Well, the kids are officially world travelers now. They have several stamps in their passport books to show for it: Calgary, CAN, Carway, Alberta, CAN/ Babb, MT, Chief Mountain Port of Entry, Alberta, CAN and Roosville, MT/ British Columbia, CAN. All from our recent 9 day vacation to Glacier and Waterton National Parks and Banff, Canada.
What originally started as a drive out West from our home base, Minneapolis, grew to a more full-blown trip when we tallied drive time to Glacier (20 hours, not to mention drive time while in Glacier), considered venturing to the Canadian side of Glacier – Waterton (geographically, it functions as one big park system) and a realized how close Banff, Canada, a destination we’d wanted to check out for quite some time, was in proximity to Glacier.
We settled on flights into Calgary, Canada and booked in February for our mid-August vacation. The kids, Ava (10) and Calvin (8), began the countdown. My husband planned the itinerary based the top activities on our list and created a round-trip route. Calgary, East Glacier (4 nights), West Glacier (2 nights) and Banff (2 nights). We booked two of them in April and the final stay in July. We started the passport process in June. I needed a renewal (after 3 letters from the gov, it finally arrived five days before our departure) and the kids needed their first. It was still quite expensive to get theirs, which are only good for five years.
Four hundred and forty-four pictures and nine days worth of vacation is too much to cover in-depth via blog. I do have a 60-page album with select pictures (200) and deets coming from Shutterfly this week and a 72 picture album on Facebook. The photo book was a 20-hour project to complete including gathering pics from the family and details from my daughter’s daily journal on the trip.
Here are the highlights, because who isn’t a fan of top ten lists?:
1. Growing Accustomed to Customs: we put our passports to use six times from US to CAN (flight, Day 1), CAN to MT (Day 1), MT to CAN and back (Day 2), MT to CAN (Day 7) and CAN to US (flight, Day 9). Lines were not long, but questions from Border Patrol could tend to be.
2. Scenery: Treacherous roads with breathtaking views and the construction crews who risk their lives: Looking Glass Road (East side of St. Mary Lake to East Glacier), Going to the Sun Road (through Glacier park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass). Common site: ambulances.
3. Hiking: Hidden Lake, a 6-mile roundtrip hike from Logan Pass, with a dip in a chilly 45 degree Glacial Lake. More moderate hikes/walks included Swiftcurrent and Trail of the Cedars. Difficult hike (my solo venture) in Canada – up Sulphur Mountain.
4. Lakes: Pristine, aquamarine lakes with rocky beaches: Swiftcurrent Lake, Hidden Lake, Lake MacDonald, Linnet/Waterton Lakes in Glacier/Waterton Park system and Bow, Louise and Moraine lakes in Canada.
5. Zip lining in Whitefish at Big Mountain – 2.5 hours and 7 zip lines. With Calvin at 62 lbs, pushing the minimum 60 lbs requirement, he has two adventures of coming up a bit short on his zips. Learned positions: pencil, starfish and landing.
6. Whitewater Rafting on the Flathead River – 3 hours and an 8 mile journey. From Bonecrusher to Freddy Flipstone on Class I&II Rapids, it was a lesson in trust on our 11-person raft.
7. Accommodations: Travelers Rest in East Glacier, a lofty tower with a B&B feel; Apgar Village in West Glacier, rustic cabins in a very young-family friendly locale (park rangers, constellation viewing, canoeing, kayaking, etc); and the Rimrock Resort in Banff, 5-star hotel built into Sulphur Mountain next to Hot Sulphur Springs. Room service!
8. Eats: Notable: Serranos in East Glacier – authentic Mexican; Belton Chalet, West Glacier – historic and gourmet on the balcony; Prince of Wales Hotel, Windsor Lounge – starving, ordered all three app on the menu, English fare; Magpie&Stump in Banff, a cantina with Build Your Own Nachos – enough to feed a family of four for dinner; and Eden, a 5-star in the Rimrock Hotel, adults only while kids watched Epic back in the hotel room. Not so notable: Eddies in West Glacier/Apgar and Luna’s in East Glacier.
9. Nature: hikes, swimming, campfires – especially our evening campfire on the beach on the shores of Lake MacDonald. S’Mores of course. Not a soul around.
10. Wildlife: bear cub on our hike around Swiftcurrent Lake; moose at the entrance to Kootenay Park, mountain goats (rock-kickers) on our hike to Hidden Lake, cows on Looking Glass Road, and a gray fox in East Glacier, roaming the streets of town.
The overall highlight: family-bonding time. Nine days put us to the test. Calvin had a fever days 1-4 and Chad, my husband, the same deal days 4-8, nothing that couldn’t be alleviated with Tylenol, but more naps and downtime was needed. We didn’t always feel like doing the same things and physically the kids couldn’t happily do all of the hiking I would have liked. We compromised and gave everyone a chance to be head decision-maker at some point.
Before, during and after, people would tell us how memorable this trip will be for our kids. They definitely got into the vacation/ tourist groove and have a hunger for more. Ava is on a quest for Paris before her passport expires in five years. Calvin has sights set on Rio for the 2016 games. It’d have to be Prague for me with a side trip to Greece, maybe back to Italy. Take away: There is no shortage of destinations to stamp in our passports!
Our route went from Minneapolis, MN to Calgary, CAN, south to East Glacier, MT, back north for a short afternoon trip into Waterton, CAN, west to West Glacier and Whitefish, MT, 1.5 trips on Going to the Sun Road through Glacier, north through British Columbia and the Kootenay National Forest, NW to Banff and north again on the Icefields Parkway before heading back to Calgary, CAN for our flight out. Amazing scenery and sights! Check out our specific destinations on our map.