We had a slower morning at the campsite. Anytime we have a nice space and a table to relax at we fully enjoy it. The chai we bought to mix with our coffee also made for a splendid morning! We made protein oatmeal, read our books, and then got ready to get out a hike in Waterton. We (I) felt like we at least needed to have one hiking experience in the park while we were here.
We decided to check out Red Rock Canyon, but to our surprise, the parkway was closed and it would take us about 6 hours to walk all the way in there. Tourist mistake. We walked in as far as we felt like anyways, and had fun laying in the fields of wildflowers. Despite the windy weather, the sunshine helped. After our hike, or walk rather, we headed into town to pick up a few camping supplies and gas. I also bought a pair of necessary but unecessary (but necessary) yellow pants that are now my favorite thing. It was Tuesday so I could treat myself, right?
Getting through customs was a breeze, we are so blessed to have U.S. passports but that’s a whole other story. We drove into Montana and were in awe of the mountains already. Both of our jaws dropped when we made it into the park and began driving up Going to the Sun road. It started raining a bit at first, but once the sun broke through the heavens sang and we were blown away. We had anticipated Banff being the highlight of this trip but were completely taken back. Glacier is defintiely a sight to see. Ask Jake, he could tell you.
We climbed up to Logan Pass and got out to check out the views and do the tourist thing. As much as we dislike the crowds, we keep reminding ourselves that we’re no better. A sign was hanging that perfectly described the dilemma I’m facing taking these photos.
We headed down the pass and checked out the visitors centers on the way to a free campsite Jake’s brother had told us about. As soon as we got service we found the location. On the way there we had pb&J’s for lunch and I discovered that peanut butter doesn’t agree well with my stomach. We stopped by Avalanche campground to see if anyone might be leaving, and spoke with the couple that was staying at the site we were hoping to get. The site where my grandparents stayed years ago when they came through the park on their motorcycle. Fortunately they would be leaving in the morning, and were sweet enough to let us put our tag under theirs to save our spot. When we got to our free site, it was about 6. We made soup and grilled cheese for lunch and I was so hungry when we got there I didn’t get a picture. The site was a sandbar next to a river just outside the park on blankenship Rd. It worked out perfectly. We were joined by many other car campers and felt right at home. You can’t beat free! Jake fished the river and caught a few, while I read and did yoga. A typical evening.
We woke up in our little parking lot community of car campers and hopped in the car to find restrooms! There was a rec center called Elevation two minutes up the road and it couldn’t have been more perfect. It was just the start of our regret sinking in telling us that we should have come here yesterday…oops ! They had a sweet little library with strong wifi that would have been perfect for me to get some work done, and an array of activities for Jake to enjoy in the meantime as well. They had rock climbing, a pool, and an amazing view. Next time! After we got ready for the day, we headed downtown to check it out and were absolutely delighted. I almost don’t want to share because I feel like it’s a total secret from the bustling well known downtown area of Banff. We loved the quaintness and space from the crowds. After walking a short ways up the street, a bagel shop caught my eye (of course) and we decided to stop in there. Jake grabbed an outdoor table and we enjoyed our breakfast and my very fancy most delicious coffee I had ever had. Rose water and vanilla! It was lovely. I then dragged Jake from shop to shop and enjoyed every minute of it. Not the dragging part of course, but small shops are the best! My favorite spot was a used book store next to Rocky Mountain Bagel. It was like stepping back in time and was so very special. At one of the stores we got a recommendation from the worker on which back roads to take on the way to Waterton. Jake was pleased with shopping around after that.
We headed out of town, and stopped at the rec center so I could do an hour of work. Squeezing it in while I can! It actually working out quite well. That library is perfect and I would highly recommend it to all of my digital nomad friends out there! We followed our new friend’s directions and headed on our way to 742 Smith Dorrien Trail Rd. We would take this road to 40 and then onto 22 South all the way to Waterton. The drive was mostly gravel, but came with stunning views and many opportunities to pull off and soak in the wild open air. We saw some big horned sheep but not much else. Jake still hasn’t seen a moose! Poor guy. We stopped for lunch and made tuna sandwiches. Then checked out the lodge close by called Mount Engadine. It was delightful but out of our price range. We’ll stick with our hotel on wheels for now. We were out of service and had to go old school with the atlas to find our way! We got lost, but found our way again.
After a couple more hours of driving, we saw a place to pull off called “Cat River” It was about an hour and a half away from our original end destination but we were both a bit tired and loved it. I’m so happy we made the decision to stay. It was one of my favorite stops. It was probably all the horse poop smell from trail riders but I just loved it! Jake went off fishing and I stayed behind to do some yoga. It was about 6. I started making dinner when he returned and rain swept through. It was a quick finish trying to get the asparagus cooked before we were soaked but it actually tasted great. Win! We ate inside the truck and then waited for the rain to stop by watching a predownloaded movie and eating popcorn. We truly have everything we need. After the rain stopped, we cleaned up the damage and then headed on the most wonderful golden hour walk I think I’ve ever been on. The fields of yellow flowers were glowing and we could hear cows talking to each other. On our walk back we got a glimpse of our little home beneath the moon and it all felt so special. We would be leaving early to head to Waterton in the morning, so we climbed in early for bed.
We had one of the slowest and most needed mornings yet. On our way to the hot tubs we stopped at the truck to make shakes to reset our bodies from all the backpacking food. So delicious and necessary. After an hour of sauna and spa time, we went back to the room to do some yoga and shower. 12 o’clock check out time came quickly, and we headed out the door to…well we didn’t exactly know. I needed to get some work done for a few hours so we found the sweetest coffee shop called “Little Wild” that worked out perfectly.
Jake left at about 3 to go do some laundry (best fiance ever) and came back at about 5:30 with some premade salads to eat until we figured out what we were doing. We found a free place to park overnight in Canmore but weren’t sure of what to do until then. So we headed to the Christmas store like tourists! Of course. I had been excited to see it ever since we passed by. It didn’t dissapoint. Such magic. Afterwards we picked up a few more gifts and then had a drink at the very fancy bar of the Maple Leaf. Still no plan. The bartender suggested that we go check out the Fairmont and use their swimming pool and hot tub for a low cost. That sounded good to us! First, groceries and dinner. On our way to the grocery store to pick up a few things, we heard someone mention ramen. We were planning on cooking to save money but Jake couldn’t resist. The Ramen place had the longest line, so instead we went to a Chinese restaurant close by. Aside from the view and my green tea bubble tea, the food was a fail. It was a weird thing to do in Banff.
We drove up to the castle that is the Fairmont and once again, it was like the whole wierdness of the day had led up to this magical moment. The receptionist at the spa was the nicest and gave us the local rate, and we headed into our very fancy changing rooms. Seniorita by Justin Timberlake was playing in mine and I danced the whole time I was changing. It was fun pretending like we could afford to be here. We made our way out to the outdoor pool, which we found out was a giant hot tub. It was so lovely. We used their bathrooms to change into our pajamas and get ready for bed, then headed to the overnight spot in Calgary. We weren’t sure about the safety of the spot, but were pleasantly surprised when we found a crew of car campers all huddled together in the parking lot outside of the downtown. Our people!
We woke up at the campsite and took our time getting ready for the day. Enjoyed some coffee and oatmeal and showered. We love this place! Highly recommend. Today our plan was to find this free campsite on Forestry trunk rd right outside of Banff to stay in for the night. On the way there, we would be passing through Calgary, so we decided to stop for a tune up on the truck. Walmart was the only place open so that worked! On our way to our surprise campsite later that afternoon it started to rain, and we began to see the incredible views awaiting us in Banff.
When we arrived at our campsite I felt a strange presence. There was definitely something to these “ghost lands” as they call them. Nevertheless the spot was beautiful (and free) so we began setting up. We took a short walk around the forest and saw a huge skunk. We could tell right away that this was a different kind of wilderness than we had experienced so far.
When we got back to camp we had a simple dinner of soup by the fire. Jake fished ghost river nearby but didn’t have any luck. It started to rain again so we hopped into bed with our tea and actually watched a movie we had recorded on Netflix. Is that bad juju? Not sure but I didn’t sleep. A very Erie night it was in ghost lands!
We have campsites booked in Banff for Monday. At this point we were about 31 hours away and it was Wednesday. So we made a plan to drive about 5 or 6 hours each day, stopping next at another free campsite, and then splurging at a campground to do laundry and take a (real) shower. We started off the day with fancy chocolate almond butter oatmeal, and then did 15 minutes of yoga on the beach. We left the site at about 9:30 and had about 6 and a half hours of driving to our next site in Terrace Bay.
Oatmeal, almond butter, dark chocolate, honey, cinnamon
The drive was STUNNING. The further we drove, the more mountains we saw and the bigger and more dense the forest became. About every 2 minutes there were lake pools on either side of the highway, and fields full of yellow and purple wildflowers. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It made it difficult not to pull over every 30 minutes. First world problems, I know. We pulled over to a picnic spot by a river, there are so many here! It’s lovely. Jake fished for about an hour while I made veggie sandwiches and read by the river. We probably spent too long here but it was beautiful.
Hummus, mustard and garlic aoli spread. Avocado, cucumber, tomato, broccoli sprouts. Topped with Italian seasoning and black pepper on Ezekiel bread.
When we arrived to our next campsite it was surprisingly spacious! A big lot with hardly anyone there, probably because it was a bit chilly. We found a nice place to park by a picnic table and Jake started cooking dinner. We ate quickly and then took a walk down the beach. Watching the birds glide together over the water was like a scene out of the Notebook. The sun peeked out and Jake went fishing under the waterfall while I caught up on writing. The bugs were by far the worst at this spot. I’m not sure if it’s because we were close to the water or because we were further into Canada, either way, they were quite annoying. We watched a beaver fish for a while and when I checked the time at 11 it was still completely light out! Oh, Canada. We love you.
Spinach raviolis with sauteed broccoli, tomatoes and Italian seasoning
Canadians are just the nicest. We arrived to the ferry dock at 6 in the morning and asked the ticket guy how he was, “Nothing short of amazing!” was his cheerful reply. We’ve made conversation with almost everyone, and they are all genuine and kind. We waited in line to drive aboard the Chicheemaun while drank our shakes and enjoyed our tizzies. It was our first ferry ride and we had no idea what we were doing. Best first experience ever. The ship was massive and nice and felt like an airport. I had no problem taking a little snooze. They had a cafeteria where we ate a (second) breakfast of a true Canadian bacon breakfast sandwich and coffee. It was delicious and we felt like the shakes we had earlier that morning evened out the grease.
We drove off the ferry all fueled up and ready to see what our next free campsite would look like. The beauty of camping for free is that, good or bad, the next destination is always a surprise. The free campsite app has worked out really well so far, but only gives you a location and a little information, so we are really never sure! The back country roads were full of cow fields and open marsh lands. We listened to Chris Stapleton radio the whole way. We stopped for some groceries and filled our cooler with all of the much needed veggies. When we arrived to our next site next to the beach of Lake Huron we decided to make veggie sandwiches and head over the railroad track to the beach. The water was freezing so not much swimming, but we enjoyed spending the late afternoon reading beneath the shaded trees with our fancy mint lemon cucumber water. After lunch we tried out our outdoor shower for the first time and it worked! We left it on top of the truck to heat up in the sun and it was actually so hot we had to fill it with cold water. It’s just a bag with a shower nozzle and it’s been working great to wash dishes as well.
We cooked a healthy dinner and then introduced ourselves to the couple camping in the same lot. They were an older couple from a town near Toronto and were also using the free campsite app on their road trip to a festival in Thunder Bay! They gave us a glass of wine and we chatted for a bit. We ended the night with a sunset walk on the beach, and then hurried to the truck to escape the bugs. We need net suits.