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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
1,724 days a wanderin'

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When One Great Adventure Meets Another

Jul 15, 2015
by John

We’re not sure if we look like seedy criminals, probably mixing up which town we hail from (our mailing and physical addresses are different cities) raises a red flag, but we were pulled at the Canadian border. We expected this border to be really easy and the additional questions including a cursory look at the van didn’t change that at all. We gave the border agent a card with our contact info so he could check out our website, I have a hunch he already knew we had one, he replied with a funny comment about looking forward to reading the bad mouthing of the border agents. Easy peasy, welcome to Canada.

We were in dire need of internet so we pulled into a Tim Horton’s thinking it was a burger joint. Let’s just say that accidentally taking one's wife to somewhat of a donut place always ends in overindulgence, I think she salivates every time we pass one. The free WiFi wasn’t all that great but we did get caught up with email and such. We ran into a really friendly local who offered us use of his place but we wanted to press on and get as close to Banff as we could. On our way we stopped in Okotoks to do some grocery shopping, had to mention it because we love the way it’s pronounced Oo-ka-tokes. Wanting to get back into free camping and to be in striking distance of some Banff campgrounds we spent the night in the parking lot of the Stoney Nakoda Casino. The semi that ran his engine all night prevented any decent sleep, especially since it kept cycling in and out of higher revolutions every 15 minutes or so.

Up early the next morning we were hunting a campsite at Two Jack around 7:00. Our previous experience of being the early bird in the states scored us a site at the expense of all the slumbering locals. Apparently everyone in Canada doesn’t get up and leave at the butt crack of dawn, some damned Americans in their obnoxious loud ass diesel van were driving around… whoopsie. In our defense, like there is any, we had been messaging Kerstin from One Great Adventure and had planned to meet up in Banff that day so we really wanted to ensure we got a site. On our way into town we noticed a Jeep in the overflow camping area so we turned around and pulled in to do some stalking, yup it was Jeepie and Kerstin!

Our day was spent getting to know each other and hiking up Sulphur Mountain. We all have a meander of a pace so it was wonderful just chatting away, the hike up is quite strenuous as several others were astonished there were those of us that did it instead of riding the gondola. Kerstin had the genius idea of finishing at the Banff hot springs so we all got in a good soak and a shower, both for C$7.20 each so not a bad deal at all. Refreshed and clean we all returned to camp to cook and sit around a fire. It is interesting that there are campfire fees in Alberta, wood is free.

Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

Can you hear me now?

Waking to rain, and a late start for us, had us each doing our own things. We all ended up running errands and tying up administrative bits in the town of Banff. Mandi and I decided to get a prepaid Canadian SIM for our unlocked iPhone. C$65 covered the SIM, $5 worth of 15 cent minutes, and 1GB of data with each additional GB costing C$30 if we so need. We also ended up getting me a new day pack, my existing one didn’t have a decent hip belt and I’m a weenie. We scored an Osprey Talon 11 on sale, now I can get the weight on my hips like I want it.

The next morning, knowing we were all going our separate ways, we spent most of our time drinking coffee and chatting some more. Kerstin and Jeepie had already conquered Alaska and would be heading south while we were northbound. We can’t wait to see how their adventure unfolds. It’ll also be cool to see the changes Jeepie undergoes once they reach the states. Finally ending in hugs and well wishes, we parted ways. What a wonderful pair on one great adventure!

Two Jack Camprground, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

Our first run-in with another current Pan-Amer

Moving a little further into Banff we found a site at Castle Mountain campground and started charting out some hikes. Free camping in Banff seems to be hard to sort out as every local we asked responded with there wasn't any. The park is really large so staying at campgrounds makes sense after factoring the cost of fuel. We kind of came to terms with going over budget while we will be in the States and Canada, all of our research indicates that this portion of the trip is rather expensive. Regardless, it is hard even though our trip is what it will be. The feeling of having to skip something wonderful later on looms over us as we make each decision. We've caught ourselves calculating costs against each other, a $20 campsite is almost a breakfast or lunch... we'd rather a meal out instead of an established place to park for the night. It's interesting what we are beginning to prioritize.

We knew we'd stay a couple of nights but were informed that the park would be busy due to Canada Day, July 1st if you're wondering.  We were striking distance from Lake Louise and had found a really nice hike to Boom Lake so we figured we'd stay for about five nights. A splurge indeed, a nice mix of camp and activity days.

Boom Lake, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

More like a bang than a boom

Boom Lake, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

Great job photo bombing babe

To be fair, camp days aren't all lazing about. We spend a great deal of time culling photos, doing laundry by hand, working on blog entries, and route planning. Of course we are not complaining, just pointing out we're not nestled in hammocks gently swinging in the soft breeze... well we did do a little of that while beginning to plan our Yukon/Alaska route. We also, mostly me, spend a fair amount of time talking to anyone who is interested in the van and our trip. Almost all are excited for us and usually have a couple solid suggestions.

Lake Louise must be the crown jewel of Banff, it seemed everyone was there the few times we visited. We always lucked out with parking and there is some free WiFi at the main shopping center near the grocery store. It's an OK place to stock up on some little things, a bit pricey. We chained the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers hikes together to make an 11 miler. Honestly, why visit one remote tea house when you can visit two. Probably not the best spend but we do like to eat out, pie then cobbler over stunning views... totally worth it.

Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

Ok Clevon, I'd bet a dollar you can't drive your dirtbike up there

Plain of Six Glaciers, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

The mountain poops at tea parties

While traipsing around Banff we noticed the front passenger wheel was making a weird noise. We busted out the jack to check it, nice and tight just not free spinning as well as we thought it should. We jacked up the driver's side too for comparison, we have so much to learn. Heading further into the great white north with a problem is not advised so we left Banff and dropped back down into Canmore. Three nights in the Canadian Tire parking lot left us weary but the front wheel was OK, although the shock is leaking a little, our rear calipers were replaced. We'll have additional rear brake work done before we leave the states to have everything tip top, we're now on a great quest to locate a replacement front shock. We're clearly in a geographical anomaly, two weeks to get anything.

Before we left Canmore the wildfire smoke made it to town. Being out of touch we didn't even know there were unprecedented wildfires happening. We headed back to Banff and stayed at Mosquito Creek. The next morning we hiked to Bow Glacier Falls then started the drive to Jasper. It is a beautiful stretch of highway even though the smoke had started to settle in. We got lucky and got a campsite at Wapiti but it was 90 degrees out, WTF. We managed to cut our hair and get a couple showers but the heat was too much so we decided to move on. Sorry Jasper, there were a few hikes that looked really good, us Floridians just don't like the heat.

Bow Lake, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

I think we might have a thing for lakes

Bow Glacier Falls, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

What's the big deal, it's just a cairn

Bow River, Banff National Park, AB, Canada

Where you goin', city boy?

We're still finding it hard to adjust to not being on any type of schedule. I guess all the years of conditioning has really dented our souls. We expected having almost complete freedom to be freeing and uplifting. It is but we're seemingly flailing about at times. It's quite stressful to not know, aren't we supposed to know you know? Letting go does involve some cold dead hands, ours are still lukewarm we suppose. We find a rhythm full of laid back vibes then fall flat on our faces. The smallest of things becomes the largest of enemies, no different that a traditional lifestyle - just many more ebbs and flows.

Even writing has me mentally at odds. I struggle between sharing what we have done with the constant flux my brain is in. Lost in misunderstanding, searching for zen in all things, maybe the slow death of my old ways. It's hard trying to lose one's mind, for what it will become is unknown. Comfort in knowing perpetuates the lust for convenience, why is that so comfortable? Waking up without a care in the world is a fool's quest, keeping it simple seems simply impossible. A confluence of sorts.


Say what? (6)
Corey
Jul 15, 2015 at 05:48 PM
Yay Kerstin! Had coffee with her here in Fort st John a couple weeks ago. She's very inspiring!!
Great writing and photos! I'll be following along! If you happen to stop or need anything or help with anything in Fort st John shoot me an email!!
Jul 24, 2015 at 11:05 PM
Thanks Corey! We blew through Fort St. John a couple weeks ago, wish we knew you lived there. I guess that's one of the problems with always being a bit behind on the blog. If we end up going back through we'll hit you up for sure.
Jul 16, 2015 at 07:09 PM
Hang in there... you haven't really been on the road that long in overlander terms! We found, on our RTW, that it took a good while before we suddenly had the realization that "hey, this isn't just a longer than normal vacation, this is our LIFE". In our case it was acknowledging that we felt like our old selves, not like slaves to our commute, cubicle, bills; not like hamsters on the never-ending treadmill of work. It will come and you'll end up enjoying each day.. not fretting over how you should be feeling!
Jul 24, 2015 at 11:07 PM
Thanks again Rhonda, it ebbs and flows. Shedding the shell will take some time, can't wait to see you on the road!
Sri
Jul 17, 2015 at 10:40 AM
Well written. This post clearly says about the places you've visited and also whats happening in your heads. I am no expert to advice but looks like you are in the process of getting adjusted.
On a side note, the picture of snow falling from cliff is awesome :)
Jul 24, 2015 at 11:09 PM
Yeah, finding the groove is an interesting odyssey Sri. I think we took a combined 200 photos of the falling snow, happened three times while we were at the tea house.
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