American Adventures 3: Yellowstone National Park Part 2

On our third day in Yellowstone, we did a longer trip around the park. We started by visiting Gibbon Falls, which is fairly close to the park entrance.

Gibbon Falls

After Gibbon Falls, we drove on in the direction of the Artist Paint Pots, famed for their bright colours and boiling mud. On the way to the paint pots, we noticed a group of bison, not far from the road in one of the meadows. We pulled over and got out to take photos, taking care to keep our distance. It was a herd of maybe ten to twelve adults and two, very cute, ginger babies.

Some of the bison herd

After a suitable amount of photos were taken, we carried on to the artist paint pots where we saw some very cool boiling mud. This is one of my favourite geothermal features, because it is just so satisfying to watch.

Boiling mud

Our next stop was the spectacular Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. This is the place where Yellowstone gets its name. The canyon is an incredible place to visit, with several viewpoints along it, including one at the top of the magnificent lower falls.

View of the lower falls

We viewed the falls and then drove further along the road to get the the viewpoint above the falls. You can see right down as they cascade over the edge, tonnes and tonnes of water crashing down every day. The power of nature never fails to impress and delight me.

Yellowstone Canyon

We eventually left Yellowstone Canyon to drive through the Hayden Valley, which is where many of Yellowstone’s herd animals hang out. If you want to see bison, this is the place. We drove through the vast meadows, counting bison. We saw one crossing the road at one point. They are such incredible animals, and it was a privilege to see so many.

Eventually we came to an area called mud volcano, which has even more boiling mud than the paint pots!

Black Dragon Crater

This wasn’t the highlight of our visit to mud volcano, however. The main event was the very close bison that was chilling out near the walkway. The bison that then decided to have a bit of a roll.

Rolly bison

It was so playful and a really cool thing to watch and be so especially close to. Who knew such a big hunk of beef could be so cute?

We drove on, round the road that led us back to the main geyser basin. We saw the absolutely gigantic Lake Yellowstone, which was ringed by lovely mountains.

Lake Yellowstone

After more driving, mainly through trees, we reached the main geyser basin again in just the perfect time to see Old Faithful go off again – it doesn’t get old!

We had dinner in a strange canteen next to Old Faithful – it wasn’t the best food.

On the way back, even though the light was dwindling, we decided to pull over at Grand Prismatic Spring to see what we could see. The sun was setting, so it was very atmospheric, but you couldn’t really see the famously stunning bright colours of the spring – we would have to return on the following day.

Grand Prismatic in the evening

We drove back towards the motel, the sky gradually darkening, the odd deer or elk seen through the trees or across a river.

Suddenly, we hit a small line of traffic, so we slowed, wondering what we would see. Small traffic jams in a place like this usually meant bears or some other kind of exciting wildlife. This was not an exception.

As the car in front of us pulled around, it revealed the herd of bison from earlier walking in the middle of the road.

We sat still and quiet as they slowly and gently ambled past the car in pretty-much single file. A big adult at each end of the line and the beautiful ginger babies in the middle. We were in the car, but they were all going past less than 1m from us, calming walking to wherever it was they were going.

I was too in awe to take any photos, which is a shame, but the experience will stay with me for the rest of my life, especially the way the lead male gazed steadily at us as he made his way past.

Our final full day in Yellowstone began as they all did, in Greens and Grounds having breakfast. We had quite a few places we wanted to get to, starting with fountain paint pots.

They were similar to artist paint pots and the mud volcano, with more boiling mud and lots of sulphur smells.

Fountain Paint Pots

After the paint pots, we went back to Grand Prismatic to see it in full light. The colours were spectacular in the light!

Grand Prismatic Spring

We went back to the main basin to grab some lunch at the geyser grill – it was the same food as in the cafeteria in Mammoth.

We basically ran from there to Daisy Geyser to see it go off – it goes at an angle, it’s pretty cool.

Daisy Geyser

We started to walk back the long way, to see some of the other geysers one more time. Grotto Geyser was bubbling up a bit, but Eva and I walked on, unconvinced anything else would happen. After no more than a minute, Dad shouted us to come back because it was erupting. Mum said she had wanted it to and then it did.

Grotto Geyser

We went round geyser hill again and back to view Old Faithful one last time before we left.

A last look at Old Faithful

After a quick visit to the gift shop, we went to Black Sand Basin which had a cool, constantly bubbling geyser called Cliff Geyser.

Cliff Geyser

Our last stop in Yellowstone was Firehole Lake Drive, where we saw a pretty spring, some lovely lakes, by which was a random pelvis of an unknown animal and also a final geyser.

This geyser was called White Dome Geyser. We took some pictures and then, as Dad, Eva and I walked away, it erupted. We concluded that Mum must have some sort of geyser-whisperer powers and can set off geysers at will.

White Dome Geyser

Back in West Yellowstone, we finally made a visit to the Wolf and Grizzly Centre, just down the road from our motel.

West Yellowstone

The bears come out on a rota, either alone or in groups of up to five. We saw two bears called Spirit and 101 at first, then they returned to their enclosures and a bear called Nakina came out. The bears are all rescued – they became a problem in the wild by being habituated and so were brought to the centre to avoid being destroyed. Now they help educate people about bears and hopefully stop more bears becoming habituated.

One of the beautiful bears

The wolves were very cool too. They have three pairs: McKinley and Leopold, Kootenai and Akela and Adara and Summit. They are all spare puppies in litters of movie wolves, so were not born in the wild. They too help educate people.

One of the wonderful wolves

The centre also has an area for ground squirrels, who likely enjoy being in a safe enclosure.

Fat, deflated ground squirrel

Finally, the centre has an area dedicated to rescued birds of prey who can’t be released back into the wild for one reason or another.

One of the rescue birds, an eagle

After spending some time at the centre, we went back to Bullwinkles for dinner where we had some tasty cocktails and I had a lovely taco bowl. We decided to have some cheesecake for afters too!

We stopped at a little souvenir shop on the way back to the motel and then headed back to pack up.

The next morning, we returned to the bears and wolves for one last look – we saw Sam and then Roosevelt, Grant and Coram the bears. It was especially cool to see the three bears together as they started swimming in their pool and play fighting with each other. The bears aren’t really far away either, so it’s very cool to be so close.

The wolves were mainly dozing, but we still watched them for a while. Dad headed out to get some food for our journey, while Mum, Eva and I kept watching the mesmerising creatures.

Eva and I found a section with all sorts of bins and boxes that the bears had “tested” to show which things are bear-proof and which things aren’t. There were also bear traps you could go into.

Eva in a bear trap

Inside, there was a big exhibition on bears, which included a big stuffed polar bear. This made us think of our big white car, which we had named Iorek, after the polar bear in Northern Lights.

Us and Iorek, the car

We went back to the motel, packed the car and drove away from Yellowstone, sad to leave, but happy to have experienced such a special place.

Our stop for the night was Boise, in Idaho. The drive went smoothly until we stopped for lunch and petrol. For some reason we couldn’t get the petrol pump to work and ended up having to get a man to help us. There wasn’t really anywhere to sit at the rest area we were at, so we had to sit in the hot car to eat.

We drove on and eventually stopped again to go into subway to get ice-cream as it was really really hot. I had a lovely ice-cream milkshake.

While we were there, I used the toilet, which happened to have a urinal in the same little room. Because I am a feminist icon, I used it!

It didn’t seem like long before we got to our Best Western in Boise and checked in. We had to drive out to a place called Meridian, just up the highway from our motel to get dinner at a place called Blaze pizza, which does proper vegan pizza and cooks the customised pizzas really really quickly. SO tasty!

Blaze Pizza

We had a bit of hoo-ha trying to get back to the highway because of annoying one way systems, thank God for my map app, but made it back to the motel in time for a good night’s sleep.

The next day we drove to Yakima, back in Washington. The drive was nice, through lots of yellowy hills.

A really cool geographical formation – a table top hill

We stopped for lunch at a supermarket, where we struggled to find food for me and Eva – seriously, the take-home message is not to be a vegan or vegetarian outside of the cities in the US. And even then in probably depends on the city.

Yakima is a big hops growing area, so as we drew near to our destination, fields of hops began becoming more and more frequent.

In Yakima, we found our motel and were surprised to find that one of our rooms was ready and the other was still having its carpet fitted.

Turns out they were gradually refitting the carpets in this seedy motel and they hadn’t finished in time for check-in. Two hill-billy looking men were working on the room, the furniture just hanging round outside.

When we arrived. The open door is for our room…

We went out for dinner at a nice Indian place and by the time we came back, the carpet was in and we could go to bed.

The next morning, we had a stereotypical American breakfast in a diner down the road from the motel, called Mel’s Diner. We managed to order something we all could eat, but there was so much food we couldn’t eat it all! The pancake stack that came with the breakfasts was FOUR large, thick pancakes. They were very tasty, but you’d need a big big appetite to finish them.

The drive from there to Sea-Tac airport was easy. It was finally time to board the plane that would take us back to England.

Both Eva and I had been out of the country for over six months and it was an odd feeling to be returning home, but more on this in my next post about returning to my UK life. I hope you have enjoyed reading about my adventures on my world tour, it was an excellent time that I will never forget!




American Adventures 2: Yellowstone National Park Part 1

We drove across Washington, towards Pullman, the town where Eva had worked for WSU, near the border with Idaho. We were going to meet Eva’s friend Maddie, then head over the state line to Moscow to stay the night.

The drive was pretty good, although I got very hungry after not having my muffin. We arrived and did a little tour of where Eva worked while we waited for Maddie to finish working for the day. We headed to a lovely “brew pub” where we had tasty dinner. Eva and Maddie mostly chatted.

After dinner, we dropped Maddie home and went to see where Eva had lived, then headed out to Moscow. The Super 8 motel that we were staying in was easy to find and the room had three double beds! Luxury! Eva and I were beginning to enjoy having beds and showers readily available.

The Cougars banner at our Super 8 – Eva only just noticed that the cougar head says “WSU” after working there for several months!

We got up in the morning for the free breakfast and I attempted and failed to properly use the waffle machine. There wasn’t much food for Eva the vegan, which would become a running theme, so we went into Moscow and bought provisions in the Coop.

Then we drove towards Butte, Montana. I loved the name! Along the way we stopped at a few rest stops, where there were people selling coffee and many many ground squirrels. The toilets at the one stop were a bit knarly and the water tasted odd, so we were happy when we found the next one which was much nicer and had a pretty view.

Mum at one of the many rest stops on the journey

It was on this journey that we found the Beatles radio station, which became our favourite for the remainder of the trip. Who doesn’t love the Beatles?

We got to Butte and checked in to the Best Western. We were given a room on the ground floor with a window that looked out into the corridor. There was also a loud barky dog next door. Mum was not happy. We went and asked to change.

We were given a first floor room. This one also had a window that did not have an outside view. Mum was beginning to gently emit smoke.

Finally, on attempt three, we got a room that had a proper window.

We headed out to pizza hut for tea. Dad and I were hungry but Mum and Eva didn’t feel much like eating, so Eva didn’t eat and Mum had a few slices.

We headed back to the Best Western in a bit of an odd mood, on the way spying a glowing white point on the mountain behind the motel. This is apparently the statue of the Lady of the Rockies.

Lady of the Rockies (not my photo – AllAroundTheWest, Flickr)

Mum and Dad went for a walk as mum was getting a bit of cabin fever and Eva and I continued our Netflixing.

The next day, we went down to breakfast, where I was told to get some shoes. Apparently one has to wear shoes to breakfast… who knew? There was lots to choose from, cooked stuff, cereal, pastries, juices. It was lovely.

We packed up and ventured out again, this time driving all the way to Yellowstone! It was a nice drive and got nicer as we drew closer to our destination. One of the cooler things we saw on the way was Earthquake Lake, a large lake with the skeletons of drowned trees sticking up out of it.

Earthquake Lake

We were too early to check into our motel in West Yellowstone, so after having a bite to eat (mainly our leftover pizza), we drove into the Park to see some geothermal action!

We decided to start at the main geyser basin, home of Old Faithful Geyser. Mum and Dad had come to the park in 1991, so were very excited to see everything again.

In the visitor centre, there are boards telling you what time the frequent geysers are going off. We noticed that Castle Geyser, apparently Mum’s favourite, would be going off soon. We raced to get there, storming down the gravelly path. On the way we saw a box containing maps. We walked swiftly past, but I went back to get one, sure that we  would like to have one. I grabbed the guide and speedily made my way back to my family, looking at the map as I went.

Very quickly, my foot fell down a small hole in the path and I fell over.


I popped back up, embarassed, and returned to my family. We kept going to get to Castle Geyser, so we wouldn’t miss it and then I sat down and sorted my grazed leg out.

We waited for a very long time for Castle to go off, seeing Old Faithful, Beehive and Lion geysers all go off in the distance.

Old Faithful going off in the distance!

After a long wait in the sun, Castle finally decided to stop teasing us with small jets of water and erupted in a spectacular fashion.

Castle Geyser

We then walked on down the geyser basin to Morning Glory Pool. We went past lots of dormant geysers and beautful pools, realising we had missed the very rare Giant Geyser by three days. Morning glory is a stunning pool with bacteria causing a rainbow effect.

Morning Glory Pool

Eva was getting hungry and we were all very thirsty, but we made the long hot walk back over geyser hill, where we saw the interesting anemone geyser go off – it has two sides and does one side, then another and then repeats.

Anemone Geyser erupting

We went into the visitor centre and attacked the water fountain before browsing the gift shop.

We went back out to join the hoards of people waiting to see Old Faithful go off. We had decided to eat at the Old Faithful Inn, a very special old hotel where Mum and Dad had stayed on their last visit, so Dad disappeared to book us a table and returned with a device that would bleep when our table was ready.

We waited and saw Old Faithful go off in its magnificent and timely fashion. It’s no wonder people had decided to build the main tourist hub around it. Nature is incredible.

Old Faithful!

We went in to the Old Faithful Inn and had a little look around the main foyer. Wow. The engineering that had gone into building such a massive place out of huge logs was a wonder to behold.

Inside the Old Faithful Inn

There was just about enough food for Eva, despite the fact that her soup came late and they didn’t know what a vegan was. I had a starter of pitta bread and hummus, which should have been for sharing as I got about four pitta breads.

It was going pretty well until Eva was angered by the waiter, who said there were a few vegan dessert options. Turns out there was just sorbet. Eva made an effigy of the waiter out of her leftover spaghetti squash main and stabbed it with a fork. Note to any eateries in touristy areas – don’t anger the hungry vegans…

We headed back and checked into our motel, which was pretty decent and very close to the National Park border.

The next morning, we headed out to find breakfast. West Yellowstone is very small, but has a few eateries. We found a lovely little place called “Greens and Grounds” which had vegan porridge and tasty cheese and egg crossiants as well as good coffee.

After breakfast we drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive was lovely, passing through some large meadows where we saw a sleepy Bison and some deer. Near the end of the drive, there were some very cool rocks and a gorgeous view down into a valley.

Such a good view

We had a quick visit to the visitor centre, then went to have lunch at a big cafeteria in Mammoth town. There were nice bean burgers for Eva and I as well as tasty chips. In the line we met another vegan, who I persuaded Eva to give her number to. She did so in the time-honored fashion of slipping him a napkin on her way out of the cafeteria!

We walked out together, with me in front, but as she went to drop the napkin, it fell onto the floor, so she had to pick it up and thrust it at him. We ran around the corner, cackling.

He did text her though.

We walked up to the main event of Mammoth – the stunning terraces. They are just sensational, and I couldn’t stop taking photos.

Mammoth Hot Springs

After the walk on the lower terraces, we headed back to the car and saw some elk hanging out on the grass. We watched then for a while, before retreating swiftly back to the visitor centre as a sudden shower hit.

The Elk

The rain cleared and then we drove up to the upper terraces to look at those too – it as certainly worth it – my favourite was called Canary Spring.

The upper terraces look like an alien landscape
Canary Spring

We then drove on to Norris Basin, which smelt, but had some very steamy geysers, including one called Steamboat. While we were there, we were pounded by a short hail shower – another reminder of the altitude we were at!

Norris Basin

We walked back to the car after a brief viewing as it was starting to get dark and Mum was concerned that a bear might come and eat us. Near the path, we spied some beautiful snow-shoe hares, who seemed unconcerned about bears or us, for that matter.

Steamboat Geyser

We had dinner in West Yellowstone, at a place called Bullwinkles, which had one or two options for the plants based family members and some very tasty wine. I had a lovely mushroom burger.

We had two more days in Yellowstone, with so much more to see. Too much, in fact, for just one blog – so catch up on that next time!



American Adventures 1: Family Reunion

After dropping our wonderful little car back at the airport, Eva and I made our way into the airport to wait for our parents to arrive.

We were very excited. Eva had left the UK on the 1st January to go to California to work in a lab and I had left on the 10th January to go to New Zealand to start my world tour. So it had been a while since we had seen our parents in person.

We went into the terminal and got some paper to make a sign, then sat around for a while, waiting. After a bit, we noticed that their flight wasn’t on the arrival board, so we checked their flight number online.

The signnn

Turns out they had a change in Edmonton, so they would be coming into the domestic terminal, not the international one.

We walked over to the other terminal and waited once again. After a while, we saw them at the baggage claim and decided to sneak up on them.


They got their bags and we took a taxi back to our accommodation. Mum and Dad were very tired from their flight, so they wanted to sleep.

We ordered some pizza and shared one of our Canada 150 beers, then Mum and Dad went to bed and Eva and I stayed up sorting out stuff and watching TV.

Despite giving mum and dad strict instructions not to wake us before 8, they woke us at 7, because apparently their phones/ watches hadn’t been adjusted correctly.

We had a little kerfuffle over breakfast, as it was supposed to be included in the rice of the room, but the lady working at the house didn’t get the memo.

Eventually we got something that passed for breakfast and sincere apologies, then we got ready to go and see Vancouver.

We walked from ours to the Bloedel Conservatory, catching up as we walked.

A warmer visit to Bloedel

We arrived and went in to see the birds once again. It was strange to be back after a month of being away, but great to show the place to mum and dad.

After seeing the inside of the conservatory, we wandered around the gardens surrounding it – something Eva and I had missed on our trip.

They were very beautiful, with gorgeous planting.

Pretty planting in the park around Bloedel

Afterwards, we went into Vancouver centre. We strolled along through gas town and saw the steam clock, which we knew mum would love.

We decided to have lunch at MeeT in Gastown, where Eva and I had our welcome meal.

We found the Marine building again and took more photos, even heading upstairs to see the foyer from above!

The Marine Building foyer

We ambled along to the waterfront where we admired the views and were once again transfixed by the seaplanes taking off and landing.

Seaplane port

Eventually we stopped at a bar to have a drink and some chips and chatted lots more. Mum and Dad were still a bit jet-lagged, so we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous.

Tasty raspberry cocktail

It was a lovely relaxing place to sit and there was a lovely fountain next to us, that it seemed was specifically designed to run through in hot weather. Two ladies had a go at this while everyone watched them in amusement.

We went to look for food and got accosted by a man who talked to us for absolutely ages about various options that he would recommend.

We ended up going to none of them when we found “Smak” which sold delicious pots of hearty food.

Our first day in Vancouver drawing to a close, we made our way back to our accommodation and played some pool (there was a lovely pool table there) before bed.

The next day we were rudely awakened once again by the parents, because they couldn’t work the shower.

Once that was sorted, we had a better breakfast than the day before and caught the bus up to Stanley Park, where Eva and I had seen the goth squirrels.

We got off the bus by the pavilion which had a beautiful garden next to it, and then went for a wander.

The Pavillion in Stanley Park

It is a lovely park with big gorgeous trees and the sun was shining. We found the totem poles, which Eva and I had only seen in passing previously.

Stanley Park’s Totem Poles

We got some food and then walked around to the little lighthouse on the corner of the park. We sat on the grass and watched the world go by. A ship went past that said Eva on it.

The pretty lighthouse

Eventually we got up and walked along by the sea, we saw some cormorants and a seagull fishing and watched them for a while.

We went to find some goth squirrels as they weren’t in such abundance as last time and eventually found one near the beautiful rose garden – it was quite friendly, coming very close to me, likely some tourists have been feeding them to get photos.

Mum and Dad in the rose garden

We strolled back towards Vancouver centre, Eva somehow acquiring a vegan ice lolly enroute.

We were loosely making our way to gas town, only stopping to grab a cold drink at Starbucks on the way. We saw the steam clock do its thing again.

We had been trying to find somewhere to dispose of our bear spray all day, but with no luck, so after one last attempt, we made our way to a Lebanese restaurant in gas town.

We had to walk up a semi-closed road to get there. The road was filled with vintage cars and filming equipment and had been done up to look a bit 50’s but also like a bomb had just gone off.

It turns out it was a set for “The Man in the High Castle”.

After curiously taking in the scene for a while, we went in to the restaurant and sat down to eat.

They did a lovely Sangria and a very tasty Mezze selection which we all enjoyed.

After dinner, we found that the set was completely closed now so after another brief look, we found our bus back to the accommodation.

We decided to open the lovely bottle of Grand Reserve wine that Eva and I had been saving from our visit to Privato’s Vineyard and drank it while playing a few rounds of pool.

The next day we took a bright orange taxi from the accommodation out to the greyhound bus station. The rather eccentric, long-haired driver told us a few stories and shared facts about Vancouver.

At the bus station, we had a very short amount of time to grab some food to take on the bus. The bus driver made us worry briefly by suggesting we did need an ESTA (we didn’t) and getting funny about the fact that we had some fresh fruit. He seemed to think that the four of us would only be able to eat one apple before we got to the USA.

The bus journey was fairly comfortable and went fairly quickly. The border crossing went without a problem, even with Eva re-entering the US after her previous visa had expired. The border was not as stereotypically USA as I had imagined – not a bald eagle or a massive flag in sight.

We completed our border crossing and then got back on the bus for the drive into Seattle!

We arrived and headed out of the bus station, apparently it doesn’t just have a taxi rank outside, so we had to call a taxi. I called maybe fove or six companies before remembering that I had Uber.

We took the taxi to our accommodation with another friendly taxi driver who showed us a video of a motorbike event at his home city in Mexico.

We arrived at our pretty flat and settled in. Mum and Dad went out to buy food and Eva and I lazed around and watched TV.

Mum and Dad returned and we made dinner than had a few beers on the terrace. We decided to go on a short walk down to the park by the water.

It was only down the hill from us, past lots of beautiful houses. The park itself was mainly just grass, but the view out over the water was stunning and the sky was lit up in the gorgeous pastel colours of the sunset. There was a wonderful hazy view of Mt Rainier standing alone in the distance.

A hazy Mt Rainier in the distance

We had one full day in Seattle, and it began with a lovely breakfast in our cute little basement apartment. After breakfast, we took the bus into Seattle and went straight to Pike Place Market.

We saw Rachel the piggy bank, a full sized brass pig who is the mascot of Pike Place. We saw fishmongers tossing fish and lots of busy little stalls.

Rachel the piggy bank

We made a beeline for the Cinnamon Works, a cafe that sells, among other things, tasty vegan cakes and pastries. On the way, we passed the first Starbucks store, which had a massive queue outside it. Apparently the coffee tastes the same.

We bought a cinnamon bun, a banana chocolate muffin and an oatmeal and raisin cookie. We took these to a spot by the sea and shared them between us. Lovely.

We wandered around the market, interested in the various wares on offer. We ate some free cherries that were especially tasty.

Eventually, we found the famous gum wall. The wall began as a wall that often had gum stuck to it and they got fed up of removing the gum, so they decided to make it into an art piece. So now everyone sticks gum onto the wall to add to it.

It is disgusting.

And extensive.

Mmm tasty…

We took a few photos, then walked on towards the Smith Tower. We went past a cool free outdoor music event with an epic metalaphone player, who was rocking it.

After watching for a bit, we went on to a place called Sprout for lunch where we had tasty wraps and were impressed by the way they had all compostable plates and cutlery etc.

Then we went up the Smith Tower. The obvious tower to go up in Seattle is the Space Needle, but we tend to stay away from the mainstream (because we are hipsters).

The Smith Tower was once the tallest building west of the Rockies. We learned about its history as we explored some of the lower floors, which were set up on the style of the time, with interactive things you could touch and listen to.

After exploring a bit, we took the lift to the top where there is a lovely bar and an outdoor viewing area. The views are lovely.

View to the Space Needle, from the Smith Tower

We sat down to have cocktails, which is when Eva realised that she didn’t have her passport, just her driving licence, which they would not accept. She was annoyed as she hadn’t been 21 last time she had visited.

Mum, Dad and I had some cocktails and Eva had a virgin Tom Collins. They were all very tasty.

9. drinks smith tower
Drinks in the Smith Tower

When we were done, we went to catch the monorail to the Space Needle, just to see it from below.

I was very excited about the monorail, and rightly so. It was so fun! We arrived by the Space Needle and had a wander.

The Space Needle

We saw a massive fountain called the international fountain which sprayed jets of water to music. There were loads of kids playing in it as it was HOT.

The International Fountain

One girl tried to take her very reluctant dog under the jets, but it protested until she gave up.

Eventually we stopped watching the mesmerising sight and made our way back to get the bus to the Thai restaurant we were going to eat at that evening.

On the way, Eva and I spotted a playground. We attempted as a group to play with a cool musical mechanism, but it was hard to play anything that sounded good.

Eva and I were determined to climb the lain playground apparatus and go down the slide. We climbed the massive web structure, but found that the bit at the top was not built for big humans and we would likely lose our balance and fall.

We climbed down and found another way up, a sort of rope-tunnel-ladder. This was much more successful, and we were able to go down the slide!

We got the bus out to the Thai place – it took ages as there was so much traffic! Eventually we arrived and went inside. The food was excellent, very tasty and cheap.

We took the bus back to the flat and ended up walking up a very steep hill to get there, apparently Seattle is quite hilly in places!

The next morning, we packed up and left the beautiful flat to go to Sea-Tac Airport, where we would pick up a car for the remainder of our trip.

The journey to the airport was quite annoying given how many bags we had with us, but after dragging them to a station and wrestling them all on and off a train, we finally arrived at the airport.

We went to Starbucks to get lunch. Mum wouldn’t let me have a muffin as well as a sandwich, despite the fact I knew I’d be hungry if I didn’t have it (spoilers: I was very hungry later that day – mums don’t always know best).

Annoyingly, we had to take an absolutely packed shuttle bus to the car rental building. We certainly had too many bags for public transport and had to uncomfortably lean/ stand/ support the bags/ try not to fall over.

Once at the rental facility, Mum and Dad sorted out the car, while Eva and I waited, lounging on the floor tired-ly. We got to choose which car we had out of ones of a similar spec. We chose a white Nissan Rogue that seemed to have ample boot space, loaded it up and drove towards Yellowstone National Park!

12. Not in charge now
Back on the road – this time as passengers!

Next time – hopefully soon – I will be writing about Yellowstone and its phenomenal beauty.

Canadian Adventures 8: Westward Bound

On leaving the national parks, we went to find somewhere where we could make dinner. We found a regional park on the map called James Chabot, so we made a beeline for it.

The park was actually very beautiful, next to a lovely big lake. We parked in the car park and brought our things out to a picnic bench by the shore to make our dinner.

A big raven strutted by as we cooked and ate. It seemed like a really pretty park, with loads of dogs running around enjoying the evening sun.

After dinner, we headed for a campsite in a small place called Yahk. When we arrived, the campsite was completely full, and the day area looked spooky in the dark, so we drove around for ages hoping to find a space.

We didn’t.

We gave up and parked in the day area and settled in for the night. Yahk is a tiny place, but we realised that the full campsite was due to it being Canada Day weekend on Canada’s 150th anniversary.

We got ready for bed and turfed out/ killed several absolutely massive mosquitos. Essentially, they were almost as big as my face.

It was then that we realised we needed the loo and we were too scared to walk there in the dark.

If you’ve ever driven a car with the seats completely tipped back, luggage piled on the back seats blocking the view out of the back, in the dark, on a campsite in Canada, with your sister giggling in a sleeping bag next to you, then you’ll know that it felt a bit odd.

We reached the safety of the toilet and then returned to our spot in the day area to sleep.

The drive the next day began early. As we had stayed in the day area again, we hadn’t paid, so left at maybe 7:30 to avoid the campsite staff.

Coming in late and leaving early without paying was a process we called “Swan Laking” as we first did it at a campsite called “Swan Lake” early on in our car life portion of the trip. And before you say it’s immoral, if the campsite is full anyway, they get all their money and we get a safer place to sleep than a random lay-by.

It was Canada Day and we were heading for the small city of Kelowna. The drive was long, but like any drive we had done in British Columbia, it was beautiful.

We had not slept much and I was the only driver, so after several hours, I began to get very sleepy.

We stopped in a place called Christina Lake and found a lovely cafe called Lisa’s Lakeside Bistro, where we get tasty wraps and I fuelled up with cherry coke.

We drove on and on and on until we reached Kelowna. We drove around for a while until we found somewhere to park, then wandered through the big park, admiring everyone’s patriotic Canada Day costumes.

Lake Kelowna

We wanted a drink but you aren’t allowed to drink alcohol in the park, so we found a bar that had a happy hour going on.

Canada Day drinks

After drinks, we headed back to the car, stopping on the way to pick up some more rum for the evening.

We went to Safeway first, and couldn’t find the alcohol aisle, so I asked someone:

“Which alcohol is the alcohol in?”

Shockingly, they didn’t sell alcohol, but they directed us to an off-licence.

We then drove on to find a place to stay for the night. We had three possible campsites to choose from nearby to each other. But it was Canada Day, so the chance of there being space at short notice was slim.

The driving had been a very tiring, so by the time we arrived at the third campsite and found it was full too, we just gave up and parked just outside of it and cooked our dinner. A pair of pretty California Quail wandered around nearby.

We sorted ourselves out for the night and set up the car, we were just about to begin Canada Day rum drinks, when a regional park van pulled up and a man got out.

He came up to the car, so I opened the window.

“Are you planning on staying here tonight?” he said.

“Yes, is that a problem?” I replied.

At this point he could have said “we’d rather you didn’t” and then I would have explained that we’d been driving all day and we’d be gone early and it was Canada Day.

Instead he plumped for: “It’s a campsite, so normally you go in and find a space and pay for it.”

Wow. I was totally unaware about how campsites worked, thank you for explaining to poor little me in nice short words.


“It’s full.”

He seemed genuinely surprised that the campsite with SEVEN PITCHES was full on CANADA DAY.

Eventually we persuaded him to let us stay and he said we had to pay, despite not being in the campsite. We said we would (spoiler alert: we didn’t).

We settled down to rum drinks and slept, waking very early to begin our drive to Chilliwack, where we had decided to stay because it was near to Vancouver and had a cool name.

We spent the day driving down more lovely roads and eating in various rest areas. The route we took brought us very close to the USA border, and we kept seeing signs for it. I imaged the border would have a massive sign with an American flag and a bald eagle on it, with a big crowd of rowdy Americans with guns and foam fingers shouting “USA! USA!” while cheerleaders danced. I would find out in a few days.

I am aware that image is much like imagining that one is welcomed into the UK by the cast of Downton Abbey, a complimentary cream tea and never-ending drizzle, and you’d only be partially right.

When we arrived in Chilliwack, we had the same issue with campsites as we drove along Chilliwack lake road and it became clear that they were all full.

Eventually we noticed that lots of people had set up camp in the various lay-bys along the road, so we decided to join them.

The lay-by we chose was actually a user maintained area which people often stayed in as they walked a particular trail.

We parked up and began to use our leftover tinfoil to block some of the sunlight coming into the car. As we were taping it to the windows, a man in a campervan ahead of us came over to gift is a foil blanket, which we thanked him for and attached.

Our foil-encrusted car

We chilled out in the car, chatting until it was time for dinner. We made another adequate meal and then began to set up for the night.

The kind man came over again and brought us some grapes. Friendliest lay-by ever!

We had some more rum, because drinking in the car was the main point of this holiday and then settled in to sleep.

Eva needed a wee, so we had to climb out of our foil encrusted nest so she could attempt to go, but she couldn’t because there were too many cars driving past.

The next morning, we were awakened by a dazzling light, striving around the car. The foil blanket was wafting in the morning breeze and attempting to blind us when the sun hit it.

We got up and rearranged the car for one last time. Just before we drove away, we spotted a little snake in the grass next to the car, another wonderful piece of Canadian wildlife.

We drove back along the Chilliwack Lake Road, down towards Vancouver. The drive was short and smooth.

We drive in and found the accommodation we would be sharing with our parents for the next few days. It was lovely! A far far cry from sleeping in a car for three weeks.

We ate a snack, unpacked, showered and put some washing on, then headed out to the airport to return the car. Our journey had taken us 4100kms or just over 2500 miles.

It had been an incredible adventure. Driving in Canada had proved to be so much fun, despite some irritating motorists who refused to do the speed limit and overtook me on the inside (pickup drivers, I’m looking at you).

I love driving and the roads were an absolute pleasure to drive on – keeping your eyes on the road is the only problem!

The National Parks were just phenomenal and I will never forget the things we saw and did on our journey through them.

I can’t recommend this part of the world enough and I would urge anyone who can go, to go!


Canadian Adventures 7: Yoho and Kootenay

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.

The remains of the avalanche


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.

The Takkakaw Falls

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.

A train heading through the spiral tunnel

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.

Touching some kind of Trilobite

Her favourite is Anomalocaris.

After viewing the fossils, we headed into Field itself.

Field is pretty

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.

The river next to Field

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.

Eva on the Natural Bridge

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.

The Emerald Lake

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.

Eva and the ochre 

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.

On the Floe Lake trail

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!

Radium Hot Springs

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?


Canadian Adventures 6: Beers, Booklets and Banff

We got up early to head to Calgary as the drive was longer than we had thought. We grabbed some very strong (and free) coffee from the hostel before we left.

The drive was over the same flat roads as before, with long straight sections at the unreasonably low speed limit of 100km per hour. I don’t condone speeding, but when the road is basically empty and just one long straight stretch for miles and miles, it is easy to let your foot get heavy…

We stopped at a lovely place called extreme pitta for lunch – they do pittas filled subway-style with lots and lots of fillings. We also had tasty pitta chips.

We drove on to a brewery called Big Rock, just outside of Calgary. We had booked the brewery tour only a few days previously. We went in and were greeted with a bar set up for tasting. We sampled one beer each before heading out on the tour. Eva had one called Citrodelic and I tried a maple lager.

Ready to tour!

The tour was really interesting and went fully though the whole brewing process, from choosing the malts and hops – the room they were in smelt like a pet shop – to cooking everything up, to the fermentation and then the bottling.

Inside the brewery

After the tour we had a full tasting, then got free glasses and visited the gift shop. We bought a case of special beers brewed for Canada’s 150th anniversary and some cute tasting glasses.

The taps at Big Rock Brewery

Although I hadn’t had much to drink, we waited around in the car park for a while before driving to our hostel, with Eva tipsily navigating.

We got there and found that there were some beautiful hares hanging out in the car park – it seemed odd, but why not?

We tried to go to this cool market over the road, but it was shut. So we headed out to a lovely park on St Patrick’s Island.

Beautiful Mosaic

We passed some lovely murals with mosaics on our walk there. The park was gorgeous, with loads of cute dogs running around. We watched the clouds for a while, then headed off on a walk.

We found a hill where there were lots of cute birds swooping around. Eva and I both had a go at rolling down the hill, but it was easier when we were little!

Eva having rolled down the hill

As we were in a messing about kind of mood, Eva decided to walk through a temporary ford that went across part of the island. This of course resulted in her having very wet jeans!

We slept well in Calgary and enjoyed the free breakfast they provided including maple syrup porridge for Eva and maple syrup waffles for me.

Cool market in Calgary

We went back to the market that had been closed the previous day and bought some cute but quite expensive nut/ seed butters from a hipster stall in one of the shipping container shops, complete with geometric/ landscape photo artwork!

We drove back to the rockies, watching them grow as we sped nearer – the view of the mountains from the flat plain we were on was absolutely incredible!

We were so happy to be venturing back into the stunning area again – this time heading for Banff – the most visited national park in the area. This was evident by how busy the town was when we arrived.

Eventually we found a free car park and wandered around in search of lunch. We found a tasty veggie cafe called Nourish, which was mostly great, but had some odd flavour combinations. The puddings were wonderful though.

Tasty desserts

We went to the information centre and then picked up the Banff Xplorers booklet, which had a lot of activities in it that didn’t require us to visit anywhere – this seemed like a shame.

We drove along a scenic road called the Bow Valley Parkway to find a campsite by Castle Mountain. Castle Mountain is another spectacular natural sight and honestly, I am running out of new words to describe them all!

Castle Mountain

We found a spot to camp (the last available one) and made dinner. We needed more ice for our cooler, so I went on a short solo drive down the road to see if I could get some from a nearby shop, but it was closed.

The next morning, after being given a friendly reminder to pay for our night at the campsite, we drove up to Lake Louise town. Here we discovered the reason why the Banff Xplorers booklet was not so exciting – there were several sub-booklets for Banff: Lake Louise, Cave and Basin and Banff Park Museum, three of the main sites of Banff.

We decided to visit lake Louise first, but it was so unbelievably busy that the parking was completely full. We had lunch nearby, then tried again, but still no sucess. We then noticed that the road to Moraine Lake was open – so we followed its windy way to the lake.

Moraine Lake selfie

Moraine Lake had a surprisingly small car park, but we drove around it a few times and eventually found a space.

Moraine Lake is something special. The fist thing we did was walk up a hill to a viewing area at the one end of the lake. The views were incredible and we also met some very friendly (highly habituated) chipmunks who were begging for food.

Beautiful chipmunk

The clouds were wafting in and out as we stood there and took a few hundred photos each. We made our way back down the hill and walked along the side of the lake. It was cold, and you could tell we were at high altitude because there was snow on the opposite bank!

Stunning Moraine Lake

After a few minutes, it decided to rain. Heavily. We took shelter under an information board and pondered about our lack of hiking. We had only done short hikes and the main reason was a lack of suitable equipment. Next time we would bring things so we could hike properly.

The rain cleared up, so we carried on walking around the bank. I decided to paddle in and stand on a partially submerged log – turns out that the water was incredibly cold! I balanced on the log, but after the wind tried to push me off several times, I returned to shore.

We enjoyed our time at Lake Moraine and didn’t really want to leave. In all my travels this year, this was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.

Out next stop was the Lake Louise gondola, which we had picked up a voucher for earlier in the day and was apparently a great place to view bears from. We arrived in the late afternoon, which also gave us a further discount – we ended up getting tickets for less than half price!

The gondola had two options: enclosed and open. Despite the cold, we went for the open gondola, for best bear viewing potential.

The gondola

The gondola was a very relaxed ride, with grassy slopes below us and the mountains towering above. We wondered how high we would end up. After a while, people on the other side, coming down the mountain, told us to look out for the bears.

As we glided slowly along, we reached a clearing to our right and inside it were three bears! A mummy bear and two baby bears! They were quite far below us and seemingly unaware of our presence as we made lots of excited noises.

The first bear family

All too soon, we had drifted past them. We carried on, getting closer to the top of the gondola. As we got close, we spotted a second family of bears chilling out directly below us. This was very close to our destination!

The second bear family

We got to the top, got off and admired the view. You could see all the way back to Lake Louise and the lake was visible as a sparkling turquoise puddle in the distance.

We headed back down pretty quickly as we wanted to see the bears again. The bears near the top had moved further down and were only just visible through the trees, with both cubs climbing up and the mummy watching from below.

The lower set of bears were still there and after we went past them, we made it out duty to alert others to their presence.

We reached the bottom and bought a couple of coffees to drink with some Oreo’s in the car before making our way back to Lake Louise, praying that the car park would finally have space.

The one disadvantage of travelling in a car.

We arrived and, likely due to the time, found there was space. We wandered over to the lake, which is also stunning and has an incredible glacial mountain backdrop – which at this point in the day, looked like it was painted onto the sky.

Lake Louise

We both agreed that we preferred Lake Moraine though, in part due to the massive, quite ugly hotel that stands on Lake Louise’s shore. A prettier building used to stand in its place, until it burnt down in 1924.

There was a lovely boathouse with quaint little canoes, which turned out to be extortionately expensive.

We dipped our feet in the cold water instead, then had a little walk around the lake shore.

Enjoying the cooling waters of Lake Louise

We drove back down the road a bit and made dinner in the rest area we had had lunch in earlier. It was a decent place to cook and eat, but there was a lot of wind, at one point nearly ruining dinner by threatening to knock the pan off our tiny stove. We saved the dinner, but the piece of foil we were using as a lid blew across the road and out of reach.

Cute ground squirrels entertained us as we ate.

We drove on to our campsite for the night, the well-named mosquito creek, where we parked up next to the creek in the last available space and battled off the mosquitoes every time we ventured out to the toilet. Once again, we pacified ourselves with some Kracken rum and slept.

The next morning revealed beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. We drive out and stopped at a wonderful lookout by bow lake. We wanted to make coffee but there were lots of Asian tourists and it was incredibly windy and cold! After a few minutes of admiring the view, we drove round to a car park at the end of the lake, where we managed to make coffee and get dressed.

Bow Lake

We had a little walk by the freezing lake shore and touched the lake (this was one of our Xplorers challenges). The lake was cold.

We did a nice walk, with random patches of snow alongside it, up to a wonderful viewpoint for Peyto lake, which is shaped a bit like a coyote.

Peyto Lake

We headed on to touch another lake, waterfowl lake, which was only accessible through a campsite. We decided to make full use of their flushing toilets and wash our hair in the sinks. Sadly there was no hot water.

Waterfowl lake

We carried on driving up to Saskatchewan crossing, which has amazing mountain views. We ate lunch, then headed into a pub for a drink. The ‘pub’ was a sorry excuse, only having a meagre selection of drinks, hardly any food, no snacks and bad country music. The views were stunning though.

The view from the “pub”

After we finished our drinks, we walked down the hill to a cafeteria that we hadn’t seen before and got chips. Nom.

On the way back to Lake Louise town we stopped at Mistaya canyon which was absolutely stunning and you could get right up close to the water which was pretty awesome.

Mistaya Canyon

We went back to Lake Louise town and handed in the Xplorer booklet to get our prize and picked up some more booklets for the nearby Kootenay and Yoho national parks.

So close to the water

We around trying to find a campsite that was suitable and encountered yet another bear family, a black bear mum and two cubs, with the two cubs climbing a tree. The bears are so beautiful, but you see too many of them near the roads. We also spotted three white tailed deer.

We ended up back at Castle Mountain, which was very full and so we parked up in the day area and made camp. After some food and more rum, we settled in to sleep.

It was about 11:30 and we were just falling asleep when there was a knock on the window of the car.

Maybe I watch too many crime dramas but my immediate reaction in my half-asleep state was fear.

“Eva! Eva! There’s someone there!” I whispered urgently, before coming to my senses.

The friendly Parcs Canada man waited until I wound down my window to speak to him.

He told us that we were in the day area and we should move to another campsite down the road.

It was 11:30pm.

The car was rearranged for sleeping, which included fully tilting the seats back, rearranging our luggage and getting into our sleeping bags.

I was very tired.

So I said “What, now?”

For some reason, he decided that it would be better if we put up our tent, but I couldn’t be arsed, as I began to explain to the man, but then Eva sleepily piped up that we didn’t want to sleep in tent because of bears.

Eventually he said we could stay there if we paid, so we did.

Anyway, the next day we headed to Cave and Basin, which is a site near Banff town with a famous cave and sulphur hot spring.

Cave and Basin has its own Xplorers booklet and by this point, we were getting quite addicted.

Cave and Basin site

The site was very interesting and had a lovely cave and some tiny rare snails. There were also fluffy beanbags and cute stuffed animals.

Chilling on the fluffy bean bags

There were also some boardwalks through the marshland where you could see fish and birds and supposedly moose. We saw no moose. They are so elusive. The elusive mooses.

The marshland

We then tried to go to tunnel mountain but we couldn’t find the car park and then walked around until we found some sort of power sub-station, at which point we gave up and went to see the Vermilion lakes, just outside of Banff town, where we had to find some brass plaques for out Xplorers booklet. We then went back to went to the Banff visitor centre to hand it in.

At the Vermilion lakes

We had a bit of time left, so we explored Banff Park Museum, which is quite small and full of stuffed animals as well as some interactive elements. We had a lot of fun completing the booklet that went with that venue – and it was the hardest yet!

So concludes our Banff adventures!

I will write the next chapter soon, so get ready to hear about the small, but perfectly formed Yoho and Kootenay national parks.


Canadian Adventures 5: Jasper National Park Maligne Lake Road

So, this blog is getting written before the end of 2017! This is good news.

We left off at the beautiful Pyramid Island in Jasper National Park. After admiring our beautiful surroundings (our main pastime on this trip), we drove on to find our campsite for the night. The campsite was quite out of the way, but didn’t take too long to get to. The last road before the campsite was partially unsealed and suddenly changed from sealed to unsealed with a sickening thump of the tyres, even if I drove very slowly.

At the campsite, we made dinner, which was, as usual, adequate. We decided to make some noodles, despite worries that we would run out of gas. I kept the gas low to make sure we didn’t use it all, so we had some left for our very important morning coffee (ground coffee brewed in cafetiere – we might have been living in a car, but we didn’t become complete savages)! Because of my conservative cooking method, it took what is technically known as f*cking ages for the noodles to cook. Meaning that when I accidentally knocked the pan off the tiny stove and spilled the finally-cooked noodles onto the floor, it was especially devastating.

Life goes on.

We made up for this loss by drinking some Kracken rum. See – not total savages!

In the morning, we did some more cold water hair washing. This never got less horrible. This was the day that we decided to drive down the gorgeous, winding Maligne Lake Road (we affectionately pronounced Maligne as “Ma-ligg-nee, apologies to my French/ French appreciating readers). Maligne Lake Road is such a perfect drive, with lots to see and do along its length – a must do for Jasper National Park.

Our first stop was Lake Edith, where we found yet another set of red chairs and did a “colour quest” from our Xplorers booklet. The idea was to find things of various colours. Eva and I decided we should only choose natural things, that made it much more difficult to find anything red.

The softies at the Lake Edith red chairs

Our second stop was Maligne Canyon. The canyon was very beautiful, carved out of a moody grey rock. There were many bridges crossing the canyon, with bigger and bigger drops to the river below. We also found some fossils – another Xplorers task – but nowhere near as many as the booklet suggested. After our walk in the canyon, we did a quick tour of the gift shop, where I bought a large bottle of maple syrup in a maple leaf shaped bottle.

We carried on along the road. I was really enjoying the drive and thoroughly used to driving on the right. We stopped off at a random layby to find another set of red chairs located next to the river, which were harder to find than expected as they were hidden by a mass of foliage.

Eva at the chairs

One of the most atmospheric stops on our journey along Maligne Lake Road was Medicine Lake, whose surrounding area was devastated by fire in 2015, meaning that there are hundreds of blackened trees lining most of the hills surrounding the lake. There were signs there about the Caribou, which are very rare to find in the park.

Medicine Lake

After Medicine Lake, we continued on to Maligne Lake, stopping on the way for a quick look at a black bear close to the road. These bears are becoming habituated and aren’t scared enough of humans. This means they are more likely to scavenge and become “problem bears” which means they will likely have to be killed before they hurt any humans. The recommendation is to just drive past them or stop briefly to look or take a photo while remaining in the car.

Sadly, we saw many tourists approaching the wildlife to take photos, not understanding the impact they are having.

We saw two more bears down a bank further round Medicine Lake, potentially one was a grizzly, but we couldn’t stop to look as it was on an awkward bend.

We carried on, keeping our eyes peeled for wildlife, driving slowly and having lots of cars overtake us. I couldn’t really understand why people wanted to drive so fast – it’s a stunning drive to be enjoyed.

Eventually, we spotted two cars pulling over just ahead of us, so slowed down to look for the animal they were stopping for, Eva readying her camera excitedly. As we slowed, one of the men, who had got out of his car began waving his arms like a runaway windmill and shouting “there’s nothing here!”. It was then that we realised that they had simply stopped to pee.

And that’s how Eva nearly took a picture of a random man peeing.

We carried on to Maligne Lake and saw a mule deer. We parked up carefully and headed into the visitor centre to get a map of the hikes in the area. Our Xplorers booklet asked us to hike the Mary Schaffer Trail and find various types of pretty lichens. The walk followed the edge of the beautiful lake and had great views.

We realised pretty soon after starting the walk that it was sleeting. In June. It was really odd, but likely due to the high altitude of where we were.

After our walk we headed into the cafe at the visitor centre for drinks. There was a man doing a talk about the wildlife of the national park and how humans fit in with it. He had furs and skulls to show people and told a few stories, including some that sounded a bit unlikely. He explained that bear bells are useless and you should only give them to people you don’t like.

View from the trail

We drove back along the wonderful road to Jasper. At one point,  we turned a corner and there was a bear in the road! Luckily I was doing the speed limit, which is set quite low in case of such encounters, so I was easily able to avoid the bear.

As we neared Jasper, we saw another wildlife jam. The cars had all stopped because there was a small herd of elk hanging out by the road, some with babies! It was great to see them, but again we were dissapointed by the number of people who had got out of their cars to take photos.

In Jasper we went to a tasty buffet curry place for dinner, which was good, but not like British curry houses. We are lots! After curry, Eva wanted ice cream, so we found a pot of mango pineapple sorbetto and took it back to the campsite with us. We had to eat the whole thing, else it would melt by morning. We almost managed it. As we stuffed our faces with copious amounts of sorbetto, we watched a group of friends on the pitch in front of us, the one man dancing very camply on the roof of one of their cars.

In the morning, I got Eva to drive us to the front of the campsite to fill up our water. She hadn’t driven before, but this was an automatic, so there wasn’t much teaching involved. She did well, but underestimated (as most people do) how sensitive the pedals would be. We jerkily approached the tap and pulled up next to some Parcs Canada rangers.

Eva decided we should pretend she just hadn’t driven for a while, so we made conversation to that effect as we went to fill our water.

We drove into Jasper to fuel up and pick up some more camping gas, then went into the visitor centre to finish our tasks and hand in our Xplorers booklet for a prize. We had to swear an oath to protect Canada and the world, which seemed like a bit of a responsibility, but we got some pretty dog tags saying we had Xplorer Jasper National Park.

We then headed through the national park to visit Miette Hot Springs. The drive up was again rather stunning, with beautiful water and incredible mountains.

The hot springs were quite cheap to go in, only $6 or so and had two large hot pools and two smaller cold pools. We spent an hour or so dipping in and out. It was a lovely place to be, but got swarmed by teenagers on a school trip.

As we were having a decadent afternoon, we decided to go to a proper campsite and pay to stay the night! We drove in and set up for the night. It was very swanky, with actual warm water! We had soup and kale for our adequate dinner and tidied the car.

After much chatting, laughing and run drinks, we went to bed in our comfy car home.

Our Jasper adventure was at an end and we were very sad to leave the next day for Edmonton, but excited by the prospect of beds and showers.

The drive went smoothly and mostly long straight flat roads through countryside. It was nice, but a far cry from the beautiful mountain roads of BC and the Canadian Rockies.

We stopped at subway for lunch and eventually reached Edmonton. Eva’s expert navigation got us to our hostel where we grabbed a free tofu-dog, watched TV and did washing – our exciting Edmonton adventure!

Soon I will write a blog about our adventures in Calgary as well as Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.

By soon, I mean sometime within the next month.




Canadian Adventures 4: Jasper National Park Glaciers and Bears

We drove into Jasper town, arriving in the afternoon. We parked in a back road, then walked back to the main high street to go to Tim Hortons for coffee and wifi. We visited the information centre and picked up loads of leaflets, including one called “Xplorers” which was full of fun activities (this would become our main way of exploring the national parks – you get tags when you complete the booklets).

Our first national park!

We drove south towards the ice-field parkway – a wonderful road that runs through most of Jasper and Banff National Parks. I had a sore throat and felt a bit tired, so we didn’t want to drive too far. We stopped at the Athabasca Falls on route. They are very powerful and beautiful and lead down a twisty canyon to a pretty lake.

The Athabasca Falls
Where the Athabasca river exits the canyon
The beautiful canyon

We went on until we found a campsite called honeymoon lake, which is by a pretty lake with dramatic mountains.

Honeymoon Lake

We had been having trouble with can openers. We bought one in Vancouver for cheap, but it was rubbish and flaked off fragments of metal every time we used it. We tried to but some more, but they seemed to be bottle openers, which was strange because the packet said can openers. They were completely useless anyway. We had to borrow one from the Germans in the next pitch across.

Buck Lake – our breakfast spot

The next morning I felt a lot better we drove to the next lake along to have breakfast, which is where I had an unfortunate incident with a pit loo. Pit loos are basically a long drop to a tank full of waste – they smell bad and they often have flies in them. This loo was probably rarely used because it was by a tiny lake that hardly anyone visited. I needed to go for a longer visit, which is fine, I don’t need luxury toilets for this, but what happened was truely traumatic. I received a large amount of splash-back. Splash-back not just of water, like in the toilet at home, but of waste filled water. Shudder.

After the incident and a suitable chance to get over it, we drove on to see the Sunwapta Falls, another falls inside a canyon. They were also very pretty. We began a walk in the forest, which was lovely, but increasingly scary as we hadn’t brought our bear spray. We eventually turned back and returned to the car park for lunch.

The Sunwapta Falls

The drive on from there became more and more scenic as we neared the ice-field parkway. More mountains rose up between the trees, now sporting glaciers. There were open glacial plains, with thin turquoise waters flowing through in winding ribbons.

Distant Glaciers

We stopped at yet another waterfall, that cascaded down the mountain and was guided under the road. It is called Tangle Creek. Everyone was parking on the roadside just past it because, like us, they drove past, saw it and had to stop because it was surprisingly spectacular.

The break-pounding beauty of Tangle Creek

We expected the ice-field parkway to be covered in ice and snow. Apparently this is just in winter. In summer the snow has melted and the ice is reduced to just the glaciers high up on the mountains. When you reach the visitor centre there, you are at quite a high altitude already, but still below the glaciers.

The view from the visitor centre

We decided at this point that we wanted to walk on one of the glaciers. The Athabasca glacier, we found out, is the same one our Grandma visited quite a few years previously on her trip to Canada. We had booked to walk on the glacier and had to wait for our bus up the mountain. After an hour of browsing the gift shop, we queued up and got on the bus that took us into the alpine zone of the mountain.

We transferred onto a special vehicle called an “Ice Explorer” driven by a very young guy called Jack. The ice explorers cost 1.3 million dollars each and there are only 23 of them in existence, with one in Antarctica and the other 22 serving the tourists on the Athabasca glacier! The drive up was really cool, especially when the very large and very HEAVY ice explorer went down a 32% gradient slope – scary, but these vehicles are built to cope with it without rolling or sliding.

That slope.

When we reached the top, we were allowed out onto a small, safe section on the ice. It was very cold. We had 30 minutes to enjoy the experience, which Eva and I made full use of – tentatively wandering around, taking photos and enjoying the view. Eva borrowed a bottle off a random man to drink some of the fast flowing glacial-melt water and I decided to lie down on the glacier. This was quite chilly.

These are big vehicles!

Eventually we had to return to the not-so-icey ground. We got back to our car and drove to a lovely big campsite for the night. We had dinner, then Eva went on a mission to find a bin and took so long that I went to find her, thinking she’d been eaten by a bear. Of course, she got back to the car before I did and thought I’d been eaten by a bear. I had not.

We settled down in the car and slept. It was one of the colder nights, likely due to the increased altitude.

The next morning, Eva experienced the joys of being poor and living in a car, by washing her hair in cold water!

When she had defrosted, we began to pack the car, when I scared her by shouting “behind you!”. This was because there was a ground squirrel behind her, not a bear! Cue Eva whipping out her camera and taking several hundred photos – see her instagram for the result!

We also had a minor incident where I was filling our large water container from a tap that suggested you didn’t take too much water and a campervan came, causing Eva to shout “campervan”, for some reason, I heard this as “rangers” and panicked, thinking I would get in trouble and ran back towards the car with the now very heavy water container and overbalanced and fell over. Well done me.

Once I had gotten over my embarrassment, we decided to tackle one of the challenges in our Xplorers booklet – find the red chairs. The national parks of Canada have wonderful scattering of red chairs throughout them, at various viewpoints. The first one that Eva and I chose to find was on Wilcox Pass, a popular hiking route starting directly by our campsite.


We hiked up the hill, as the trees thinned out and the wind ripped by. We met several much fitter hikers on our route up, but the views were pretty stunning by the time we emerged from the trees. The red chairs weren’t all that much further. We took a few photos on the chairs then headed out of the howling wind.

We drove back up towards Jasper village. The drive was lovely as the roads were clear and the views were good. We eventually reached our second red chair destination: the valley of the five lakes! This valley is creatively named after the number of lakes it has in it. The lakes are given the vastly imaginative names of first lake, second lake, third lake, fourth lake and fifth lake. Eva and I theorised a man must have named them.

One of the five lakes

The lakes were lovely – all different shades of blue. Sadly it began to rain while we were hiking, but we found the chairs and began to make our way back to the car.

The weather turned…

On our way back, I was walking maybe 5m ahead of Eva and we weren’t talking as it was raining quite heavily. As we walked along the empty path, around 5m in front of me a BEAR ran across! It was an adult black bear, going very quickly. I immediately stopped and went “There’s a bear, there’s a bear, that’s a bear, oh my god Eva a bear!”

Eva got ready to use the bear spray as she couldn’t see due to rainy glasses. The bear had luckily already ran on through the trees and out of sight.

The adrenaline rush was like nothing I had felt before and I jumped out of a plane and off a bridge earlier this year. This was a positive bear sighting – safe but also stunning. Being so close to such an incredible animal in the wild is a truely awesome experience.

Once we had recovered from our bear encounter, we headed back into Jasper and found a cute vegan cafe and got hot chocolates and a ginger cookie. We managed to get some wifi at Tim Hortons to talk to mum and dad and stocked up on some more food.

Our next destination was Pyramid Lake, another of the many beautiful lakes in Jasper National Park. I saw an elk on the drive in and there were warnings about dangerous elk as it is the time of year when they have calves. We found another red chair, which was not too long a walk, with nice views back over the lake.


We headed back down and walked onto the very pretty Pyramid Island which was accessible by a long foot-bridge. We hoped to see loons there, but no such luck.

Loons, for those who don’t know, are a lovely Canadian bird that is featured on the $1 coin. Not Eva and myself.

The view from Pyramid Island

The second installment of our adventures in Jasper National Park will eventually get written, hopefully before the end of 2017!





Canadian Adventures 3: Eastward Bound

The first place that Eva and I visited with the car was Capilano Suspension Bridge. We had heard about the bridge from our lovely Grandma, who had visited quite a few years previously.

Capilano is a very cool site in the North of Vancouver, with the massive suspension bridge, a cliff walk, a treetop walk and various informative exhibits, all inside a beautiful area of Canadian rainforest.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

We spent quite a long time there, we walked over the laden, swaying bridge, had lunch and wandered around between the beautiful trees. There were lovely signs with quotes on about trees and forests. There were tiny red squirrels running around, trying to steal food.

We climbed the treetop walkway and collected a booklet that went through some of the features of the forest. We ran around, enjoying finding things and completing the activities. Once we had completed it, we got a badge for our trouble – we are now official rain forest explorers!

Eventually, we crossed the bridge again and walked round the cliff walk, which has a large curved section that hangs over a sheer drop – pretty scary stuff! We also braved the glass platform.

We loved our day at Capilano, despite the quite high entrance fee. It was a great introduction to the natural areas of Canada, which we would see many more of along our journey east, to the national parks and beyond.

After Capilano, we drove up to Whistler. This was my first long drive, along a wonderful road called the sea to sky highway. This road has absolutely stunning views, both by the sea and further inland, where mountains suddenly loom in front of you, dressed in snow. It was a hard road to drive quickly on, partially due to its twists and turns, but also due to my amazement at my surroundings.

We arrived quite late into Whistler and found some wifi at a closing Starbucks. We opted to drive to a nearby Regional Park campground, instead of staying illegally in one of the large carparks. The road back to the campsite was mainly dual carriageway, so we had to find a suitable place to turn round to find the campsite.

It was very dark when we got to the campsite. We found a pitch and nervously set up for the night, keeping an eye out for sudden murderous bears. We even peed at the edge of the campsite, rather than risk attempting to find the toilets.

We woke in the morning, unharmed by bears discovered that there was a toilet less than 100m from our pitch. We made lukewarm coffee using our tiny stove, packed up and drove back into Whistler. It was raining, so after a quick play on the very cool playground, we retreated into Starbucks for a drink, a snack and some more free wifi to research where to stay that night.

We headed out towards Kamloops, the approximate halfway point between Vancouver and Jasper National Park. The drive was better that day, with my confidence building and less twisty roads, our average speed increased. The scenery became barer and dryer. There were fewer trees and more railway lines. Massive long trains trundled by slowly.

View from our pitch at Juniper Beach

We stopped for a break at a place called Lilooet and had a quick walk around the tiny mineral museum and shop there, before continuing on to our campground. It was called Juniper Beach and it sat off the main road, with a railway and a river on one side and another railway on the other side. We saw and heard a lot of trains go by that evening. We also saw an absolutely stunning sunset!

The sky looked like it was on fire!

We drove on into Kamloops the next day, just in time for lunch in a sunny park. The weather was getting warmer at this point, enough to put the air con on.

We had decided to do a wine tasting while in the Kamloops area, so headed to a vegan approved vineyard called Privato. We were welcomed by a lovely lady who gave us many wines to taste, which were all very nice. We decided to buy the surprisingly dry and very excellent rosé and the most expensive and also most delicious pinot noir. We saved the latter for when we were reunited with Mum and Dad.

Grapes at Privato

After the wine tasting, and a suitably long sit down, we drove on to a place called Enderby. On the way we stopped to get dinner from an asian restaurant and coffee from Tim Hortons in rainy Salmon Arm, whose name always made my giggle. Enderby is home to the Starlight Drive In Movie Theatre, which was showing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!

We arrived and queued up to pay for our tickets. Apparently, my card was being a problem again, because it was ‘foreign’, and we didn’t have enough cash to pay. We didn’t know what we should do, but the friendly man on the box office let us in for free!

Parked up!

We settled our car in to a spot near the front, then ran to the concession stand to spend all the cash we had on some popcorn. We then nested for a while, pulling out the sleeping bags and softies ready to watch.

The film was fantastic! I can thoroughly recommend it. It is badass, heartbreaking and hilarious, with an incredible soundtrack to take you through it. The experience of seeing it in such a cool cinema was so much fun! I wish we had drive-in movies in the UK, but I guess that the weather can be fickle.

After the film, we also could have waited and seen Beauty and the Beast too. But it was late and we had both already seen it, so we quickly rejigged the car into driving mode and left Starlight behind us.

Sadly, we did not have a plan for where to sleep. After a brief stop in Enderby itself, where we were accosted by a homeless man asking for money, we drove around sleepily, for about an hour on the dark Canadian roads. We found a very full and slightly creepy caravan park that wasn’t going to work and eventually ended up at a rather nice, but completely full campsite called Swan Lake.

It was very late at this point, and I really didn’t want to drive anymore, so we parked on the edge of someone’s pitch and set up to sleep. As it was such a nice campsite, and looked expensive, we decided to set an alarm for 6am and be out by 6:30 to avoid paying. Rude, I know, but we had been stung by our $500 young persons’ fee on the car.

The next morning, we got up and left as quickly as we possibly could. We were out by 6:15 and we’d gotten away with it!

We drove to a nearby village to try to get breakfast, but nowhere was open/ vegan. We carried on along the quiet road until we got back to the main highway, where we found a Denny’s diner to have breakfast – a much more worthy recipient of our money!

The rest of the journey that day seemed to go quickly. We stopped once for a break in a layby near a river as I was quite tired from my lack of sleep, but arrived in a place called Valemount nice and early. We got some coffee at a cool cafe/ giftshop, then found a campsite called Canoe Creek. It was sunny and we were both feeling slightly under the weather, so we decided to pitch our tent and lie flat for a night!

In the campsite in Valemount

We made food, while fighting off what seemed like thousands of massive mosquitoes! They were approximately the size of my face. I killed quite a few, maybe forty or fifty over the course of us cooking. Mmmm, mosquito corpses everywhere!

We had a little walk around with our cameras – it was a big campsite with lots of odd things to see like old machinery, wooden carved animals by the reception building, an old car and, especially strangely, a tree with a face.

We also got some washing done and hung it out all inside the car to dry. We slept pretty well in the little tent and packed up easily in the morning as the good weather continued.

Eva wanted to go back to the little gift shop to buy some minerals, but it was a Sunday, so it was closed. We managed to get some food before heading out excitedly towards Jasper National Park.


Canadian Adventures 2: Carlife Begins

The time had come for us to pick up our car from Vancouver airport. We had a lot of luggage (two big suitcases, one big rucksack, three small rucksacks and myriad camping equipment), so we left it at our accommodation and took public transport out to the airport. At this point, I was excited. I had no idea what was to come.

We had booked the car online ages ago via Expedia. It was booked for three weeks, giving us enough time to drive over to Alberta and visit Jasper and Banff National Parks before heading back to Vancouver in time to meet Mum and Dad at the airport.

We arrived at the Avis check-in desk and queued to get the car. When we were called up to the desk, we hit our first problem. For some reason, the deposit for the car could only be taken on a credit card. I don’t own a credit card.

Now, annoyingly, the debit card that I was using for our travels often counted as a credit card as it was a ‘foreign’ card, which wasn’t always useful – like I literally couldn’t use it in some places. But for the purposes of Avis car rental, it was a debit.

Obviously they can’t rent the car out without the deposit, so I began to feel a bit worried, all our plans revolved around us having a car. I hurriedly handed over all three of my cards for the man to check with his manager: my UK debit card, my New Zealand debit card and my Travelex currency card.

The man went away for a while, I began to get a little paranoid that he was stealing all my card details, but no strange transactions as of yet. He came back and explained that he couldn’t use the currency card, he couldn’t use the New Zealand card as it doesn’t have my name on it (I got it at the bank, so it just says ‘cardholder’), but he could try my UK card. Not ideal, but that’s okay.

He put the card through. Then our second problem occurred. An automatic charge of $500 went through. FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

From this experience, I have learned two very crucial things about hiring cars:

  1. If you are under 25, don’t even think about it.
  2. Always read the small print.

I am 23. This means that that $500 was a $25 a day surcharge for being a young person. Obviously, if you are under 25, you aren’t allowed cars. Probably because you are a reckless mess who will deliberately crash and try to sue everybody. Young people don’t even need cars, they have everything anyway: mobile phones, the internet, crippling mental heath issues. The one thing we don’t have is money. So they make nice things, like houses, cars, university degrees, too expensive for us. Then we’re told it’s our fault that we don’t save our imaginary pounds.

I’m not bitter about this at all.

This brings me to my second point. The online car hire gave me a price along with a lovely sentence: “The total price includes all mandatory taxes and fees”. I thought that meant I’d paid for everything. But no.

Expedia has a very tiny little clause in its small print that says “Additional charges or restrictions may apply for drivers under 25 or over 70”. Sneaky sneaky. Read it, if you ever hire from Expedia. And then expect the worst.

Thankfully our car hire experience did end in us getting a car to drive around Canada. We also got upgraded from our pre-ordered “Chevrolet Spark or similar” to a beautiful VW Golf TSi with more power and most importantly, more space! We were able to fit all our bags in and rearrange our stuff to fully recline the seats to sleep at night.

We, rather organically, named the car “the expensive bitch” and set off to explore this beautiful bit of Canada.