Our Great Western Canada Adventure!

I am not exactly the greatest writer, but I have been wanting to write a blog post about our Out West trip for a while now. Hopefully the photography will make up for the less-than-perfect writing and still allow you to experience a small portion of what we saw while we travelled together!

This past summer my wife, Deanna, and I finally made a decision that we had been putting off ever since we were married, to travel out west and see the Canadian west coast. Being a photographer, I had seen countless images from Alberta and BC’s national parks and I had always wanted to see them for myself. We decided to fly out on July 6 and spend two full weeks out west to make the most of our time there. Since sometimes our priorities are different, we decided to go to Alberta for the first week for me to get my photography fix, and then we would fly to Vancouver island in British Columbia to spend a more relaxing second half of the trip finding nice coffee shops and visiting with her Grandparents who live there on the island.

We started our trip off with a bit of unexpected luck. We needed to wait for a couple hours once we landed in Calgary, Alberta either way, so when Air Canada had overbooked our first flight, we gladly said yes to a free lunch and $400 between us. Furthermore, once we landed in Calgary and went to the car rental company, they had run out of our cheap car option because of the Calgary Stampede, so they upgraded us to a beautiful new VW Tiguan SUV (Deanna still keeps telling me we should get that as our future vehicle)

Our travel vehicle for the first week of our trip (with only 1,400km on it before our trip!)

After we were all sorted out with our new vehicle, we took off from Calgary towards the mountains. Our first stop right before the National Parks was to go to Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. This place was the home of dozens of wolf dogs of varying amounts and we were able to get up-close with a couple of the wolf dogs and capture some great shots of the beautiful animals.

A wolfdog we met at the Yamnuska Sanctuary

As we continued towards the mountains, I finally realized the massive scale of them. We began to drive right into an intense lighting storm as we passed the first mountains and I couldn’t believe the way they looked in the storm. I kept on asking Deanna if she could see what I was seeing (of course she could and was).

One of the mountain peaks as we entered the National Parks

Just after we drove through the storm, we entered the first park to see a group of cars on the side of the highway. We decided to take our camera and see what all the commotion was about, expecting to see a deer or bear off in the distance. When we arrived at the fence with the others, we couldn’t see anything. Then suddenly a full sized grizzly bear stood up not 20 feet from us in the grass! It was an amazing site, but after taking a couple quick photos, we decided this wasn’t our best plan, so we agreed to leave the bear alone and keep driving.

The Grizzly Bear we saw (not zoomed in very far)

Our last stop before finding our AirBnB was at the famous Lake Louise that everyone talks about. We couldn’t deny how beautiful and surreal the lake and it’s surroundings were, but with the busses full of tourists (like us) and the way it was built up, we really didn’t need to stay long.

Since the first half of the trip was more my end of the deal, I chose a tiny home for us to stay in for the week from AirBnB. The location in Spillimacheen looked rustic and cute in the photos online, but it turns out it was extremely rough and forced us to spend the most time possible out and about the whole week!

The view from on top of the Natural Bridge

The next day was a full one, we began our adventure with a trip to Sunwapta Falls in Yoho. We then went stopped at the side of the road on our way to Emerald Lake, another well known location, to see something they called the “Natural Bridge”. This turned out to be one of my favourite locations to shoot photos from as it wasn’t too busy, and the landscape of the natural rock bridge was incredible to see. We then continued on to Emerald Lake where we stopped to get a coffee from the single building in the middle of the lake. Next up was an adorable town called “Field” where they had a music festival happening (the festival took up one small pub-like building), but while we were there we enjoyed a yummy coffee at the Siding Cafe.

One of my favourite shots of the trip showing Sunwapta Falls

One the way back to our tiny home, Deanna pointed to a small road on the side of the highway that I had completely overlooked. We turned the car around and stopped at this location to find one of our favourite places from the whole trip. We ended up at a small lake called “Faeder Lake” with just one other family there, and it had an incredible view of the mountains in the background with water so calm it imitated glass.

The view we had across Faeder Lake

Our last hike of the day was on a trail called “Hoodoo Trail”. At this point, we were very tired so we agreed to have Deanna stay in the car and I would do the quick hike myself to see if there were any good vantage points for some photos. After walking by myself for 15 minutes, I finally passed the first people I had seen the whole time. They mentioned that the Hoodoo Trail takes roughly two hours of hiking up steep inclines and that there are warning to make sure to have bear bells on you at all times to warn nearby bears that you are on the trail. I decided to turn around and go back to Deanna and our car. Our very last stop for the day was at a surprisingly nice restaurant and series of cozy cabins known as the “Cedar House”. You need to drive all the way up a mountain to get to their location, and once we arrived, we had the nicest dinner we have had in a long time prepared by their house chef.

Emerald Lake showing the coffee house we enjoyed

The following day we decided to make our way up to Jasper National Park. As we drove the four hour drive to Jasper, we passed incredible glaciers and ice-fields (remember this was July), and went to places like Bow Lake, Bow Summit and Peyto Lake. Our images from Peyto Lake may look photoshopped or fake, but that really is how the lake looks when you are there. Breathtaking.

Peyto Lake from our viewpoint
(Fun Fact: this image was also featured on the official Banff Tourism Instagram page)

We spent only a couple hours in Jasper once we had arrived, because remember, this was still a day trip with a four hour drive each way. While we were in Jasper, we went to a great shop called the “Bear Claw Café”. We then ventured just a little more north of Jasper to “Pyramid Lake” before heading all the way back to our tiny home, seeing more bears on the way.

One of the hundreds of icefields we drove past on our route to Jasper

That night, I wanted to experiment with some star or “astrophotography” around our tiny home in the country. I ended up staying outside until 2:30am to capture the images I was wanting (Astrophotography requires a lot of patience).

Our tiny home at 2:30am (It looks much nicer from the outside!)

The next morning, we decided we needed a bit of break from our intense adventuring. We took a shorter trip into Kootenay National Park to where we saw the Radium Hot Springs, Sinclair Canyon, and lots of wild elk and bighorn sheep. This still counted as our “down day”.

The next day was our last day experiencing Alberta and all of the National Parks. We started the day by hiking for an hour or so up Johnston Falls to see both the lower and upper falls (The upper falls are quite a trek to get to, but definitely worth it). We got into the massive lineup of cars for the second time to try and get to Morianne Lake, but we eventually realized there was no way to get there because it was so full of tourists.

After that, we went into the Town of Banff to explore for a while and we ended up at the a great coffee shop called Evelyn’s Coffee Bar, and then the Banff Brewing Company for a fun bison burger lunch and beer tasting. We then drove back to Calgary where we started a week earlier to a hotel and began to prepare for the second half of our adventure.

Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary
Our last stop to view the mountains as we headed back into Calgary

Once we landed in Comox’s small island airport, we were greeted by Deanna’s Grandma and we spent the next few days exploring around Union Bay on Vancouver Island where they live.

A typical view of the forest under a massive canopy on Vancouver Island

A few days later, Deanna and I ventured off on our own in a second rental car and travelled towards the town of Campbell River to a second AirBnB. This location was much nicer in every way when compared to the tiny house I had chosen previously (good job Deanna!) We explored the local town for the next day, where I was able to find a Baby Brownie camera which I love. They were originally sold for $1.25 during world war II!

Trying to see the tops of the gigantic trees inside of Cathedral Grove
We heard so many interesting stories about the old day of logging in the forests from Deanna’s Grandpa Gerry

We then continued across the island, visiting some of the largest trees in the entire world in “Cathedral Grove”, and stayed the following two days in the town of Ucuelet, just outside the more common Tofino surfing town.

A mule deer just 1o feet from our rental vehicle waiting as we packed up our AirBnB

After spending some time checking out the local Amphirite lighthouse and beaches, we finally made our way to our last destination, Tofino, British Columbia. It took a lot of careful driving on part to make it through the mountains on the one and only road into the town, but once we got there, we spent our day doing what we do best. Taking tons of photos and drinking at the local coffee shops and cafés.

Amphirite Lighthouse on the Pacific Ocean 5 minutes from where we were staying

It turned out that the trip we had dreamed of having together ever since we were dating became our favourite trip to date. It is amazing how many things you can squeeze into two weeks if you are careful and plan ahead of time. We now have all of the great memories from this trip, and 6,500 photos to visualize it.

The sun setting on over the ocean on one of our last days out west

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