DAY 4: Spokane, WA to Banff, Canada

A journey of (three?) thousand miles…

Today was a big day—featuring the unloading of lots of money, a 400 mile drive, a run-in with the law, and big horned sheep.

We started our day at REI and pretty much picked the store clean. Sleeping bag, tent, sleeping mats, cooking stove, plates, etc. We left the store only 40% over our budget which we never really believed in the first place.

Our next stop was Fred Meyer, which was described to us as a less evil Wal-Mart. Good enough for us. We picked up a cooler, soda, wine, beer, essential food stuffs, and more. We had to do a quick bit of organizing in the parking lot to pack our truck now that it was absolutely stuffed with gear.

And then we were off.

Spokane is relatively far north, about 100 miles from the Canadian border. Our plan was to drive east into Idaho, then turn north to Canada, then northeast to Banff National Park, then up to Jasper. In retrospect, this was overly ambitious, mostly due to four hours getting gear, the switch from pacific time to mountain (+1 hour) and the winding roads.

The drive was stunning though. Beautiful lakes, snowcapped mountains, no traffic, small towns, and blue, blue sky.

What wasn’t so stunning was getting a speeding ticket on day one of the drive. Oops. The Canadian police is just like the Americans, they get you in the small town after you come in off the highway. I was way over the speed limit and richly deserved my CAD$196(!) fine.

Hating the town of Cranbrook, Canada, we set off again. Soon after it became clear that Jasper wasn’t going to happen and instead focused on the town of Banff, which is inside a national park. About one kilometer after the gate, we found about a dozen big horned sheep charging down a rocky cliffside. We even got a glimpse of two ramming each other and locking their horns together. We already got our entry fee’s worth.


Then it was a fantastic 140km drive, through the national park. Snowcapped mountains in every direction, aqua lakes and rivers, unspoiled wilderness, about 100 deer on the side of the road, and Jeni even saw what she thinks was a caribou (update: more likely it was an elk, either way, pretty cool.)

We pulled into Banff just before dark and found some dinner (good Korean, if you can believe it.) Banff looks like your typical yuppy ski resort village. I type this while in our bed and breakfast. I hate B&B’s, but it was a nice inexpensive option. We couldn’t quite justify a night in the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Though perhaps a visit for a scotch tomorrow night…

Tomorrow we plan on driving up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, doing some hiking along the way. It should be absolutely stunning.