Leaving Seattle was bittersweet. We had an incredible time in the PNW, but we hadn’t seen many of our family or friends since we left the northeast 8 months prior. We were excited to get back to see people we love and gain back some familiarity. Bijan and I were lucky that our former managers rehired us as travelers on our old floors at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston for a 3 month contract. We were tired of learning new hospital systems (it gets exhausting) and wanted something familiar for a little while. We were also lucky that my parents were willing to take us in for a few months. With 3 weeks off between assignments, we packed all of our belongings into our little Crosstrek and hit the road, with plans to visit some national parks along the way. We didn’t plan it out this way but we ended up road tripping during peak foliage season which made for some awesome views and photos!
On the morning of September 22, we loaded up the car, built Charley her throne (made of blankets and her bed) in the back seat, and headed east on I-90.
We waved goodbye to the Cascades and passed over into the high desert, crossing the Columbia River in Central Washington.
We ended the day in Spokane, WA and found a Mexican joint to grab dinner and quickly set up our tent at a KOA campground for the night. I don’t think any of us slept that night, however, because the campground was situated right next to train tracks, with what felt like trains flying by every 5-10 minutes, making the ground shake beneath us. In addition to that, after a bathroom trip in the middle of the night, Bijan and I were soundly sleeping when we woke up to a dog barking outside of our tent. We both shot up.
“That sounds like Charley!”
We looked around in our tent. No Charley. Bijan busted out of the tent to find Charley barking about 20 yards away and scooped her up. I must have left the tent unzipped and she snuck out, collarless. Thankfully she is a barker, or else we would have lost our pup in the middle of nowhere, WA.
We woke up the next morning, needing a little more coffee than usual to get us through the day. So, naturally, we had to stop at Crazy Beagle Coffee Co. for a beverage.
We hit the road and crossed over the border into Idaho, with our sights set on making it to the Lake Louise Campground in Banff National Park that night. The thing we found out about Idaho is this: it looks like Idaho. Whatever image you have in your head, that’s what we were seeing. Distant prominent hills and long stretches of flatland in between. Sure, the continental divide borders Idaho’s eastern edge, but that wasn’t along our route.
We headed up through northern Idaho, where we made it to the cutest little border crossing in the middle of nowhere, just north of Bonner’s Ferry. We crossed into Canada and headed toward our destination. As we drove up through Canada, we passed the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River at Columbia Lake and made our way up into the Canadian Rockies. The Cascades of the Northwest are craggy and massive in their own rite, but the Rockies are an unmatched grand landscape impossible to accurately scale or appreciate by eyesight alone.
When we arrived at Lake Louise Campground, we set up camp and climbed in our sleeping bags for a well earned night of sleep. We were exhausted from the traveling and had an early wakeup call to snag a parking spot at Moraine Lake the next morning. The visitor center advised us to hit the road to the lake around 4-430 A.M. to ensure we got a parking spot. An interesting note to this campground we had not yet seen before in our travels: it was enclosed in a heavy duty electric fence to prevent entry of grizzlies- both for the safety of campers and to keep grizzlies wild. Pretty neat!
Rising about 3 hours before the sun, we hopped in the car with the heat blasted and set out towards Moraine Lake. We found a parking spot with no issue, changed out of our pajamas, and made our breakfast, courtesy of the Mobile Kitchen.
On the menu for the morning: freeze dried breakfast skillet, granola with blueberries and milk, a cup of instant black coffee for the Mr. and hot cocoa for the Mrs.
We finished breakfast, cleaned up shop, and began trekking upward, saved from the darkness only by the flood of light poured in front of us by our headlamps. The gentle rolling jingle of our bear bell provided the only conversation, as we let the serene stillness soak in. Our hike was to Larch Valley, above Moraine Lake, since it was golden larch season. As we climbed the north side of the lake, the dawn joined us. A gentle blue was followed by vibrant pink and orange. The larch trees lit up as we hit the upper valley. In taking in this epic sensory experience, we were also sure to stay aware to the possibility of grizzlies as we approached streams and meadows. See below for some epic views.
When we finished our hike up to Larch Valley, we walked around Moraine Lake to take in the views. We were grateful for waking up early and being able to enjoy the views in the peace and quiet, because as we were leaving there were several busloads of people at the foot of the lake. The last photo is of the lake from above. It really is that blue.
After we finished up at Moraine Lake, we again set up the Mobile Kitchen, where we concocted many lunches made of PB &J, tuna wraps or chunky Cambell’s soup. See below:
We decided to take a drive up Icefields Parkway to take in the views. This highway goes from Banff to Jasper National Park. Unfortunately it was raining that day, but we made the best of it and still really enjoyed the views that we did get.
The next couple of days were spent exploring Johnston Canyon and the Ink Pots (several small pools with different shades of turquoise water), as well as the town of Banff.
We used our last day in Canada to explore Yoho National Park. We hiked around Emerald lake in the morning, where we accidentally came face to face with a scared moose on the trail, and we were almost stampeded.
We also hiked to a hidden lake that we had all to ourselves. This lake was the most incredible color aqua, and was so eerily quiet. We were a little bit scared that we would come face to face with a grizzly, but it was worth it.
Below is a photo of Takakkaw Falls in Yoho NP.
Lake Louise Campground was one of the last campgrounds open in the area (most had already closed for the winter), and it was set to close the day after we were planning on leaving. We weren’t expecting temperatures in the teens to 20s overnight, but they were. And it was cold! I woke up every morning shivering in my sleeping bag, and even spent one night in the car with the heat on for a couple hours. For this reason, we decided that for our next destination we would try to stay at a hotel and forego camping (also why I recently invested in a zero degree sleeping bag for future adventures!).
We had our sights set on Glacier National Park in Montana as our next destination. However, the night before we were geared up to leave, my mom texted me to warn us that there was a storm headed towards that area of Montana. We discovered that the park was actually closing because they were expecting an early snowstorm which would dump several feet of snow on the park.
We never make reservations or set-in-stone plans ahead of time because every time we road trip, there is always the chance of an unexpected storm that steers us in another direction. We made a last minute decision to forego Glacier, and rerouted for Bozeman, Montana.