Our honeymoon mountain adventure through the Canadian Rockies.
(Lake Louise, Banff National Park at sunrise)
Things are finally back to normal in the Hamilton household. The thank you notes are out, the closets are overflowing with extra towels and sheets (thank you so much for all your generosity), and my name is changed on about half the methods of identification it needs to be. I thought I would take some time to share some of our adventures from our honeymoon!
In the week leading up to the wedding, friends kept giving me advice to “slow down and enjoy the little moments on the wedding day”–and we definitely enjoyed the little moments, but it’s still pretty much one big happy blur. It’s a little mind-boggling how much time, preparation, thought, and money go into the fastest five hours of your life! But, it was still perfect. Not perfect in a nothing-went-wrong way (trust me, we had a few mishaps!) But, perfect in a we-wouldn’t-change-a-thing sort of way. We cannot thank our families, friends, and vendors enough for such a magical weekend.
Twenty-four hours later we left on our Canadian adventure! We had been so busy planning the wedding, a few details slipped through the cracks for starting off the honeymoon. We ran into a few issues getting started–KCI was busy for the first time in history and we almost missed our flight, Kevin had forgotten to sign his passport so it wasn’t valid, we couldn’t figure out where we had rented our car from once we got to Calgary, the woman exchanging our currency did not like tourists, we had a little trouble with metric conversion, our phones didn’t work because we had forgotten to purchase Travel Passes…but after we left the airport, things looked up drastically!
By the way, before we left we had planned out around 20 hikes and other activities, and we pretty much ended up scrapping the whole plan once we got there and just taking locals’ suggestions which ended up being really fun!
We left the airport and drove to Canmore, a little mountain town on the edge of Banff National Park. We ended up falling in love with the little town by the end of the week! We couldn’t check into our Airbnb yet, so we decided to explore downtown. First stop was the Grizzly Paw–a local brewing company. We had delicious turkey wings and miso salad and then walked across the street to get ice cream at the School Bus–literally an old school bus turned into an ice cream shop! We were pretty exhausted since we had taken the cheapest flight at 4:00 am–so we went back to our Airbnb and crashed. We had actually never stayed in an Airbnb before and this one was great! We would absolutely recommend it.
We discovered our favorite breakfast place, Rocky Mountain Bagel Company. We actually went there for breakfast three times in the week, bought a mug to take home–yeah we were pretty much addicted. My favorite bagel, the Rosemary Sea Salt with Lox is pictured below! Another bonus was that we were able to walk to the bagel shop from our Airbnb, about a mile each way, and really enjoyed getting a morning walk in with perfect weather and gorgeous views. Being from the plains of Kansas City, we thought the views were gorgeous as they were when we arrived the first day, but we learned that unfortunately there were wildfires in British Columbia (west of where we were) and so the mountains were extremely smoky and difficult to see the first two days.
Still determined to stick to our itinerary at this point, we went to Grassi Lakes in Canmore. On our way, there was a huge flashing construction sign that read “Berries are out, Bears are in, Use Bear Spray.” We started feeling a little nervous, but figured the hike would be populated enough we shouldn’t have to worry, so we continued on. We parked near where we thought the trail head was. We got out and the area was covered in berries! Still feeling adventurous, we started to walk around and all the sudden there were signs in every direction that read “area closed off due to bear activity.” That pretty much did it for us, so we took our selfie and high tailed back to the car pretty quickly, needing to re-think our itinerary.
(Grassi Lakes, Canmore)
We had read that Banff was crowded and tourist-heavy in the summer, but we were still surprised at the crowds and the number of international tourists. Although the languages of Canada are English and French, we were definitely the minority speaking English. The whole week we were always surprised when we heard someone speaking English–as it was definitely not common! Through talking to our waitresses, we learned due to the Park’s free admission in honor of Canada’s 150th birthday (yay Canada!) the Parks had been extremely crowded this year.
Taking a local suggestion, we headed over to canoe Bow River (pictured below). It was amazing how quickly the noise and crowds faded away as we canoed the clear, still water.
Canoeing was a little difficult because Kevin was determined to sit in the front (usually the heavier person sits in the back), but it was still really fun and time slipped away from us and we had to literally run back to our car to move it so we wouldn’t get a ticket. We then headed over for lunch at a hotel on the main street in Banff.
Eager to do more non-bear activities, we walked over to the Farimont Banff Springs (pictured below). We had wanted to stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs but it was sold out when tried to reserve it. Now remember, I’m a crazy planner, so we’re talking it was full when we tried to book it in October 2016!! We decided to visit it and have a beer on the porch anyway (yes, we are now Canadian beer experts).
The waiter recommended we walk down to the waterfall next to the hotel, Bow Falls. We walked along the waterfall, took a few selfies, and decided to check out the Hot Springs nearby (pictured below). The Hot Springs were CROWDED. It was like a popular pool on a hot summer day, but it was still neat to see, and somehow still relaxing!
We decided that was plenty of activities for the day and went back to our Canmore Airbnb for the night. We did go to a convenience store and buy Bear Spray (which is mace for bears!). However, the waiver we had to sign to buy it and woman at the store explaining to use that “you have eight seconds to use it and you better hope it’s not windy” did not reassure us as much as we had hoped!
Our wedding was pretty awesome, but the 24 hours between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon were probably the best 24 hours of my life.
We woke up to a beautiful day! Our pictures were immediately, noticeably clearer! The smoke had cleared and the mountains were stunning! We walked to Rocky Mountain Bagel (I got the maple bagel that time) and then started the drive up to Lake Louise–about an hour northwest from Canmore.
We were so excited to be staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. We had been talking about it and showing people pictures for so long, it was crazy to actually be there! We had never stayed in a Fairmont before, and definitely the nicest place we had ever stayed in our lives. It was amazing and right on the lake, which was this amazingly clear blue-green color.
As usual, we asked the concierge what they would recommend and they said the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Hike. Our friends in Cincinnati had also recommended the hike, so we excitedly started out!
Chateau Lake Louise pictured above…I wish I had brought my DSLR camera to capture the pictures better, but I was worried about dropping it in all our adventuring, so iPhone photos it is!
The hike was a little more difficult than we thought it would be, but we did the 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) in about 2 hours up and 1.5 hours down. Fun facts: the tea house was build in 1924, the waitresses hike up there once a week, and the supplies are helicoptered in!
(top photo is view from the hike with the Chateau in the distance, bottom photo is the Tea House)
We filled up our water bottles with fresh glacier water and hiked back down for a delicious dinner at Lago, an amazing Italian Restaurant in the Chateau. The bartender gave us drinks for free when he heard it was our honeymoon!
(View from our other window, sparkly chocolate martini)
The next morning we actually did sometime on our planned itinerary–the Sunrise Canoe Experience on Lake Louise. It was AMAZING! I wish I could do it every morning and I recommend it as a must-do if you’re ever in Lake Louise. We picked up our breakfast on the dock (don’t worry, the canoes have cup holders for your coffee) and then started canoeing at 5:30 am. The lake was like glass and the pink sunlight slowly crept over the mountains. Then, at about 7:15 am the sun came up over the mountains and it was one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I literally couldn’t stop crying, it was so beautiful.
Our 24 hours of awesome weren’t over yet, though! We decided to do the Lake Louise Gondola–a short shuttle ride from the Chateau. I think I rode a ski lift maybe ten years ago to get to the top of Stone Mountain in Atlanta? It was really fun (if you can’t tell by my enthusiasm in the picture below). We saw a Grizzly and her cub below us! At the top of the gondola was a viewing point and wildlife center, which was really interesting. They had guided hikes where “you could go in restricted bear areas”–but we decided “Kansas couple mauled by bears on honeymoon” seemed a little too cliche, so we opted out of those.
We packed up and drove up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. Jasper is located in Jasper National Park, about 3 hours northwest of Lake Louise. The drive on Icefields Parkway is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world and it did not disappoint!
Jasper is much less crowded than Banff. We stayed at the Jasper Park Lodge Fairmont, and the difference in lifestyle was even reflected even in the Fairmonts! We went from the elegant hustle of Chateau Lake Louise to the quiet log cabins of Jasper Park.
Jasper Park Lodge is situated between Lake Mildred and Lake Beaufort (pictured above). Exhausted from our early canoe ride and drive, we had a slow morning and walked the trail around the lodge that follows the lakes.
We had planned to go white water rafting, but decided instead to drive back down towards Canmore and stop to sight see along the way. First stop was Athabasca Glacier (pictured below).
I kept trying to take pictures–not to show how big the glacier was, but to show how big the space where the glacier used to be was. There were markers starting about a mile out showing where the glacier used to be. Not only length, but also volume. The glacier used to fill the entire canyon you see here. The glacier recedes at 16 feet per year and has lost half it’s volume in the last 100 years. It was very solemn to stand in the barren canyon that was once full of fresh water.
We continued our drive south to Peyto Lake (pictured above). Again, the pictures do not do justice to the color of the water! The color is caused by the light reflecting of the glacier silt (fun fact of the day). We continued the drive down to Bow Lake–in my opinion the most beautiful place we saw on our trip.
The water was so blue up against the amazing mountains, it was so peaceful, and there were so many families out enjoying natural fun in the beauty of Mother Nature. It was the perfect end to a perfect week.
We continued south and spent the night in another excellent Airbnb in Canmore, ate breakfast of course at Rocky Mountain Bagel Co, and continued into Calgary before flying home.
Pictured below–Kevin discovers “Scuffles” aka Cinnamon Roll Goodness, and an amazing dinner at “Local” in Calgary.
A few takeaways–
1- Sometimes it is just nice to get away and spend time together even if you don’t see all the sights you planned or visit everyone you know along the way.
2- There are an awesome amount of families with their kids at the National Parks.
3- We also are now in favor of switching to metric system.
P.S.- I promise I’ll switch back to recipes soon!