Road Trip

Is there anything better than a September road trip? Kids are back in school, so highways are less busy. It’s not peak driving season, so gasoline prices are a little lower. It’s not too hot and not too cold. Sounds perfect!

But here’s the thing…we still choose not to travel much, in order to minimize our risk of catching COVID. Our last big road trip was in late January/early February 2020, when COVID was something in China. Since then, our road trips have all been day trips!

Most of our September road trips were by car, mainly to get to a hiking trailhead or to go kayaking. Some were by bicycle. One short road trip this month was by bus – the only option for getting to a particular hiking area. Also this month, we took the car in for regular servicing and to swap out the all-season tires for the snow tires (yes, you can blame us if it snows this week).

Childhood Road Trips

My childhood road trips were mostly to visit grandparents, who lived 5.5 hours driving distance away. I remember sharing the back seat with my younger sister and brother. One of us would flake out on the small bench above the seat back under the curve of the rear window. One of us would stretch across the seat. And the other would sleep on the bench Dad built across the footwell, with room to store luggage underneath because there were 5 of us and all our bags in a little 2-door sedan. How times have changed!!

Current Month Road Trips

Our outdoor adventure calendar was busier than usual this month: 5 mountain hikes, 3 bike rides and one kayak outing. Here are some highlights:

1. Icefields Parkway

Rated one of the most scenic drives in Canada, the Icefields Parkway runs 232 km (144 mi) from Lake Louise to Jasper. You might think you’d be able to drive it in 2.5 to 3 hours, but you’d be wrong! Why? For one thing, it’s only one lane in each direction, with limited passing opportunities. So you’re bound by the speed of the vehicle at the front of the line. And many drive BELOW the posted speed limit of 90 kmh due to the attention-grabbing scenery!! Plus, there are so many scenic pull-outs, viewpoints, walks, hikes and other attractions along this road that the trip could stretch to several days.

In September we made two road trips on Highway 93N (the other name for this stretch of road). Each time was for hiking. Our second time around was a road trip in every sense of the word…we let go of our preconceived idea re: timelines and stopped to enjoy the amazing morning light, mist coming off the lakes and beautiful fall colours. We had a plan, but were flexible. We remembered our ultimate destination, but explored things that caught our attention along the way.

Once at the trailhead, we hiked up to the site of a former fire lookout. It just happened to overlook the highway, where I spotted a road tripping RV pulled over at one of the scenic stops. That’s the braided North Saskatchewan River running along the valley bottom. If you’re interested in seeing more of our road trip, check out Mr GeoK’s video recap here.

looking down on RV parked in roadside pullout

2. Cycling the Bow Valley Parkway

One of the best results of the COVID pandemic has been Parks Canada’s decision to close part of the Bow Valley Parkway to vehicles in May, June and September each year. We sure hope that when the current 3-year pilot project ends in 2024, this will become a permanent thing.

We took advantage of the opportunity to cycle this stretch of road without vehicles twice this in September. The second time, Minifig Me rode along. 😉

lego minifig bicycle rider on road trip with mountain in background

3. Fall Colour

I’ve been playing around with long-exposure, intentional camera movement photos this month. I like how the fall colours soften and blend together, becoming somewhat abstracted. One long road trip, I tried some long-exposure shots from the passenger seat, with the momentum of the car providing a real sense of motion. We were going around a curve at the time, which adds to the impression that the poplar trees are just flying past. The dark band across the bottom is the dash board, where I rested the camera to hold it as steady as possible.

long exposure of fall foliage while on a road trip

4. Kayaking Road Trip

One of the reasons we opted for an inflatable tandem kayak is ease of transport. We can load it, and everything else we need, in about a minute. We need about 10 minutes for set up, and the same for take down. So there’s no big barrier to going kayaking whenever weather conditions are just right. September started cool and smoky, so we were starting to think that our paddle on Upper Kananaskis Lake at the end of August might have been our last outing this year. But conditions were perfect to get out one day the last week of September. Here’s everything stowed back in the car for the road trip home.

Inflatable kayak and all paddling gear in back of car

5. Bus Trip

One of the most special hiking areas in the Canadian Rockies is at the end of an 11 km (7 mi) gravel road that gains 440 m elevation. Parks Canada limits visitation to Lake O’Hara by running a shuttle busservice with very limited capacity. In fact, there’s a pay-to-enter lottery for shuttle bus seats each spring. And if you win, you pay again, for the actual shuttle bus service.

You can also score a seat on the bus if you manage to get a reservation at the Lake O’Hara campground (tents only) or the Alpine Club of Canada hut at Lake O’Hara. Or, if money is no consideration, you can enter another lottery to stay at the Lake O’Hara Lodge, which runs its own shuttle service. Finally, if none of those options are available, you can walk the 11 km in (and back out, if there are no extra seats on the afternoon shuttle buses going back down). Bikes are not permitted on the gravel access road.

Anyhow, we’ve entered the shuttle bus lottery every year since Parks Canada implemented this system. Three years after we last won, we lucked out, with seats on the Parks Canada bus during golden larch season. You can see the white bus parked across the lake. The rounded plateau on the left was our primary hiking destination for the day. The weather wasn’t great (heavy cloud cover all day, along with light drizzle all afternoon). But it could have been snowing, so there’s that.

lake o'hara in autumn

Those are some highlights from our short, September road trips. I look forward to finding out whether other Photo Blogging Challenge participants went on longer road trips (and I already know of one who did for sure). If you’re curious too, check out the link up at the bottom of organizer PJ’s post.

And hey – why don’t you join us for the October edition of the Photo Blogging Challenge. The theme is Potpourri, so basically anything goes. All you need are 5 photos. The amount of writing is entirely up to you. (And FYI, I tend to be on the wordy side.) Hope to see your name in the link up next month!

Another option? Leave a comment about a recent road trip that you really enjoyed.

2 thoughts on “Road Trip

  1. Day trips certainly count as road trips! Having a plan is great but being able to pivot and be flexible is invaluable….and it can result in some fun, unexpected experiences! I always love your scenery shots. I hope you get to travel more in 2023. It looks like Covid is going to be with us for a long, long time.

  2. We have a saying in German: “der Weg ist das Ziel”, it translates literally as “the path is the goal”, but what it means is the route becomes the destination, or “the journey is the reward”, and Icefields Parkway seems a perfect example for it!

    Lake O’Hara looks beautiful. Too bad you haven’t been rewarded with better weather, so maybe you’ll need to enter the lottery again next year?

    Yay for bringing your LEGO character with you!

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