One Week in Alberta, Canada -- Part Two

Hi friends! Welcome back to the continuation of how we spent our week in Alberta. If you haven’t read the first part, please pay attention to me here. I regret to inform you that the second half is a little less exciting than the first, though still filled with a few heart-wrenching twists and turns, so for posterity’s sake I’m down to finish the journey.

day five: calgary ↠ edmonton

We opened day five by clearing out of our airbnb in Calgary and heading north to Edmonton for the Caps game that night. While most drives through Alberta are super beautiful (more details on these later), the three hour drive is a straight shot north that looks a hell of a lot like Texas. They’re really not kidding when they say that Alberta is oil country; there’s about 450,000 oil wells throughout the province and by rough estimate I’d say we passed about 300,000 of them. It creates a really remarkable cognitive dissonance to see all of this flat, oil-drilled land just a couple hours away from some of the most beautiful, natural places on earth. Feels pretty gross to be frank, but that’s a problem for Trudeau to pretend he cares about (zingggg) (watch Hasan Minaj’s Patriot Act episode on Canada for more on this).

We arrived in the suburbs of Edmonton to meet our airbnb host, who had to hand off the key to the apartment in person because the lockbox at her unit broke. She was beyond sweet and once we picked up the key, we were on our way. After we settled in to our spot, I ran down to shoppers in an attempt to find some heavy duty moisturizer as the harsh Canadian winter caused me to develop a beard of sandpaper-dry skin along my chin, which I am still attempting to battle to this day. On the walk back though, I was immediately overcome with a surprise wave of nausea and rushed back to the apartment where I had to beg Rob to vacate the shower because I was about to be violently ill. We love crossing first vacation together boundaries!!!

After nearly puking my guts out, [ed. note: oh my god it just occurred to me it could’ve been the steak and if it was I will absolutely cry], I chilled out on the couch for a bit while we determined whether to go out to eat or order food in. My phone was half dead and my gastrointestinal system was too, but I knew Rob was hungry so I insisted we just go out and then head to the game right after. I had my big purse with me and didn’t feel like checking the bag policy at Rogers Place, so I just decided to put my phone, wallet, and key to the airbnb in my pocket and head out that way. At the bar, Rob got poutine (RobTine count is at four million) and I got yet another bacon cheeseburger covered in sauces I didn’t ask for. After eating, we were on our way.

Lemme tell you, it is one hell of an experience seeing the Saddledome and Rogers Place two days apart. I couldn’t pick two arenas farther apart on the spectrum than those two. While the Saddledome is no looker, Rogers Place makes it look like a literal high school auditorium from the 70s. Rogers is so new, so huge, and so gorgeous, I truly couldn’t stop texting my coworkers about it.

feed me this arena

feed me this arena

Walking in, they have a massive indoor pavilion area with a bar, a mediocre cover band, and a ton of sponsor activations before you even hit security. They run happy hour specials with $5 cans of Molson throughout the arena, which I love for me. The majority of the first level has a wrap-around bar and entitlement space sponsored by Molson with food, drinks, photo opps, and ticketed bar seating with an amazing view. I was obsessed with this space and deeply depressed we didn’t have something like that at home.

rogers place ford hall

The upper level was so open, similar to parts of the Wells Fargo center, and in some areas you could see down multiple levels of the concourse. The in-game entertainment was phenomenal, with tons of different games and features utilizing their projector system that were surprisingly fun and engaging. Much like Vegas, they have an in-house drumline and DJ on their own little platform. And, as is the lore, their 50/50 ran up to about $160k Canadian. I took out a crisp Canadian 20 to secure my ten numbers and spent the majority of the second half of the game fantasizing about what I’d do with my winnings, until of course my dreams were crushed and I lost. We sat surrounded by fellow Caps fans as we watched the Caps lose in OT as well.

We moseyed out of the arena and returned to the bar we grabbed dinner at for some postgame snacks. Rob ate while I scrolled around on my phone until it died. About an hour into those snacks though, I gave myself a quick pat down as the slow, sinking realization crept over me that I no longer had the key to the airbnb!!!! What a pleasure. It was around 11 at this point and we immediately got up and ubered back to the arena in hopes that I could catch someone still working there.

Not wanting to alarm the host of our airbnb, but being too scared to wait longer at the risk that she would be asleep, I told Rob to message her and explain the situation, but that we were going back to try and get the key. Since I’d booked the airbnb and shared it with Rob, while he could see the listing, he couldn’t contact the host. With my phone dead, I had to log into my airbnb account on Rob’s phone, which was fine, except for the security measures they put in place to make sure it was me. My options to confirm were to text my dead phone, call my dead phone, or confirm through email, so that’s what I did. And then I had to log into my email, which ALSO had to confirm my identity though the same measures! To be fully honest, I had a stress blackout and don’t remember how I eventually wound up logged in, but we got it working.

When we got in, I ran up the escalator to see the security gates closed. I asked a custodian whether there was a lost and found, anyone to talk to, or any way to get back into the arena and he directed me to a window downstairs. At the window, I was greeted with a piece of paper taped to the glass listing a number for the lost and found and the hours for information. While Rob called the number to no response, I snooped around the lobby until I noticed a security guard standing at what looked like a separate entrance to the executive seating area of the arena. I tapped on the glass to get his attention, and when he came over I explained the situation.

At the risk of sounding like too much of a snob, I’d like to point out that here’s the part where it’s important to remember that stereotypes are stereotypes and not universal truths. This guard was possibly the least helpful and friendly Canadian I have ever met. I tried very hard to keep my cool while I explained to him that we had literally no other options and if there was anyone who could escort me back to my seat so I could just check to see if the key was there.

I really truly understand why I would’ve gotten a “no” to this request for about ten trillion reasons. I really do. Except for that the reason he told me was that he couldn’t help me out because he was the only security guard in the building. Like… y’all for real? 11pm on a game night, one hour after it ends and you’re telling me straight into my eyeballs that you’re the only security guard here? Ok. Ok ok ok cool cool cool cool cool.

Anyway, this point in the evening is when the stress filled up into my ears and came out my face and I started sobbing that we were going to have to sleep in the rain on the streets of Edmonton. As I started crying I noticed the security guard start talking to another building employee and gesture at me. After the other employee walked away, the security guard motioned me to come back over to him. Hope!

Except not! He literally just waved me over to say he was sorry he couldn’t let us in and that if we had come back an hour ago it would’ve been fine. Like???? Do you think I just waited??? Until the arena was empty??? And no one was there?? To come back?????? At that point I just thanked him and walked back into my crying corner while Rob, mercifully, got in touch with our host again, who offered to meet us with a spare key.

Another long uber ride and $95 CAD later, I met up in the suburbs with our host again, who was far, far kinder than any human should’ve been to me in this situation. She offered me the spare in exchange for the cost of replacing it and said that if we were able to find it the next morning she’d refund the cost, which I think is beyond reasonable. When we finally made it back and into the airbnb, I collapsed in exhaustion and prepared for my trek back to Rogers first thing in the morning to find the key.

Bright and early and surrounded by a beautifully crisp fall morning, I scooted down to Rogers and walked up to the info window where the sweetest woman was waiting. I told her I knew it was a long shot but asked if anyone had found a key at the game last night. She asked what it looked like and not a half a second after I held up the replacement to show her, she replied “oh yes! it’s right here” and handed me back the key I had lost.

Y’all, I could’ve cried right then and there. I think my eyes actually welled up a little bit. I’ve never been so relieved in my life; even though the problem was essentially solved and $95 CAD is a small price to pay for me blowing it like that, it was just such a relief to know that I was able to fix the problem I caused and this spare key wasn’t out there lost in the world. So tldr, thank you so very much to the janitorial staff and this woman at the info booth at Rogers Place, you managed to restore a number of years the stress from the night before shaved off my life.

day six: edmonton ↠ jasper ↠ banff, via the icefields parkway

After the excitement of the morning, we hit the road back to banff around 11. When planning out this trip we knew we both wanted to go to Jasper, but lodging options up there are pretty limited. Instead, we decided to make it a real roadtrip by staying back in our Basecamp in Canmore, but taking the long way there through the icefields!

The drive from Edmonton to Jasper was a *smidge* longer than I anticipated based on my nonexistent research, and wound up taking us through another nearly 4-hour texas-esque drive until we hit the mountains. We stopped at one of the inexplicably ubiquitous A&Ws that Canada boasts, filled up, and soon found ourselves back in the beautiful Canadian rockies.

Now, people will frequently tell you that weather in the mountains changes at the drop of a hat, but like, WOW they weren’t exaggerating. It rained much of our drive to Jasper, but when we stopped off to check out Pyramid lake, it looked like the sky was clearing up. The winding drive was beautiful, but the further we went, the grimmer it looked. After just 15 minutes on the road, we got to Pyramid lake and opened the doors to absolute blizzards conditions, complete with wet, fluffy snow, and whipping winds that made it highly unpleasant to be outside. 30 seconds later, we packed it in and decided to move on down the road.

One of my main photo goals was to get one of those really iconic shots of an empty Icefields parkway with the mountains towering over them in the background. I looked up a good photo stop for those and wound up having us pull over by Athabasca falls. When we got there though, the clouds were unfortunately too low and the snow was heavy, so visibility of the mountains was unfortunately nonexistent.

Not wanting to waste a good opportunity, we decided to explore these Athabasca falls anyway. I’d read a lot about them but never really had them on my “must-see” list, and for that reason, I am wrong. They were stunning! We went late in the afternoon when the snow was falling steadily, so there was almost no foot traffic aside from us. While it was a small area to explore, it was so beautiful. Sometimes, when the clouds are too grey, you don’t get to see the beautiful turquoise of the alpine lakes as well. In Athabasca falls, the high canyon walls just emphasize the brightness of the water. It truly looks fake.

athabasca canyon.jpg
athabasca canyon copy.jpg
pretty boyfriend.jpg

After we packed it up at Athabasca, we realized we were still pretty far north and the sun was going down, so we hopped back in the car and hightailed it south, but not without a few pictures along the way. They don’t call it the icefields for nothin, folks.


Let it be known that this photo was corrected in post and in reality it was definitely a lot darker and later in the day, though just as snow-blanketed and white. We had about 2 and a half more hours of the Icefields to travel before we made it back to Banff, and what seemed like a simple task rapidly became a harrowing experience.

They tell you when you’re traveling on the Icefields to be wary of conditions, that there’s no cell service, and to always tell people when you’re leaving and when to expect you. I see why they do that. As night fell in the park and one of maybe a dozen cars traveling the road, the snow picked up and the unplowed roads became impossible to see. While Rob was using the rumble strips on the road to guide us, I gripped on to every handle available to me and braced myself for our inevitable tumble off the edge of a cliff. My only saving grace was that the visibility was so nonexistent that I couldn’t actually see two feet in front of us, let alone the mountains and canyons we were, I assume, mere inches from falling into.

A literal live look in of our drive down the icefields and what I assumed were the last moments of my life.

A literal live look in of our drive down the icefields and what I assumed were the last moments of my life.

After the slowest drive on the icefields known to man, we successfully arrived back in Canmore at around 8 oclock, just enough time for Rob to declare himself King of the Ice Road Truckers. We ran back to Tavern 1883 for more poutine and cheeseburgers before calling it a night.

day seven: canmore ↠ yoho national park ↠ canmore

For our last day in Alberta, we decided to trek out to Emerald Lake in neighboring Yoho National Park. It was only a quick hour or two out there and we were lucky to get absolutely amazing weather, as shown in the photo above. The skies were clear and the sun was out, and while the lake wasn’t the Emerald green it’s named for, it was still and glassy and reflected the mountains like a mirror.

We explored the perimeter of the lake and found an overturned canoe in a little clearing, which we decided to flip back and use as a prop for an impromptu photoshoot. I had just gotten everything set up when a handful of tourists decided to come up and take pictures of us taking pictures? Like I get we don’t own the nature but could y’all not wait 30 seconds instead of stepping on my backpack to take a photo of the same thing we’re taking photos of? Pls. So that made for some delightfully awkward shots.

After we wrapped up at Emerald lake, we stopped back in Banff for some snacks and then back to Canmore. In Canmore, we explored town, gift shopping at the touristy spots for a bit before heading back out to the mountains. We drove up the harrowing Three Sisters Parkway to reveal an amazing view, but before we were there long, the weather turned and we headed back down.

Once we got back to down, we headed over to 514 Poutine in Canmore for, you guessed it, poutine and cheeseburgers. The food was fabulous and the guys were so friendly, and the entire place is decked out in Habs swag. I highly recommend if you’re in the area. We then grabbed an 8 pack of Molson (which is a thing, and might I add, the perfect thing?) and headed back to the hotel room to spend our last night packing up and watching movies.

Before leaving the next day, we drove back out to the Three Sisters Parkway to grab a couple photos of the view, which was still beautiful. From there, we left for the airport, connected through Denver, and after two more delays, wound up back home in DC just after 3am.

three sisters.jpg
Katie Spence