Read part one here
Just 12 months ago, good friend and much loved photographer Jess Bonde cast off in search of escapism and adventure roaming the wilds of North America and beyond. We tracked Jess down for stories of life on the road and the journey so far...
As our Visas in the USA came to an end we retreated back to the land of maple syrup and overly nice people. Although nothing bad happened in the states at all, and we only had extremely nice experiences, we both felt somewhat relieved to get back to Canada.
We had been consistently moving for 3 months and we were itching to slow the pace and base ourselves out of one area for a while. Banff being a stone's throw away from so many amazing parks, plus being stupidly beautiful itself, was a simple choice.
Yoho was our first stop and it was time to throw Pippi (our canoe) in the water, see what these lakes are all about, and embrace the age old Canadian pastime. The appropriately named Emerald Lake blew us away with the brightest most majestic looking water we had ever seen.
We got in late, escaped the daytime crowds, launched Pippi, and cruised our way across the lake. Not a breath of wind blew, our paddles drips were the only ripples, and the silence was engrossing. A loon’s (a native bird of Canada and also featured on their $2 coin) call echoed across the lake and reverberated within the surrounding mountains.
“Not a breath of wind blew, our paddles drips were the only ripples, and the silence was engrossing.”
An experience like this is hard to describe, we were breathless, and felt extremely connected to our environment which is something most people don’t seem to value, but if I could give that moment as a gift I would be like Santa spreading the love and joy of nature to the world.
After such an amazing experience in Yoho, we decided to continue the canoe theme and push up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, in an attempt to make it out to Spirit Island. The forecast looked to be in our favour, a calm period after a passing storm opened up at 1am so we crawled out of bed, mounted Pippi, and set off in the darkness.
Only 30 minutes into the paddle the surrounding peaks started to light up from the green dancing hues of the northern lights. We stopped paddling, sat back and enjoyed the show. Pushing on through the night we arrived at spirit island at 4:30am.
The sunrise was lacklustre but the breathless morning revealed reflections around the entire lake, something that was truly mesmerising. As the first tourist boat rolled in at 9 am we set off back on the 3-hour return paddle. The forecast told of a southerly 15 knot tailwind which we would of kindly accepted, however as we all know not all forecasts are correct.
A storm rolled in from the north, kicking up waves across the lake, and a direct headwind to really show us who was boss. We knuckled down, put on our wet weathers, and laughed away as mother nature put us to the test.
Making it back to the van completely exhausted, soaked, and ravenous, we were still beaming smiles and laughing about the adventure, after all if everything goes perfectly well there isn’t much of a story to tell.
Returning back to Lake Louise area we spent most of our days hiking sunrises, avoiding the midday crowds, and returning to destinations before sunset. The early starts were a grind but we were consistently rewarded with gorgeous light, calm lakes and destinations all to ourselves, something hard to find around this area.
One of the major missions we wanted to tick off was the scramble up Mount Temple, the highest peak in the Lake Louise area. A casual 8 hour suggested return trip turned into a 12 hour epic with alpine swims, summit naps and an awesome crew to lay siege of this stunning mountain.
We were rewarded with 360 degree views of peaks for days, and a brutal case of muscle soreness for 2 days which we happily accepted. Basing ourselves out of banff was one of our best ideas. It turned out to be the epicentre of like minded mountaineers, travellers, free spirits, and creatives.
Being able to surround ourselves with these people, organise missions, and have time to connect was something we truly missed whilst in the states. Our pace continually slowed and life was as pleasant as could be.
The vanlife freedom we had gained sank in even more, and now having even less restraints emphasised our right choice of lifestyle.
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