On My Own in Canada
No Stout For You
My flight from Chicago to Calgary was due to land at 9 p.m. That would give me enough time that evening to hit a local brewery close by my hotel for pizza and a stout.
A storm had bounced the plane uncomfortably and we were circling the area unable to land. At some point we were diverted to Edmonton where we needed to land and refuel. The plane sat with us packed inside on the runway waiting for the all clear to take off.
My flight into Calgary arrived after 1 a.m. and after getting my luggage and going through customs, I knew sadly, there would be no pizza or stout for me.
How Do You Work This Thing?
I trudged to the car rental and was the last in line. The lady handed me the keys and then locked up the window for the evening. I got in the car and breathed a sigh of exhausted relief, glad to finally be on the ground. I don’t love flying and all the storms and the extra take-offs and landings left me a little rattled. I looked to put the key in the ignition and there wasn’t one.
“Well alrighty…” I thought as I peeked around the dashboard. I spotted a button that said, ‘Start.’
“Yes! Jackpot…” I exclaimed, pushing the button.
Nothing happened. I pushed it again.
“What the heck.” I was getting a little nervous.
I got out and made my way back to the rental office but when I got there the door was locked and the lights were off.
“Hoooo boy…let’s think.” I got back in the car and checked for an owner’s manual, but no dice.
I weakly pushed the start button again and willed it to ‘start,’ while searching for another button that says ..,’this is the real start button.’ The car sat cold and silent.
I began to wonder briefly if I was going to be spending the night in the parking garage or if I should get an uber to the hotel. I grabbed the rental agreement and called the number listed. I was surprised to get an answer.
“Hi…yeah… I was just in there about 5 minutes ago and I can’t seem to start my car.”
“Did you press the start button?” The kind lady asked.
“Well yes…several times.” What did she think I was a dummy?
“Did you have your foot on the brake?” She continued.
I did what she said and the car sprang to life. Clearly, I was that dummy.
Dinner of Champions
The hotel was thankfully only a 5 minute ride from the airport. I sipped water and nibbled some pringles from the vending machine. I then lit up my space-age, underglow bed and went to sleep.
Me Vs. The Big Bad Jaw
When I woke up the next morning, I was feeling not-so-good. I had a pretty bad TMJD jaw headache and did a few things to try to make it tolerable. I busted out my portable ultrasound machine, my tens unit, the pink cylinder foam roller I call “big momma” and my blue S hook.
By 11 o clock checkout time, I was wondering how I was going to get through the day. I turned in my key and then sat in the car in the parking lot of the hotel, continuing to try and smash down my uncooperative and painful muscles. My face and neck were so locked up, I was a bit light headed and super sore.
I Win This Round-Heading to Half Hitch Brewing
I was not going to let my stupid headache stop me from seeing what I wanted to see…so I blue-hooked my shoulder and reviewing my plans for the day. I was traveling alone and somewhat wishing I had a driver…or a sherpa to carry me around…but I needed to try and suck it up and get moving. I took an ibuprofen and a few deep breaths to clear my head and started driving the hour and a half towards Banff.
What’s a Poutine?
There were grey hulking mountains in the distance as I made my way to Half Hitch Brewing Co, my 1st item on the agenda. I had a Fire N’Fury Red Ale and an order of poutine. Before I had left Chicago, a friend advised me to try the poutine. I had never heard of it…but when in Canada…
Half Hitch offered a vegetarian version made with their own brew instead of meat so it was a go. French fries, cheese curds, more cheddar cheese and a brown ale gravy…holy yum.
After my ale and heavy deliciousness, I was feeling a bit better and continued west.
The Old Church
About 20 minutes up the road a burned out ruin of a church caught my eye and I pulled over.
The McDougall Memorial United Church was about halfway from Calgary to Banff. The 142 year old structure had apparently burnt just a month before my visit in 2017. I heard they are rebuilding it, using as much of the original building and remnants as possible.
As I got closer to the town of Banff, the traffic increased from no cars and a few road goats…to downright crowded near the shopping area. I popped in a couple of little shops and then over to Banff Ave. Brewing Co.
Brewery and a View in Banff
They had an upstairs outdoor sitting area with heaters that overlooked the street. Mountain peaks were visible beyond the little town. I took a short break to enjoy the view and have a little snack and a drink.
Looking for the Blues-Where is Moraine Lake?
Next stop…Lake Moraine…one of the glowie blue lakes that was one of the highlight items on this trip. Most of the ride was smooth sailing on the Trans Canada Highway. The last bit of the 60 minute drive from Banff up to Lake Moraine was full of winding hairpin turns dotted with tall pines. The mountains were huge and I felt very small, tucked on the road between them.
I was able to park and hike up the little trail leading to the lake. The Christmas scented air was brisk, maybe 45°F and windy. I caught little peeks of shimmering teal among the pines and mountains and quickened my pace.
When I got to the shore, it was breathtaking. My dad had passed away the previous month and I was in desperate need of nature and solitude. This wonder before me was exactly what I was looking for.
I had intended to kayak the lake as I had seen amazing pictures online. The wind was a little whippy and with the chilly temps, it did not look to be the relaxing paddle I’d envisioned. I decided to just look with my eyes.
The glacier fed lake sits in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. It’s turquoise color is a result the light reflecting off of the fine rock particles (rock flour) in the water from glacial runoff. Large grey boulders lined the shore and patches of snow were still visible on the mountains, despite it being June.
I walked a short distance up one of the many trails, but with a full agenda ahead of me, I needed to move on.
It was about 10 miles from Lake Moraine to Lake Louise which took longer than 10 miles should…due to the winding mountain roads and high traffic near the Lake Louise area. Tall evergreens lined the roads and sweeping valleys were visible around every turn.
Louise Has the Blues Too-Lake Louise Banff
Lake Louise had a wooden boardwalk on one side and the huge Fairmont Chateau Hotel curving around one shore. Canoeing was available but there were few takers due to the wind. Lake Louise water never makes it above 40° degrees or so Fahrenheit so there is no swimming. Several trails loop around the area including one to the Lake Agnes Tea House at the top of one peak.
The water shone the same glowing glacial turquoise as Moraine. I sat for a few minutes just soaking in the colors and filling my lungs with the crisp pine air. I felt small and grateful looking at the mountain scene before me.
Gotta Go…Off to Peyto
It was after 6 p.m. and with one more item on my agenda for the day, I had to get moving.
It was about 30 minutes to the Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge where I would be staying. I navigated the winding mountain roads and suddenly a half-frozen, shining teal lake appeared on my left. I stopped and checked the map…Bow Lake. There was a lot more snow and ice over here, even though I wasn’t very far north from where I had come. I snapped a few photos and wound around to the lodge. I checked in and dropped off my stuff before heading out.
Bow Summit and Peyto Lake was my destination about 10 minutes north. I knew there was about a quarter minute mile hike to the top but I was excited to see more blue-blue Canadian glacier water.