Montana & Alberta, Canada - Trip Report, August 2017

AquamarineSteph

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 1, 2013
Looking forward to hearing more about your trip and seeing your photos!
We are headed to Glacier National Park next month for the first time. Really looking forward to it!
You are SO going to love Glacier National Park. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I had no idea until we visited this part of the country how gorgeous it was!!!
 

AquamarineSteph

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 1, 2013
Adventure, Day 3 (part I)


First of all, thank you to everyone reading along, and a special thanks to those who have posted such kind words. This is my first trip report on the board, and I already have so much respect for those people who do this on a regular basis!


So today was the day we crossed the border into Canada! I’d never done a land border crossing between the US/Canada so I was curious what it might entail. It was amazingly simple. Since we were a large bus of travelers, we had to stop and go into the building for the border crossing. You have a customs form to fill out before you arrive. Our guides handed those out to us, and we did that on the bus. You hand over that form (one per household) and your passport is scanned. And then you’re done!


So the Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park is on the Canadian side of the border from the US. It is just as gorgeous as the scenery we left behind on the US side of things. While you cannot take photos of the border crossing site itself, there are two photo ops here. First is out the left side of the bus going over the border. You can see the stone/line that demarcates the border at this point. Once you’ve finished the crossing process, you can go out to a wonderful sign with flags. I took a photo of our guides, Benji and Kaley out there!

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Next up was our lunch at The Prince of Wales Hotel. This is also a very historic building, and another great photo opportunity. I’ve included a photo of the building and our menu for the day, but the real beauty is outside behind the hotel which sits next to a lake.

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Then it’s back on the bus and we continue driving. This is the longest driving day of the entire tour. In fact, after we arrived at our hotel, our guides told us that this is the longest driving (bus) leg of any ABD. I’m not sure that it would have made any difference as the distance had to be covered, but it surely sounds intimidating.


So that I don’t discourage anyone here, let me share that we made stops along the way including one at the Bar U Ranch which has a connection to the Sundance Kid.

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After that stop, we played games which turned out to be surprisingly fun even for those of us who might not be into group games on the bus. Our guides truly did a fantastic job keeping us fed, watered and entertained.

Next up is the arrival at the first of our two Fairmont Hotels, the Chateau Lake Louise. (I would put this all into one post, but I think I can only so many photos per post.)
 

AquamarineSteph

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 1, 2013
Adventure, Day 3 (part II)


We finally arrived at Chateau Lake Louise Hotel. This is a Fairmont property, and I must admit that it was probably my favorite hotel on this trip outside of my first hotel in Whitefish which was booked outside of ABD. This is an AMAZING property.

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Our guides assured us that if we didn’t have the room/view we desired here, that we'd have it on our next hotel. I had NO complaints about our view. It was magnificent. The only downside to this property is that some rooms (like ours) had no A/C. Again. We did have a tiny fan in the closet. Supposedly there was a unit we could request from the hotel, but we decided not to do that. The fan plus open windows was sufficient for us.

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(This was the view from our window!)

Dinner that evening was a group affair. Our dinner was held in the Italian restaurant in the hotel which is close to the entrance where the group arrived. You do have a hotel voucher for a canoe ride which can be used at any point. I think one couple used it before dinner, but it was good for the length of our stay at any time when the canoe rides were open.

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(I point this out because I thought the canoe ride was a group activity. It is not. It’s something you can do as you have time during this part of the stay.)


Our group dinner was lovely. It was served family style, so loads of dishes brought to the table. Afterwards we were given our departure time for the next morning and finally - finally! We had a full sized shower in the room. There are also loads of shops in this hotel. Explore all the levels + the amazing walks outside the hotel!

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Next up - Day 4 of the Adventure
 
  • CaliKris

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 24, 2015
    Just beautiful! Thanks for the tip about the short turn around time in between breakfast and the bus. That would be an issue for me, but since I am forewarned I can work around it.
     

    AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Adventure, Day 4


    We had breakfast at the hotel. At the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise we had breakfast at one restaurant one day and a different place the next day (logistics because of the early departure time on the second day.)


    The morning’s adventure was a trip to Moraine Lake. This is another place with incredible colors and indescribable beauty.

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    Our lunch was at the Station Lake Louise Restaurant. Both my other half and I agree that this was our least favorite lunch of the entire adventure, but we also think that it was a good meal given our location.


    We had a champagne toast before the meal because two people on our tour got engaged that very morning! One of the guides had gone up to take a photo without spoiling the surprise for them, so that was horribly romantic!!!


    After lunch we returned to the hotel. The canoe vouchers could be used at any time the canoes were open for business, but there is also an optional hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse in the afternoon.


    We opted to do the hike, even though I was doing this with a broken foot. I made it through the UK in a similar state a few years earlier. I wasn’t going to let this stop me now.


    Having said that, let me give two heads ups on the hike. First, if you are not accustomed to higher altitudes, you may need to stop more frequently. There’s no shame in this. It’s just how your body responds to higher elevations.


    Also, if you’re trying to do this hike while wearing a great big boot for an injury, it’s going to take longer. First, the trail is going uphill. Second, coming back down the hill, you’re going to run into loose rock.


    So did we make it all the way to the Teahouse. No. BUT we made it to Mirror lake that served as a good spot to breathe before we started back down. The lake is almost, almost, almost to the Teahouse, but given the state of my foot (and the fact that the last section is considered the most challenging) we decided that this was a good place to turn around.

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    Dinner in the evening is provided but on your own in the sense that your guides make a reservation for you at one of the hotel’s restaurants. You have LOTS of choices, and you will truly get your money’s worth on this meal. We had a wonderful time that evening!


    One touristy note that everyone else may already know. We went postcard shopping on this trip. We found many places in Canada that sell two types of postcards. Stamped for sending within Canada/outside of Canada and unstamped. Obviously the unstamped cards cost less. Check the back of the card if you’re looking for a specific one!
     
  • AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Day 5


    This was another transfer day. We had an early breakfast at a different restaurant than the previous day and left Lake Louise on our way to the Columbia Icefield.

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    I cannot say enough about the Columbia Icefield. This was extremely cool (no pun intended). You take the ABD bus to the place to load onto your vehicle. Heads up - it is really, really, really cold there, even in August. We had some sleet and possibly some snow that morning at the Icefield. So plan ahead. Long sleeves at the very least. A jacket on top of that and maybe some mittens would be very helpful. ABD provided rain ponchos for us on this leg of the tour.

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    After the Icefield, you head to the Skywalk. This is also very cool and also very cold. If you are afraid of heights (my other half is height challenged), the good news is that if it’s raining at all, the skywalk is probably going to be too wet/misty to see all the way down.


    Normally after these two activities, there’s a picnic lunch. Because the weather was so bad at that point, we wound up having our picnic on the bus! It was great, and we arrived at our next hotel - the Fairmont Banff Springs - earlier than expected.

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    Dinner this evening was on your own in Banff. You have several options to reach Banff. You can walk. (It’s a hefty walk, but doable.) There are cabs. Or of you enjoy public transport, there is a bus that picks you up within a few feet of the hotel and takes you downtown and vice versa.
     

    AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Day 6


    Breakfast was at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel which puts on a lovely spread. After breakfast, there was the choice of the bicycle ride OR the van ride for those who don’t bike. I do not know how to ride a bicycle (really, really), so three of us were bundled into a private van for a scenic/historic tour of Banff. It was a lovely drive, and we met up with our biking group at two key points for photo ops.

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    After lunch, you’re on your own for lunch. My other half and I ate in town at an Indian restaurant with some of the best service you can imagine. Afterwards, we all met up take the Gondola ride up the mountain. Apparently if there is really bad weather, another activity may be substituted. We were fortunate. The clear skies held for our trip.


    Once you ride the Gondola to the top, you visit a building with four stories (if I remember correctly) which depict the history of the area and the construction of the Gondola and the viewing area above. Clouds can move in quickly, but the view is incredible until they do.

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    In the evening, there is a buffet dinner with an open bar for the last night dinner. We had a Royal Canadian Mountie (retired) who talked to our group, and he was - hands down - one of the BEST speakers I have ever heard. Seriously. It may sound like a dull activity, but he was fantastic. (Please note that the same person does not always speak to the groups.)

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    After the talk, we took our drinks and headed into another room for a slideshow of our highlights.


    Since there was one group transfer from the hotel to Calgary, we all had the same information about what time to have our things ready for the bus. Last night on a trip. It’s always a sad one!
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    So what's the difference between an ice field and a glacier? :)

    And what did the Mountie actually speak about?

    Gorgeous! The whole area just looks spectacular.

    Sayhello
     

    AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Very short answer - This ice field is a HUGE area of ice which feeds multiple glaciers. We asked a lot of questions on this trip about the differences in the classification of glaciers, former glaciers, etc. If you love a good science discussion, you can really learn a TON on this trip where you can see firsthand the effects of ice and glaciers on the surface of the earth.

    The Mountie talked about the history of the organization. He talked about his early days and then talked about more recent developments in how the Mounties operate within Canada. That sounds dry, but he peppered his talk with some great stories. (We also had a funny Q & A session with him after his speech. Apparently they are not all issued a horse. ;-) But seriously, this man was a great public speaker.)
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    Very short answer - This ice field is a HUGE area of ice which feeds multiple glaciers. We asked a lot of questions on this trip about the differences in the classification of glaciers, former glaciers, etc. If you love a good science discussion, you can really learn a TON on this trip where you can see firsthand the effects of ice and glaciers on the surface of the earth.

    The Mountie talked about the history of the organization. He talked about his early days and then talked about more recent developments in how the Mounties operate within Canada. That sounds dry, but he peppered his talk with some great stories. (We also had a funny Q & A session with him after his speech. Apparently they are not all issued a horse. ;-) But seriously, this man was a great public speaker.)
    Those both sound really cool to me! :thumbsup2

    Sayhello
     

    AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Day 7

    Today was the sad day of the Adventure. We had one last breakfast and loaded into the bus again to drive to the airport at Calgary. There is a reason they tell you not to book your flights too early. It's a bit of a drive, but our guides kept us busy and the time passed quickly.

    Calgary International Airport seems large compared to my home airport, but it is very easy to navigate. Our guides helped us secure luggage carts if necessary before sending us on our way. Once we were through security and plane side on the terminal, we had some time to waste before our flight home. We took a couple of photos to say farewell to Canada, and I finally got to see a moose!

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    This is a great trip. There is SO much natural beauty in this part of the US/Canada that it makes it easy to disconnect from daily life and just enjoy being there.

    And I finally finished my trip report!!!
     

    carpenta

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2010
    Thank you AquamarineSteph for such a great report. We did this trip a number of years ago and loved it. Great pictures! We had an extra day in Calgary and we traveled to the Calgary Zoo which is an easy subway / trolley ride from the hotel at the airport.
     

    AquamarineSteph

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 1, 2013
    Thank you AquamarineSteph for such a great report. We did this trip a number of years ago and loved it. Great pictures! We had an extra day in Calgary and we traveled to the Calgary Zoo which is an easy subway / trolley ride from the hotel at the airport.
    Thank you! :-) I would love to go back to Calgary and see more of the city/area. Sometimes we stay an extra day after a tour, but because we had so many pre days for this trip we just decided to go home at the end.
     

    calypso726

    Escaping reality one Disney vacation at a time
    Joined
    Dec 11, 2006
    Thank you for posting your wonderful trip report!!! This looks like a wonderful ABD! It wasn't on my radar at all. It is now. I love the scenery. So pretty!
     

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