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Kiwi_Explorer Visiting Canada April09 Assistance Please


Kiwi_Explorer
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Hello from Nelson, New Zealand. We are a family of 4 (kids 6 & 8) visiting Canada in late April 09 and would appreciate some assistance. The main purpose of our trip is a holiday but we will no doubt find some caches along the way. We have been doing some basic research on possible routes to take while on holiday and places to stay and visit. However, we have quite a few gaps in our knowledge, if you can help that would be great.

 

This request has been posted on both the grondspeak forum and the bcgeocaching forum. Our current plan is as follows; fly into Vancouver 17th April and depart from Vancouver 8th May. Spending 3-4 nights in Vancouver before picking up a rental car. Intention is to head to Kamloops via Whistler and possibly staying at Lillooet. Then to Banff and stopping for 1 night at Revelstoke. Possibly stay in Banff for 3-4 nights with day trips to Lake Louise, Jasper Nat Park, explore around Banff. Next stop planned is Calgary 2-3 nights – possibly also visit Edmonton. We can see us spending approx 15 nights getting this far so that leaves us 6 nights to get back to Vancouver. A route after Calgary is a complete mystery to us. We need to get back to Vancouver and would like to take an alternate route, we had considered returning via the top of the US with a visit to Yellow Stone but know nothing of the possible stops along the way. We intend staying in cheapish hotels, looking at using the Armada and Howard Johnson chains.

 

What we would like to know in no particular order:

 

1. What are the road conditions like at that time of year on our intended route? We have some experience with winter alpine driving but don’t enjoy it. Would we need to ensure we have snow chains?

2. How does our intended route sound in terms of scenery and things to do/visit?

3. How much time would you recommend for visiting Vancouver, Banff, Calgary? Is a side trip to Edmonton recommended – why? What other must see spots are there – particularly the spots the tourists don’t normally go to – the places the locals know about?

4. Fun places or caches for kids would also be useful to know about.

5. Can you recommend an alternate return route to Vancouver from Calgary - doesn’t have to be a caching route just places worthwhile visiting (I guess they normally also have caches which is a bonus!)

6. Hiking/walking in the area around Banff – is it safe? What precautions would we need to take? We have no experience with bears – we don’t have anything like that in New Zealand – also does Canada have snakes or anything else we need to watch out for when trying to find a cache.

7. Any other recommendations about accommodation or anything else.

 

Any help you can provide will be much appreciated, thanks in advance.

 

Kiwi_Explorer

http://www.geocaching.com/profile/?guid=01...31-34ca1a608c80

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What we would like to know in no particular order:

 

1. What are the road conditions like at that time of year on our intended route? We have some experience with winter alpine driving but don’t enjoy it. Would we need to ensure we have snow chains?

2. How does our intended route sound in terms of scenery and things to do/visit?

3. How much time would you recommend for visiting Vancouver, Banff, Calgary? Is a side trip to Edmonton recommended – why? What other must see spots are there – particularly the spots the tourists don’t normally go to – the places the locals know about?

4. Fun places or caches for kids would also be useful to know about.

5. Can you recommend an alternate return route to Vancouver from Calgary - doesn’t have to be a caching route just places worthwhile visiting (I guess they normally also have caches which is a bonus!)

6. Hiking/walking in the area around Banff – is it safe? What precautions would we need to take? We have no experience with bears – we don’t have anything like that in New Zealand – also does Canada have snakes or anything else we need to watch out for when trying to find a cache.

7. Any other recommendations about accommodation or anything else.

 

Any help you can provide will be much appreciated, thanks in advance.

 

Kiwi_Explorer

http://www.geocaching.com/profile/?guid=01...31-34ca1a608c80

 

You sure picked a goot time to travel, Although it is not the warmest time of the year, it will be enjoyable for hiking and getting to caches

 

The Avalanche season in Roger's Pass will be over, but the bears will be out of hibernation in Banff

So take the good with the bad,

 

In all fairness, I am on the other side of Canada, in Nova Scotia which has awesome scenery too.

I can comment on the roads,, We do have a good network of transportation and that goes with saying there are two season in Canada,, WINTER & CONSTRUCTION,, Hopefully there won't be any for you.

 

Have a great adventure in our wonderful country!!!

 

You will undoubtably enjoy the Rockies and Calgary in the Spring time.

Edited by stagunner
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You'll have a fabulous time. Even non-geocachers have been known to enjoy the scenery etc. in the places you want to go.

 

Calgary is just a city. Edmonton is just a city that's out of the way, but has great geocaches. (Do you like puzzles?) For scenery, you'll want Banff, especially Lake Louise, and I suppose also Jasper. But there aren't many caches in those places, for bureaucratic reasons. Canmore and Kananaskis are caching meccas, not to mention they're as drop-dead gorgeous as Banff etc.

 

There are wiggly highways from Calgary back to Vancouver that follow closer to the US border than the main #1 highway. Good, different scenery. Keep in mind that the more wiggles you see on the map, the longer the drive'll take. So stop and find some caches along the way! This area is also covered in great caches.

 

To go through your questions:

 

1. What are the road conditions like at that time of year on our intended route? We have some experience with winter alpine driving but don't enjoy it. Would we need to ensure we have snow chains?

A. Should be fine. You may get the odd spring snowstorm, but it'll melt or be cleared away in short order.

 

2. How does our intended route sound in terms of scenery and things to do/visit?

A. Spectacular, except for the Alberta cities. Vancouver is a gem.

 

3. How much time would you recommend for visiting Vancouver, Banff, Calgary?

A. More, more, less.

 

Is a side trip to Edmonton recommended – why?

A. No, unless you want to sample the caches. I recommend all mine (heh!), or Kbrunog's if you like puzzles.

 

What other must see spots are there – particularly the spots the tourists don't normally go to – the places the locals know about?

A. Kananaskis - it's our little secret. (Darn - I just told the whole internet!)

 

4. Fun places or caches for kids would also be useful to know about.

A. Grotto Canyon near Canmore is a great short hike. Wilcox Pass is a stunningly gorgeous half-day hike between Lake Louise and Jasper. (The latter hike has a couple of virtuals too; ask locally about the second one, which is complicated.)

 

6. Hiking/walking in the area around Banff – is it safe? What precautions would we need to take? We have no experience with bears – we don't have anything like that in New Zealand – also does Canada have snakes or anything else we need to watch out for when trying to find a cache.

A. Pretty safe; a bit of googling will give you the tips you need for hiking in bear country. Actually, the brochure they give you at the park gate will cover that too. No snakes really, so go ahead and reach into those holes.

 

Enjoy the trip!

Edited by Viajero Perdido
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What we would like to know in no particular order:

 

1. What are the road conditions like at that time of year on our intended route? We have some experience with winter alpine driving but don’t enjoy it. Would we need to ensure we have snow chains?

2. How does our intended route sound in terms of scenery and things to do/visit?

3. How much time would you recommend for visiting Vancouver, Banff, Calgary? Is a side trip to Edmonton recommended – why? What other must see spots are there – particularly the spots the tourists don’t normally go to – the places the locals know about?

4. Fun places or caches for kids would also be useful to know about.

5. Can you recommend an alternate return route to Vancouver from Calgary - doesn’t have to be a caching route just places worthwhile visiting (I guess they normally also have caches which is a bonus!)

6. Hiking/walking in the area around Banff – is it safe? What precautions would we need to take? We have no experience with bears – we don’t have anything like that in New Zealand – also does Canada have snakes or anything else we need to watch out for when trying to find a cache.

7. Any other recommendations about accommodation or anything else.

 

Kiwi_Explorer

http://www.geocaching.com/profile/?guid=01...31-34ca1a608c80

 

If you are spending sometime on the coast then try and make sure you see Buchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. Buchart Gardens is always on our list of things to do on the coast. You can take the ferry across as pedestrians and a bus to the Gardens. My kids love breakfast on the ferry.

The driving should be good at that time of year, you will still see snow on the Coquihalla but it should be mostly good. If you come to Calgary then you might want to try and drive back via the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) rather than taking the TransCanada (Highway 1). Six days pretty well rules out Yellowstone but it does allow you to see the Kootenays and the Okanagan.

There are several cool sites that will be very close.

Dinosaurs - best seen in Drumheller, Alberta - about 90 minutes NE of Calgary and this is very well worth a day trip. The Royal Tyrell Museum is the best place in the world to go see dinosaurs and my kids love this place. It is closed Mondays so plan accordingly and allow one day for that whole side trip. You really don't want to come all the way to Alberta and not see that museum. It was the place that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visited when they were making a film in Calgary.

Driving south of Calgary toawards Fort MacLeod will offer you the chance to visit the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, this is another stop that you probably don't want to to miss. There is a virtual cache there and the Interpretive Center is worth a half day for sure.

As far as hiking around Banff, I think you will have a good time just trying to take in the popular sites and there are usually many people about. You should plan on going up the Sulphur Mountain Gondola while in Banff and make sure you visit Banff's candy store. Maybe plan to have lunch at the Chateau Lake Louise or the Banff Springs Hotel, these places are memory makers for sure but they can be pricey, I prefer the Chateau. I am not sure you can visit Jasper on a day trip, you might want to plan a night in Jasper if you really want to go there but Banff offers pretty much the same thing as Jasper for scenery. The highway from Lake Louise to Jasper is one of the prettiest and most scenic highways in the world.

If you do some back country hiking check with the locals for any closures. Bear incidents do occur in and around Banff and trails are closed when problems arise. Bears are your only concern, cougars are an issue in the interior of BC so if you are hiking in cougar country stay in a crowd and keep everyone close, don't let little kids get ahead or behind. We live near cougar country (Cypress Hills) and those are the only warnings.

Viajero is right about the Kananaskis, this is a great place to stop for a night but accomodation is more expensive in the village.

Make sure to allow a day just to wander around Calgary's unique Plus 15 walkway system, almost the entire downtown core is accessible from raised pedestrian walkways without ever going outside and try to see Devonian Gardens, an indoor park that really is unique and right in downtown Calgary.

As far as places to stop along the way the Crowsnest Route offers some extraordinary sights and places to visit. You can stop and see the Frank Slide on the eastern edge of the Rockies. You go through some great cities and some very pretty country. (Kimberely, Cranbroook, Nelson). If you drive the Crowsnest Highway then make sure you take the Balfour Bay ferry over to Nelson. Making this short detour takes you on some really pretty mountain roads and the short ferry ride is a neat way to see the lake.

You will be passing thorugh the Okanagan on your way back and are very near the blossom season, this is an extraordinary thing to take in, the entire valley is used for fruit growing and the smell of the trees in blossom is quite overwhelming. The Apple Blossom Festival is May 9 so you will miss the festival but you can still take in the blossoms.

If you get a chance to take in one of the Hot Spring like Fairmont or Radium they are nice stops but they would be a detour, there is a decent hot spring stop along the highway as well, Canyon Hot Springs is near Revelstoke.

Super 8's are usually cheaper than Howard Johnson's - Comfort Inn's and Best Westerns are a good choice and most hotels should include a cold breakfast with juice, pastries, cereal, yogurt and fruit, a few now include hot breakfasts, these included breakfasts save us lots of money when we travel. We always travel with a small cooler and then shop for things to make lunch, this means we are out picnicing rather than in MacDonalds and along with the free breakfasts it really reduces costs.

You might want to consider devoting some of your return trip to taking in Mission Number 9 : Tunnel of Light, this is an A.P.E cache and it is sort of close to your return trip, you could head south from the Okanagan and pick up that cache, it is maintained by Moun10Bike.

If you do the APE cache then you might want to drop by Groundspeak HQ, that is popular with geocachers.

It sounds like a real great trip. :rolleyes:

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1. What are the road conditions like at that time of year on our intended route? We have some experience with winter alpine driving but don’t enjoy it. Would we need to ensure we have snow chains?

 

One never knows.... Usually OK, but it can snow a lot at that time of year. It is a crap shoot.

 

2. How does our intended route sound in terms of scenery and things to do/visit?

 

Routes sounds lovely. Whistler/Kamloops is a great choice.

 

3. How much time would you recommend for visiting Vancouver, Banff, Calgary? Is a side trip to Edmonton recommended – why? What other must see spots are there – particularly the spots the tourists don’t normally go to – the places the locals know about?

 

You are in a big rush really, so it depends on what you like... I'm with VP, less time in the cities, more in the mountains, but that depends on your likes. Keep in mind 3 weeks IS a big rush. This is a huge area.

 

4. Fun places or caches for kids would also be useful to know about.

 

Another huge subject.

 

5. Can you recommend an alternate return route to Vancouver from Calgary - doesn’t have to be a caching route just places worthwhile visiting (I guess they normally also have caches which is a bonus!)

 

My suggested route.... ~2600 km.

route.jpg

 

6. Hiking/walking in the area around Banff – is it safe? What precautions would we need to take? We have no experience with bears – we don’t have anything like that in New Zealand – also does Canada have snakes or anything else we need to watch out for when trying to find a cache.

 

Very safe. Read the bear pamphlets to understand them. No dangerous snakes. Snow could be an issue in April.

 

7. Any other recommendations about accommodation or anything else.

 

Stay at B&Bs. Much nicers than hotels, same price.

Edited by Red90
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I didn't read all the responses, so sorry if I am repeating anything here, but here is something you need to know:

 

Plan a bare minimum of three days for the Banff-Jasper-Banff run. This is easily one of the most scenic drives there is, and you will want to see almost everything on the way. (Except the Athabasca Glacier, which may be melted by now.)

 

After seeing Banff, the three days start: One day traveling up to Jasper, and stopping at roughly half the scenic spots (they are all marked). You need two nights in Jasper so you can have a full day there. The trip to Maligne Lake north-east of Jasper is a day trip on its own, and worth every minute. (Ride the boat to the end of Maligne Lake and see Spirit Island, plus, the old label from Smirnoff Vodka.)

 

After your second night in Jasper, do the drive back to Banff, stopping at all the attractions on the way back. Trust me, everything with a sign is worth seeing. Sometimes all it takes is 20-40 minutes. Other times, you need an hour or more (such as Johnston Canyon... incredible).

 

Banff itself is a testament to the short-sightedness of Canada. This is a national park that has been developed into a little city. Compare to Yellowstone Park who did it right, and you will see that "Banff" is an eyesore. However, the trip up Sulfer Mountain (cable cars), hike up Tunnel Mountain, and surrounding sights are worth the time. (Unless you like hanging out in tourist cities, or shopping for fine crystal, then downtown Banff is the cat's meow.) When you get on top of any of the mountains, you can check out the scar that is the "city" of Banff.

 

Edmonton: Never been there, but it is a long way from Jasper. Apparently it has a big mall.

 

Lake Louise: Drop in, but talk about over-developed. Once upon a time there was a quiet little lake nearby that blew the socks off Lake Louise. Now, not so quiet, but still much better than LL. It is Moraine Lake, which used to be the picture on the reverse of the Canadian $20 bill.

 

Calgary: It's a city. The nice thing is it is a very short drive from Calgary to the mountains, so you can escape it real easy.

 

If you want pictures of this, check out the photo gallery on my web site here. Just scroll down a bit and click on "Alberta 2003".

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Thank you all very much for your replies. They have given us plenty to think about and allowed us to focus our attention on some specific spots. We will book a rental car pretty soon and then hopefully we will agree on a route to take that covers most of the areas you have mentioned. Thanks again and if you see a rental car late April with a Kiwi flag flying on it give us a toot.

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