Christmas in British Columbia, New Year in Alberta and a whole lot of miles in between.
Christmas in Vancouver.
We arrived in Vancouver just a couple of days before Christmas. The streets were packed with last minute shoppers and there was a real wintry feeling around. A haze had fallen over the city making it difficult to see Vancouver's Grouse Mountain backdrop.
We were staying in a lovely apartment on Davie Street, very centrally located. It was especially reasonably priced given that we were there over the holiday period. For this trip, I was with my brother. Aside from having Christmas itself in Vancouver with a cousin, we had no other plans for our trip. We each had friends in Jasper and Banff respectively but didn't know whether we would make it to seeing them.
We had a day walking around Vancouver, taking in the sights and enjoying the winter chill. We sampled local beers, visited the beach and took the boat across to North Victoria for some good photographs of the harbour.
Once Christmas had been and gone, we took a trip to visit Grouse Mountain. Unfortunately, we didn't do the cable car ride because the views weren't great due to thick cloud but had the weather been different we definitely would have gone up, even if it was a little over $40 each!
We also visited Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. They offer a free shuttle bus from various locations in downtown Vancouver. Alternatively, you can take a regular transit bus #246 from the Waterfront Bus Station. This only costs a couple of dollars and gives you more flexibility. We opted for the free shuttle!
This is a great way to spend a day in Vancouver, especially if it's not raining. You can easily take a few hours walking around the trails, reading the different information boards and admiring the views.
We visited the Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant for drinks one night. There were spectacular views of the city and it is free admission, you just pay for the beers once you're at the top! It actually could work out cheaper than visiting the official Vancouver observation tower.
After a few days pottering in Vancouver we decided to hire a car, preferably a 4x4 with snow tyres. That way we would be able to journey to Jasper and Banff, get to see some spectacular scenery, meet up with our friends and conquer the Rocky Mountains!
Unfortunately, the lovely people at Enterprise were out of 4x4s and only supply all-season tyres. We decided to take our chances and ended up with a silver Toyota Yaris. Yes, that's right, we were taking on the Rockies at the end of December in a Yaris... Nothing like a bit of adventure to accompany a road trip!
We left Vancouver early morning and it didn't take me long to adapt to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. The car was an automatic which made it slightly easier to focus on everything being on the other side of the road. Then it was time to go!
To start with we didn't think there was much of a problem with the all-seasson tyres. There wasn't any fresh snow and the roads seemed clear. Our first day involved driving and appreciating the scenery. Really, we wanted to get to Jasper within two days. Our first milestone was Kamloops, only four or so hours from Vancouver. There we would decide the next milestone and look ahead for somewhere to stay. We used this site to check the road conditions and closures when trying to plan our route.
We were heading towards Revelstoke but it seemed that everywhere was booked up there so we figured we would just find somewhere on the road. That would have been a great plan if a blizzard hadn't just blown in. Driving conditions were worsening and it was getting difficult to see. We followed a snow plough for a good while but with the winding roads and worsening conditions we knew that Revelstoke was out of the question.
We followed some signs off the main road to several hotels in this tiny town we had arrived at. It seemed that there was a big influx of visitors to the area this weekend and everything was booked. We found a diner with a hotel attached so we had dinner and looked online at hotels nearby. There was nothing. We stayed in the diner until closing time then accepted our fate that our first night on the road would be in the car. It was only -3c so it could have been much worse!
I can't say I slept well that night, however, by the time morning came, the roads were looking clearer and it looked like we would make it to Revelstoke without issue.
We knew that today was the day that we would encounter Rogers Pass and that was a scary thought if ever there was one. Here, our Yaris would be pushed to its limits (as would we, no doubt!) Will wasn't old enough to drive the hire car (you had to be twenty-five) so it was all on me and I've had very limited driving experience on ice or in snowy conditions. Nonetheless, I was up for the challenge.
Our aim was to get to Jasper tonight so we could relax there for a few days before arriving in Banff for New Year. We pushed ourselves on the road. Driving cautiously and keeping our fingers and toes crossed. In all honesty, it was terrifying that our car wasn't cut out for such an adventure. However, the beautiful scenery couldn't be beaten.
Surprisingly we made it through Rogers Pass and out towards Golden in fairly good time and with no major incidents. No minor incidents either! Next stop, Lake Louise and take a left turn up to Jasper. We had a hotel booked tonight and Will's mates were already getting the beers in.
We had two nights booked at quite a lovely hotel to make up for our night on the road yesterday. We had a huge room with two big double beds and there was even free car parking. Bonus!
Before meeting the boys, we hunkered down for a nap and then went off exploring.
We drove around aimlessly and then found that you could hire iceskates from Pyramid Lake Resort. This was only a short drive from the centre of Jasper and it was fantastic as they had goalposts and even gave us hockey sticks so we could play ice-hockey. It was a very unexpected and fabulous afternoon. Of course, I spent more time sitting on the ice than I did skating on it but hey ho. We also had the rink (lake) to ourselves which made it extra special. The skate hire wasn't expensive so I highly recommend this.
We spent the rest of the afternoon warming up in a local pub and telling stories of our wild adventure across Rogers Pass in the Yaris.
Tomorrow we would head out exploring and taking photographs of Jasper National Park. How could we resist with scenery this beautiful?
Ice-skate hire and skating rink.
Just outside Jasper.
Jasper National Park.
On the move again.
Yes, that does say -17c!!
Driving from Jasper to Banff.
Narrow road ahead.