Holiday in the Canadian Rockies Blog

Posted on January 30, 2017 by Grace Seelye

I spent my holiday season in the Canadian Rockies this year, and brought an Outdoor Ukulele Soprano Green with our Rye Rabbit Fluorocarbon strings. I also packed one spare set of strings since I would be out in the extreme cold.

I flew on Christmas day from Bend, Oregon to Calgary, Alberta, then drove to Innisfail, Alberta. We arrived mid-celebration, just in time to enjoyed a night of spiked hot cocoa, gifts, and karaoke.

We then spent a few days at the Salt Farm, where the temperatures were -4°F (-20°C). Despite the extreme conditions, we went sledding, cross country skiing, and played Catan (a popular board game) while warming up in front of a stone fireplace.

We then drove back to Calgary, and visited the Calgary ZooLights. Honestly, I was not prepared for negative temperatures. It was -13°F (-25°C) that night, and taking off my gloves to alternate camera lenses was brutal. Amazingly, the soprano ukulele stayed in tune the entire night.

Three days later, we traveled to Banff. I was overwhelmed by the Cascade Mountains. Colin booked the highest elevation hotel in Banff, the Inns of Banff, which gave us a panoramic view of the sculpted mountains (he knows how much I appreciate a golden sunrise!).

We woke early the next morning so we could enjoy a Tim Horton’s breakfast before driving to Johnston Canyon. I was equipped with a ski mask, two pairs of gloves, 3 cameras, and a tripod. We embarked on a frigid two mile hike in -22°F (-30°C) temperatures. We walked parallel to the canyon on icy catwalks bolted to the side of the cliff.  They slowly rise in elevation, passing waterfalls encased in ice, with water still flowing deep beneath. The first, and perhaps most memorable spot, is at the lower falls, where the catwalk guides you across the canyon, and over a chilly blue plunge pool that precedes the largest wall of ice we came across. We crouched through a small natural tunnel and carefully made our way to the rocky outcrop that put us face to face with the falls. A torrent of water streamed behind the ice and landed in a small pool of water that was too turbulent to freeze.

The one thing I didn't prepare for, was my camera batteries freezing and the lenses icing over. After reaching the upper falls, we scrambled down the bank of the canyon, and found ourselves standing on the crest of a 20 foot frozen waterfall, with massive cliffs flanking us on either side. With temperatures so low, frostbite is a serious concern. By the time I was standing in frame to record a simple strumming video, my hands were already losing feeling and turning bright pink. See video clip here!

We ended the day by continuing up the highway for another 20 minutes toward iconic Lake Louise, where people were speckled across the entire frozen lake, skating and playing hockey. When we arrived, the sun had just set behind the towering mountains  surrounding the lake, and the temperatures quickly plunged to -35°F (-37°C). I took a few quick photos before my camera batteries froze, then sprinted back to the car. I look forward to returning to Lake Louise next summer so I can take one of the canoes out for a paddle.

Remember how I said I brought a spare set of fluorocarbon strings? For the entire time we were in Banff, I either left my ukulele in the car at night or outside on the balcony, where the high temperatures were -22°F (-30°C). I only had to slightly tune the ukulele twice for 10 days and NEVER USED MY EXTRA SET OF STRINGS! I love the sound of my Rye Rabbit Fluorocarbon Strings, and having them hold up so well and stay in tune was a bonus.

For my last day in Canada, I spent the day cross country skiing in Kananaskis Country. We did a 5 mile loop that brought us up a long hill, and gave a beautiful view of the Kananaskis range of mountains. We warmed up afterwards in the lodge with some Bruschetta and hot tea.

I said a sad goodbye to the mountains after 10 beautiful days in Alberta, and headed home to Bend, Oregon. I love Canada, and I can't wait to plan my next trip in the True North. Perhaps I will see the northern lights next time!

A big thanks to Danner Boots for keeping our feet warm and Havstad Hat Company for our custom 100% beaver hats.

Follow our next adventures on Instagram! @outdoorukulele

Photo credits to @graceseelye and @colinsalty

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