Pack the car with a sleeping bag good to -45 degrees celsius, wood to start a fire and all the essentials for your camping trip – including of course Canadian Monopoly – and head towards the Canadian Rockies with one of your best girl friends. Of course stopping at a Tim Horton’s is already a given on any Canadian road trip, but don’t forget to stop at Cochrane for a world renowned ice cream and stick your pin in your home town to show just how far – or little- you have travelled.
I was travelling from Edmonton with a dear Canadian friend of mine, and as we set for the road – not as early as we hoped – we both laughed at the fact that neither of us had camped before, nor had we had any idea how to. In fact, the day before our camping trip, we met up with a friend to learn how to put a tent up, a lesson we both should have known years ago. What can I say, we are both city girls! We called the trip, The blonde leading the blind, and as we pulled out of the drive-way, we were sent off with the famous final words of her family, good luck.
As we headed towards the Rockies, we had blasts from the past playing in the background as we chatted each others ears off. Not to mention a stop along the way at her Grandparents home, such a lovely vegetarian meal and humble chats over tea and dessert. It really is true, Canadians are some of the friendliest groups of people I had met.
Nothing had prepared me for approaching the Rockies. At first glance, they were beautiful. I was in Canada a few months ago, summer time! Of course for me, it was equivalent to winter in Australia, but this had meant that the mountains barely had any snow on them. Something I was fine with, even though it would have been beautiful to see, I wasn’t mentally prepared to face the harsh coldness that comes with it.
Driving up to the mountains, it really did seem like a picture. You know that scene on the Simpson Movie where they escaped the SWAT team and headed for Alaska, and Homer tries to take the brochure picture off the screen but then realises his actually looking at a real life view? Well it was like.
All those years watching David Attenborough and wildlife documentaries had payed off, as I suddenly heard his voice in my head as I pictured all the wolves, bears, cougars and lynxes’ that hid amongst the trees in some of the highest points of the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately, I did not see a bear, but I did see a family of Moose.
We pulled up to our campsite, and on the right hand side was an esky ‘cooler’ that had been ripped to shreds by a bear with a sign saying, “these are not bear proof.”
There are a few essential things you need to know before camping in Canada, especially in Banff.
- You are not aloud to eat or spray any sorts of perfume and deodorant in your tent. It draws in bears. I had brushed my teeth and was so worried that even the smell of my toothpaste would attract a bear, it didn’t.
- Everything on your campsite, including esky’s, food, drinks, basically anything that can be picked up needs to be packed away in your car before you go to sleep. Again, because of bears.
- Keep on your person a bell when hiking, so animals hear this sound and stay away, a horn, incase you do see an animal, and bear spray, used if the bear gets a little too close. All of this can be hired, but please make sure you do have them for safety reasons.
All of this new information was so foreign to me, and I was nervous. Kate had mentioned that just about anything in Australia can kill someone. I had told her that this can be true but the things that can kill us we are able to kill it first. Unlike a wolf or bear attack, they will generally win that fight.
How to set up a tent, for the first time – ask for help
I’m not going to give you a step-by-step-guide, but I will tell you this, even if you stuff about there will always be someone around to help.
Kate and I went into this positive, ready to set up our tent. We had had a lesson and had all the appropriate equipment. Our tent was down and in with little to no fuss. Until the pegs started coming out, and we couldn’t work out why.
“You have the foreign accent, go ask those people for help.”
So there I was, walking over to an older couple who had a pro campsite. They laughed and gladly agreed to help. Turns out we put the pegs in the wrong way, so close!
What to Do
Ok so, your tent is set up and you have everything ready to go for your first walk through the picturesque national park. Here’s where to start and what to do.
Hoodoos – Opposite Table Mountain Camp Ground (where we were staying) is these strange rock formations called the Hoodoos. They were barely noticeable on the walk, but the view and the fast-paced river below makes for one hell of a scenic walk. This is possibly one of the shorter walks, being only about 10 minutes.
Tunnel Mountain Hike – Table Mountain was my first real Canadian hike. A hike where I was completely petrified and had the bear spray in my hand the entire way up. But, bears are rarely spotted here as this is one of the Parks most popular walks. And it was busy. The views on the way up are exactly what you are imaging, greenery sitting on the face of surrounding mountains, the village down below becoming smaller and smaller every step up, mountains furiously standing as far as your eyes can see. It really is a walk everyone must take on their visit.
Canoeing – Take an hour out of your busy hikes and relax your legs, (and start working your arms) slice the paddle through the water and grace across the Bow River. Along the Bow River, there is an abundance of wild life and views as far as your eyes can take you. Make sure before you start, that you have a clear game plan, as Kate and I ended up canoeing backwards for half of our time, we simply were not strong enough to turn the boat around… ops!
Bow River – Bow River is the main river that runs through Banff Town. And if you walk along the track you will walk past deer and eventually end up at Bow Falls. I was in Banff in the summer time, meaning that the glaciers were melting and the Falls were gushing. People standing by were saying how they’d never seen the Falls so electric before.
Lake Louise – People from far and wide travel to Banff National Park solely to get a glimpse of the beautiful and breathtaking Lake Louise. Famous for its glacier filled, turquoise blue water surrounded by sky scrapping mountains, Lake Louise needs to be on every travellers bucket list. While Kate and I were visiting the very beautiful Lake, we decided to take a hike, and a 7km was right up our alley. One of the best walks I did in Banff was the Lake Agnes, a walk of a 400m elevation gain took you to a glacier, with a wooden tea house sitting alongside it. Even though the tea house was as warm as a hot chocolate on a freezing cold day, we were left with no choice but to face the snow and hike our way back down. Ah, peak season perks!
Banff Town – Possibly one of the most endearing towns I have ever come across. Banff Town has it all, at a very high price. From clothing stores to an opulence of resturants, it is the perfect place to take a break from all the exercise that one may get up to in Banff. Perhaps even try a beaver tail, a famous Canadian dessert here in Banff, a pastry dipped in maple, cinnamon and even banana chocolate.
Other Things to Check Out
- Banff Upper Hot Springs
- Johnson Canyon Trail
- Banff Gondola
- Lake Minnenwanka
I went to Canada after living in England for five months, I stayed in Edmonton, Alberta with a dear friend I met in England. This post is over due and I just want to thank Kate Korte for showing me her beautiful country, introducing me to Tim Hortons, and her family for welcoming me into their home for two weeks.