Canadian Western Explorer and Calgary

August 17th, 2017

The last leg of my vacation was a ride through the Rockies from Vancouver and ending in Banff.

I had a 3-hour bus ride from Seattle to Vancouver which was a beautiful ride. Since I did this in the evening the day before my bus tour, I had another chance to spend some more time in Vancouver the following morning.

The bus tour I chose to do is a similar route to the Rocky Mountaineer train ride but a fraction of the cost.  I’m not sure what opportunities there are for the train ride to stop and let passengers off but the bus tour definitely did that.

The tour picked me up from a neighbouring hotel to where I was staying at the YWCA in downtown Vancouver. The tour guide introduced herself and the others on the trip and gave a brief outline of the trip with some background on Vancouver as we left the city.  There were a couple stops along the way before we ended in Kamloops that to me were not all that remarkable. Scenery was beautiful throughout the drive.

Kamloops, although super small town, was interesting.  We were told as we entered the town that the landscape is typical for this area but not typical for mountainous regions in the rest of the province.  It’s a desert terrain and the greenery is towards the top of the terrain before it before it becomes more desert like as we got into the basin where the town is. We were given a little history on the two arms of the Thomson Rivers that meets in Kamloops and becomes some other river that, I think, heads out towards Vancouver / the ocean.

The following day we left Kamloops. As fires were happening in British Columbia, we were told that parts of the Trans-national highway was closed so we were re-routed along some other highway.  We were given a brief history of the trans-national highway and the railways that passed through British Columbia and Alberta along with the discoveries of some of the passes like the Kicking Horse Pass that provided some shortcuts along this route.  We did notice some overpasses and were told that these are nature passes to allow the wildlife to cross over the highways safely. There are some underpasses built to allow the same thing to happen but under the highway system.  Apparently, it is designed so that the wildlife, as they cross, don’t even see the highway and cars driving.

There were a few stops along the way before we got to Lake Louise to allow us to stretch our legs and get more information.  One stop was where the last nail went into the railway system – this was where the railway from the east and the west met.

We finally arrived in Lake Louise which is part of the Banff National Park. Banff National Park is the first nationally designated park in the world. Lake Louise was one of two lakes that were discovered and to be called Emerald Lake.  It was then decided to name the lake after one of the Queen of England’s children.

We briefly looked around and it was definitely very beautiful.  Busy with other tourists as well but definitely quite enjoyable.

From there we ended the tour in Banff.  I had a chance to look around for a bit but it’s such a small, very touristy town.  Not all that remarkable if you’re not into hiking.

From Banff, I took the bus to Calgary. Calgary was quite small – wasn’t expecting it to be as small and as quiet as it was considering the Stampede was happening not too far away from the downtown core and it was a Friday night when I arrived.

The following day, in the afternoon, I headed down to the stampede grounds to look around and check out the rodeo.  For those that are familiar with the CNE that happens in Toronto, the stampede was definitely a cowboy version of the CNE but on a much smaller scale.  The rodeo was interesting too but was not familiar enough to know how it was being scored. The crowd was definitely into it.

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