Winter it`s constantly closing for avalanches and its quite scary in places, especially the final 10km into Golden. It begins with a flat section with Mt Ogden on your right and Pope`s Peak to your left.  As you drive into BC and past The Great Divide Lodge and over The Kicking Horse Pass the motorway swoops down into the valley quite steeply. The amazing spiral tunnels are on your left as well as the turnoffs to Takkakaw Falls, the small town of Field, Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge.

We stopped at Natural Bridge last year on our way to Panorama during the Winter. The boys all walked around the frozen river and into the cave but Fergus and I didn’t as we thought it looked a bit dodgy and I wasn`t keen to slip into ice-cold water. This year however, the river had frozen much more so Zeke, Tate and I clambered down the snowy slope and walked over the middle of the river to the cave. Inside a couple of guys were taking photos of the incredible frozen waterfall and the odd shaped rocks the current had carved out. It was just amazing to see, especially as we had last been there at the end of Summer and the water really gushes through there fast. Its hard to imaging that it gets cold enough for it to completely freeze.We carried on down the Kicking Horse River Valley, the trainline moving parallel to the road almost all the way and headed North West to the Kicking Horse Canyon. This part of the road is scary and is the part that closes for avalanches during the Winter. The Kicking Horse Canyon project says `The engineering and construction challenges in the Kicking Horse Canyon are immense. The area is subject to many rockslides, debris torrents and avalanches’ That says it all really. On the left is a `huge drop down to the river below and on the right, more frightening to me is cliffs and rocky outcrops rising metres and metres above you. These are covered in snow and loose rocks that fall all throughout the year. They are held back by huge areas of concrete barriers and metal fences. All quite foreboding as we drove down the windy road. Once out of the canyon we saw the industrial town of Golden sprawled out below and the cloud covered Kicking Horse Mountain rising above the town. From Golden we headed North towards Donald then turned West towards Glacier National Park. This part of the drive, Rodgers Pass through the Selkirk Mountains in particular, was absolutely breathtaking. The road follows the river South then turns West and flows in between Mt MacDonald and The Camels before heading South again past the Rogers Pass National Historical site. (this as well as the other short hikes were wanting to do along the road were all closed for the Winter) This stretch of road was at the base of some huge mountains that towered up into the clouds, there were multiple snow sheds along the road to prevent vehicles getting caught up in avalanches which clearly had been roaring down the mountains before we drove through as most of the snow sheds were covered in tonnes of snow, one had at least 3-4 metres of snow on the top of it. Insane! To keep the highway and railway open during the winter, the Royal Canadian Artillery uses 105 mm howitzers (cannons) to knock down the avalanches under controlled circumstances so traffic is not caught unexpectedly. It was pretty cool singing along to CCR and other old music while travelling through this beautiful area.Drove around the side of Mount Revelstoke National Park and into the town of Revelstoke. I checked us in at out accommodation, The Gateway Inn and we unpacked the car. The room consisted of 3 double beds, all along one wall facing the TV, a large bathroom, fridge, coffee making facilities and a nice big window with a mountain view. It wasn’t luxury but it was comfortable.After we relaxed for a bit and had a couple of beers in the room w headed into town for dinner. It was about 20 minutes into town on foot and I couldn’t believe the height of the snowbanks we passed. Outside every house and business were piles of snow almost taller that me. Even the build up on the lawns was nearly shoulder height in places. Revelstoke makes Banff look like it only has a dusting. I don’t know how the town copes with all the snow, it was definitely an eye-opener!Town was very quiet for a Friday night, but we soon found out where everyone was! I had been told about a place called The Village Idiot by some guys who had stayed at my hotel a few weeks ago and they said we had to go there. When we opened the front door, the place was packed! And I mean packed, the tables all full, bar seating full and more people waiting.

We popped over to a nearby Irish bar, The Last Drop for a few beers and some pool before heading back about an hour later.

Had to wait at the bar for a table but as soon as we ordered our drinks a booth in the back became free.

The Village Idiot is your typical rowdy ski bar. The walls and furniture are decorated with old skis and snowboards, there is sports memorabilia on the ceiling and walls (we aptly sat in amongst Calgary Flames stuff), big windows, brightly coloured walls and wooden tables and chairs and a happy buzz about the place.The menu is also very good with lots of quirky named yummy dishes. We started with a plate of Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls to share which were lovely and made us all more excited to see what our mains would be like. I ordered the HOW TO LOSE A CHICK IN TEN BITES GARLIC PESTO CHICKEN CLUB. This masterpiece starts with a grilled chicken breast sandwiched between two pieces of garlic ciabatta toast, with its dear friends bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and, of course, cheddar cheese. Finished with a hefty smear of our pesto garlic aioli. Wipe your chin, you’re drooling at a fancy meal! It was nice and filling after all the beer we had already consumed.

The boys all got the BRILLIANT BURGER – The chef’s love affair with burgers is complete. This homemade patty is topped with a generous chunk of back bacon, smoked corn, cheddar cheese, garlic aioli and our very own special sauce. They all raved about it, especially Tate who claimed it was one of the best burgers he has ever eaten! I’d recommend The Village Idiot to anyone, what a fun place!

Next, we moved on to The River City Pub, which had a band playing according to our waitress at The Village Idiot. It was a big, English style pub and reminded me of a Wetherspoons but with music. Double Gin & Tonics were on special, so we had a few rounds and chatted before moving to another table once the band set up and the dancefloor was cleared.  Tate started the dancing off for the night and eventually Fergus and I joined in. I was rubbish as always but the band were quite good, a mix of country and rock, very Canadian.When the band was close to finishing we headed back to the Inn in a cab. Things got a little out of hand at that stage, tiredness, drunkenness and 4 lads which resulted in a bit of a scuffle. By about 3am we were all tucked up safely in bed. Overall it was a pretty fun night of good food, pool, beers, dancing and laughs.

Favourite Roadtrip Memories

Looking for dinosaurs in the Badlands, AB  Kayaking in Caliper Lake Provincial ParkMining for Amethyst in Thunder Bay, ONThe amazing sunsets in Sleeping Giant NPExploring Beautiful MontrealSwimming and Sunbathing in Shediac, NBLighthouse trail on Gaspiesie PeninsulaExploring the Maritimes in Nova ScotiaDriving the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton IsExploring Grassy Point in North SydneySeeint Whales and exploring St John’s, NFTracing heritage and hiking on Fogo IslandExploring Gros Morne National Park Ancient Pictographs in Lake Superior.Passing the centre of CanadaThe beautiful Prairies of SK & Manitoba

Moose Jaw – Banff

The very last day of our 2 month long trip wasn’t the most interesting. 90% of the journey was long, straight, flat roads along the prairies. Silos, hay bales, farmers tending to their crops on huge machines, oil drilling sites, small isolated towns, electricity pylons, and the train track were the only sights to see. I think the land has its own beauty though, the colour of the grass and wheat, the patterns and stripes and the contrast of the blue sky is beautiful. There is so much of it. The sky is amazing our here, it reminds me of the song ‘Little Fluffy Clouds‘ by Orb. Have a listen or download it if you are crossing soon. The huge expanse of blue makes you feel really small, it was a cloudless day when we drove through but I can imaging watching a storm brewing out here would be epic.When we finally approached Calgary we felt relieved, the outline of the city skyscrapers in the distance with the Rockies towering up behind it was a welcome sight, not only did it mean the long flats were ending but I meant were were nearly home. We were both tired.we stopped at Walmart do do some grocery shopping and headed West. The weather had taken a turn upon entering Calgary and the Rockies and a bit of rain fell but it was mostly just overcast. We wondered if we would see or smell any of the smoke from the nearby forest fires that had been burning since just after we left. Arrived in a very busy Banff and it immediately felt like we had never left, it was hustle and bustle and full of tourists (it’s a bank holiday weekend so this was to be expected) and it must have taken us close to an hour to get some beers, get our rent from the bank and drop it off at our landlord, Mercy’s place in Otter street and get over the bridge to Lougheed Circle. On arrival we were greeted by our wonderful flatmates who we had missed dearly. They had been preparing a lovely dinner of Meatballs, Pasta sauce, pasta, salad and bread for us as a welcome home dinner, it was just delicious, and great to all sit around the dinner table and catch up.Unpacked the car into our new room which is huge! We have a walk through wardrobe which is twice the size of our old wardrobe and a big ensuite bathroom. We love it! 

Had some drinks, chatted, laughed and watched Wonder Woman. It’s great to be back. 

Agawa Bay – Dryden – Moose Jaw

Left Agawa Bay and headed around the North shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay. Stopped briefly but decided to carry on as we were making good time. Took motorway 17, the Northern Route through Upsala, Ignase and Dryden, an area best know for its remote fishing and hunting. There wasn’t much about but the landsacape was beautiful. Mostly flat with rolling hills in places, large lakes and rivers, and lots of thick forest. The last hour to Dryden was driven in the dark and with lots of Moose warning signs and heavy rain it was a tad scary, luckily there was a lot of traffic so we stuck behind 2 other cars. 

Stopped in Dryden and it was raining heavily, had a very basic dinner at Husky, a diner attached to a garage. Parked in Walmart and had to organise the car in a thunderstorm which ensures us and some of our gear got wet. It was a shitty night.

The West of Ontario was hilly, there were lots of lakes, big and small and rocky outcrops that had been carved out to make way for the road. The first inklings of Autumn were starting to show with some of the trees bright red, yellow and orange, It must look amazing in full blown Autumn. We listened to the last part of the audiobook ‘Crack House’ by Harry Keeble, a very interesting book about an ex policeman’s time in the Harringay drug squad. I had no idea crack was such a problem in London, I am glad I don’t live anywhere near the scummy areas of North London featured in the book. It is hell. We then went on to listen to the autobiography of Kevin Bridges. Another very funny tale. I love his Scottish accent. Audiobooks really do seem to make the time go faster. 

We have travelled a long way in the last 2 days, we are ready to be home now. The fun, exciting and interesting journey has ended and we are on the prairies. They are still beautiful in their own way but they get boring very quickly.  Passed the town’s of Winnipeg, Brandon Moosomin, Indian Head and Regina, all places we had passed on our outward journey 2 months ago, much of the roadworks we had sat in on the way over were now finished and are shiny, black, flat roads, good job fellas. Decided to stay our last night in Moose Jaw ant Capones Hideaway Motel. A basic motel in the centre of town. The room wasn’t bad, the air conditioner made a slight noise and the bath was slippery but overall it was good. It was a lovely balmy night and after a well needed shower I enjoyed a couple of Palm Bays and spoke to Dad. It was Father’s Day in Australia and we chatted for a while before he had to leave to take Jena to see her Dad. Fergus and I headed to a Scottish pub called Bobby’s Place and had a couple of drinks and shared some nibbles, sausage rolls and breaded mushrooms before heading off to the Casino. I stupidly blew some money on the pokies but Fergus won $250 on the Roulette table so we came out on top. Yippee! Had an Aperol Spritz at another very empty bar then went back to the motel to bed. 

One day to go.

Sault Ste Marie – Agawa Bay (Lake Superior)

Left the confines of Sault Ste Marie and headed towards Lake Superior Provincial Park around 10am after doing a small shop in Walmart. (I like to grab a few bits in there as a thank you for allowing us to stay, it’s only fair)

We stopped in Batchawana Bay, funnily enough the very same place we ran over our 1st cooker while trying to escape the swarm of mosquitos infiltrating our car while setting up our bed for the night. (Instead we ended up staying in a motel in Sault Ste Marie that night) It was windy and cold but Fergus managed to russle up a bacon and egg roll each. I’d briefly forgotten how crap Canadian bacon is, it was still pretty tasty although very fatty as usual. 

Carried on along the windy and hilly shoreline of the huge lake, through small holiday townships, past abandoned motels and First Nations trading posts to Agawa Bay tourist information centre. A small Museaum and souvenieer shop were attached to the centre and we had a brief wander about whilst learning a bit about the lake and surrounding areas and grabbing some maps and brochures. The camping ground is just South of the info centre and after checking in and getting some free Maple Baked Beans, eww, we drove down to site number 230. The camping ground is by far the largest in the park and I had my pick of 13 toilet blocks and 2 shower blocks, one of which is a 30 second walk away. (Not sure if you read my blog about Deer Lake camp, the one and only toilet/showers block was a 5 minute walk away!)We settled in and while Fergus cracked open a beer and played his football game on the laptop, I pumped up the kayak and lay in the sun while taking in our surroundings. Site 230 is just near the beach, there is one line of campsites across from us but we can just wander through them to the beach and we have a great view of the water through the trees. It’s not overly busy down this end of the camp either, we have neighbours on 2 sides but you can hardly notice them. We have the usual picnic table and fire pit and are surrounded by huge trees. It’s just lovely.We decided to go and have a look at Agawa Rock Pictographs in the afternoon. Agawa Bay was a lot more sheltered from the wind than Batchawana Bay had been earlier and the water was calm and there was only a slight breeze. Perfect for exploring the sacred Ojibwe Pictographs as you can only access them on a calm day, you may have guessed from the pictures below!

From the carpark we traversed down the steep path via rocky chasms and broken boulders to the cliff base at the edge of the lake. There were a few people down there, 2 older ladies that never made it down to the water as it was too procarious, a couple who said they had been there earlier in the week and couldn’t see the Pictographs due to the lake being so rough and 4 older ladies who were obvoiusly seasoned hikers and had legs similar to how my Mother’s were in her tramping days. (We call hiking tramping in NZ)Once at the cliff bottom we scrambled along the ledge, with the help of a fixed chain in places to the ancient drawings on the cliffs. On one side the rock face rose straight up 70-80 feet and on the other was the lake, around 4 foot below us on the sloped ledge. Had you fallen in, it wasn’t deep and you could easily swim along and get up again but the signs informing us that ‘tourists have died here’ made you keep a firm grip on the ledge. I gather that is when it was rough and in that case you really shouldn’t be down there in the first place.It was a great little adventure and it’s great to see a First Nations sacred site, all we had really seen so far in Canada regarding First Nations were casinos and cheap cigarette shops. It reminded me of going to see ancient Maori drawing in caves back in NZ as a kid. I’d imagine most of the world’s cultures did similar things, they also had a name for the monsters living in the lake, we have he Taniwha, I forget what name the Ojibwe used,  but it was on one of the information boards we passed. We then went to the local shop, or much rather the Agawa Craft complex, 50 km away! They had everything there, a huge craft shop with lots of tat and a few lovely carvings by a local carver, they were pretty nice but very expensive, lots of moccasins, bush shirts, rugs, jewellery, (I bought a glass bracelet) Native American dolls, signs, garden decorations and more. Got some petrol to put Fergus’s mind as rest (he wasn’t sure we’d get to the next town, Wawa, with quarter of a tank) and some ice-cream which I fed to him while he drove back to the camp for a few beverages by the lake. It was pretty windy by then but  it enough to blow the kayak away thankfully but we layered up in hoodies, relaxed and waited for the sunset. Had a lovely dinner of marinated pork steaks, couscous and salad, you can really make great food on a 2 burner camping stove if you know what to get. Watched the sunset down on the beach. Later that evening I went down by myself to look at the stars. As I looked up at the 100% clear night sky I thought about all the things I’m thankful for;

  • My amazing boyfriend who I love to pieces, and his lovely family
  • My family, even though they are far away and I don’t see them often, we talk all the time and we are very close 
  • I’m heading back to do another ski season in the Canadian Rockies
  • I’ve got a little bit of money so don’t need to worry about that, for now.
  • I have a job and a house to go back to in Banff (it’s pretty hard to sort this stuff out befoevyou get there!)
  • One of my best mates and his boyfriend are coming to visit me in Banff after I get back, I’m so excited!

There is plenty more but that’s what I thought about while looking up into space on the beach that night. Today had been a great day.

What are you thankful for?

Ottawa – Sault Ste Marie

Tonight we saw Moose! Moose! We saw 2 Moose in fact, 2 Moose with big antlers like you see in the photos! Amazing!

As you know in previous posts I have, until now, thought Moose were a myth, like the Moa in NZ or the Jump Bear in Australia, they are a made up beasts to scare tourists. (I didn’t really think this but was wondering why the hell we hadn’t seen one yet) Especially in Newfoundland, a small island with some 250,000 Moose, people were saying ‘oh you’ll surely see a Moose up there’, well no, we didn’t. 

We did however see 2 Moose about 5 minutes out of Sault Ste Marie, on the side of the motorway. One was awkwardly walking down the verge towards the road and the other standing proudly atop it looking out into the distance. It would have made a great photo but we were past them in such a flash. They were big but not as big as some of the road signs suggest, I don’t doubt that they do get huge, big enough to total a car in fact but these 2 were probably young males, they could have done plenty of damage had we hit them though! They were beautiful,  dark brown with impressive furry antlers. We were very lucky the weather had cleared as most of the journey had been heavy rain, that is a recipe for disaster! 

As we came across the animals, a big 1500L Ute was passing us so we couldn’t even change lanes to try to avoid them. Luckily Fergus was quick thinking and slowed down as he saw them then sped up as we passed so they would have plenty of time to get onto the road if in fact that’s where they wanted to go. Apparently they are a bit silly and just wander about anywhere. You just have to be so careful.We saw in our rear view mirrors that they had made it onto the road so the traffic had to stop. What a shame we were not a little slower, I could have had a great shot of them, instead I have a pic off the net, it’s kind of what happened.I’m so glad we can now add Moose to the list of animals we have seen. For me, Grizzly Bears and Orcas are the ones I most want to see. Where are the Orcas?

That evening we went to Boston Pizza for a late dinner before staying at another very busy Walmart car park. Yaaay Moose!

North Sydney – Edmundston – Ottawa

The trip across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick wasn’t too interesting, we are pretty much gunning it over to Lake Superior to do some kayaking and hiking. 

I did however get a very unexpected gift in my back account a couple of days after getting back to Canada. I checked my account to see how much I didn’t have and to my surprise it had shot up quite a lot due to a ‘credit memo’. After Googling that I was none the wiser and planned to visit a branch the following day to tell them how evil they were for mistakenly putting money in my bank at a time I needed it most. Maybe they might let me keep it? Hardly. It turns out my wonderful Mother and Stepfather had given me some cash as a gift. Mum said it’s for all the Christmas and Birthday presents I haven’t received in the 17 or so years I’ve been away from NZ. I’ll take that, thank you kindly. That wil pay for the remainder of this trip, my season’s ski pass and my first month’s rent. So very handy. Love you guys xoxoIn Edmundston we stayed in the Walmart and my was it busy! There must have been 20 campers three that night. I always feel a lot safer knowing there are plenty of fellow campers in the parking lot. Met a nice lady from BC, late 50s perhaps, in the washrooms the following morning who was a 1st time Walmart camper and as a veteran I was able to give her the ‘lowdown’, I basically told her we have done it a few times and haven’t had any issues. It’s a great way to travel. The drive through Quebec was long and boring, we bypassed Quebec City but went through Montreal which made things a lot slower. Quebecwans are bad drivers, much like France and Italy (probably most of Europe) they are a bit reckless and impatient, and indicating? Hell no! Drove across long plains of wheat fields with the occasional silo or factory of some sort, a Fromagerie here and there and glimpses of the Ottawa River.In Ottawa we stayed in an Air B&B, we needed to do a load of washing and have a proper shower so we stayed with Helen in Kanata. Had dinner in a local pub, The Brew Table, I had the liquria Chicken salad, it was great! The stay was pleasant and we got breakfast in the morning. The bed wasn’t as comfortable as our car bed is though. Our Woods Mattress is the best!