Life was Made for Great Adventures
by Taylor Deer
“Memories made in the mountains stay in your heart forever”
Welcome back to the second half of my Canadian Rocky Mountains blog post. I hope you all enjoyed my first post on my adventures in Canmore and Banff, Alberta. If you were inspired by those experiences, sit back, relax and get ready for more once-in-a-lifetime memories at Yoho National Park in British Columbia and Lake Louise, Alberta.
Before we planned this trip, we knew that we wanted to try white water rafting because there is no better place to do that than in the mountains. After doing some research, we found that Alpine Rafting in Golden, British Columbia, was rated one of the best in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Alpine Rafting is located on the Kicking Horse River, outside of BC’s famous Yoho National Park.
Alpine Rafting was two hours northwest of Canmore, so we made sure to get up early so that we can get to Golden to enjoy a nice breakfast in the mountains before starting our white water rafting adventure. The drive to Golden, BC was heavenly as we drove through a sea of the highest mountains of the trip. (Throughout the trip, I often thought to myself, “Why do I live where I live when there are so many breathtaking places in this world?”) As fun as it is to live in the New York City area, I always dream about living in places that offer more nature-like adventures. In addition to the scenery, it was cool to actually “drive” into a different time zone as well. If you didn’t know, Alberta is located in Mountain Time and British Columbia is in Pacific Time.
We drove around mountains, beautiful blue creeks, evergreen forests and so much more until we reached Golden. We found a cute breakfast place in the downtown area called Big Bend Café. We were able to sit outside and enjoy the weather and views while we ate our French toast and eggs. One of the cool things about the breakfast places we ate at during our mornings in Canada, is that most of the restaurants and cafes had an outdoor seating area where people would bring their dogs. At Big Bend, there was a couple that brought five “Frenchies”. They are such cute dogs and I loved watching them play.
After our fulfilling breakfast, we went straight over to Alpine Rafting to begin one of the best adventures we ever had! Before we headed out to the beautiful Kicking Horse River, where we would spend the next three hours white water rafting, we were given neoprene wet suits that would keep us warm as we got splashed with the frozen glacier water. We were told that the water was 4 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (Burrrr!). I was dying when I saw my tall dad and muscular brothers in the body suit.
If you are looking for a pick-me-up or just a good laugh, check out the pictures below:
When we were finally ready, we hopped on a school bus that took us 20 minutes over to the start of the white water rafting trail on the Kicking Horse River. If you decide to book a white water rafting session with Alpine Rafting, you have a choice to do a 3-hour trail or a 6-hour trail that includes a BBQ lunch. Since it was my family’s first time rafting and we wanted to explore Yoho National Park afterwards, we thought it would be best to do the 3-hour trail.
During our bus ride, we were given a brief education about British Columbia’s Kicking Horse River. This beautiful addition to nature begins at Wapta Lake and flows southwest. It receives the Yoho River upstream as well as fresh water from the nearby glaciers. It continues to flow and eventually drops over Wapta Falls. (We wanted to visit the falls, about a half hour away from Alpine Rafting, but the hike was too long and we didn’t have enough time.)
When we arrived at the start of the trail, we were introduced to our awesome tour guide Mel and were provided with thorough instructions and safety procedures. I didn’t realize there are so many rules to follow when you white water raft! I couldn’t wait to hop in the raft and begin our adventure!
The levels of white water rafting are determined based on the class of the rapids. Alpine Rafting offers easy rafting for families with little ones; moderate courses for families like mine and for people going with friends; challenging rapids for those thrill seekers and heli-rafting for the adventurers that raft at an expert level. Since we were doing the moderate level rafting, our course consisted of class three and four rapids. Class three rapids offer waves up to four feet and narrow passages that send the water gushing over its sides. Class four has long and difficult rapids with narrow passages and turbulent water that requires precise maneuvering and provides the adrenaline rush adventure junkies crave.
Throughout the course, Mel directed us and kept testing our knowledge of the safety procedures so that we wouldn’t flip over, crash into the rocks or get ejected out of the raft. She was awesome! In addition to Mel we also had a very sweet woman on our boat from Barcelona, Spain who was backpacking through Western Canada. Prior to her white water rafting adventure with us, she had experienced adventuring through the gorgeous rivers of the Pyrenees Mountains in the Basque region of Spain. I was so excited to hear this since I had been there before! It is always awesome connecting with people who have been to destinations I have visited. It brings back so many memories.
We had so many laughs and thrills during our white water rafting adventure. Since my dad and brother Jimmy were in the front of the boat, they got splashed the most. I got wet, but not too bad. It was a hot day, so the cold water was refreshing. We even enjoyed stunning views like we had with every other adventure during our trip. It was amazing!
At the end of the trail, there was very few rapids left, so we had the choice to jump in the water and swim around for a bit. Believe it or not, my parents were the ones who jumped in the water. My brothers and I chickened out when we felt how cold it was.
After our fun time white water rafting, we drove a half hour east to the famous Yoho National Park in Field, BC. Our first stop at Yoho was to Emerald Lake located deep into the park. After we parked our car, we walked over to the lake area and were completely blown out of this world when we saw how heavenly it was. The lake was crystal blue, with reflections from the beautiful mountains. God’s country (as I reference in my first blog post) – beautiful evergreens, mountain peaks, flowers and countless bridges over the water surrounded us. Right then and there I knew I did not want to leave this area.
Emerald Lake is a beautiful place to take gorgeous pictures. Right over the main bridge is Emerald Lake Lodge that features beautiful log cabins and a gorgeous restaurant with 360-degree views all around. They even have no cell phone service, so its residents could unplug and get the true mountain experience. Next time we come back, we are staying there!
Since it was around dinnertime, we decided to grab food at the restaurant right on the lake called Cilantro. This lovely Alpine-inspired restaurant offers a welcoming ambiance and has seating outside, right along the river. I had to pinch myself a few times as I ate around the most crystal blue water I have ever seen in my life. Cilantro’s menu offers a variety of delicious specialties. My parents had a refreshing salad; my brother Jimmy had one of their flatbreads; my other brother Joey had a Panini and I ate an amazing ramen bowl. We even enjoyed dessert! I had the tart with warm peaches and blood orange ice cream. It was a dream, just like everything else around me.
After dinner, we drove over to another side of Yoho called Natural Bridge. This area is also serene and attracts fewer tourists than the Emerald Lake area. We were able to walk over a bridge where we saw beautiful waterfalls and a mini sunset. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time. It was the perfect place to end our time in Yoho National Park!
Our last full day in the Canadian Rockies was our “lake day” in breathtaking Lake Louise, Alberta. During the course of our trip, we were told by several people to get to the lakes early in the morning to avoid traffic and heavy tourist lines. The two popular lakes in the town of Lake Louise are Moraine Lake and the actual Lake Louise.
Since I have been wanting to see the beautiful mountain peaks of Moraine Lake for the past two years, I wanted to make sure we saw that lake first before the traffic got too heavy for us to go into that area. Luck was on our side as we found a spot right in front of the entrance of the lake area. We were so happy! When we walked into the park, the Instagram pictures I have been admiring came to life in front of me.
Unfortunately, the morning was a little overcast, so the lake wasn’t as crystal blue as it usually is, but it was still serene and beautiful! Even though there seemed to be a lot of tourists based off of the traffic coming into the parking lot, the actual lake area made it seem like we were the only people there. The area surrounding the lake is huge and there are so many different spots to take breathtaking photos.
We spent a decent amount of time walking around the lake, taking pictures, doing yoga and balancing rocks. The most important part about our time at Moraine Lake was that we finally achieved the perfect photo for our 2017 Christmas card!
After our time spent at Moraine Lake, we were starving. Since it was past breakfast time at that point, we decided to grab lunch at Bill Peyto’s Café, located in a hostel in the town of Lake Louise. This great place was right in the woods, and I enjoyed a delicious grilled chicken sandwich while my dad and brothers enjoyed burgers and my mom savored one of the best chili dishes she ever had in her life. We even enjoyed a delicious Canadian craft beer with our meals. It was a pretty solid lunch!
Once we fueled up, we headed back up to the lake areas to visit Lake Louise. At this point in the day, it was early in the afternoon and the traffic was insane. (The sun also came out as well, which was exciting!) The parking lots were full, but we were told by a man directing traffic that there was a shuttle at the bottom of the mountain that would take us up to the lake. Since the roads were busy, we figured we would do that to save time and frustration.
When we finally got off of the shuttle and made our way around to the lake area, it was like we had entered into the gates of heaven. The glistening crystal clear water of Lake Louise and the chiseled mountains that hoist Victoria Glacier in the background, make it Canada’s “Diamond in the Wilderness” and the ”Hiking Capital of Canada”.
On one side is the unreal scenery of Lake Louise and the other side stands the gorgeous five-star Fairmont Chateau of Lake Louise. The beautiful hotel hosts weddings, allows for people to get a luxury experience in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and tourists can even get dinner, grab a drink or shop. We were craving a dessert after hiking around the beautiful lake, so we grabbed one of our all-time favorite desserts in the hotel – homemade gelato. We also picked up a Lake Louise t-shirt for my Godmother – my aunt Louise! (How fitting!)
Our walk around Lake Louise was otherworldly. No matter where you are around the lake, you are getting outstanding views. We even saw a Native American Chief by the waterfront. It was so cool!
Our last lake of the day was Peyto Lake, located 40 minutes north of Lake Louise. During our drive up to the famous lake, it started to rain, but it didn’t stop us from taking in the gorgeous views of the glaciers on Icefields Parkway. When we finally arrived to Peyto Lake, it was raining pretty hard, but we were determined to see the emerald blue lake that is glacier-fed right from Icefields Parkway.
We had to hike through the evergreen-filled woods before we reached the viewing point, but it was so worth it! I felt like I was in the summer-version of my nana’s Christmas village. The trees, flowers, mountain peaks and sounds of nature were serene. Even my brothers, who weren’t too thrilled to hike in the rain, thought it was amazing!
When we finally reached the viewing point, we were in awe of how beautiful the color of the lake was. The mountains and glaciers surrounding the lake were amazing to see and it was the perfect lake to finish off our day!
On our way back south, we wanted to enjoy our last dinner back in Downtown Banff. My dad cannot go more than three days without an Italian dinner, so we ended up getting our last meal at Pacini, an award-winning restaurant dedicated to quality and unique cuisine. I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I am usually a little iffy about having Italian food outside of the Greater New York City area (and of course Italy), but Pacini offered a delicious and fresh Italian cuisine that was mouth watering. My mom and I enjoyed penne pasta, prosciutto, arugula and cherry tomatoes in a white wine sauce. It was amazing! My dad had a seafood pasta dinner; my brother Jimmy had pizza and my other youngest brother Joey enjoyed homemade gnocchi.
Our last morning in Canmore was spent eating our last Canadian breakfast in the beautiful mountains. We found a charming café called The Summit Café that had some of the best coffee I had during my trip. It was the perfect place to wake up to before we headed back to the airport in Calgary.
I personally was so depressed that our trip throughout the Canadian Rocky Mountains went by too quickly. I could have easily spent an extra week there, or better yet, even live there! That was how amazing it was.
If you decide to go to the Canadian Rockies during the wintertime, you can enjoy the area’s ski resorts and maybe even catch the Aurora Borealis (northern lights)! I have seen pictures of each lake during the wintertime and they all look just as serene as it does during the warmer months.
To conclude my Canadian Rockies blog post, I created a fun GoPro video for you all to enjoy! What is cool to know is that each one of us had a favorite lake: mine was Emerald Lake at Yoho National Park; both of my parents’ favorite lake was Moraine Lake; my brother Jimmy loved Lake Louise and Joey was amazed at how cool Peyto Lake was!
Looking to go to heaven on earth? Well, you don’t have to travel too far or go overseas to experience a magical place. Check out some of our British Columbia vacations HERE or email me at Taylor@sitinmyseats.com if you have any questions or would like to book your next vacation to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
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