Glacier & Banff

Bring on all the cliché “it was the best vacation ever,” “we had entirely too much fun,” “loved every minute” phrases. But in the this case they are absolutely not clichés or exaggerations. They’re, hand on my heart, true.

People have been asking me how all of this came to be. 3 girls driving 60 hours together across the country does sound pretty insane when I put it that way. But the trip’s origin was pretty mundane. In a conversation after church with a childhood friend, Anna, she mentioned how she recently had a hankering to go to Banff in Alberta. I jumped in ASAP with how much I had been wanting to go over the last handful of years. So, that week we met up for lunch and picked the dates to go.

We had about 2 months of planning and in that process we added a friend, Nel, who also had an interest in going. The two weeks leading up to this trip were insane to put in mildly. Preparing to be out of cell phone range for a little over a week when you run your own business takes some serious hustle. Phew!

So, we packed up the car, the night before we left, and started our trek at 5:00am the next day. Our plan was to drive to Teddy Roosevelt National Park, stay the night there, then continue on to Glacier National for 2.5 days, head up to Banff for 2.5 days, then stay the night in Manitoba Canada on the way back and we ended up getting a hotel near Minneapolis for real showers and a night of sleep in real beds before our final leg (which ended up with us, a clogged toilet, swollen feet, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Teddy Roosevelt was such a nice little stop. There are so many Bison and the topography was totally unique from the rest of the trip. We also pitched our tent in the dark every time we set up camp. So, we got pretty good at getting things together with flashlights and headlamps!

We bonded through waiting outside for the campsite showers to clear out, being completely fresh faced, disconnected from social media, and sunburns. Wouldn’t have had it any other way :)

Montana went on for about forrrrever. Good grief! I seriously couldn’t believe that people live in such a desolate place. I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my first thoughts during that part of the drive was “do they even get Amazon Prime out here?” I know, I know, ridiculous.

We stopped in Cut Bank (we, aka me, lovingly referred to it as cut throat in retrospect - ha!) at this little restaurant and I couldn’t help but think where on earth they sourced their food from. It was that remote.

Happening upon Glacier was majestic. After hours of flats to slight rolling hills, seeing the mountains rise up out of seemingly nowhere was such a sight to behold. And our time at Glacier was probably my favorite. With all the wildfires things were a bit less clear than I think they usually are, but still. Hello. This kind of beauty can’t be tamed. It was HOT during the day, about 95 degrees. But the nights were in the 50s and felt great.

We hiked: Piegan Pass, Hidden Lake, and Grinnell Glacier

We packed up and headed to Banff. The smoke in Banff was really bad. Like, it smelled like a campfire and there was ash on our tent every morning. We kind of put Nel through the ringer in Glacier with our hiking mileage (and it was her first time ever hiking like this - she was a champppp). So, we decided to take it easier in Banff.

We asked a ranger for a non-crowded hike because Banff was crawling with people. He said to head to Bow Lake. So, we found what looked like a trailhead. Yeah, um, it was not. We walked around the perimeter of the lake for about 20 minutes in this little narrow barely there path before we turned around. Well, the ranger said it wasn’t crowded and boy was he right. There was NO ONE on the trail! Somehow we managed to find where the actual trail started and we had to hop in the car to drive a bit further down.

This hike was an experience. Bow Glacier Falls is beautiful. We walked through rushing water to get back to the falls and every minute was so worth it. Once we got the walls/watershed, we knew a storm was coming. So, we stayed for a bit, took some photos, then the rain and thunder came. It started pelting us and it just kept getting harder and harder as we were running for tree cover. I don’t know at what point it went from rain to hail, but it was cold. Nel, who had been nervously eating a cliff bar had to shove it in her pocket as we started to run. A man who was leading a group of high schoolers said to me “it’s already upon us!!!!” when I yelled back to Anna to ask if she was counting to make check how far away the lightning was. It was hysterical!

We couldn’t stop at the trees because we knew the river that we had waded through to get up to the falls would quickly start rising. So, we booked it back. And that was honestly one of my favorite memories as all three of us were running out of this huge cavern where the falls were as the loudest thunder and lightning I’d ever heard cracked all around us.

We saw Lake Louise early the morning that we left around 7am which I think is the only time it’s not ridiculously crowded. It was beautiful, but I also think a lot of the less popular/iconic trails are where it’s at.

As we began our trek home, I thought for sure we would get sick of each other in the car and run out of things to talk about. But that never happened. Like what? That was seriously of God and made the trip completely unforgettable.

If you ever get the chance to go to either Glacier or Banff, do not think twice about it. I’ve already begun looking at reservations for next year with the plan of taking Greg with me. 10/10 recommend.