Canadian Rockies 1.0
Seemingly at the peak of Aurora we started making our way outside. We were due to meet 13roads in the Canadian Rockies and had less than two weeks to sightsee along thew way. We left Fairbanks for an overnight stop near Delta Junction, forgetting that it was Labor Day weekend and the roadhouse we were hoping to patron was closed. Although not that far from Fairbanks, a residual, late-season wildfire offered us no chance of seeing Aurora. The next day we stopped again in Tok to refresh our freshwater tanks and we were on our way This year we opted, to go out over the Top of the World and ended up spending the night in Chicken.
This late in the season, early September, The Taylor Highway was actually in pretty good condition and we started catching the fall colors. The colors across the border and to Dawson City were exceptional. Dawson City was pretty quiet and our campground was empty. As the days were sunny, we opted for a dry campsite away from other campers and lights. We were hoping for Aurora and were not disappointed. We had them at our doorstep and even in town, despite the lights. We spent a few days researching options for next year’s return and a potential run to the Arctic from Canada.
We chose to head down the Cassiar Highway as opposed to taking the Alaska Highway and enjoyed the drive with plenty of fall colors. We retraced our steps from last year, heading down to Whitehorse, over to Watson Lake, then down the Cassiar past Steward to Kitwanga and then taking the Yellowhead Highway east to Burns Lake and on to Prince George. We stopped for provisions and made camp near Mount Robson, just outside Banff NP. We actually had aurora while in the Yukon, even pulling off the road to take some photos. It was on our drive out of Watson Lake that we had our last sighting. They were probably there but as we headed south, the weather of temperate rainforests made seeing aurora all but impossible.
We entered Jasper NP and took the Icefields Parkway down to Banff NP. The drive was wonderful and also long. The Banff NP campground was large with nicely spaced sites. For close to two weeks, we explored nearby lakes, trails, and the town of Banff itself. I frequently went into town to work in a coffee shop and use their Internet. There were plenty of good food and drink options all around. We even found a good ramen place.
One day we tried to visit Lake Louise, a famed glacier lake in the area. Apparently so did everyone else. By the time we reached Lake Louise, the parking lots were full and peopled were being turned around. We stopped to check-in at a visitor’s center and learned that the parks were originally only setup for a few thousand visitors a month but due to fame from social media, were seeing several thousand visitors a day! Parking lots are full by 6:00am. We gave up on seeing Lake Louise but a mix-up in directions had us heading to the Lake’s parking lot. Lady Luck was on our side, and we scored parking spaces. Excited at our good fortune we headed to the lake only to be greeted by hordes of selfie-taking visitors lining the edge of the lake. We picked a hiking trail that took us away from the crowds and set off. The hike was really nice and by the time we made it back to the lake-side hotel, most of the crowds had dispersed.
As our stay in Banff progressed, a weather system started moving in. It was definitely getting chilly, and the forecast called for a snowstorm. Although the National Park and town are open year-round, the prospect of having to drive through a blizzard did not appeal to us. So, we ended our stay a few days early and started making our way out. We and 13roads parted ways temporarily as we had a dinner planned in Calgary but rejoined then en route to Fargo, ND.