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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Grotto Geyser

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One of the wonderful wolves

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ouchies

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The upper terraces look like an alien landscape
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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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.