Canada part 2: Going out with a Banff

Alberta- Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Park

” Traveling- It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Alberta is absolutely one of the most stunning places I have ever seen.

Gonna keep it real here and point out that Banff’s beauty far exceeded my expectations; I was not expecting it to be as pretty as it actually was in person. In my mind, I had thought it was one of those places that looked really photogenic but then boom you were hit with the anticlimactic sticker right in the center of your forehead and boy I was so wrong. I switched off between these three expressions the entire time I was there 😮😍🥶.

The places you find yourself ending up in unexpectedly are most often, the most memorable places, and Banff was just that. I had decided to go with a weeks prior notice since a buddy of mine was planning on visiting Calgary for work(shoutout to Steven!) and asked if I wanted to tag along. We were both so unprepared for this trip(we both travel light which is a good thing but when it’s freezing, that is not very smart) but that made it even more fun because it was super spontaneous and we did whatever we wanted without having to follow an itinerary. Sometimes when you have been traveling for extended periods of time, everything feels very routine; you get burnt out and you are just on autopilot with the sole goal of checking things off of a list without experiencing them and I think this applies to other areas of our lives too( like one’s work or relationships). Going with the flow helps you live in the present moment because you cannot predict what will happen next, everything will be a surprise and you are free to feel it out as it is happening in real time. Not a lot of humans nowadays allow themselves to feel things; people avoid this by seeking the safety of a set schedule and doing things just for the sake of doing them , never stopping to think of the why. Of course, I am not saying go into it completely unprepared–do your research– but do not be one of those people that need to have every single second planned for. You are a human being, not a robot. Please relax.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

-Andre Gide

I flew into Calgary airport and picked up my rental car(this was in October so be sure to get snow tires if you are planning on driving to the parks during this time, because trust me, there will be snow). There was no snow in Calgary but as you drive to the national parks, it will look like Tahoe on steroids. In fact, during our drive to Banff and Lake Louise, it felt like the snow was falling in slow motion and everything looked so magical. It was my first time seeing such a sight and even Steven( the Disney Channel Show, jk)–who has seen lots of cool shit– was in awe at how beautiful the scenery was. It was like Christmas came early!

We had left around 9 am to drive to Lake Louise and arrived at around 11 am, it was overcast but still the most gorgeous lake I have ever since in my life. We took some pictures and just took in the scenery because it was breathtaking; during this time, the clouds began to clear up and when the sun came out, the famed stunning blue color of the lake started to show. We got to see it both during the snowfall and when the skies were clear and both experiences left us in a state of utter shock and increased our vehemence for nature. Being in nature allows you witness something so much bigger than yourself and this emphasizes the trivialities of certain day to day problems you may have. I think being at Lake Louise was meditative in a way because of the emotions that it made me feel while I was there, I felt at peace, content and grateful for being alive and getting to see something this beautiful in the company of a good friend was nice.

“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”

Peter Hoeg

After spending a couple hours at Lake Louise(we didn’t want to leave!)…we decided to head to Lake Morraine but it ended up being closed to a cars for the season, you could still hike up there but we both did not have the right gear because we didn’t expect to come across any snow 😦 That was fine, we found another lake and spotted an elk!!! We went to the Banff Gondola(45 USD per person…kinda pricey but so worth) and the view was absolutely stunning. You get to see Banff from up top. It was also freezing and since my cold tolerance is nonexistent I wasn’t having it so I admired it from inside the observatory through one of the huge windows. Bow waterfall is close by and worth checking out too if you have extra time. On our way back to the hotel, we saw an elk casually walking around the town square, pretty awesome I definitely stopped the car in the middle of the road(do not try this at home kids).

Day 2: We had learned from experience that we had to wake up earlier in order to go to more places before it got dark and so we attempted to leave at 6 am. Did not end up leaving at 6 but it was earlier than the first day. Jasper was the plan and it was a 4 hour drive so we planned a bit more today in terms of checking which stops were a must see beforehand. As soon as we got to Jasper, we came across Lake Herbert and he was a looker…that boy was foine. So we made a U-turn but there was nowhere to park; Steven just ended up stopping the car in the middle of the road because there were no other cars around, thankfully, as we took pics of Herbert. The goal of this trip was to see the Columbia Icefields and go to the glacier walk(I think this was the coldest location we had been to thus far because of the proximity to the glacier). We stopped at Maligne Canyon and attempted to do the hike but Steven was wearing white converse(hey, style over everything am I right) and it was extremely muddy so we headed back and decided to visit another waterfall when we saw a sign that says you could drive to the end of the hike that we were just about to do. JACKPOT..we got to reap the rewards without doing the work and I was also not into the thought of potential bear encounters–Berkeley students can be scary sometimes loljk bad joke.

The next day, Steven had to work so I decided to do a hike(Johnston Canyon) and visit Yoho National Park just so I could say “Yoho big summer blowout sale!”(Frozen reference) on social media. I also stopped at Emerald Lake and Natural Bridges on the way to Yoho after the hike.

  • Johnston Canyon: This is possibly one of my most favorite hikes of all time because the scenery was unreal. There were two main waterfalls–the Lower and Upper falls. The Lower falls were fairly easy to get to and only about a 10 minute walk from the parking lot but it was really cool because you could go through a little cave and on the other side you’d come face to face with the most beautiful waterfall. The upper falls is also worth the effort/time because of the sights along the way. The waterfall itself was alright but the journey made it worth it. The hike is fairly easy and I did it in jeans but you would need snow boots since the path was covered in ice and extremely slippery. At times, it felt like you were ice skating uphill; there is a railing to hold onto during the iciest parts though so don’t fret.
  • Emerald Lake: It was literally the color of emeralds and when you got closer it wasn’t the mossy “emerald” water you expect to see when water looks green(like Golden Gate Park), it was crystal clear. You could see the gravel at the bottom. Super cool.
  • Natural Bridges: This was by far the bluest water I have seen since being in Alberta. It did not look real and I think if you are in the area it is a must see.
  • Yoho: Not gonna lie, Yoho was aight. It was like a scene out of The Polar Express but I think this area is more industrial than touristy and as I was waterfall hunting here I came across a dirt road that looked abandoned because my GPS was being dumb and led me to the middle of nowhere. Long story short do not go looking for random waterfalls in Yoho if you do not know what you are doing.