Cruising at moderate speeds southward, towards the States, we spent the night in the Icefields Overflow, conveniently overlooking the Athabasca Glacier.
Next morning, we stopped off again at Bow Lake for a paddle. Aside from a few small hiccups (hundreds of biting bugs, unfavourable winds, and someone’s little shit of a Jack Russell biting a chunk out of my ankle (I still have the teeth marks to show for it)), the Sea Eagle performed admirably and we got some excellent views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. A quick dip in the glacial waters afterwards, and we were back on our merry way.
Next, we replenished our food and fuel stocks in Lake Louise Village (both of which were horribly, horribly overpriced), thriftily used the showers and dish washing facilities at the Lake Louise campground, and made the decision to check out nearby Yoho National Park for a couple of days.
With the full knowledge that we were heading to the park on a long weekend, and thus were likely to have some serious issues with finding a spot to park up for the night, we weren’t too hopeful with our chances. The flip side is that Yoho, and many national parks to follow, refused to take reservations, and you can only get a campsite on a first come, first served basis. This can be REALLY annoying when you drive a long way in a gas guzzling beast, only to find that you have to drive all the back from whence you came when they tell you there’s no spots available.
Anyways, as luck would have it, we squeezed into Monarch Campground’s “overflow” lot (a tiny asphalt area sandwiched between two roads) for the night and next morning got to Kicking Horse Campground bright and early to wait in line for a weekend campsite. Our luck continued, and after only an hour of waiting (during which time we efficiently made breakfast and tidied up – the joys of a mobile home) we secured a nice RV spot complete with Columbian Ground Squirrels (essentially a cross between a meercat and chipmunk) and thimbleberries.
Campsite secured, we elected to drive up the mountain pass and check out Takkakaw Falls, some of the most impressive in the Rockies. The helpful rangers at the campground had informed us by means of diagrams and erratic hand motions that the road was NOT recommended for RVs, but if we chose to tackle it we would have to perform a very strange maneuver up a serious of steep switchbacks. This maneuver involved driving forward up the first switchback, BACKING up the next, forward up the next, and so on. I tried to get a picture as I drove past to demonstrate:
Naturally, we chose to ignore these ridiculous instructions, and just did a very neat (if I do say so myself) three point turn at each switchback.
Having conquered the mountain, we were able to enjoy the splendor of takkakaw falls amidst thousands of over equally awe-struck tourists. Aside from the people-swarms, the questionable drive was well worth it.
That afternoon, we cruised into the bustling metropolis of Field to wine and dine with the who’s who of Yoho. Our chosen restaurant (not that there were many to choose from) was a place called Truffle Pigs Bistro. The service was laid back but attentive, and the food and drink (we were pleased to see Toronto’s Mill St Organic on the menu!) were excellent. Bellies full and persona’s somewhat re-civilised, we retired to our cosy campsite for the night.
Next morning, we took a scenic drive up to Emerald Lake, a must-see if you’re in the area. We were thoroughly impressed by emerald lake, not only due to the stunning backdrop and amazing colours of the lake itself, but also due to the well-appointed bridge, restaurant and lodge which somehow complemented the raw natural setting.
From here we took a half-day walk up to Emerald Basin, which required some serious mountain climbing in the blistering heat, but which was well worth it. The trail leads up to a large natural amphitheatre, through which flows multiple glacial rivers – some strongly coloured by glacial “rock flour” (aka loess), and some miraculously crystal clear. The merging of these clear vs muddy streams was actually pretty cool to see, as were the waterfalls and glacial remnants at the top of the basin. We even earned some Good Samaritan points here, telling a silly German tourist to get the hell off the edge of a melting glacier that he was unknowingly posing on, thus saving him from a long fall and a chilly demise at the bottom of the gorge.
Back at Emerald lake, we took some respite from the summer heat in the glacier fed lake. And it was glorious. Heading back to the RV feeling refreshed and ready for our next adventure, I went to turn the key and…nothing. No matter, this was the third time this had happened and so far we’d come away without a scratch. So we just chilled for a few hours, relaxing by the lake, swimming, fishing, and such.
As darkness fell, however, we started to get a little worried. The starter battery was fully charged, we’d rocked the RV a few times as we’d done in the past two mishaps, but still nothing happened when I turned the key.
We spent that night sleeping in Emerald lake parking lot (it being a long weekend and no mechanic shop would be open anyway), hoping that we wouldn’t get a ticket for illegal overnight camping but armed with a very good reason for being there. Next morning, still no cigar. We spent a frenzied few hours trying to research ways to get the damn thing back on the road, interspersed with regular visits to the Emerald Lake Lodge, which was an excellent place to sit and recoup over a cuppa and utilize the wifi.
As evening approached on the second day of our car issues, we conceded that CAA was due for a call. Having no reception all the way up in the mountains, I trudged over to the pay phone and spent a long time explaining to 4 different operators what was wrong with the RV and where we were. Luckily, at the start of the trip I had foreseen this event occurring and upgraded my CAA membership to Gold RV (yeah baby!) which allowed us to get towed up to 160 km for free. So it wasn’t all bad news.
A few hours later, our knight in shining (hi-viz) armour arrived with the tow truck. He kindly puddled around with the engine for a while, essentially doing all the same checks that we had done and confirming what we had confirmed – the bloody thing had to get towed, likely requiring a new starter as a minimum.
Problem was, CAA hadn’t told the tow guy that we were driving a 24 foot RV, so he hadn’t brought out a suitably sized tow truck considering our size and weight (both formidable). Rather reluctantly, the poor bugger had to drive all the way back to Golden, BC (around 80 km away, through the mountains, in holiday weekend traffic) to retrieve the big guns. We would have to wait another few hours before he returned.
While we waited, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner up at the lodge. This place was excellent, with good food, good service, excellent views, and the all-important wifi. Heartened by the fare, we trundled back to the RV in time to see the tow guy return with Optimus Prime (disguised as a very swanky tow truck). Once the RV had been magically schmoozed onto the truck bed, we headed for Golden and our lucky mechanic.
After a very long and bouncy ride through one of the more impressive stretches of the Trans Canada we’d seen so far, the tow guy dropped us (literally) outside the mechanic shop and wished us best of luck.
Our forced encampment in the chirpy town of Golden, BC, had begun.