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Kelowna/Jasper/Banff/Glacier Trip

Day 1 of 17

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Friday, July 17th
Fly to Spokane, Washington

Before I start describing the trip, I should explain what we were doing flying into Spokane, Washington in the first place. The original goal of this trip was to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada. The normal, sane way to do that would have been to fly into Calgary, Alberta, then drive to the parks from there. My first thought was that we would do just that, and maybe visit the dinosaur museum just outside Calgary while we were there.

The fact that we wanted to car camp made things a little difficult. At first I thought we could just ship our camping gear there, just like we'd done for trips to Colorado and Utah. I found out that shipping to Canada involves paying "brokerage" fees. The bigger downside, however, was that I could not find anyone who could guarantee date of delivery. Apparently because things go through customs, it's possible it could be tied up there for days, so there was no easy way of guaranteeing our stuff would arrive in time. We could have taken a chance that it would arrive on time, but that seemed like a big risk.

We could have just rented equipment when we got there, but it's not a trivial expense to do so for the length of our trip, and we just prefer our own gear. Another idea would be to just take it all on the plane with us. However, with two small children and a car not even big enough to carry it all, we never really considered that. So, my next thought was that we'd ship our gear to Seattle, fly into Seattle and pick up our gear, then drive to Banff and Jasper, then fly back from Calgary. That seemed like a perfect idea, until I went online and scoped out 2-week minivan rentals with pick-up in Seattle and drop-off in Calgary. The price? $8000. Yes, eight thousand dollars. Obscene.

To get around this cost, my next idea was to fly into Vancouver, British Columbia, rent a car there, drive down to Seattle (or a closer border town) to get our stuff, then drive back, eventually flying out of Calgary. The price for a 2-week minivan rental from Vancouver to Calgary? $3000. Better, but still rather expensive.

So, it looked like we had to fly into and out of a US city to avoid the shipping hassles, and preferably do a loop to avoid extra rental car fees. So I scanned the map of the area before settling on Spokane, Washington. We would do a big driving loop from Spokane to Kelowna, British Columbia, then Jasper, then Banff, then Glacier National Park, and then finally back to Spokane. Part of the reason for doing this was that Jean had wanted to visit the Okanagan Valley (where Kelowna is) for a while. I threw in Glacier National Park because I wanted to visit it eventually and we had a few extra days. Oh, and the rental car fee was a more reasonable $1500 (though I had to pay a little extra for mandatory supplemental insurance because I made the mistake of telling them I was driving into Canada).

So, our plans were complicated to say the least, and involved a fair bit of driving, but it all would work out in the end. So, with all that out of the way, let me start from the beginning. Or rather, a week before. On Friday, July 10th (just a few days after returning from the eastern Sierra) we packed up our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and cooler filled with pots, pans, dishes, etc. We shipped it directly to the hotel we were staying at in Spokane. Although one package was slightly delayed, it all still arrived by Thursday, the day before our arrival.

One downside to flying into Spokane is that the choice of direct flights isn't great. So we ended up taking a 9:30pm flight, arriving around 11:20pm. We picked up the mini-van, drove to our hotel, and retrieved our packages.

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