Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Driving to Calgary and hitchiking to Lethbridge

Hello world, we are in Lethbridge! 

After changing our plans million times we are now happily and safely in Lethbridge and ready to continue the travel by foot. The changing plans considered mostly our car since the original idea was to leave it in Prince George. Then we thought it would be better to leave the car closer to Banff and the finish line of the hike, so we kept driving, instead of hitchhiking, until Calgary.

Even though the landscape around Prince George is pretty flat the topography changes fast while driving to southeast along the Trans-Canada Highway. Our first stop was in an Ancient forest where you can see huge trees, mostly cedars, that can tell stories from 1000 to 2000 years. Different world comparing to Finland and France. 


The drive from Prince George to Calgary goes through Jasper and Banff National parks and for example Mount Robson Provincial park and the way offers incredible views with mountains and lakes and meandering roads. At the gate of the park you have to pay a permit just to go through and since we wanted to pay just for one day we had to rush through the parks. But we still had a chance to stop occasionally, take pictures and also check the grocery stores in Jasper and Banff, since those are the places we are going to resupply while hiking.

Having a break near mountains
Mount Robson seen from the highway

Mount Robson, 3954 m
Rest area before the parks

In Jasper, where the mountains seen from the Icefields Parkway are pointed out

Athabasca falls in Jasper National park (beautiful but too many people)

Athabasca river in Jasper National park

 Mountains seen from the parkway

 Mountains seen from the parkway

The Columbia Icefield area in Jasper National park

 The Athabasca Glacier

 Still lots of snow on the mountains

 The road meandering in incredible valleys and lots of hairpin turns

A turnout where we slept the night

 Rest areas along the way in Banff National park

The highest point at the parkway, Bow summit 2088 m, and still snow

 Peyton Lake was still covered with ice

Wildlife crossings

After Jasper and Banff we stopped at Canmore and hoped to find a parking space for our car. It turned out to be more difficult than we thought and we ended up staying in Canmore for a few days. For the first night we found a place to stay via couchsurfing, which actually meant having a bed, a shower and a dinner cooked by a professional chef. What a treat and we highly appreciated Montgomery family's hospitality! We really enjoyed Canmore in general, it is a gorgeous town in middle of the mountains where huge vapitis eat grass in your backyard.

At the end, with a great help from our friend Roger in Prince George, we found out we could leave our car in Calgary. So we headed to the big city next. We were lucky enough to find a couchsurfing place there too and really enjoyed staying with Dan. It was kind of weird feeling to be in a city like that, after living in a car for a month or so. But the good thing is that big cities offer good opportunities to finish the hiking preparations and for us it meant buying the missing pieces of gear.

Mountains are left behind and the city in front of us

The down town

City: not our natural environment but once in a while not too bad

After a few days in Calgary we were finally ready to leave our car behind and start hitchhiking towards south.

And according to our experience, hitchhiking is very easy and pleasant in Alberta. Indeed the first day we had stood beside the road for two minutes and a guy pulled over and picked us up. Before we noticed we were invited to stay the night in a beautiful house and enjoy delicious dinner with the Corrigan family. What amazing people! Julien had a chance to eat the famous Alberta beef as well, and sounded like he loved it. 

Barbecue dinner with Corrigan family

And hitchhiking has been easy ever since and we have made way faster progress than we expected. We have been picked up by very nice people, heard funny stories from real Canadian people and been lucky to find places to sleep, though in this low area surrounded by nothing but huge fields it's not the easiest to find a place for your tent.

 Near High River. The land where you can see your dog running out for three days...

 Nowhere else to sleep in Nanton than a park. It was a disturbing night.

 Staying out of the rain: in a laundromat and under a bridge in Fort McLeod

We prefer bears...

A nice spots for a tent in Fort McLeod. Next morning we woke up and since we weren't in hurry at all, we just lay in grass reading books and taking small naps. While we got up we realized the area was full of snakes. No naps after that!

 The morning after Fort McLeod, 30 seconds and we got picked up! And got ride all the way to Lethbridge.

Watching a train crossing a huge train bridge in Lethbridge

We found a great couchsurfing place here in Lethbridge with Tash and Jessica. We have now bought food worth of the first 15 days of hiking and plus four days that it's going to take for us to walk to Waterton Lakes National park, 130 km to southwest. When we arrive there the only thing to do is to wait that the snow in the mountains melt and we can actually start hiking.

Menu for the next two months: cereals, peanuts, meat, chocolate and pasta!

The roadtrip and hitchiking part of our trip has been amazing with again beautiful landscapes and many new friends, but we are kind of anxious to finally start the hiking trip and head to the mountains. Keep your eye on our website, the moment we leave Waterton you know we have taken the first of many steps on our 1700 km hike on the Rocky Mountains. We wish everyone great summer and we see you in fall!