Sometimes while travelling you get real lucky. That day was today. We began our morning with some lovely breakfast and packed goodies from Emily’s friend’s parents. Tony dropped us off at the bus stop where we could catch a CAD $5 bus to Chiliwack, which was on the outskirts of the sprawling suburbia of the Greater Vancouver Area. Once at Chiliwack, we debated which word of a sign declaring “No pedestrians allowed on the highway” we would pretend not to understand if a cop would see us. We just went forward anyway, and before we had even finished walking to a suitable pull-off point for cars, a brown Kia pulled over.
Jon and Eva introduced themselves and told us they were driving to Jasper located about 700km away. Success! We hopped in the car with them and they regaled us with stories from their travels across the world. They started just over a year and a half ago in Russia, and have hitchhiked close to 700 rides in Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and just rented a car for the United States which they will drop off in Jon’s home in Nova Scotia. Along the way, they have developed their YouTube channel (all in Russian) and have gotten sponsors giving them a few places to stay and free admittance to museums. They had great stories and we once again, appreciated being able to communicate with our drivers. On our way to Jasper, we decided we would rent a car to tour around the park, but after checking with the rental companies, would not be able to until 8am the next morning. That night while Jon and Eva parked in a safe spot identified by the app Trucker Path, we camped nearby in the woods to avoid being bothered by the rangers who would insist on us finding and paying for a campsite.
The next morning, Jon and Eva kindly dropped us off at the Budget car rental office, and they started their trip down the Icefields Parkway. We followed suit after we picked up our red Chevrolet Cruze LT. We got upgraded for free since they didn’t have one of the cheapest car options available, which turned out to be perfect because Laurent fit perfectly stretched out across the back seat and the trunk. As we drove, we noticed that the scenery was heavily clouded over by the BC forest fires, and had only a hazy view of the mountains and lakes for the day. We did the 9 things listed on the Icefields Parkway Driving Guide: Athabasca Falls, Goats and Glaciers Viewpoint, Sunwapta Falls, Tangle Falls, Icefield Area, Red Chairs at Wilcox, Parker Ridge, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake. Of the 9, we did 8 on the same day we got the car, and the Red Chairs at Wilcox the next day while we hoped for a better view. Due to forest fires in BC most of Alberta was covered in a heavy layer of hazy smog. So instead of fresh mountain air we got an air quality warning. We made coffee and food next to our car (food within the park is pretty expensive and the grocery store priced only slightly above average), and set up our sleeping mat across the back.
It was quite unfortunate that we could not get much of a clear view across the 9 scenic points. However, the hike up across Parker Ridge was fun and involved a lot of switchbacks, and the view from Wilcox was stunning when it did clear up a bit. We ended up at Lake Louise that night and visited the park office there immediately. We got some recommendations for Lake Louise and decided to visit one of the teahouses the next day. We slept in our car in one of the parking lots for a backcountry trailhead. Given that we were restricted to 800km free on our car, we were careful not to stray away too much.