Friday, August 24, 2018

Summer Road Trip of a Lifetime (and maybe... How Social Media is Ruining my Life and... the World? ;-)

I suspect that my smart phone (I was a late adopter and only got a smart phone in 2012, 6 years ago) and social media (Facebook and now Instagram -- the new "micro-blogging" and photo sharing site) have ruined my life. Sigh... I spend too much time scrolling through its bait-y feeds and though I follow very few people on Instagram, it's still distracting because of the stupid stories. I REFUSE to look at stories on FB. I still miss blogging and reading blogs immensely and I haven't completely lost the habit of "writing blog posts in my head" -- [relatively] old habits die hard! -- but I feel like I am slowly losing my ability to concentrate on longer texts and tasks. It doesn't help that I have ADHD. I am also being influenced by the images I see and people share (more on that later).

OK, I promise that this annoying introduction will connect to my main topic, our AMAZING, Dream-Come-True trip of this summer...

We DROVE from the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. where we live all the way to the Canadian Rockies and even a bit of the Pacific Northwest and it was GLORIOUS!!

Yes, it was an insanely long drive of 4 days there and 4 days back, but we took our time and it worked well. It was also slightly stressful to sleep almost every night at a new hotel and plan, shop for, and prepare ALL OUR MEALS (except for breakfast at all but 4 mornings of the trip) on the go. We ate out exactly ONCE during the whole trip -- on the last day driving back. I took my wonderful pressure cooker (Power XL if you don't want to click) and a small hot pot and we had three ice-packs and a small cooler. ALL hotels had fridges, some of them full-sized ones.

A quick summary of the trip if you're curious, I added links to the official National Park sites:

Day 1 - 7/30 (Mon): 8h+ drive to Michigan. We slept at a friend's house and my parents at a hotel (mistakenly reserved by my son)
Day 2 - 7/31 (Tue): 8h+ Drive to Minneapolis (accidentally did a bathroom stop at Wisconsin Dells!) where we had an amazing Home2Suites across the street from a natural grocery store. We went to check out the Mall of America in the evening.
Day 3 - 8/1 (Wed): 7h+ from Minneapolis to Winnipeg, Canada. We saw the city a bit, purchased our National Park Pass, and rain ponchos at a Dollarama store before heading to the hotel. We didn't like downtown Winnipeg very much.
Day 4 - 8/2 (Thu): 10h+ drive from Winnipeg to Medicine Hat (Alberta). We hurried along because the hotel had indoor water slides and we enjoyed that (I cooked soup).
Day 5 - 8/3 (Fri): 4+ hour drive to Banff, AB, passing through the North of Calgary and seeing it in the distance. We stopped in Banff and were delighted by the turquoise water of the river and the gorgeous Cascades of Time Garden. It began to rain (hence the ponchos) and, because of the rain, which emptied the parking lots, we managed to quickly see Lake Louise (definitely "the Mona Lisa of Lakes" -- SUPER CROWDED, it's almost disappointing ;-), Moraine Lake (an AMAZING blue even in the rain), and, after some annoying traffic and the end of rain, Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park (British Columbia). We were staying in Golden, BC.
Day 6 - 8/4 (Sat): Rain was in the forecast for the Banff area, so we drove through the Canadian Glacier National Park and visited Revelstoke National Park, where we saw the beautiful Columbia river from above and enjoyed beautiful alpine wildflowers! It was partly cloudy at times, but not cold! The only thing we didn't like was the vicious mosquitoes at the parking lot at the summit where we had our lunch. (stayed in Golden, BC a second night)
Day 7 - 8/5 (Sun): Today was sunny with some clouds and we drove through Yoho & Banff National Parks all the way to Jasper National Park and beyond, about 6h driving, with many stops. Amazing day of "adventures" & incredible views: canoeing at Emerald Lake (cheapest spot, gorgeous lake), seeing Takakkaw Falls (both in Yoho NP), seeing a freight train go through both of the spiral tunnels!! Hiking up to see the incredible Peyto Lake. Marveling at the mountains and glaciers along the Icefields Parkway North and seeing a black bear next to the road! Stopping to see the Columbia Icefields and its great visitor center. And then... driving all the way to McBride, British Columbia (seeing two majestic elk eating calmly by the roadside) where we spent two nights in an apartment at the North Lodge Motel. The farthest Northwest we went on the trip!

Day 8 - 8/6 (Mon): Lots of driving because McBride is TWO HOURS from Jasper. We did the round trip and hiked the beautiful Maligne Canyon, drove to see Medicine lake (and unfortunately didn't drive down to Maligne Lake, so we didn't have a chance to see moose -- they are around Medicine and Maligne lakes). We had lunch next to the Maligne River and were going to go up on the AirTram in Jasper, but they closed due to the weather -- very disappointing! It was a beautiful and sunny day, but it was probably windy. So we went to downtown Jasper instead, where we had ice-cream, and went grocery shopping. On the drive back we stopped to see the majestic Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. This was the last sunny and crisp day of the trip.

Day 9 - 8/7 (Tue): Long drive back South (nearly 300 miles), and it was sunny, but unfortunately very hazy. South on the Icefield Parkway we stopped at Athabasca Falls and enjoyed walking through it's canyon and going down to the river, we saw Sunwapta Falls and had lunch there, then, we stopped at the Athabasca Glacier (Columbia Icefields), walked all the way to the glacier (even though  it's forbidden, everyone does it), and walked a little bit on top of it -- but we didn't go very far like lots of other people. Then we stopped at Peyto lake (a bit hazy and it was 6:30 pm) to see it again at a different time of day and we enjoyed taking tons of photos of the gorgeous blue Bow Lake with lots of sunshine. We arrived at the most luxurious (and expensive!) accommodation of the whole trip at the Mystic Springs Chalets and Hot Pools in Canmore. We went to the pool and also had to go grocery shopping. It was very very smoky in Banff and Canmore due to the Wardle fire in Kootenay National park. :-(

Day 10 - 8/8 (Wed): Today we went back to the lakes in the Banff area, but we couldn't get an early start and the parking lots were closed, so we had to park at the overflow area and pay for a shuttle to Moraine Lake. It was SO WORTH IT!!! The bluest lake, incredible photos, can't even describe it. Then we had lunch at the parking area (all picnic tables are in the sun, so we used a large rock for table and tree trunk stumps to sit on). After lunch, we were able to find parking to visit the über-crowded Lake Louise. There were two brides taking photos there! Last, but not least, we hiked the Johnston Canyon where I was wretchedly disappointed that the "hidden cave" and huge boulder and waterfall (link to image search), the "most photographed spot in Alberta" is now off limits. See, social media ruining my life. I REALLY wanted to see and photograph that place!! The ostensive reason is protecting birds, and I do believe the birds were probably bothered by the foot traffic in that hilly wooded area, but the canyon is SO MASSIVELY VISITED that I believe unless they closed it completely, it wouldn't help the birds much. But who am I to say/judge? My husband tried to console me saying that I care for the environment, but I was devastated. 

Day 11 - 8/9 (Thu): Last visit to Banff National Park area: we visited the lovely Cave and Basin National Historical Site which is where the very first Canadian National Park originated to protect the hot springs from prospective bidders. Then we drove to Calgary where we stayed at the excellently located Homewood Suites downtown and went to have dinner with friends at Blaze Pizza (we hardly ate because we had eaten at the hotel!).
Day 12 - 8/10 (Fri): Today we drove from Calgary to Glacier National Park in the U.S. and we met up with friends again! We met them at Logan Pass and then hiked with them for about an hour in the scary Highline trail. We headed to our hotel in Kalispell where we went grocery shopping (at Costco!) and then I cooked dinner for our friends, since we were staying at Homewood Suites again. 
Day 13 - 8/11 (Sat): Today we visited Glacier National Park again with our friends before they had to leave to go back to Missoula. In the morning our youngest son took the challenge and jumped off a cliff into the frigid waters of this swimming hole! Then, after a picnic, lunch we hiked to the Hidden Lake in Logan Pass and saw many mountain goats (and snow)! Then we drove four hours to our hotel in Helena where we arrived pretty late (10 pm).
Day 14 - 8/12 (Sun): Today we drove for 8h+ from Helena, MT to Mount Rushmore and we stayed for the evening presentation and lighting, it was nice! We stayed in a Best Western in Hill City that looked very "Western" indeed! ;-)
Day 15 - 8/13 (Mon): Today we drove through Badlands National Park on our way to Omaha, NE. There was a moment we were 90 mph on I-90 and it was 99F! I really liked Badlands, I wish we'd spent more time there, but we needed to get to Nebraska.

Day 16 - 8/14 (Tue): Took a detour to visit a denominational College in Lincoln, NE and quickly visited Saint Louis, MI in the late afternoon/ evening. It was lots of fun to take the tram to the top of the Gateway Arch. We literally forgot our hunger and tiredness in the brand new museum under the arch, FANTASTIC! 
Day 17 - 8/15 (Wed): Drove back home, longest day, over 13 hours, but we had a good lunch at Olive Garden. ;-)

This was long and took me a lot of time to write, but it was fun to remember it all!

Back to the social media issue. I believe that people have more money and that's why they travel more, but I also think that the ability to see photos of your friends in beautiful places, such as the Canadian Rockies lakes and vistas, makes people want to go there too, so I think that the huge crowds we saw -- everyone trying to take the most perfect pictures, even risking limb to do so (there was this girl who fell in the water in Moraine lake trying to reach the rocks and several people were trying to balance on logs and rocks to take photos). Of course we were busy taking photos too and I spent A LOT of time selecting the perfect 10 photos of each day and writing a short descriptive text to post on Instagram. I posted way more photos to Facebook (later), but used the same texts.

Yeah... is this all very bad? Not all of it, I'm sure. I have to go now, I have to practice a song with a group of women to sing tomorrow!