Day 1: September 18th 2013: Calgary to Field, Yoho National Park
The Rockies were a winter wonderland in April 1996 on a 2 week family skiing trip, when my two boys were very young. We’d skied Lake Louise and Sunshine Valley mostly but also every other day had toured a little and let the boys enjoy the space and lack of crowds.The whole place had made such an impression that I vowed to go back some day to see it all clear of snow and ice.I’d also bought a fantastic book whilst there – A Hiker’s Guide to Art in the Canadian Rockies – and it had fired my imagination; Lake O’Hara, Larch Valley, Moraine Lake seemed to be the places of choice by some of the artists of the day in the 1920s and 30s and their images captured me completely.
It took until September 2013 however, before my husband Chris and I boarded an AirTransat flight from Glasgow to Calgary, part of a 3 week trip that included California, Yosemite and New York.
Glasgow, Scotland to Calgary
The first half of the flight was magnificent. The emerald green Hebrides, dotted with tiny white cottages, sparkled in a cobalt blue Atlantic. Further out, the tawny pyramid of lonely St Kilda was ringed with white sea spray. A couple of hours later, dark volcanic Iceland loomed, already snow-covered. Then Greenland’s ice floes came into view 35,000 feet below, white flecks littering the Arctic Ocean like confetti.A chain of snowy coastal peaks rose like miniature Himalaya as we headed overland.I was mesmerised by the utter beauty of it all. Then the interest faded as we headed across the grey wasteland of Hudson Bay’s western shores and landed – on a damp, drizzly day – in Calgary, eight hours later.
Burgess Lookout Cabin, Field
Picked up the hired car in no time and loaded the luggage. We were off! We were headed now for tiny Field village in Yoho National Park, about 130 miles and a three hour drive away. I’m not really a city person and it has to be something special to hold my attention; Calgary and its outskirts hadn’t impressed me last time, when we’d spent half a day before our flight wandering around the centre and out to the Zoo with the boys. It had been April and the countryside around had been well and truly wrung-out by winter.Everything was a dull grey/brown.It was more golden now but I can’t honestly say the city and its environs appealed so it was a relief to negotiate the complex of (very busy) motorways and inner city highways and strike out west towards the mountains.
Low mist and drizzle obscured any view of rocky peaks however as we made for Banff and a planned ‘stock up’ in the supermarket for our first few days. The overall effect was grey, grey, grey – no colour. I had really enjoyed Banff on our last trip when the boys were young; the setting was superb and it had some nice shops and restaurants. But the grim weather hid stunning Mount Rundle from view. Along the main avenue, building seemed to have gone at a pace. The architecture didn’t look quite so quaint as I remembered and on this wet afternoon it was incredibly busy. It was the spectacular mountain backdrop which had made Banff so attractive before and no doubt if the sun had been out and the rocky slopes in full view, I might have responded to it better this time around.Made a note to myself to try to fit in a visit to the Whyte Museum on our way back; all we felt like now was to get to our accommodation in a more rural idyll and settle in.
Perhaps with such high expectations and rose-coloured memories of cloudless days ski-ing at Lake Louise and spectacular clear drives up and down the Highway, the grey drizzly drive to Field made my heart sink a bit.No mountains! Ah well, I had to stop being so impatient and all would come good! Over the wonderfully named Kicking Horse Pass and there it was, the small village which would be our base for the next 3 nights. I was a bit shocked that it was so hard on the thundering highway and with the paraphernalia of the Trans-Canada railway going through the village centre.”Rural idyll’ seemed a bit of a stretch.
On closer inspection however, things improved. Hugely! Field had , in fact, some nice traditional houses, a beautiful white church and best of all – Burgess Lookout Cabin, our own little place. It was a detached, pretty gingerbread house with a garden and patio, tucked right up beside the forest. Just gorgeous. Inside, it was charming, atmospheric, beautifully appointed with a wood stove, mezzanine bedroom, lovely furniture, mountain memorabilia, good books…..A little piece of heaven and a haven of peace. It turned out to be the best accommodation of our Canada trip and great value. (When planning the trip, we had found the cost of staying in the Rockies to be eye-wateringly expensive.)
Cases were dumped, tea made and then we were out exploring the village before the sun went down and before jet-lag finally floored us. We’d arrived at 11am Canada-time (5pm UK time) so our body clocks made it the wee small hours.
The renowned Truffle Pigs Bistro had an interesting, if pricey, menu.It was quite dark inside and overlooked the railway tracks. There never seems much point in eating out if the environment at home is more attractive so we were happy to head back to our cosy abode and eat in. After a few glasses of sparkling wine and olives, we sat down to Alaskan smoked salmon, followed by sautéed chicken coated in curry and chilli spices and some truly excellent potato salad. (I got addicted to this Canadian supermarket product and spent some time working out what ingredient it had that made it so much better than ours).Delicious – a real favourite quickie meal and not the last time we had this over the next few weeks!
Before it got dark around 7pm, I had been eagerly checking out the kitchen window for bears or deer, but Field was wild-life free that evening – not even birdsong.But no matter, we were VERY happy to be in Canada and here in Field with a whole week of exploring ahead in one of the world’s most spectacular areas.
Tomorrow- the Path of the Glaciers hike – our first walk in grizzly country. A Hike above Lake Louise
Actually I tried not to think about that too much as I never in a million years thought I’d EVER walk where there were animals that could, if they felt like it, eat you.But how could we come to the Rockies and not do some simple walking, one of our great passions? It had to be done! ( Feel the fear etc…….)