Thursday, August 2, 2018

A visit to Muir Woods National Monument 

My aunt was visiting from Maryland, and I took a day off to show her Muir Woods. 

All these years in the Bay Area I have never been here, so decided it will be something new we both could try out

I dropped off Pranav and started off to Palo Alto, to pick her up from my cousin’s place. The funny part here is, when you put my cousin’s home address in Google maps, it always defaults to Palo Alto, and not Menlo Park. So once I reached Palo Alto, I realized this is not the place and asked my cousin to send me the exact location. He whatsapped me the link, and it was showing directions for walking, and I decided to follow that. It was taking me all over place and expecting me to walk via trails. Also one road was under construction and it was making me go in loops. 

After a frustrating 30 mins, I called my cousin who tried sending me a different link. Also meanwhile, I figured out how to change the directions to car mode, it was simple, just that it was not coming to me during that stressful half hour. The actual home was only about a mile away and I finally reached there around 11. 

My aunt was already out and waiting and we started off to Muir Woods. Half way through, we stopped for gas and resumed again. 

On reaching Muir Woods after an hour and a half, we realized that we needed a reservation to park there! I was a fool! I was so confident that it’s a weekday and never even realized a state park would require prior reservations to park. The additional parking was also full, and there was no service there, so we can’t even reserve on online at that moment. 

This was one big learning, but I think it did turn out the day into an adventure from here on. So anyone going to Muir Woods please go to and get your reservation. 

So we drove aimlessly for around 3 miles and saw the Pelican Inn. We also heard there is a beach around here. We entered the Pelican Inn, and was totally unimpressed. Their kitchen was under renovation and they just had some cold salads and bread etc. we had a pretty sad meal, of cheese, greens, bread and a decent mango chutney. 

My aunt had this brainwave that we will just walk the 3-4 miles to Muir Woods and can park the car in the Inn. Since it was just the two of us, and no kids, I thought it was doable. 

I also met a nice person in the Inn, and on enquiring he told me, a better idea would be to go park in Muir beach, and then take trail up the hill there, enjoy views and if wanted walk the long way back to Nuir Woods.

We decided we will give it a try. So we drove to Muir beach and parked our car there. We then walked up to the beach and also half way up the kaashi loop trail. 

The beach and the scenery was very beautiful. From there, we came down and decided to take the trail to Muir Woods. Google maps told the walking trail was about 4 miles. And it also told us an hour and half of just walking to reach there. We took the trail and kept walking. We were the only ones on the trail. We did find two people walking the other way, after maybe an eternity. But we kept walking. 

Some portions of the trail was a wee bit scary and weird because it goes through the denser vegetation, and we had no idea what kinda animal might be around. Snakes was something I was a bit worried about. 

After about 2 miles of walking, we also entered the road and we tried getting a ride from someone. We have never done this before, and was little hesitant to try too. Finally we saw a lady in a car parked. And we thought we will ask her. Her name was Penny and she was in a worse situation than us. She dropped off her family at Muir Woods and she drove down, but the key to her car was with her brother in law. So she can’t start the car now, or even contact them as there was no signal. 

So she also joined us and after we walked a bit down, maybe .75 miles away from the front, we found an Asian couple getting into their car. Once asked, he agreed to drop us. We got it and they dropped us at the entrance and we went to the visitor center. 

I got the tickets there, while Penny used the landline there to leave a message for her son. She said she is going to wait at the entrance to meet them. We told bye to Penny and we started our walk inside the woods.

We first stopped at the cafe and got some hot chocolate and croissant to have and bought water too. 

We walked inside the woods for about an hour and clicked various pics of the gigantic trees

Around 4 pm, we went back to the gift shop, got souvenirs and went to the visitor center to call a cab. 

We got through one cab company and they said they will be there anytime. We went to the entrance and the time was around 4:40 or so. So we waited.

There were couple of taxis that came in, for other folks but none for us. After about 30 minutes, I went back to the visitor center and called the cab again. And he said they will be there in 15 mins. 

We waited again until about 5:40, and I went inside the visitor center again and called Sree to book an uber. I should have done this the first place. 

Then, the park official there said, he will drop us, at Muir Beach. So if the cab did not come, we had a plan. Just then the cab arrived and we drove the 4 miles back to Muir Beach. 

We payed the $45 for the cab( yup it’s expensive, they came from Sausalito). And we were happy to get into our car. 

The drive back was uneventful. We just talked and then drove back to Menlo Park, ofcourse the address had to be retyped to go to the right apartment. 

My aunt was tired and ready to have her food and rest! For me, I came back, spent some time with the kids and slept like a log! 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Banff, Yoho & Jasper National Parks, Canada

I have developed this habit of blogging my trips now.The reason I blog my trips is to go read them at a later point and re-live those wonderful moments again.
I write down my experiences during the trip on a daily basis just before I go to bed. Otherwise there is no way, I am able to write a detailed blog recollecting all the moments of the last 10 or so days.

I went into the Canadian Rockies with normal expectations and they have far surpassed it! It was so beautiful anywhere you turn to. I had looked at pics online of some of the major spots, but nothing prepares you for what you feel when you see the beautiful Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon or the views from top of Sulphur Mountain or while you walk up a bit on the Whistler trail.

So here is the shorter version with some notes and a longer detailed one later on.

Trip itinerary

Day 1 : Arrive in Edmonton and drive to Hinton , Alberta (Quality Inn) - 3.5 hrs drive

Day 2 : Drive to Jasper - Maligne Lake Cruise ( 1.5 hr from Hinton,AB),     
            Maligne Canyon ( An hour from Maligne Lake )

Day 3 : Jasper Skytram and hike a bit on the Whistler summit trail.
           Drive to Canmore via Icefields Parkway 
           (4 hrs and will take longer with the stops for viewing the falls)
            Atabasca Falls
            Sunwapta Falls

Day 4 : Banff Downtown, 
            Lake Minnewanka - Trail to Stuart Canyon
            Bow Falls
            Banff Hot Springs

Day 5 : Banff Gondola to Sulphur Mountain
           Johnston Canyon

Day 6 : Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
            Bow Lake
            Peyto Lake

Day 7 : Moraine Lake 
            Emerald Lake
            Takkakkawa Falls
            Fairmont Chateau Dinner

Day 8 : Lake Louise - Hike the Lake Agnes Tea House hike

Day 9 : Tunnel Mountain Hike
           Cascade Gardens
           Vermillion Lake drive
           Surprise Corner
           Family float

Day 10: Checkout from Canmore, drive to Calgary and fly out to SFO from Calgary


  • Please download the offline maps of Alberta, Canmore, Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper National parks. The reception is pretty bad, and the offline maps come very handy
  • Stroller friendly trails : 
    • Lakeshore trail in Lake Louise
    • Moraine Lake trail
    • Takakkawa Falls 
  • Partly stroller friendly trails : You can only go down a bit with the stroller here, and will need to park the stroller and make your little one walk a bit. The incline is not too bad for kids
    • Johnston Canyon
    • Lake Minnewanka - Stuart Canyon trail.  
    • Athabasca Falls (Shorter hikes and doable for kids age 3 and up)
    • Sunwapta Falls (Shorter hikes and doable for kids age 3 and up)
  • Not so stroller friendly and higher incline trails 
    • Lake Agnes Tea House Hike
    • Tunnel Mountain
    • Rock Pile trail on Moraine Lake (But kids can do this with ease)
    • Whistler Trail in Jasper 
    • Hike to Sanson Peak in Banff 
  • Recommendation for food
    • The Spice Joint in Jasper downtown. Jamaican Cuisine.
    • Fairmont Chateau Restaurant in Lake Louise (Service, view and Ambience is great)
  • Stay : 
    • In Jasper, try to get a place in the town of Jasper for easy commute to all points. The hotel in Hinton, was not the most convinient for us, as there was an hour drive to Jasper from Hinton.
    • In Banff, Canmore is a great option to stay. Its beautiful and have many trails of its own and is less crowded and touristy than Banff.
    • Loved staying in AirBnB in Canmore as they work out best with kids in terms of cooking, space and other amenities.
  • Managing Kids 
    • For little ones, a carrier is a must. If not, you are not doing any hiking.
    • Kids around 5 are the most challenging as they need to be convinced to walk. Have some games up your sleeve so you can play with them and walk
    • Always have some snacks / water available for them
    • Keep jackets handy
    • Rest and move in a slower pace
    • Stroller - try to rent a stroller that is meant for hiking outdoors if possible. it will come in very handy
    • You can get an explorer book in the visitor centers for kids to fill out and they will get a small gift from the park official
    • In Banff, there are puppet shows for kids, so be on the look out to watch one.
  • Columbia Glacier Adventure and Skywalk - If you have already done glacier walk in Alaska, or in any other place, then this is not required and you can save on the long drive from Banff to Icefields Parkway. Or you could do this on your way from Banff to Jasper, or Jasper to Banff, instead of driving up only for this. Please make sure you are allocated a time when you book tickets from Trip Advisor. So I recommend going to the columbia icefileds glacier discovery website and book there.
  • Family float (Rocky Mountain Raft Trips) - I liked this one, but it was a bit hot even though we took the last float at 5:20. Try to do the early morning float. Again this is not really required. Only if you want to see the Hoodoos.
  • Highly recommended (every attraction was unique, but if you are in the Rockies with just couple of days, don't miss these atleast)
    • Moraine Lake
    • Tunnel Mountain
    • Johnston Canyon
    • Banff Gondola
    • Jasper Skytram
    • Lake Louise
  • Banff Hot Springs - expect this to be crowded, and the only unique factor here is to experience a hot spring. So, if you want to avoid it, you can if you are not too much of a fan of a swimming pool.
  • Clothes and others - Weather is unpredictable here so dressing in layers is recommended.
    • Rain Jackets
    • Normal Jacket
    • Trekking Shoes or Good walking shoes
    • Winter caps and summer caps
    • Swim wear for hot springs
    • Sunscreen 
  • Please get bug spray, most trails and areas are heavy with mosquitos. 
  • I also found the National Park very well maintained and with restrooms and  food options available in all major spots. Except when you drive on Icefileds Parkway from Jasper, its better to carry your food for one meal and also make sure your gas tank is full because its a while before you hit rest areas.
  • Strongly advice on visiting Moraine Lake and Lake Louise before 8 AM or after 6 PM, as the parking situation is really bad here. If you are in peak hours, you have to park in overflow parking and take the shuttle.

Day 1 - Reaching Hinton, Alberta

Our flight was at 12 pm so we loaded our luggage, got  the kids ready and left home around 8:30 am. We drove to the SFO Airport parking lot and parked there. It was a reasonable rate of 15$ a day and much more convenient than troubling a friend of ours to drop us all the way here. 
The kids were very excited to ride in the bus from the parking lot to the airport. We did meet an elderly couple who was nice to share their experiences of being in Banff and Jasper. They said they have had great experiences here. 
After reaching airport and the usual check in, we grabbed something to eat for us and kids. I wanted to have mine in the plane, so I carried mine with me. We realized we did not have a spare dress for Pranav (all our clothes were checked in)and his diaper was leaking and I had to go buy a new onesie from the airport gift shop. 
We waited at the gate where I had to run behind a very active 18 month old for almost an hour. Exhausted, we were glad when boarding was announced . This was a small aircraft and had only two seats on one side. So Sree and Tara sat on one side and Myself and Pranav sat on the other side. I was a bit concerned on how I am going to contain him in the plane, and by the time the plane took off, he was fast asleep. 
At the airport gate
I was able to watch half of the Hindi movie - Bareilly ki Barfi and have my lunch and he woke up. We soon landed in Edmonton at around 4 pm. It was about a 3 hr flight. We collected our baggage. It took us a while to locate the stroller bag. We went to National for our car rental. There seems to be some ridiculous charges with our original booking where we take from Edmonton and drop off at Calgary. Then the rental company gave us some deal and we finally got the car. It was a Ford Flex 7 seater. Look wise it was not the best looking, but the insides were great and had lot of space and with all the luggage I really appreciated the space. This one did not have the sliding door so I was wondering why we chose this one instead of the other model of Kia which had the sliding door. But once we started driving, I started enjoying the space and it was easy to forget about the inconvenience of not having a sliding door.
After potty visits and diaper changes and essential shopping from Safeway, we started from Edmonton on our 3 hr drive to Hinton around 6:30 pm. 
The drive was very nice. It was one straight road all the way. The kids slept for an hour and half during the trip and it was pouring and there were times we could hardly see the road. And then suddenly it becomes sunny and the it starts to rain again with lightening this time! And back to sun again. But it was all green everywhere and relaxing. We did stop twice for the kids potty, food and diaper requirements and finally reached Quality Inn in Hinton around 10:30 pm
We had booked a suite as we wanted two beds and preferably in two rooms as it’s much easier to divide and conquer the kids this way:). So this worked out great and it was spacious. The sofa turned into a comfortable bed and there was another queen in the bedroom. 
It also came with a refrigerator, coffee machine, toaster, and microwave. So heating up milk and food for kids is not an issue. 
Tara was so excited to explore the room and was generally happy to settle down. 
We changed, and discussed a bit about tomorrow’s plans and called it a day. 

Day 2 - Jasper National Park - Lake Maligne and Maligne Canyon 

Today, we all woke up around 7:30 am and by the time we had breakfast from the hotel, got the kids ready and got snacks and extra jackets from Walmart, it was 10:30 am.
We started off to Jasper National Park - Maligne Valley Area. The plan was to do the Maligne Lake Cruise first. As we drove the scenery ofcourse was spectacular, we stopped at one spot to take pics of the green water all around. 

The drive from Hinton to Jasper Maligne Area was almost an hour and half.  We had to stop at an overlook point to change Pranav and feed him. Then we drove further to Maligne Lake and we took the next available Maligne Lake Cruise. It was a premium one as we did not want to wait for another two hours for the regular one. 

There was a gift shop and a restaurant here and they offered soups and grab and go sandwiches and drinks here. We got a soup and sandwich and fed the kids. 

We took the 2 pm cruise and loved the ride along with the nice commentary by the guides. The Maligne Lake Cruise takes you to Spirit Island. I have seen pictures of the island on web during my research on this trip and wanted to do this trip. We stopped at Spirit island for 30 minutes and was met by a guide there too who spoke more about the island. We took a short loop around the island and took pics from different angles of the island. It was so beautiful. I also realized my iPhone took better pics than the SLR in some conditions. 
At the cruise in Maligne Lake
Spirit Island
Sree carried Pranav on his back, and he was kinda exhausted after the loop. Spirit island was named that by a photographer who took a pic of this island and it won the Kodak prize or so, and was displayed in Grand Central in New York for two months. The photo was to have depicted the Spirit of the Canadian Rockies. 
We loved the experience and then hopped back into the boat. Tara made friends with another family from Edmonton and we chatted with them for a bit on our way back. We were dropped back at 4 on the mainland.
Me and Tara went over to the gift shop to get magnets.After which, we left to Maligne Canyon. 

It was a good 45 mins drive and we reached the Canyon around 5. We got some milk for Pranav there and then started on the hike. Tara had a potty call, and I had to walk back to take her, and then restarted the hike again. 

The water running through the canyon was loud and in full force and the site was spectacular. I marveled at this wonder by nature. 
We crossed the first and second bridges and then Sree and kids returned back. I walked further for about another 15 mins until 3rd and almost 4th bridge and then walked back. 
Maligne Canyon
It was already 6 pm, and hiking alone made me uncomfortable as beyond a point there was no one. 
I returned back and then we left to the sky tram. 

We reached there, got the tickets for the next tram at 7, and then, waited for it for about 30 mins. Just when we were going to board they told that, they are going to spend some time trying to get everyone down first and then take more people up as the weather up there is a bit choppy. Tara was already cranky and we were not sure how long we would need to wait there for us to go up again. So we thought we would go to the Miette Hot Springs instead and do the sky tram later. Now since we were not sure how long this would take, we made the call, but later I did feel that if we had waited for 30 mins, maybe we could have finished it. 
But it was a bit late to wait and watch. So we left the skytram and drove towards the springs. But as we were passing the town of Jasper, I suggested we have dinner here. 
So we had dinner at ‘The Spice Joint’. It was Jamaican food and the food was amazing. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and we left from there. It’s a very small place and they did not have a high chair. So managing Pranav was a challenge. 
Tomorrow is going to be a long drive, so in the car we were discussing what we should plan for the next day. My disappointment on the skytram decisions was evident, but we decided we would try that tomorrow and may be couple of spots we can research and see if it’s doable. 
Back in the hotel we realized I forgot my camera bag at Spice Joint  where we had dinner and called them up immediately. So tomorrow that’s an additional task we need to do. 

Day 3 - Jasper to Canmore 

Today, we have a long drive to Canmore, so we wanted an early start.Me and Sree woke up by 5:30 am and packed all the stuff, got dressed and got the kids ready. 
So by 8:00 am we were out of the hotel and after a quick stop at Walmart, we drove to Jasper town to go to ‘the spice joint’ and collect my backpack. 
The town of Jasper is very cute looking and at around 9:00 am, it was very peaceful to stroll through it to ‘the spice joint’. I was happy to get my backpack back. I also ordered lunch here of a jerk chicken wrap for Sree and salad and chicken for me. They made this in no time and I thanked them for taking care of my backpack. 
We went to the skytram today and got tickets and was able to go in the tram within 20 Minutes. The views as we moved up the tram was really breathtaking. It was sad to see all those brown trees affected by the pine beetle. It is a beetle, size of a rice which eats up the bark of the tree and kills the tree. Almost 60% of Jasper pines are affected by this now and they are predicting that within 2 yrs almost all trees will be impacted. 
Once we reached the upper station, we got out and we got Pranav into the carrier so that we can hike up a bit on the whistler trail. The distance to summit was around 1.6 km,  but it was really steep. Walking with a baby on the back was no easy task. But I was impressed that Tara trekked fine. We reached the halfway point and took in the fantastic views around. You can see the town of Jasper and the Rockies from here. So beautiful! I am really happy we decided to do the skytram again. 
View from the whistler trail

We then started back, and while going back, Sree carried Pranav. 
We got back down in the next tram and went our way to see the Athabasca Falls.

Athabasca Falls

Both the Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls are easily accessible and hiking around them was not that big a deal even with kids. We spent an hour at Athabasca going down to the river and a little time at Sunwapta to take some pics and enjoy the Falls. 

Sunwapta Falls

After this , we had our packed lunch from spice joint and the was just incredible! It was so tasty and fulfilling. 
Tara and Pranav slept off in the car for a good 2 hrs while we drove through the Icefields parkway. 
The views were breathtaking along this route and we did stop at couple of points to capture some pics of the beautiful scenery and us :)

After the Icefields parkway center, we did not stop anywhere and drove straight to Canmore. We did take a break of 30-45 mins to feed Pranav, change him at a gas station and lodge area which was the only one that far into Icefield parkway. This was near the Saskatchewan Pass. 

We spoke about what points we should definitely go and see in Banff and Lake Louise and how to plan these out. 
We finally reached the AirBnB and it is an amazing location, right in Canmore town. We looked at the instructions and figured out the keys and also the number lock to open the door. This town is so cute and we are just walking distance away from everything here. Also the apartment was amazing with two great bedrooms and two bathrooms and with all the amenities in Kitchen, nice living and dining rooms and in-home laundry! 
We decided to have dinner in a Chinese restaurant in downtown Canmore.The food was decent. Both Pranav and Tara had to be fed.
We came home, and unpacked and organized everything and after giving a bath to kids, slowly settled in as we have more exciting things to do tomorrow. 

Day 4 - Banff 

We woke up only by 8 or so today and took it really slow in the morning. Sree was on call with the google care center for sometime to arrange for the childcare for Pranav on the day we are back. By the time we left for Banff it was already 11 am. We reached Banff around 11:45am after a wait at the park gate of 15 minutes to get the pass. 
We reached the cute town of Banff. After finding parking we roamed around the Banff town. We got into a gift shop and also went into a food court to grab some lunch. I chose a Srilankan cuisine and had to wait for the rice to be made. I took one plate of rice and eggplant and another plate of noodles and chickpeas. The rice and eggplant was ok.  But the noodles had a weird smell/taste that we ditched that dish and got a teriyaki chicken bowl or so from a Chinese stall. Tara had the chicken. So the lunch was not the best. 

We walked around the Banff town, and got into the clock tower for currency exchange. We also went into the information center and after a long wait in the wrong line, I got to talk to someone who was not enthusiastic about giving information as much as the lady in the next stall. I wish I had got her. We also got a park ranger program for Tara, where she has to fill up everything in a book and she would get a gift.We got out and since Tara was tired, we carried Pappoos and pushed Tara in stroller. 
We decided to do the tunnel mountain hike. But once we reached there, it was so hot and the hike was very steep. The kids being so sleepy, we ditched that idea for the day and went to Lake Minnewanka. This was a good decision. The kids slept for an hour, while we reached the lake and I went to enquire about the trail and if it’s child friendly.
The lake was so huge and beautiful. I came back and then Sree carried Pranav and Tara was in the stroller and we started off. It took a bit of walking to get into the interesting part of the trail around the lake. We enjoyed walking and taking in the view. After a point, the trail was filled with mud and roots and also got very narrow so we could not take the stroller. So we parked the stroller and made Tara walk. She was cooperative about it and we reached the Stewart Canyon. Loved the walk back and as usual impressed with how much Tara walked. 

We soon reached back the stroller and then continued back. We also explored a small peninsula on the lake and it was so much fun to go on top of it and be really close to water. 

Stewart Canyon
Lake Minnewanka
We got into the snack shop and got the kids ice cream. I think I ordered the wrong cone, and we got a huge waffle cone with a big scoop of ice cream.
Me,Sree and Pappoos shared an ice cream.
It was so big that Tara had to take hers into the car and finally after while decided she no longer wanted it. It had already made enough mess on her dress and in the car. 
From here we went to Bow Falls. Again beautiful scenery. Me and Tara walked up the bow falls trail a bit and I was so amazed to see a a beautiful view again and also the Jasper Springs Hotel coming out from behind the trees on one side.I came back and made Sree go up and explore it too.
After Bow Falls, we went to the Banff Upper Hot springs. The spring water from the Sulphur Mountain which had H2S in it was removed of the H2S smell and collected in the upper
Springs swimming pool.When we reached there, there were so many folks already in the pool. 

We got the tickets and the locker and we changed into our swimsuits and went to the pool. We found a spot. The pool was really hot! True to the name hot springs.It took us sometime to get used to the temperature.Tara really enjoyed and it was Pranav’s first time in the pool. He was crying initially and later he started splashing and enjoying. He was not yet ready to just float on with his life jacket.

While Sree went and changed back, Pranav had a small accident were he fell down from the beach chair and there was a bit of blood coming because he bit his lip. The volunteer came up and offered some cotton. 
I also had to shower before I left the pool as they said I might have some blood on me too. 

We got dressed and was on our way back to Canmore apartment when we did a stop at the grocery shop nearby and did some shopping for dinner. I was surprised to see chicken samosas and beef samosas even in Banff :)

Reached home, fed the kids and settled them down. 

Day 5 : Banff Gondola and Johnston Canyon

Today, it was predicted to rain with chances of a thunderstorm. So we woke up around 8:30 today and sat around discussing what we can do with this weather prediction. Our original plan was to drive up to Lake Louise. But with this weather, we decided we will just stick around in and around Banff. We left around 11 and decided to check out the Banff Gondola. 

It was not that crowded with this weather. I checked how the visibility is and they showed me a webcam where they told me the visibility is pretty good. So I took the tickets. Children under 6 ride free.
We got the next Gondola within 3 minutes and it took us about 7-8 minutes to reach on top of the Sulphur Mountain. As we climbed up we saw hikers on the Sulphur Mountain trail. A windy trail which takes about 2 hrs to go up and another 2 to come down. And it was also very steep. No way, we can do it with kids. But someday. 
Once we reached on top, we entered a building where on the first floor, there was a gift shop and an entrance to the boardwalk.The views were so pretty, and as we walked more up the boardwalk, it just got more spectacular. I had to convince Tara with ice cream  and chocolate for her to walk up to the top to reach Sansun peak. This was an old weather station set up by Normal Sansun in Banff for his multiple visits to understand the mountain weather. We reached the peak and the entire 360 of mountains was something so worth it. 
There was also a very daring squirrel, who was not scared of the crowds and was trying to play with anyone who would play with her:)

The walk down was also beautiful, and the whole boardwalk was so well maintained. 
We reached back and had lunch at the restaurant there with the view of the mountains and the town of Banff and Bow river below. 

We then went to the viewing deck on the 4th floor to take in the views again and then went down to the second floor which had some interactive stalls for the kids. 
Around 2:45 pm, we got out of the Gondola building and was on our way out 


After this, we drove 30 minutes to Johnston Canyon and reached there by 4 pm.

I have heard and read so much about Johnston Canyon that, I was very excited. 
We carried Pranav and took Tara in stroller and decided to park the stroller when it’s no longer possible to take it. The path until the lower falls was well paved and we were able able to take the stroller almost till the end of it. At one point Tara wanted to walk, and we parked the stroller.
We checked out the lower falls and continued our walk upto the upper falls. It started to rain and we were a bit doubtful if we can do it. Tara also got cranky and I convinced her to walk by playing ‘ I spy’ , ‘Samuel says’ etc with her.  It took forever to reach the upper falls, but it was well worth it.
The trail had more amazing views to offer as we went ahead. 

I was expecting to see the secret cave, but there was no clear path to it. I had seen it in some blog and wanted to find it. But I could not. 

After upper falls, I went further to the upper falls look out, while Sree  walked back with Tara. The upper falls lookout has a better view of the falls, so I took a video so I can show it to Sree. 
After a quick visit to the lookout point, I went down quickly and caught up with Sree and Tara and took over Tara from then on. We played games again and covered the next 1 km to the lower falls. Sree was already in the queue to go into the small cave and see the waterfalls from there.We were able to join him and the cave can only take in 1 family at a time.  So we waited, got in, took a quick pic and walked back. 
On our way back, I marveled at the beauty again. We finally reached where we parked the stroller and when I looked, it was already 2.5 hrs of walking. We walked back to the parking and on the way, bought ice cream as promised for Tara from the cafe on the trail.
Our plan was to go back to Banff and have the ‘Cow’ ice cream,  but Sree said, let’s call it a day as we have a long drive tomorrow. 

Day 6 - Icefields Parkway

I think when you have 5 amazing days, 1 day ought to be not so great and that was today. 
The day started early as we had to drive till the Columbia Icefields discovery center. 
It was a 2.5 hr drive from Canmore. So we had decided to start early. We started by 8:30, but we had to stop at the Banff Springs Hotel to take a printout of the glacier adventure confirmation ticket. So by the time we started it was 9:30 from Banff. 

We drove for 15-20 minutes and had to stop as Pranav was super cranky. We stopped twice to pacify him and finally he was crying so much that I had to go back and sit with him and hold him. 
I thought putting him front facing might reduce the crying so we stopped at Bow Summit and changed the car-seat direction. We lost about 30 minutes by this time. 
We again started and we had another hour drive. So I sat behind and Tara had also got cranky and was trying to engage the kids with snacks and answering all their questions and needs. By the time we reached Icefields it was 12:45, as there was another delay as they was some
Construction on the road. 
We reached there and once enquired, they told that since our confirmation ticket did not have a time allocated, we could only do the glacier adventure at 5:30 pm! We had to kill 4 hrs! This was my mistake as I did not realize that the time was not mentioned when I booked the ticket. This was terrible with two cranky kids. 

They told us we could do the glacier skywalk first and we boarded that at 1:45. We boarded a bus and took a 7 min ride to this skywalk. The skywalk in my opinion was just ok. It was not overlooking any glacier. I was standing on glass for first time and it was a bit scary to see the ground many feet below you. 
I went first and then Sree went and myself and Tara went one more time. 
We then boarded the bus back and reached back to the center by 3:15 pm or so. 
We got some lunch and waited the next two hours. We also packed dinner in the meantime to have on the way. 

We also met a couple who has been travelling all over in their passenger van and they told us about how they travel, and about rooftop tents etc. It was fascinating to see people travel and see the world this way.
Finally at 5:30 pm, we boarded the bus again for the glacier adventure. 
Now, the interesting part of the glacier adventure was that you get to travel in the most expensive vehicle called the glacier explorer. There are only 24 in the world and 22 of them are in Columbia Icefields. The wheels were so huge and each wheel costs about $5000. 
Check the wheel size:)

We were driven to the center of the Columbia Icefield and we stepped out to walk on the Icefield. Tara was super excited about walking on ice again.For me and Sree, since we had already done Matanuska in Alaska last year, this was not that exciting. 
I mean I think the 4 hr drive combined with the 4 hr wait along with a similar experience as Matanuska is what did not work for us. 
But still I would recommend this to anyone who has never walked on a glacier. 
They gave us about 30 minutes to explore the Icefield and then we boarded the bus back to the center. 

Touching glacier water

We then started our journey back hoping the kids will be less cranky.

On the way back, we decided to stop at Bow summit to see Peyto Lake. Initially we stopped at a trail head which would take us 15 minutes to reach the summit. It was already 8:30, but there were enough people around so we decided to go for it. But Pranav was crying a lot, and someone suggested that there is another parking lot with just a 2 minute walk to  Peyto Lake. So we went there and I first went down and checked it out. It was this beautiful lake with a very blue color, and the glacier falling into the lake. 
I quickly came back and Sree was trying to feed the already irritated kids. We fed them a bit and then we walked towards the Lake again. We were at the overlook point from Bow summit. Since the lighting was not the best, we did not get spectacular pics but it was great to see the colors. 

Peyto Lake

We had to head back soon as there were too many mosquitos. 
After heading back, we started again and made a quick stop at Bow lake. We parked right at the edge of the lake and went down to take a quick look. The kids were in the car so we had to make it quick. 
We saw a guy taking pics and asked him if he could take a pic of ours. He went the extra mile and asked us to pose romantically for a couple of pics. That was funny, we thanked him and after a couple more pics at the cute bridge, we started back. It was a long drive, but the kids slept off, so it was mostly peaceful. 

Bow Lake
Bow Lake

Reached home, exhausted and straight went to bed. 

Day 7 - Lake Moraine , Yoho National Park 

We left home around 9:00 am today and was on our way to Lake Louise by 9:30 am. Sree sprained his knee a bit yesterday so he got a knee bandage to support it. 
Though we reached Lake Louise by 10:45, there was no parking either to Lake Moraine or Lake Louise. 
So we went to overflow parking and parked the car, and initially we waited in the Lake Louise line for the shuttle but we found a private shuttle to Lake Moraine leaving right away and since it’s Private we had to pay 15$ / adult and children are free. If we had waited for the Lake Louise shuttle, we would have had to wait for 45 mins. We had to carry Pranav’s carrier and stroller with us, in shuttle and managing that and kids on a bus was not easy. 

It took the shuttle 30 minutes to reach Lake Moraine. 

We decided to have lunch first and Sree got some sandwiches from the cafe there. For kids we had packed chicken with us, we had also packed salad for our lunch, but since we were forced to take the shuttle, we had to ditch that extra bag of salads in the car. 
After having a good lunch, overlooking the lake, we started our walk towards the lake. 
This was the most mesmerizing place we have every been to. The beauty of the 10 peaks and the blue shade of the lake was stunning. We could not believe such a beautiful place existed. 
We climbed up the rock pile trail for more beautiful views. Tara loves to climb on top of rocks now, so this was exciting for her. She wanted to even go over a rock at an edge and we had to force her to not do it. 
Pranav was fast asleep in the carrier by this time and that gave us some time to take in the beauty of this place. 
Moraine Lake

After coming down from the rock pile, we walked along the lakeshore trail of Lake Moraine and it was so peaceful and beautiful from every direction. 
We walked almost half way, when we decided to go back to the information desk and check if there is a bus to Lake Louise. Unfortunately there were none, so we took the shuttle back to overflow parking lot and then took our car. 
Lake Louise did not have any parking still and we drove to the Lake Louise info desk and then mentioned after 6:30, parking is mostly available. 
With two hours to kill, we did the potty visit for Tara and also got her some candy from a candy store. 
We decided to visit the Emerald Lake and Takakkawa Falls in Yoho National Park. It was close by. It was about 30 minutes away from Lake Louise.

Emerald lake stays true to its name with Emerald color water. It had a nice bridge to stand and absorb the beauty. The kids ran along the bridge for sometime and after a few pics we decided to head towards Takakkawa Falls. 
Emerald Lake

After initially losing out on the exit, we finally figured out the right way and reached Takakkawa. This was strong water falls falling with a lot of force from a mountain. Again a glacier fed waterfall. 
Since Pranav was sleeping, me and Tara went the short 1 km trail and enjoyed the giant strong waterfall in awe. The trail is stroller and wheel chair friendly. The whole feeling was so beautiful with water spraying on you. As we neared the waterfall, we also saw a beautiful rainbow. It was such an awesome feeling just to be with nature at that point in time. We walked back and then Sree did a quick trip to see the falls and came back. He got to see the rainbow too:). 

After this we went to Lake Louise and finally got parking at 8:15 pm. The direct sunlight was no longer there so we felt the lake was not as beautiful as Moraine Lake. 
But tomorrow we might have better light.
We went to the Fairmont Chateau for dinner and went to the French restaurant there. My colleagues had suggested this to me and we decided to go ahead and try this place. The food was amazing and the kids enjoyed their food and arts and crafts provided to them. It was a peaceful dinner with a view of the Lake. The food was delicious. 

After dinner we left to Canmore around 9:50 pm and reached Canmore by 11:00. We are all exhausted and sleepy!

Day 8 - Lake Agnes Tea House Trail , Lake Louise 

Today we had only one aim. It was to go to Lake Louise and try and see if we can do the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail today. We were fortunately ready by 9 am, and we reached Lake Louise by 10 am. We knew we would not get parking at Lake Louise, so we directly went to overflow parking, parked the car and got into the shuttle bus. 

We reached Lake Louise by 11:15 am. After restroom visit for Tara and a few pics in front of the lake, we walked along the lakeshore trail and saw the directions to the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail. After Moraine Lake, I felt Lake Louise was only second to Moraine. But still very very pretty.

We had decided that we would push Tara in stroller as much as we can and carry Pranav on the back. The trail started with steep switchbacks and it was no fun to push the stroller up or carry a 30 pound weight on you and walk. Every time a rock or a branch or a log came, I can no longer push the stroller and have to ask Tara to get out and and walk a bit, which was of course irritating her. The path was not as stroller friendly as we expected it to be. 

The uphill climb was exhausting and we actually took turns to take Pranav on our back. I did walk up and saw an opening where I could see lake Louise. Since Sree was behind with Tara, I asked couple of other hikers to take a pic of mine. I waited for Sree and Tara and by this point they were walking and stroller was useless. So we parked the stroller at one point and was helping Tara climb. I exchanged Pranav with Sree and took over Tara. It was pretty challenging to get her to agree to keep climbing. Had to play games and keep her entertained. 

Lake Louise
The uphill climb
Mirror Lake

After what felt like a long time, we finally reached Mirror lake. 
We rested here for sometime and by this time, I was carrying Pranav. It was about .8 miles more to reach the tea house. I took some pics of the Mirror lake and then Sree and Tara rested there for a bit. I told them and started walking up to the Tea House with Pranav. This last leg was a tough one with him as he started crying a lot. I kinda felt bad for him and Tara and Sree at this point in time and started thinking if this trek was worth all this. Everyone I met on the way kept encouraging me and telling me I am almost there. In the end, I saw two flights of steep stairs and climbed that and finally I was there! I made it! I was still worried about Sree and Tara and I was trying to pacify Pranav and give him some milk. 
In another 10-15 mins I saw Sree and Tara coming by. 
Reached the tea house!
Fortunately in the tea house, we got space immediately and we took seating inside.
This was the oldest tea house in Canada and it is operating since 1901!
I have read their scones are yummy, so ordered lemonade, scones, water, soup for the kids, quinoa salad for me and sandwich for Sree. I also ordered tea as I wanted to try that. 
We were exhausted and just wanted to get some rest. 

The food came after a while and it was all yummy! I think the trek also made it so yummy.
Their lemonade was not too sweet and it was so right to quench your thirst. The scones were so tasty too. Tea I felt is nothing to write about, but I did like it. The soups were great and the quinoa salad and sandwich was also above average. Atleast I am happy we got good food

We had to make sure Tara uses the restroom so I had to climb uphill again to the restroom. 
This was the worst we had seen so far, but we just got over with it and came down. Pranav also had to be changed and after this we took a few pics with Lake Agnes and then started our climb back. 
By now Tara was so cranky and she wanted videos. It was so difficult to make her walk. 
Sree went in front with Pranav and I was trying to convince Tara to walk and finally gave her the phone so she would atleast walk. It was still an issue as her legs were paining. 
Can’t blame her, it was indeed a long walk. Finally we reached the stroller and she climbed on it and ofcourse when rocks came, she had to climb down and I had to lift the stroller up. But this was far better than making her walk all the way. 

I also met a nice girl named Catherine and we chatted as we descended. Catherine is doing masters and during summer she is traveling for 2 months so she is camping outside Banff. She has plans to visit Jasper and few other places and also California. 

Finally we reached by 5:15 pm and our last bus was 5:30 pm. Sree went in front and I took a couple more pics and rushed to the bus. 
We got in and went back to the parking and took our car and just drove down to Banff to have the 'Cows' icecream that my colleague had asked me to try. The kids and us all enjoyed it and we needed that rest. 
We came back home and then rested, gave the kids a bath and ate dinner of what we already had bought from the grocery store few days ago and called it a day. 

Tomorrow I am thinking of doing some solo hiking of the Tunnel mountain in Banff. I am
not sure if it will work out, but let’s see tomorrow.

Day 9 : Tunnel Mountain and Banff 

I woke up around 7:30 and got dressed and decided to take a cab to Tunnel mountain trail head at St Julian road. This was more convinient than me driving there and back as Sree and kids can join me later. 
The cab driver had her dog in the car, so I sat in front and gave myself 5 mins to get used to the dog. We chatted a bit about Canmore and how less touristy it is. 

There is another trail head in Tunnel mountain road. But I took this one as it was further down than the other one. 

I started the hike around 9:00 am. It took me an hour to climb up with stops to take in the view and click pics. The trail had people on it but not too crowded either. So it was really nice. I could see the Banff town with the Banff Springs hotel and the golf course. I took pics at multiple points. 
On the other side the bow river was so pretty to see.

Banff Springs Hotel

This was a challenging climb for me, and I am glad I did not force Tara to do this hike with me. There were kids, but it’s pretty steep too. So I am sure she will complain of leg pain. 

Just before reaching the summit, I saw the red chairs and I sat down on them to enjoy the view. 
Enjoying the view on a Red chair

Red chairs are kept in different locations in Canada National Park. It was on Canada day, 150th year that they placed these red chairs in many points in National Parks with details of one endangered species for awareness. I have seen these in many points in my last few days here. 

After pics, I did a FaceTime call to Sree to just show him the view. 
I then started my descent. I stopped again at various points to take in the view again. 
I am so glad I did this. I was down by 11:10 or so. Sree and kids picked me up around 11:30 and we went to see Surprise corner.It was seeing the Banff Springs Hotel from the other side. We went down a trail to take some pics and then went to the view point and took some more pics.

We then just did the drive around Vermillion Lakes and decided to have lunch in Banff. It took a while to find parking and after which we walked down to Banff Avenue and had lunch in Park distillery. The drinks were nice and what I ordered was good, it was iron flat flatbread. It was like pizza and was tasty. The kids pasta was not the best. So they ended up sharing our food. 

We walked down to the visitor center and got the explorer books for Tara. She had two earlier but she had destroyed it with her scissors. So these ones we sat down in a corner and finished completing together. She submitted this and a park official checked it and she gave Tara a tag which was called Banff National Park. She got two as she had completed two books.She was happy to get her tag and we as parents were super happy of this small achievement and took pics. 

We went to couple of gift shops to buy magnets and a mug.
As we walked down to cascade gardens, a park official told us there is going to be a puppet show and we all sat down with kids to see it. 
The show was about how bisons are being brought back to Banff. It was so cute and it’s so novel as puppet shows are not that common now. We loved it.

After this we went to Cascade gardens and me and Pranav explored that, while Sree and Tara sat in the shade. By this time it was a bit too hot.
I saw a couple getting married in the garden. The garden was very similar to any of the botanical gardens that I have seen. I think if the heat was a bit less, we would have enjoyed the stroll more.

Sree went and got the car after sometime and we drove to the Rocky Mountain float trip launch area. We checked in and were secured with life jackets and we all set out to explore the bow river on a float. 
We also got into couple of small rapids. We saw a bald eagle and my main interest was to see the Hoodoos.
I wanted to trek here but since it’s long and we do not have the time, the float trip was my best bet.
Got some shots here and the float turned back and after an hour, docked. This was our last activity in Banff. 

Hoodoos behind me

We left for Canmore and I wanted to take a pic of the three sisters peaks.
According to trip advisor, there was a spot for this, but the directions were not exact.
So, we went along and stopped at couple
Of good spots to take some pics and then came home.

Three sisters - Faith, Hope and Charity

After reaching home, we packed, settled
The kids and after they slept, sat down to have our dinner together. 

Tomorrow we are leaving. I wish I had more time in this beautiful place, but since it’s so close, we are sure to come back.
I do want to explore the grassy lakes trail and other trails in Canmore and Banff area. And even though we stayed in Canmore for
Almost 7 days, we only strolled the downtown once. Want to spend more time not doing the attractions and just exploring at a slower pace.

Day 10 : Calgary to SFO

Today we woke up only by 8:30 am and finished the rest of the packing, got kids ready and fed them breakfast. 
At around 10:30 am we got all the luggage’s into the car, checked the home to make sure we did not leave anything behind and started off to Calgary. On my request, Sree just drove around Canmore downtown area so we can soak this in one last time. 

Then we started off to Calgary to meet my friend Aarti’s parents. 
Calgary was only an hour from Canmore, and after a quick stop at Co-op for some flowers we reached their house. It was so nice to catch up with aunty and uncle and we chatted, had a yummy lunch and icecream for dessert. The kids played around the backyard with uncle also enthusiastic about teaching them soccer. 
We also vacuumed the car a bit, as it was in a very embarrassing state to return. 

We started off to Calgary airport at 3:00 and after returning the car, we reached the check in counter. The kiosk did not allow us to check in, so we went to the check in counter assistance. 
They mentioned Pranav also needs to pay tax and needs to get a $18 ticket. This whole confusion delayed us, and Sree had to go get the dummy ticket for US taxes. We spent around an hour at check in, and then finally did the security clearing and was out at the gate. 

Sree got some ice wine from dutyfree and we waited for the boarding call. We boarded the flight and Pranav was very playful. He was also cranky. For almost an hour and half he did not sleep and the last 30
Minutes he slept off.

The person sitting next to me could actually frown for my son actually affecting his peace, but his name was Alex and he was a remarkable person. He was playful with Pranav and also communicated well and was nice to talk to. He works in Google too but works in Dublin,Ireland. We spoke about Ireland, his kids, and other things during the flight. He and Sree connected via Google Ldap. We reached sfo in 2 hrs and it took us a while to claim the baggage and finally figure out the pick up location of the shuttle to get to our car parking. It was cold outside and the shuttle took about 25 mins to come. Finally it came, and we were dropped off at the car parking.

Loaded the car and off we were to our home. It was 10:45 pm when we reached. Pranav was fast asleep. Sree made some pasta for Tara and me and Sree had some frozen trader’s joe meals and some expensive Ice wine to mark the end of an amazing and beautiful vacation.