We stopped in Calgary, the capital of the province of Alberta for the afternoon. This is where we tried our first Tim Horton's. Think Panera Bread meets Dunkin' Donuts. I think it's more popular in Canada than Starbucks is in the states. You know how in your typical quick serve place, to make something a combo your options usually include something like chips or fries and a drink? Well at Tim Horton's that side option can be a DONUT OR COOKIE. Yes, please. We were in the country less than three days. We stopped here no less than three times. I don't really feel the need to share how many donuts I ate. No shame. No wonder Canadians eat more donuts per capita than any other citizenry. Now, which came first? Tim Horton's or the winningest donut consumption??
We stayed at another HI hostel, the Banff Alpine Center. Banff National Park is one the most visited tourist attractions in Canada. There is skiing in winter and the spectacular hikes and views we came for in the summer. As such, the town of Banff within it is rather touristy itself. There's also a significant population of locals too though, which kind of surprised me. There's a high school and everything. Go them.
We drove up that red line in the center of the map to see Peyto and Bowman Lakes. The pictures below have no filters or odd lighting. The lakes are ACTUALLY THAT COLOR. It's a magical effect, but it's not magic. It's science. As the glaciers move, they crush the rock below them into flour. This rock flour runs into the lakes, causing the sun to reflect in such a way that creates these colors. In fact, I take it back. It is magic. Science is magical.
We hiked around here and there and saw A MOM AND BABY MOOSE. IN CANADA. ON CANADA DAY. And returned to town to have poutine, as far as I know Canada's most iconic dish. In it's original and most basic form this is fries covered in brown gravy and cheese curds. It sounds...like a heart attack? But it was cheesy and salty and fried and great.
I've got a buddy who lives in Cochrane, a mere hour away from Banff. He came to watch the fireworks! Good conversation in a park surrounded by mountains with live music at sunset with fireworks is how I'd like to spend any holiday.
The Rest of Our Time
On our second day we went to Lake Louise, the most iconic and famous lake in the area. We also briefly visited it's neighbor, Lake Moraine. No point in words here. Just look. (Some pictures are also from our first evening when we stretched our driving legs at Lake Minnewanka.)
After only two short days, we had to (reluctantly) head back to real life and real jobs. For me, that was three full days of driving. It helped to stop in Boulder for the best Fourth of July fireworks display I have ever seen over the stadium of Colorado University. 'MERICA. Did we just celebrate two countrys' national holidays in said countries in one week? Why yes, yes we did.
Was the hours upon hours of driving worth it? The vistas are ALWAYS worth it. You should go check them out for yourself. Let me know if I can be of any help for your own adventure :) Better yet, take me with you! Till next time.