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Alberta RV Adventure

Calgary is often the gateway to the amazing state of Alberta in Western Canada, I am quite sure that anyone playing a word association game and says Calgary, the next word would be “Stampede”, but the city is so much more than that. There is a strong musical theme, spearheaded by Studio Bell, the National Music Centre, and a host of live music venues. Vibrant café’s bars and restaurants adorn the pedestrianised Stephen Avenue and public art abounds across the city. One night left me wanting more, but the Rocky Mountains lying tantalizingly close on the Western Horizon were calling.

My RV was to be my home, castle and transport for the next few days. Any dubious memories I had of caravan and camping trips as a child were immediately banished upon collection of the vehicle - flushing toilet, hot water shower, super comfy queen size bed and a full kitchen and dining area were ingeniously designed to afford maximum comfort and convenience within the space allowed.

The mirrors were adjusted, the Springsteen playlist selected, gas pedal depressed, and the wheels were in motion. The scenic drive had me passing the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Park, forever synonymous with Eddie the Eagle before the road turns to face jagged peaks of the Rockies and the delightful town of Banff.

Arrival at the campsite and locating the pitch was easy and within 5 minutes, electricity and running water were connected, the water heater switched on and a cup of tea was in my hand, all beneath the shadow of a snow-capped peak. The roam bus acts as a shuttle service to the town and some of its adjacent attractions, with a $5 day pass offering tremendous value. Within a few minutes it is easy to be gliding up Sulphur Mountain on the Banff Gondola where stunning panoramas await, at the foot of the mountain the Hot Springs that were one of the main reasons for the town’s foundation, offer weary travellers some welcome rest on the volcanic waters. In the evenings, the town comes to life as the hikers, cyclists and mountain day trippers return to frequent the numerous restaurants and bars giving the town a lively alpine feel.

Venturing North, Lake Louise is the next obvious stop, the Lake is perhaps one of the most photographed in Canada, traveling in May, it was easy to park and saunter to the shore, but in Summer you have to arrive very early, or be prepared for a long walk. E bikes are available from Lake Louise Village which can certainly help to make the process easier.

The Icefield parkway is strewn with scenic rest stops and viewpoints along with the occasional bear, which always slows the traffic to a (bear)crawl. Popular spots are Peyto Lake, Big Bend Hill (you completely understand the name after driving around the big bend…) and the Athabasca Falls. The undisputed Jewel in the Crown however is the Columbia Icefield, with multiple glaciers and stunning views. The Icefield adventure to the Athabasca Glacier includes a ride on a $1.2M Ice Explorer to walk on a 10,000-year-old sheet of ice, coupled with the vertigo inducing glass skywalk over the valley, it is a day you won’t forget.

At the end of the Parkway lies the village of Jasper. This pretty mountain town punches well above its weight on delivering a mountain experience. The Tramway provides the obligatory mountain vistas. Whilst its easy to navigate, local tour operators like the excellent Sundog’s provide campsite pick ups for their tours. I’d strongly recommend their Wildlife tour, Daniel our excellent driver/guide said he had never been on a tour before with so many different spotting’s on one night (part of me wondered if he said that to every group, but he seemed too honest and genuine to be a fibber), we had ticked off Marmot, Eagles, Grizzly Bears, Black Bears and the elusive Moose, along with the photogenic backdrops of Pyramid mountain and Medicine Lake. All too soon, it was time to leave Jasper, a couple of Elk joined me for breakfast on the peaceful campsite, my bacon and eggs with steaming tea seemed much more appetising than their grazing, but they appeared happy enough. Dishes done and utilities disconnected, Alberta’s capital city Edmonton lay a few hours East.

Edmonton is an eclectic combination of sleek, glass fronted skyscrapers, open air neon galleries, entertainment districts and wonderful museums. Any history buff will enjoy Fort Edmonton Park, which showcases Edmonton’s history back to the Hudson trading company and along the areas long standing indigenous line, if you are looking for something a little more Avent Gard, try the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton covers most tastes (importantly including excellent local craft beer). The Oilers were at home to local rivals the Vancouver Canucks in a Stanely Cup play off, whilst tickets were like hens’ teeth, fan zones were provided for those without the all important briefs and the city teemed with orange and blue shirted denizens, turning the ice district into one massive street party.

What is the perfect contrast to big city nights? Undiluted wilderness, The Canadian Badlands around the Dinosaur famed town of Drumheller were a welcome sight. The Drumheller Badlands were created a mere 13,000 years ago (a blink of the eye in geological circles) when the Laurentide ice sheet retreated and melted. It has certainly left another worldly landscape. The slightly older residents, by around 66 million years are the Cretaceous period Dinosaur Fossils. The adjacent Dinosaur Provincial Park is teeming with fossils and the Drumheller’s Tyrell Dinosaur Museum is joy for kids of all ages (including this 50-year-old kid).

On returning full circle to Calgary to return my trusty RV, the Rockies again adorn the horizon, like the fable of dropping a coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome, you just know you must return.

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