Onwards and Upwards
The mountains are calling and I must go…
We arrived in Medicine Hat, Alberta early on August 24th, 2015. We continued on to Calgary and decided to drive around the city for a while since I had never been there before. Jon took me to the rugby pitch he once played at, and we explored a bit of downtown. There’s something I find so calming about driving through a city’s downtown core. I feel as though it’s the window to the city’s soul, revealing beauty and chaos intertwined.
A quick car tour of Calgary was sufficient, as our minds were focused on our next destination: Banff National Park.
Banff and Yoho National Parks
I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe our time in Banff and Yoho National Parks. Yoho is named after a Cree expression for “awe and wonder,” need I say more? The pictures I am sharing are only a glimpse into the displays of nature’s breathtaking beauty.
Once we arrived at Banff National Park and paid for our day passes, we stopped at the shops near Lake Louise to stock up on food for the evening. If you’re planning a trip to Banff, I strongly suggest packing a cooler of food before entering the Park; the prices are nearly double what they would be in a regular grocery store. Our next order of business: find somewhere to camp. While Banff isn’t lacking in campgrounds, every site we found was at its capacity for the evening. Much to my dismay, the campgrounds nearest Lake Louise were full, too. Although I dreamed of camping by the stunning Lake Louise, we continued onwards toward Yoho National Park, and upwards into the mountains.
Although you can’t see over the edge, this drive was terrifying and awe-inspiring all at once. The lanes on these Rocky Mountain-roads were so tight, and if I am not mistaken, we drove upwards for about 20 minutes. Since our entire trip was impromptu, I don’t exactly know how high up we were or how long it took us to get there. We finally pulled over when we found a walk-in campground with vacancies. This campground was definitely designed for a more seasoned camper, and it was a fascinating experience. There was no office to ask questions or pay for your campsite, no showers and little guidance. We eventually figured out the protocol after talking to the other campers. Once you’ve picked an empty campsite, you fill out a card with your information and your campsite number, put the fees in an envelope, and drop it in the designated box. This trust-based system felt very Canadian.
Once we got settled in, we began exploring the area. I am forever grateful that we stumbled upon this particular campground, because it was right next to the glacier waterfall, Takkakaw Falls.
The sound of the falls washed away every thought, every worry, every struggle leading up to that point of our trip. The beauty of the icy-blue glacier stream was unparalleled by anything I had ever seen. Every doubt I had about moving across the country without a plan or a clue as to what was next on the horizon vanished at this moment. When you are surrounded by natural beauty of this scope, everything in life is put into perspective. These mountains have been here for millions of years. They preceded and will succeed my existence. It is truly a humbling experience that can hardly be put into words, and must be experienced to be understood.
Back to reality… It was getting cold as the day turned to evening, and we needed to build a fire. Simple enough task, right? Wrong. All of the kindling we were able to find was damp, and we were struggling to get this fire started for around an hour before a kind family next to us gave us some dry firewood. We continued to struggle because we needed some dry kindling to start the fire. Yet another family came by and provided us with some kindling. We were so amateur compared to the seasoned campers that surrounded us, but their generosity and neighbourly attitude saved us from having a cold, dark evening.
Once our fire was burning, we were joined by a fellow wandering soul. I don’t remember his name, but I will never forget his energy. He was on his own, and had been driving through the Rockies on his motorcycle for the summer, stopping to camp at various sites along the way. His story inspired me. He had found contentment and clarity in simplicity. He didn’t have a regular 9-5 lifestyle, and he wasn’t dragging around a plethora of useless stuff. It was him, his bike and the road. He did, however, share some delicious pastries with us in exchange for us sharing our fire with him. He was the true embodiment of that saying, those who wander are not lost.
As night fell, so did the temperature. I forgot to mention earlier that we decided not to pack sleeping bags, thinking a couple of blankets would suffice. I woke up in the middle of the night, my body completely stiff as we only had a blanket between us, the tent and the ground, and I was freezing. Poor Marley was even shivering, which brought me to tears. The temperature must have been around 0°C or below. Jon in his brilliance decided to put the warmer blanket underneath us to create a warmer barrier between the cold, hard ground. we also brought Marley under the blanket and sandwiched him between us for more warmth. We made it through the night, but it was tough. Lesson learned: Do NOT sacrifice sleeping bags when camping in the mountains.
Final Destination: Vancouver
Although we wanted to stay in the National Parks and continue camping for a few days, we were too ill-prepared to survive sleeping in those conditions. We had one more stop before our final destination: Lake Louise.
Before you comment on my outfit, let me explain. When we woke up that morning I was still freezing, and it was still cold outside. There was no way I was changing out of my pajamas. I was tired, bones still chilled, but euphoric nonetheless. Lake Louise’s beautiful blue and calm water with its mountainous backdrop was so incredibly picturesque it didn’t even seem real.
There’s nothing more that is needed to be said about Lake Louise. If you ever have the chance to experience it, I urge you to. You won’t regret it.
The final stretch of our trip is when reality set in once more. This is it. Once we arrive, the vacation ends and we have to figure out our lives again. Although I was scared, I still didn’t have a single regret. The absolute worst case scenario was that it doesn’t work out and we go back home. Even if that were the case, I still wouldn’t have regretted this trip. In this case, it wasn’t the destination, but the journey that was the most defining part.
The drive to Vancouver was eight hours of driving through the mountains. My jaw was dropped in awe for its entirety.
Arriving in Vancouver was a huge feat. Although our trip had been shortened to half the time of our original plan of 10 days, it felt so good to reach our destination.
As we approached Vancouver, I booked a hotel room for the evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Richmond, BC using Hotwire, a website for getting last minute cheap hotel rates (special thanks to my sister, Kaitlin for recommending this site!). We got a room for around $67/night, which is unheard of in the Vancouver area. Much like our night in Thunder Bay, were thrilled to finally have a bed to sleep in and a shower to use. I think Marley was the most excited of the three of us.
Once we settled in at the hotel, and ordered a celebratory pizza (my favourite), we began apartment hunting on Craigslist. One ad stood out among the rest, and had only been posted a few hours previously. It was a small modern suite in our price range, and the best part was: it was dog friendly. We made an appointment to view the suite the next day, with very high hopes.
We can thank Marley for winning the hearts of the landlords, because after meeting with us three, they agreed to have us sign a lease on the suite, and they even let us move in the following day! Some may call it luck, but I call it fate. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Jobs followed hastily and with ease. Although I miss my family and friends greatly, the transition into this new life has been surprisingly natural. Maybe it’s because we are two wandering souls hungry for adventure, maybe it’s because we forged the path ourselves. With sharing my story I hope to inspire anyone who may be on the verge of taking a leap of faith, whether it’s deciding to take a big trip, or making a big life-changing decision in general. Thank you for following my journey with me, I hope to have many more journeys and share them with my fellow bloggers and readers.
I will be writing a Part 5 of this series, it will be my final reflection piece on this trip. It will include more details about the signs preceding the trip that should have stopped us from going at all, what I would have done differently and more.