Amber came out for a week and we spent three days in Alberta and British Columbia. Due to my computer login info being mistakenly axed, I am holding off putting pictures up on the blog.
We drove up to Calgary, which is an impressive sight at night when one hasn't seen a city for a couple months. A sea of lights appeared out of the blackness of the plains as we approached the city of 750,000. I slept in an extremely comfortable bed at the Holiday Inn near the airport.
In the morning, we drove into Banff National Park, which is not like U.S. national parks. The Trans-Canada Highway goes right through the park, with fences to keep the animals out, and even bridges to let the animals go from one side of the road to the other. Believe it.
We hiked to the top of Sulphur Mountain, opting not to pay $25 each to ride the gondola to the top. When we reached the summit (the sign said hiking would take 2 to 5 hours, but we did it in 1.5 hours), the questions people always asked at Logan Pass suddenly made sense: there was a restaurant, t-shirt shop, and everything you might imagine right there at the top of the mountain. Most interesting to me, the place was crawling with Clark's nutcrackers, which I rarely see here in Glacier.
After we descended the mountain, backpacking our souvenirs to the base of the hill, we went to the "Cave and Basin," which isn't that impressive to anyone who's been to a real cave or Yellowstone. But it was still neat. That answered my question as to why people sometimes ask about hot springs in Glacier, which has none. They also have some sort of endangered (?) snail that lives in the pools.
We drove on to Golden, B.C., after a stop at Lake Louise and a drive through Yoho N.P. in British Columbia. There, we soaked in the hot tub trying to loosen up the stiffness from the unexpectedly long hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
In the morning, we headed back east to Yoho N.P. and hiked a lap around Emerald Lake. It was a beautiful green lake, as its name suggests. The air was damp in the morning, and the forest floor glowed yellow, red, and green with the colors of the fall season starting to show. We bailed out of our hike before going into the Emerald Basin so we could drive the Icefields Parkway partway, and made it as far as Peyto Lake, the overlook for which was crowded with busloads of apparently Chinese tourists.
We spent the third night in Canmore, AB, which was a nice tourist town. We stayed in the cheapest hotel in town, which wasn't too bad once my nose got used to the weird, old smell when I first entered the room. For dinner, we went to a local Pub/Brewery called the Grizzly Paw. It was most excellent. I ate the fish & chips, but was more excited about the beer they made there. It was so ridiculously good, I had to buy a t-shirt to commemorate it.
Our last day in Canada, we took our time driving back to Montana via the Kananaskis region, a very scenic drive well worth the slight out-of-the-way location. I made Amber stop at the Nanton Air Museum so I could check out the Lancaster bomber they had there. I had picked up a brochure for the museum back in July on a trip to Cardston, while looking for an excuse to go into the Information Center there to soak up the air conditioning. It was kind of cool, but it wasn't fully restored or anything. They required us to wear hard helmets while touring the aircraft, which made me hit my head more than I probably would have otherwise.
We returned to the U.S. greeted by cold air and overcast skies. It proceeded to rain and snow, depending on the elevation. When I took Amber to the train station on Saturday, we were treated to some very spectacular views of fresh snow on the mountains, and an inversion in the Cut Bank valley.