A Travellerspoint blog

Los Angeles

November 24th to December 4th

Apologies for the late update. Although we have been home in Australia for a few weeks we’ve been busy catching up with family and friends, celebrating Christmas and New Years and re-acquainting ourselves with our house.

Anyways, for the last week of our epic adventure we were located in Los Angeles. We had decided a few months back to return to LA for the last part of our trip for a few reasons. Firstly, we started the journey almost 12 months ago in LA and there were still a few things we wanted to see and do. Also, our good friends Doug, Anne and boys from Colorado would be in LA at Anne’s sisters house for Thanksgiving which we were graciously invited to. We also wanted to take Alyssa to Disneyland as a reward for all the hard work she put in doing Year 5 on the road in a foreign country with her parents as tutors (not suggested). Finally, we wanted to be in a location where we would have just 1 flight back to Australia and not risk coming from the other side of the country and potentially having delays due to weather or mechanical issues (something we endured on a previous trip from the USA).

Disneyland, how do you describe the place? It is the happiest place on earth and probably the most magical. Starting with Main Street USA, a pedestrian walkway with old fashioned parlors and shops on either side with the Sleeping Beauty Castle at its far end. Rides and attractions radiate from the Castle and thankfully we were lucky to visit on a Tuesday in December, one of the quieter days and months where daily attendances average a mere 10,000 people. It still felt quite busy and we cannot imagine how the chaotic it would be in the middle of the year, the US Summer when daily attendance can reach 40,000. Thankfully the longest ride wait time was only about 15 minutes. It would be ridiculous in Summer. Following our fair share of rides including the Jungle Cruise and It’s a Small World we found a great location to view the Christmas Fantasy Parade at 4.30 and then the Paint the Night parade at 8.45. The climax though is the Disneyland Forever Fireworks Spectacular at 9.30 described as an immersive experience where Disneyland Park becomes the backdrop for spectacular sights and sounds. It truly is an amazing experience and worth the price of admission alone.

Disneyland

Disneyland


Sleeping Beauty Castle

Sleeping Beauty Castle


Tea Cup ride

Tea Cup ride


Its a Small World

Its a Small World


Fireworks 1

Fireworks 1


Fireworks 2

Fireworks 2

Thanksgiving. Something that is foreign to Australia but clearly loved by the Americans. Thanksgiving is a tradition that dates to 1621 when the Pilgrims held a harvest feast following a successful growing season. The tradition continues as a National holiday and a way of giving thanks for family, friends and life in general with some of the best and most plentiful food ever put together. Our host Sue had 16 people over and we enjoyed a 12kg Turkey, stuffing, potatoes and all sorts of vegetable side dishes before helpings of Pecan as well as Pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

Venice Beach – a trip to LA is not complete without a visit to Venice (often known as Muscle) beach. Part freak show and wacky carnival, Venice beach can only be described as an experience. It is here where body builders from all over the world workout on the promenade whilst thousands of tourists stroll, ride or rollerblade past. Alyssa even rented some blades for an hour or so to allow her to feel part of the 'in' crowd whilst rolling on the boardwalk. I'm sure its something she will remember for a long time.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Hollywood sign – we had visited the Walk of Fame at the beginning of our trip and Alyssa was keen to re-visit and enjoy the atmosphere and see some more stars on the sidewalk. It was from here that we initially saw the Hollywood sign but as we had a rental vehicle this time, we ventured into the surrounding area to hike closer to the sign. Well worth the trip to see the sign at such a close distance as well as some of the stars houses in Beverly Hills.

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign


Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills


Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame

Posted by V3USA 14:27 Comments (0)

Portland, Oregon

November 14th to 25th

After arriving late on Saturday the 14th on Sunday we headed downtown to visit a bookshop we had been told was worth seeing. Powell’s New & Used Books store, spanning an entire city block was our first stop. Powell's is not just a store – it’s an experience. This place is huge with multiple levels and rooms (red room, purple room, green room etc, etc, etc.). If you go with someone you need to have a strategy because just wandering will get you pondering whether you will both get out. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when she fell down the rabbit hole – which room would I end up in. It is difficult to put into words what the attraction of this store is - its atmosphere, contents and service are all factors, but the result is much greater than the sum of its parts. This place is a landmark that every book lover should visit at least once.

portland-oregon-sign

portland-oregon-sign


Powell Street books

Powell Street books

Voodoo Doughnuts. What lead us to a doughnut shop? Well, whenever we asked anyone from Portland or who had been to Portland what they thought we should see/do, they all kind of said something like this: ‘There is some big bookstore’ (see above) and ‘there is supposed to be a really awesome doughnut shop’. Ohhh Emmm Geee! They weren’t wrong. The line was a street long when we arrived (and it was drizzling rain), don’t fear though, the line moved quickly and we were inside in no time at all. Voodoo Doughnuts has some of the wildest, craziest doughnuts you will ever see. Crazy shapes and tastes make this a place to visit when you're in the Pearl District in Portland. With names like: Voodoo Doll, Pothole, and Bacon Maple Bar, how could we not ingest? Sooo, doughnuts we purchased and we carried the pink box with, ‘good things come in pink boxes’ written on the outside, only to be approached by a local saying that the doughnut shop had single - handedly been responsible for the heart attacks of several tourists! Apparently something to do with the high fat, low nutrition and the effect the bacon fat has on the heart’s arteries. Little did he know that we don’t scare that easy!

Voodoo doughnuts1

Voodoo doughnuts1


Voodoo doughnuts2

Voodoo doughnuts2


Doughnuts

Doughnuts

Saturday (Sunday) Markets. After purchasing our doughnuts, we wandered down to the Saturday Markets (on Sunday). Their Saturday market is on Sunday too. It is right on the river which is cool and there is everything from craft and food to entertainment. We went on Sunday, so it was only half of everything there, but we found out that on Saturday there is a little more hustle and bustle and it includes a farmer’s market. There were some areas where there were beautiful crafters and pottery artisans which make it a great place to just wander around, look at the art and people watch.

Saturday markets

Saturday markets

With school finished for another week, we celebrate by heading downtown Friday afternoon. Portland -- the city that started the street food revolution! As you walk about 10 blocks through downtown you can visit up to a selection of more than 600 food carts, most grouped in what they call pods and you can sample anything from Belgian-style waffles and Portuguese and Spanish-inspired cuisine to Asian-fusion and Mexican. Too much of a good thing you might think, but the fact is, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at one of these 600 food carts. So, why not embrace the delicious dilemma?

portland-pod-food-truck

portland-pod-food-truck

After grabbing the rental car we travelled to Portland's Central Eastside for its first ever Portland Night Market. This market was a blend of food, culture, music, drinks and retail in the Industrial District, showcasing many unique businesses in Portland. The market took place in a Pelett Properties warehouse that is often used for film and television shoots and made us feel a bit artsy-fartsy with all the organic products and upcycled objects on display. There was even an art studio on the mezzanine level where you could walk around with wine, beer or hot cup of apple cider. What added to our experience was the fact that we had to wait in line for 30 minutes in 8 degrees (wind chill factor made it a tad colder) before we could actually get inside the warehouse. Worth it though.

Mobile Brew van

Mobile Brew van

On Saturday 21st November we had a relatively early 8am departure for Eugene, a little over a 2 hour drive south. The first stop was the Eugene Holiday markets (in its 100th year) with vendors selling all types of home-made articles. They also had an elf hunt where you had to locate certain elves amongst the hundreds of stall holders. This was a great marketing idea as it ensured you saw every stall which often led to a discussion and purchase. Next was a quick trip to Hayward Field for a little Track and Field history. Located at the University of Oregon (Eugene is also known as Track town) Hayward Field is the Carnegie Hall from American track and field and plays host annually to the nation’s finest single day track and field contest, the Prefontaine Classic.

Next we drove North to the small town of Corvallis, home to the Oregon State University Beavers. We had organised tickets for their final home football game against the University of Washington Huskies. Our tickets were close to halfway and about 10 rows from the field, an ideal location to see and hear all the action ….. only problem was the action was lopsided in the Huskies favour … to the tune of 45-0 at the half. We stayed for the concussion which was a slightly more respectable 52 – 7.

Beavers game

Beavers game

On Sunday 22nd November we decided to find a local favourite for breakfast. After consulting Yelp we found the Broader Café with 4.5 stars from over 860 reviews, though the pictures showing Swedish pancakes was probably the clincher. Alyssa chose the pancakes (which were incredible) as was the ‘Lost Eggs’.

After breakfast we drove to Mt Hood to take THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride. Yep! You read that right. Recreated to match all the sights and sounds of the beloved story, picture the excitement of children dressed in pyjamas with golden tickets clutched in their hands as they board a train and prepare to embark on their journey to the North Pole. And it all begins when the Conductor calls “All aboard” and punches children’s golden tickets.

Whilst on the train we hear the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack as the story reading begins and the book’s characters come to life, we see dancing chefs serve hot cocoa and cookies to all riders in a merry fashion, and even the doubting hobo wanders through the train. And of course, it wouldn’t be the Polar Express without Santa. The best part of this memorable ride is that every child is presented with the iconic silver sleigh bell (only believers can hear its ringing). This was probably the best way ever to end our short stay in Portland.

After what can only be described as a magical rail ride, we drive back to Portland via the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway. Any way you look at it, Scenic Byway is a marvel—for its visionary engineering, incredible scenery, and rich history. Internationally lauded for spectacular waterfalls, architectural gems, and magnificent overlooks of the Columbia River Gorge, it’s no wonder this Byway has been called “King of Roads.” Every twist and turn brings new vistas, from majestic waterfalls such as Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, Wahkeena Falls, Horse Tail Falls and Multnomah Falls, (a waterfall more magnificent and memorable than I think I have ever seen), to astounding views of the mountain ranges, forestry growth and more. We also stopped at Crown Point Vista House, built in 1916, the Vista House was designed for travelers to stop, rest and enjoy the splendid views of the gorge and Columbia River below. It is a beautiful historic building laid out on an octagonal footprint, the stone is covered in a honey, gold and green ceramic tiled roof which makes it quite unique and ornate in its own way. We didn’t stay long for two reasons. Firstly, Vista House was closed for the day due to hazardous weather conditions. Secondly, if the hazardous weather condition sign didn’t quite give you a heads up, Alyssa almost got blown away and all three of us found it difficult to walk in any direction because the winds were so strong.

Horsetail falls

Horsetail falls


Mutnomah falls

Mutnomah falls


Vista house

Vista house

Next stop ...... Los Angeles

Posted by V3USA 09:47 Comments (0)

Seattle

October 25th to November 14th

We drove to Seattle with Cappy and Yvonne with the hope that the American authorities would allow our re-entry. You may recall we were only permitted to stay in the USA for 6 months and there was no definitive timeframe for us to be in Canada before re-entering. After some research indicated that 3 months would be a minimum, we decided to stay in Canada for 4 months to be more certain.

After arriving at the border we were directed to the office to ‘show cause’ for our return. We were asked a few questions regarding where we have been, how long we were away and what our plans were, which is effectively 6-7 weeks in the USA before returning home. We even had paperwork to prove the date of our return flights. Anyways, the official stamped our passports with another 6 month stay and directed us to a cashier to pay a fee. Not sure what the fee was, but at $6 each and now allowed to stay for the remainder of the trip we simply paid, walked out and were back in the USA, Washington State to be exact.

Seattle had always been on our list to visit and we must admit it exceeded our expectations. Our accommodation is in the Downtown district. All our previous stays have been in neighborhoods to get a feel for how people live and generally about 30 minutes on public transport from the downtown. Of all the cities we could stay downtown, Seattle is a very much a worthy choice. Located only 10 min walk West to the Pike Place Market and 10 minutes East to the funky Capitol Hill area and Grocery shops, we were literally in the middle of everything.

Many would associate Seattle with not only Pike Place but the Space Needle. It’s worth noting that Seattle is home to many of the world’s most recognizable names such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Boeing and Nordstrom to name a few. All started and have Headquarters in Seattle. In fact, Microsoft has over 60,000 employees, Amazon 25,000, Starbucks has over 500 stores (virtually 1 on every corner), Boeing has over 70,000 employees and Nordstrom 7,000. That alone is a significant number even for a growing, expanding and increasingly expensive Seattle.

The Boeing factory in Everett just North of Seattle has the distinction of being the largest building in the world by volume, as accounted by the Guinness World Records. It is easy to see why when you could fit 55 football fields inside the factory that includes its own fire department, security force, fully equipped medical clinic and numerous restaurants and cafes. From high above the factory floor you view the assembly of 747, 767, 777 and the 787 Dreamliner where the airplanes are being outfitted and painted. We cannot recall all the facts provided and phones and cameras are prohibited on the tour, but we do remember that there are 3 million rivets in each plane. Oh and the mural on the retractable six factory doors is regarded as the largest digital graphic in the world.

Pike Place Market is one of the world’s most famous public markets. Located on the waterfront the market opened in 1907 and houses small businesses offering fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood, arts and crafts. With 10 million visitors annually it is easily Seattle’s most popular tourist destination and is actually the 33rd most visited tourist attraction in the world. The main reason for its popularity is the famous ‘fish toss’ where at one of the various seafood stalls the entertainment is fish being thrown between the shop assistants.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Nearby is Gum Alley, an area behind the Market Theater where patrons back in 1993 started to stick their gum before entering the theatre. Noted as the 2nd most germiest tourist attraction in the world (the Blarney Stone is the first) the Seattle council commenced the cleansing of the wall a couple of days after we visited. Probably a good idea since the area was truly disgusting and smelly.

Gum Alley

Gum Alley

A day on the buses, albeit a wet and rainy day (it rains almost every day during Winter in the Pacific North West) took us to the suburb of Fremont. The goal was to see the famous Fremont Troll, a scary looking concrete creation that stands over 3 metres high whilst crushing a Volkswagen Beetle in its left hand. Located not far away is the Fremont Rocket, found lying around in 1993 in nearby Belltown the rocket now sticks out of a building. The most controversial piece of art though is the Statue of Lenin which was salvaged from Slovakia after the 1989 revolution.

Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll


Lenin Statue

Lenin Statue

From Fremont we boarded the bus this time to the Ballard Locks where the freshwater lakes of Washington and Union flow through the 8 mile long Ship Canal dropping 22 feet into salt water Puget Sound. On the southern side of the locks you can view a fish (Salmon) ladder from underwater glass sided tanks.

Again on the bus and this time to the posh suburb of Queen Anne, specifically Keary Park for stuning views of the Seattle skyline with the Space Needle (built for the 1962 World’s Fair) in the foreground. Following we walked to the Olympic Sculpture Park hovering above train tracks and home to sculptures, art both permanent and visiting installations. The rain drizzle was still occurring but we lumbered on knowing that a warm apartment and shower awaited us.

View of Seattle

View of Seattle


Space Needle

Space Needle


Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

Keen to see some local sport the Seattle Sounders Professional Soccer team was playing a Western Conference elimination game against the LA Galaxy at nearby CenturyLink Field. We called Cappy to see if he and Yvonne were interested in joining us. A few hours later Cappy calls to say that Yvonne had secured some tickets through her work Oberto, manufacturers of Beef Jerky. Cool, what could be better than free tickets. Well …. how about free tickets in a Corporate Suite complete with drinks, dinner and a dessert cart that blew Alyssa away. What a great night topped by the local team winning 3-2.

Sounders Soccer

Sounders Soccer


Thanks Oberto

Thanks Oberto


Final score

Final score

It was Halloween whilst we were in Seattle so we headed to the nearest Target to locate Alyssa a costume, Cat Woman to be exact. We were lucky enough to find that only 10 minutes walk away the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce was holding its Annual Hilloween carnival. The main hall of the Community Centre was full of games for the kids including toss the ghost doll through the haunted house, a spider web maze and balloon pop to name a few. For every turn the child received a piece of candy or chocolate. After about an hour of fun and games a brass band arrived, played a few up tempo tunes and then led the kids (and families in tow) down Broadway street just like the Pied Piper. What a fun and joyous time. Afterwards Alyssa trick or treated in our apartment building with residents dressed up, some playing Michael Jackson's Thriller and all full of cheer.

Hilloween

Hilloween

The guide book suggested a trip to Leavenworth, about 90 minutes West of Seattle. Once again we were joined by Cappy who offered to drive us as he too was keen for the visit. Our first stop though was the Maltby Café, famous for the World’s Largest Cinnamon Roll and probably the largest breakfast we have ever seen. Suffice to say when we left we were full and satisfied for essentially the remainder of the day. Leavenworth is an Alpine town in one of the few ski areas in Washington. Although a Sunday and technically not the tourist season there was still happening and we all noted that a visit during Christmas with snow on the ground would be quite magical.

Maltby's Cafe

Maltby's Cafe


Leavenworth

Leavenworth

On one of our final days we again joined Cappy and Yvonne, this time for a tour of the Underground. The tour commences at Pioneer Square, the birthplace of Seattle which is named after local tribal leader Chief Sealth. The Seattle Underground is a network of underground passageways and basements that were originally ground level. Seattle’s first buildings were wooden and a fire in 189 destroyed 31 blocks. Instead of rebuilding the city as it was, city leaders ensured all new buildings were of stone or brick and also to regrade the streets one to two stories higher than the original street grade. For the regrade, the streets were lined with concrete walls that formed narrow alleyways between the walls and buildings on both sides of the street. The tour was an interesting and informative 90 minute stroll, however will always be remembered for not 10 minutes into the tour a massive rat ran across both Ronnie and Yvonne’s feet soon followed by screams of surprise … or maybe fear. Following the tour we had a Brooklyn style pizza (biggest and best pizza I have ever had) and finally some Gelato before saying our goodbyes.

Underground Tour 1

Underground Tour 1


Underground Tour 2

Underground Tour 2


Brooklyn pizza

Brooklyn pizza


With Cappy and Yvonne

With Cappy and Yvonne

Posted by V3USA 16:15 Comments (2)

Vancouver

October 5th to 25th

Often known as Van City, Vancouver is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited on this journey. This harbour city has numerous islands dotted offshore in the Pacific Ocean and Mountains to the North. It is very easy to understand why Vancouver is so beautiful. Tack on a couple of beautiful bridges and the famous Stanley Park, it truly is a visual delight.

Our accommodation is in East Van in the neighborhood of Hastings Sunrise, only a 30 minute bus ride from Downtown. We are once again located in a basement, however this time some of the bulkheads are quite low (for Nick anyways as he had to duck down walking between the lounge and dining room and into each bedroom). The area has a variety of shops, a couple of grocery stores, a few micro breweries and a large number of cafes. Additionally, a 2 minute walk away is Cambridge Street, one of Vancouver’s most famous streets at this time of year. The season is Fall, the leaves on the trees are changing and dropping everywhere. Hopefully the photos below gives you an idea of how beautiful this street is. It should also be noted that the average house price in Vancouver is $1.2M and the house we are staying in is worth a mere $1.4M. Not sure how anyone can afford to live here when their wages appear comparable to Australia. That said, our hosts were renting out the basement (to us) and converted their garage to accommodation.

Our accommodation

Our accommodation

Autumn colours

Autumn colours

Autumn colours 2

Autumn colours 2

First to Stanley Park, the 404 hectares of parkland located just West of Downtown. We decided to rent bikes to ride around the 9km Seawall, certainly the best way to tour this area and enjoy all its pleasure. Here we had numerous stops to view Vancouver from across the bay as well as stopping to see the Totem poles, Lighthouse, Empress of Japan Figurehead, Girl in a wetsuit statue and the imposing Lions Gate Bridge before finishing at English Bay.

Riding Stanley Park

Riding Stanley Park


Totem Poles

Totem Poles


Lighthouse

Lighthouse


Empress of Japan Figurehead with Lions Gate Bridge

Empress of Japan Figurehead with Lions Gate Bridge


Girl in a wetsuit

Girl in a wetsuit

Granville Island is a must for any visitor to Vancouver. Although technically not an Island, it’s cobbled streets lead you from shop to restaurant to theatre and the Public Market is home to fresh produce stalls, bakeries, fish, cheese and many local food vendors.

Granville Markets

Granville Markets

As usual, we rented a car one weekend to allow us to explore more of Vancouver and its surrounds. Our first stop was IKEA (a novelty for us from Townsville where the closest IKEA is over 1,300 km away). We had visited IKEA previously in Calgary but were rushed due to their early Sunday closure. This time we arrived at 10.30 with the aim to explore and then attend the café and try the famous Swedish Meatballs. Let’s just say they were as good as expected. We followed IKEA with a drive around the coast past Point Grey and the University of British Columbia, located in probably the most idyllic location in Vancouver. We then travelled to little Horseshoe Bay NorthWest of the city.

The following day we drove to Whistler along the Sea to Sky highway with stops along the way at Shannon Falls (335m high and the third highest falls in BC) and Brandywine falls (a spectacular 70m waterfall). After a quick stop in Squamish we arrived at Whistler which was quite empty as the Mountain bike season closed the previous weekend and the ski season doesn’t open for another month or so. After hanging out in the Main Village to see some of the memorabilia from the 2010 Winter Olympics we had lunch and returned to Vancouver.

Shannon Falls

Shannon Falls


Brandywine Falls

Brandywine Falls


Whistler

Whistler

Nick’s birthday fell on a Friday night so we headed down to Gastown for a celebratory dinner. Vancouver was born in Gastown and is now home to a number of funky restaurants as well as the famous Steam Clock which chimes every 15 minutes. After dinner we walked over to the Rogers Centre to watch an Ice Hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and St Louis Blues. Unfortunately the home team lost 4-3 (they scored 2 goals in the last 4 minutes to set up an exciting final minute). Oh, and there was a classic Ice Hockey fight where 2 players belted each other while the other players and referees just watched. Once one of the fighters to knocked to the ice the referees jump on them to stop the fight and send them to the penalty box (sin bin) for 5 minutes. Clearly the highlight for us.

Canucks game

Canucks game

On our final weekend in Vancouver we were visited by our good friends Cappy and Yvonne. We spent time with Cappy in both Albuquerque and Moab earlier in the trip and as he recently moved to Seattle, thought they would spend the weekend with us and then drive us across the border. We decided a trip Grouse Mountain was in order so we caught the Skyride Gondala up the mountain for Vancouver’s finest views. The other option is to hike the Grouse Grinder, a hike of 2,830 steps. At the top of the mountain we visited Grinder and Coola, 2 orphaned Grizzly Bears. After descending the mountain (again by Gondola) we drove to nearby Lynn Canyon to view its Suspension bridge and trails. Most people visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge, however after some research revealed that Lynn Canyon was free and better rated, it was an easy decision.

Grouse Mountain Gondala

Grouse Mountain Gondala


Grinder and Coola

Grinder and Coola


Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge


Lynn Canyon

Lynn Canyon

Next stop ….. Seattle USA

Posted by V3USA 16:21 Comments (1)

BC Roadtrip

Yah for school holidays

The September school holidays meant ditching the books for 2 weeks and embarking on an EPIC Road Trip around Southern British Columbia including the world famous Rocky Mountains.

After collecting our rental car in Victoria, we proceeded 30 minutes up the coast to Swartz Bay to the catch the ferry to Tsawwassen, just South of Vancouver. The ferry is capable of taking over 200 cars and a couple of thousand people and only takes 1.5 hours darting through the numerous islands that dot the coastline of Western Canada.

After disembarking the ferry we head along the Trans Canada Highway towards Kamloops. The Highway is regarded (by Lonely Planet at least) as one of the world's great scenic drives and we concur. Along the way you pass through 7 tunnels, hug the vertical walls of the beautiful Fraser Canyon and follow the Thompson River. Although the weather was overcast with slight drizzle, it truly was amazing. Our stop in Kamloops was intentional so we could attend a Boston Pizza restaurant to celebrate Alyssa's 11th birthday (her request and I wasn't about to argue).

Birthday dessert

Birthday dessert

After Kamloops our direction of travel was towards Jasper National Park. As the accommodation in Jasper was more expensive than we had anticipated (even though it is technically just outside the tourist season) we decided to stay in Valemount, a small town of just 1,000 people and a little over an hours drive from Jasper. As things turn out, our stay in Valemount was great and provided us with the opportunity to see Mt Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) as well as both Rearguard and Overlander Falls. Rearguard falls was the standout and only a short 300m walk from the parking lot. Additionally, our accommodation was right beside the Cranberry Marsh where we hiked to see Canadian geese, ducks, muskrats and beaver dams.

Rearguard Falls

Rearguard Falls

A day trip to Jasper allowed us to partake in a Wildlife tour on the prowl for Deer, Elk, Moose and Bear. Unfortunately we only got to see Deer and Elk. Moose are more likely to frequent the East Coast and further North and Bear sightings are more regular in Spring.

Elk

Elk

Following our stay in Valemount we headed towards Lake Louise. We firstly stopped at the Athabasca falls before continuing to the Columbia Icefields, but as it was raining, very misty and a little cold we decided to continue on our journey South.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

The following day we ventured back to the Icefields, a drive of 90 minutes from our accommodation. Along the way we noticed the snow line was lower, it was now down to the road and light snow was falling when we arrived at the Glacier Discovery Centre. From the Discovery Centre we first caught the shuttle towards the Glacier and then, as the terrain became more rugged, we were transferred to a specially designed Ice Explorer, down one of the steepest gravel roads in North America and then onto the glacier. The glacier is a slow moving river of ice some 30 storeys deep and is situated between Mt Columbia and Mt Athabasca. Interestingly snow on the mountains melts and flows to the Arctic, Atlantic And Pacific Oceans. Although we only had 20 minutes on the Glacier and the weather was well below freezing, it will certainly be one of those moments we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefield

After driving back to Lake Louise we ventured 5 km out of town to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and one of the most photographed lakes in the world. Located at the base of the Victoria Glacier, the lake is over 2.5 km long and 90 m deep and is definitely breathtaking. Following we drove further out of town to see Moraine Lake, set in the Valley of the 10 peaks.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise


Chateau Lake Louise

Chateau Lake Louise


Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

Our next destination is Banff about 50 km South but we decided to firstly drive a further 27 km to the small town of Canmore for lunch. Canmore has a very relaxed atmosphere and as we were later to discover, is less reliant on tourism than Banff and would make an ideal alternative for someone looking for a nice little sleepy hollow. After driving to Banff and checking into our hotel we quickly discovered the resort/tourist feel of Banff. Being a Sunday it felt overcrowded and we had one of those perplexing moments where we loathed the number of tourists but understand we are also tourists. That said, the town of Banff has a somewhat western/country feel and the view in all directions is quite incredible.

We wanted to partake in a hike whilst in Banff and decided on the Sunshine meadows, rated by Lonely Planet as the Number 1 day hike in Canada. After driving 20 minutes out of town we went to purchase tickets to catch the shuttle bus to the base of the Sunshine ski fields only to find out the EFTPOS machine wasn't working and we were given free passage on the bus. Bonus. We hiked from the Trail Centre uphill for 1.5 km to the Rock Isle viewpoint. Although a tough little hike for Alyssa, we reached the Continental divide with incredible views of Mt Assiniboine (the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and the surrounding sea of peaks and lakes. On driving back to Banff we had a quick stop at Lake Minnewanka (pronounced Mini - wonka).

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka

Next up was the small town of Nelson, home to a new friend in Dharma whom we met when hiking in Colorado about 6 months ago. He invited us to stay with him whilst on our Road Trip which we quickly accepted. As the crow flies Nelson is not that far from Banff, however the number of mountains and lakes in between means it is a 6 hour trip including a ride on another car ferry across Lake Kootenay. Although we had limited time in Nelson we did get a chance for a hike recommended by Dharma to Pulpit Rock, a 2 hour roundtrip but offering wonderful views of Nelson.

Nelson

Nelson

Our journey then continued to Revelstoke, but first, a stop at the Nakusp Hot springs to soothe the aching muscles from the previous days hike. Well not exactly aching but certainly in need for a good relax. After catching yet another car ferry, this time across Upper Arrow Lake we arrived in Revelstoke where we visited the nearby Enchanted Forest (open for over 50 years) with over 350 handcrafted figurines, home to BC's tallest tree house and nestled in amongst 800 year old cedars. A trip to Revelstoke would not be complete without a trip to Mt Revelstoke. The drive to the top of the mountain is along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway which climbs 1,600m, is 26 km long and includes 16 switchbacks to the subalpine meadow of Mt Revelstoke National Park. Along the way we saw a bear scurrying across the road, our first bear sighting for the entire trip. Unfortunately he moved so fast we didn't get a chance for a photo. After arriving at the top of Mt Revelstoke we hiked the short but enjoyable Eagle Knoll trail allowing us views of Lake Revelstoke.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest

With a couple of days of school holidays remaining we visited the Margaret falls and stopped at Roderick Haig-Brown Provincial park to see the last of the Sockeye Salmon spawning on the Adams River. The fish are completing a journey that takes them far out into the Pacific then upstream against currents and rapids all the way up to Alaska and back again, travelling over 4,000km in their lifetime.

Margaret Falls

Margaret Falls

Finally we stopped in the town of Hope to see the Othello tunnels, built in 1911 to complete the Kettle Valley railway. Later that day we watched the Cowboys win their first Premiership. Quite a surreal feeling as we went to their first Grand Final in 2005 (Alyssa was just over 1 and fell asleep after 15 minutes) and we have watched every game of the season on our iPad via replay.

Cowboys win

Cowboys win

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