We had not originally planned to leave Banff so early, but it was such a busy place to stay and we had seen most of the main sites, so we headed into neighbouring Yoho national park for the night.
The campsite we had chosen to stay at was completely full, so we parked in the day area and made some food.
It was a lovely little spot, nestled between dramatic mountains with the occasional long train trundling by.
As we had been parked in the day area, we left very early to avoid another incident like the one in Castle Mountain and went and found a lay-by to have breakfast in. It was meant to be a viewpoint, but the trees had grown up in the way.
We were very used to living in the car by now, so cooking breakfast, changing and washing our hair in a bowl of cold water in a lay-by as people drove up to see if there was a view was becoming really normal. I have never been particularly shy about such things, but even less so since the trip.
We carried on up the windy little road we were on, admiring the mountain views in the little valley.
After a while we came to a section of road that had had an avalanche fall across it. The road had been cleared but the snow still remained on either side, higher than a car. The snow was full of rocks, trees and other debris from its destructive journey down the mountain. This really hit home how powerful and terrifying nature can be.
At the end of the road was a car park for Takkakaw falls. The altitude was higher again here, so it was very cold, but the falls were stunning and the views were lovely too. There were lots of longer walks in the area, but we still had a lot to see and not much time to see it all in.
We drove back along the road and back in the direction on Banff, where we stopped at a viewpoint for the spiral tunnel.
Basically, the trains that came through the mountains here originally had to go up and down a very steep slope, which caused accidents and derailments.
In Switzerland they had a similar problem, but, being the Swiss, they found a way to solve it. They cut into the mountains and put in a sweeping curve so the train could go up (or down) a far shallower gradient.
The spiral tunnel viewpoint overlooks one of these systems. The spiral tunnel has two spirals – the one we could see was the lower tunnel.
The trains through this area are erratic and have no set timetable, so we thought we would wait a little while, not expecting to see anything much.
We had lunch and read all the signs about the tunnel and its history.
After about 20mins, we heard a train approaching. We then watched as the train climbed its shallow track and disappeared into the tunnel. After a minute or two, the front of the train appeared out of the tunnel, with the back of the train still heading into the other end of it. Wow.
We watched the whole train go past, which took quite a while as trains in this area are hundreds of carriages long.
After viewing the incredible train, we drove into the main town of Yoho: Field.
Field’s visitor centre houses some of the famous Burgess Shale fossils, which were found in Yoho national park. These are fossils of complete soft-bodied organisms, which is very exciting. Eva, the biologist, was especially excited.
Her favourite is Anomalocaris.
After viewing the fossils, we headed into Field itself.
Field, unlike Jasper town or Banff town, is TINY. It has lots of lovely historic buildings which we saw as we wandered around. There were also so very beautiful flowers.
After Field, we drove out to the Emerald lake, which is another beautiful turquoise lake. On the way we stopped at the pretty incredible natural bridge, that was formed due to the different densities of rock that blocked the river.
There were lots of people visiting the Emerald lake, so we had to park quite far away. It was very beautiful and would have been lovely to swim in if we had had the time.
I got an ice cream, but there were no vegan options, which upset Eva, who was getting fed up of not being able to have things. We were meant to write a poem at the Emerald Lake, so we wrote a Vegan saga, explaining her struggles with there being no ice cream for her.
Yoho national park is very small, so we only had one more site to see before we left and headed into Kootenay national park, another small one just south of Banff.
The final site was Wapta Falls, which is quite near the exit to the park.
We drove out towards the falls, not a particularly long drive. Somehow, we missed it and apparently there was no place to turn around for MILES AND MILES.
Eventually we got all the way to a town called Golden which is nearly 23 miles, 23 MILES, from the falls. Eva was very hungry at this point and I was too, so we went into a IGA supermarket and found very little vegetarian food and no vegan food except gum. Yay.
There was a giant red chair there though, which was a bit of a silver lining.
We drove back to Yoho and ended up back in the day area of same campsite as the previous night.
And we were out of rum.
Why is the rum always gone?
The next morning the universe rebalanced itself by giving us a gift, in the from of a lovely lady at the Field visitor centre, who gave us our tags for completing our Yoho Xplorers booklet, but not after reading everything first and making us swear a full oath to protect Canada and the world.
She also gave us Canada 150 badges and temporary tattoos!
We drove back to Lake Louise town to buy food and get coffee.
Eva brought her own mug and was very annoyed to find she had been charged for a medium coffee instead of a small, just because she had her own mug.
I stole lots of sugars and creamers in avengement.
The drive from Lake Louise into Kootenay National Park was lovely and we were excited to explore yet another park.
Our first stop was Marble Canyon, but not before I had borrowed another campground sink to wash my greasy greasy hair.
The canyon was really lovely and very hot. The trees surrounding it weren’t particularly tall as there had been a forest fire in 2003. Trees take a long time to grow back.
The next stop was the paint pots. A short walk from the car park are some large yellow ochre beds.
The ochre is a natural clay pigment formed of iron oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand. The local tribes used to clean the ochre, knead it into balls, flatten them and bake them. They could then grind the cakes and mix the powder with fish oil or animal grease to use as a paint for art on their bodies, tipis or clothing.
Eva put some of the raw ochre on her face. It looked good.
We had another lovely walk on part of the Floe Lake trail, which goes through forest destroyed by a fire in 2001. The regrowth is stunning. The new trees are beginning to get tall and the under growth of beautiful flowers is just gorgeous, proving that while forest fires can be devastating in the short term, they increase diversity and forest health in the long term.
As we drove round to Radium Hot Springs to complete our last Xplorers booklet, we drove past a wonderful herd of big horn sheep – a load of mums and babies – so cute, but no way of stopping for photos.
We finished our booklet tasks and got our prize at the Radium visitor centre, then headed back to visit the Radium Hot Springs. They were only around $6 and it meant we could both have a proper warm shower!
We soaked in the lovely springs in the sun and discussed our national park adventures. The national parks are just incredible and they are still amazingly wild places. We absolutely adored exploring them, especially with the help of our age-appropriate booklets!
We got way more tags than most of the kids, so who’s really winning?