Alberta Road Trip Diary (Day 1-3)

25 Jun

Saturday, June 22, 2013: Day One

This morning we woke at 5am to catch our flight out of Hamilton at 7am to Calgary. While descending into Calgary, the effects of the flooding in the area were immediately apparent. Our thoughts are with the residents of Southern Alberta. Many have lost their homes, and some their lives.

A big thanks to WestJet for helping us to redirect our flights last minute to avoid Calgary altogether. We highly recommend flying with WestJet, the service is excellent and the staff are fantastic.  Back to the trip- After a three hour layover, we flew to Edmonton. Edmonton Airport is very nice and very maneuverable.  We picked up our car from Enterprise- a Ford Focus. The gentleman at the counter offered an upgrade to a Mustang Convertible for the low, low price of an additional $45 daily (Yes, this rate seems ridiculous, but if we were driving to Banff as planned, I would have totally considered the upgrade). ….(Funny side note: 30 minutes into the trip our rental received the common Alberta mishap: a huge stone chip. The windshield has a huge crack in it now and we are looking into getting it replaced. What luck eh?)

On our way now, we are driving to Hinton, Alberta. About 3.5 hours from Edmonton. So far the scenery is beautiful: green everywhere, mostly coniferous trees and gloriously large birch trees. We saw a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and have our eyes peeled for Elk and Black Bear. The foothills are just appearing in the horizon now as we eagerly await our arrival at the Pocahantas Lodges. Tonight we plan to soak in the Miette Hot Springs which are just down the road from our accommodations.

10pm: After a quick dinner at the hotel resturant, we made our way up to the Miette Hot Springs for a sunset soak. What a beautiful view from the pool.

Sunday June 23, 2013: Day Two

Waking up at 7am, we had breakfast at the hotel and quickly loaded the car. Heading down the Trans-Canada Hwy, we headed towards Jasper. The scenery was breath-taking. Arriving at Maligne Lake, we headed down to the boat house. Due to the flooding in Alberta, the boathouse was flooded with half a foot of water! We felt bad for the poor guys working there but they smiled and said they were making due. We finally rented a canoe for 2 hours and paddled out onto the beautiful turquoise water. Surrounded by the Rockies, we spent the morning paddling and drinking a few beers. Maligne Lake is apparently the second largest glacier fed lake in the world- second only to one in Siberia. Because it is glacier fed, the water is always a cloudy turquoise colour.

After our morning on the lake, we loaded up back into our car drove out to Hinton. The place we were staying was Old Entrance B&B. When we pulled off the paved road onto a dusty dirt road surrounded by huge pine trees and mountain views, I had a feeling we were in for a treat. The property is a 60 acre ranch on the Athabasca River with gorgeous views of the foothills and mountains in the distance. As soon as you pull in, you realize that this isn’t a resort, this is someone’s home. It’s very personal feeling and quiet. As we drove up to the Main Building, we noticed that it was a converted train station. Later we found out that the house (it was stunning by the way) was indeed a train station in the early 1900’s. We were greeted with a smile by Carol who asked us how Calgary was doing with the flooding and how our trip had been thus far. She gave us a map to the property and said that firewood for our stove and fire pit was being chopped.

Old Entrance B&B has 3 cabins, and three teepees available for guests. We were so surprised at how spacious and comfortable the teepee was. It had a wooden floor, a full double bed with a nice duvet, a stove, a table and a water jug for washing and drinking. The teepee was right beside the raging and now very high Athabasca River.

We read in our lounge chairs overlooking the river and waited for 6:30pm to arrive- we had booked a trail ride. Mary and a young man (who we later found out was there for the summer from Quebec) had tacked up and readied our plump little horses. They looked very well and were well behaved. Our trail ride was 1.5 hours and took us through Mary’s property, but also much of the surrounding property which is all Crown Land. With the amazing views, high mountain-side trails, and fantastic little horses, we had a fantastic time.

I was about ready for sleep when we returned to our teepee. The amazing thing about Alberta this time of year is that it stays light for so long. The sun doesn’t set until 11:00pm, and rises around 3:30-4am. I decided to try to get some sleep- after all, we were going to hike up a mountain tomorrow!

Monday, June 24, 2013: Day Three

I awoke at 4:00 am. Yes, I know… but I’m still on Ontario time plus the sun is blazing! I tied up our things and packed the car while Chris slept. The morning was so beautiful at Old Entrance. The horses are kept loose on the property and had been grazing around our teepee. A couple came up to wish me good morning while I read in my chair.

When Chris woke up we went up to Toilets and Shower to get clean. We then packed up and headed to the main house for breakfast. The assortment of breakfast options was incredible!! (We were now used to paying $20/pp for crappy pancakes and soggy bacon, so this fantastic and healthy ‘help yourself’ breakfast was a huge bonus for us!! And it was $8 each! Beauty). We chatted with Carol during breakfast as we sat at a table overlooking the river, mountains and the horses just outside the windowsill. The hospitality and peacefulness at Old Entrance was incredible. It’s not advertised very well (perhaps on purpose!) on the internet and is truly a hidden gem. We met another couple from Germany who felt the same. Carol mentioned that they are happy keeping it a quiet place, and not a full ‘resort’. She said that most of the people that come are very down to earth and they enjoy having them and sharing their little piece of heaven with them as friends. By this point I was dragging my feet not wanting to leave (ever) and Chris reminded me we had a hike to get to. We said goodbye to our gracious hosts, paid for our stay (which was ridiculously affordable), and were back on the road for Jasper again.

Forty minutes later we were at the Miette Hot Springs Parking Lot again. This time to hike up to the summit of Sulphur Ridge. The trail head begins just behind the springs and the trek takes 4-6hours. The going was really not that bad, just all up-hill (obviously!). It was very cool to see the change in vegetation as the elevation changed. Starting in wet forest, we eventually ended up in alpine tundra. I had a bit of difficulty on the way up due to my horrible sinus infection I’ve had for the past 4 days. Breathing was a bit strenuous, but on the bright side, the higher I went, the less pressure my head felt!

Our efforts were well worth our reward: the view was astounding. Literally, I think my mouth was open for a good 60 seconds in shock. 360 degrees of Canadian Rocky Mountains. We lucked out with weather too- it was thundering quite loudly as we hiked up and were worried that clouds would move in to obscure our views. Thankfully they moved on by the time we reached the summit because we could see for miles. I have never seen so far!

We hiked down after enjoying a few snacks and soaking in the scenery. Mountain goats were along the ridge and a few were brazen enough to approach us. I think they may have acquired a taste for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Back in the car (the crack getting larger now), we headed back to Edmonton. We were to meet up with my best friend Sarah and her boyfriend Baxter who live there. What a treat!

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