Giving up on trying to curb my addiction of yearly American travels, I started planning a trip for the September 2015 holiday season, a full 6 months early. This year I wanted to see as much of the Rocky Mountains as possible, including the Canadian Rockies which I'd wanted to see for a long time.
My original plan was to go see Riot Fest in Toronto, before flying to Calgary, renting a car and driving from north to south on the Rockies, into the USA, ending in Grand Teton National Park. From there, I figured I'll improvise whatever route I feel like taking on my way back to Calgary, from which I would be returning back home. I bought my tickets more than 5 months in advance. When the It's Not Dead Festival was announced to be taking place in California on October 10th, it was clear to me that after finishing the road trip on the Rockies, I would make my way to California for the festival, and then head back to Canada as fast as possible.
- [09/18] Giv'atayim, Israel
- [09/18] Toronto, ON
- [09/21] Niagara Falls, ON
- [09/22] Calgary, AB
- [09/22] The Crossing Resort, AB
- [09/23] Jasper National Park, AB
- [09/25] Lake Louise, AB
- [09/26] Yoho National Park, BC
- [09/26] Banff National Park, AB
- [09/26] Radium Hot Springs, BC
- [09/27] Kootenay National Park, BC
- [09/27] Cranbrook, BC
- [09/28] Kalispell, MT
- [09/29] Glacier National Park, MT
- [09/29] East Glacier Park, MT
- [09/30] Bozeman, MT
- [10/01] Montana Grizzly Encounter, MT
- [10/01] Yellowstone National Park, MT/WY
- [10/01] West Yellowstone, MT
- [10/02] Yellowstone National Park, MT/WY
- [10/02] Jackson, WY
- [10/03] Grand Teton National Park, WY
- [10/03] Saint Anthony, ID
- [10/04] Missoula, MT
- [10/05] Las Vegas, NV
- [10/09] Los Angeles, CA
- [10/10] San Bernardino, CA
- [10/10] Victorville, CA
- [10/11] Las Vegas, NV
- [10/12] Missoula, MT
- [10/12] Fernie, BC
- [10/13] Calgary, AB
- [10/15] Tel Aviv, Israel
Total Kilometers Driven: 7710
Toronto & Niagara Falls
09/18-20: Toronto, Riot Fest
I was scheduled to fly from Ben-Gurion Airport on the morning of Friday, September 18. Due to a five hour delay, I arrived in Toronto late at night, and immediately took the subway to the Annex neighborhood, where I booked a room for four nights in the Madison Manor Boutique Hotel, located close to the Toronto University, with many fraternity houses adjacent.
The main reason for visiting Toronto was Riot Fest, which took place on September 19 and 20 in Downsview Park. I really wanted to go to the festival this year, after missing it in 2014, and bought the tickets way before the lineup was announced. Unfortunately it was disappointing compared to the Chicago & Denver lineups.
On Saturday, I visited the CN Tower downtown, before heading to the festival. It rained heavily that day and the festival grounds were very muddy. I saw some bands I didn't know before, and watched Weezer performing their second album Pinkerton in its entirety.
The next day I walked around town, and headed back for the festival's second day, where I watched Rancid playing ...And Out Come the Wolves in its entirety; and then Weezer again, this time playing their first album in its entirety. I watched most of the Prodigy show that closed the night.
09/21: Niagara Falls
On September 21 I took a train to Burlington, and then a bus to Niagara Falls. As opposed to Toronto, the weather in Niagara Falls was summery and hot. My first stop was the Skylon Tower, to see the falls from a height. I then walked down to the falls and gotten good and soaked. I walked a while in the vicinity of the falls, ate lunch, and walked all the way to the train station north of the falls, where I took the Amtrak train straight back to Toronto.
09/22-25: Banff National Park, AB; Jasper National Park, AB
On the morning of September 22 I flew to Calgary. I landed at noon, rented a car, and made some arrangements towards the road trip. I then left town and drove west into the Rockies, first on Highway 1 passing through Banff National Park, and then turned north on Highway 93, through Lake Louise and up until a motel called the Crossing Resort, located halfway between Banff and Jasper National Park, with basically nothing else around it.
I began the next day working out at the motel's fitness center, and then headed back north on the famous Icefields Parkway. Driving alongside the Athabasca River, I stopped many times on the way to take pictures and see the sights. I also made three short hikes, the first to the Athabasca Glacier, the second to the Sunwapta Falls, and the third to the Athabasca Falls.
Before evening I reached the town of Jasper, located within Jasper National Park. I booked two nights at a nice guesthouse run by local residents. The weather was surprisingly clear and warm. There are many sights to see very close to town, and after settling in in the guesthouse I drove to see the Patricia and Pyramid lakes. I spent the rest of the evening at a local brewery.
The next day, September 24, I hiked the Old Fort Loop trail, that leads to a beautiful viewpoint of the mountains, the river and the town. As the weather was still very good, I decided to join a whitewater rafting trip in Athabasca River after the hike. Apart for myself and the guide, the only other customers were an Israeli couple. The rafting trip was great, mostly mellow, with stunning views of the encircling mountains and forests. In the evening I sat down a while on the shores of Lake Edith, then ate dinner at a local pub, and watched a movie in the theater.
The weather went south during the night, and it rained non-stop for a full 24 hours, up until the next night. Therefore, my entire hike on September 25 was done in the rain. I drove to Maligne Lake, where I opted to take the Moose Lake Loop trail, which leads to Moose Lake. There were several school groups on school trips in the area, and I've spoken a bit with one of the school teachers.
After hiking, I started driving south on Highway 93, back the way I came from a few days earlier. The views were quite different this time, not only because of the change in direction, but also due to the cloudy weather. On the way, I stopped for a quick hike up to a stunning viewpoint on Peyto Lake. I've seen several pictures of the lake in the past and couldn't believe the turquoise color of the water in those pictures, always believing the pictures were edited to make it seem that way. I was amazed to find that the pictures were not lying. It was cold and raining, but I spent quite a while standing in that viewpoint and looking at the lake and mountains. Later on I stopped to see Bow Lake, whose mostly impressive due to the mountains encircling it. I spent the night in the town of Lake Louise.
09/26: Yoho National Park, BC; Banff National Park, AB
On September 26, I drove west on Highway 2 to Yoho National Park. I parked near the amazing Emerald Lake, whose also impressively turquoise. I walked from one side of the lake to the next, and then hiked the Emerald Basin trail, climbing up through the mountains and forests before reaching the basin, where two waterfalls create two small streams. As I climbed through the rocky path up to the falls, a trail runner passed me on his way up. By the time I reached the falls, he was running back down. I sat down to eat some trail mix, and looked at the runner getting smaller and smaller, before he finally disappeared from view and I was left completely alone as far as the eyes could see. The whole scene reminded me of a western movie.
After Yoho, I drove back east the way I came, back into Banff National Park, where I drove to see the famous Moraine Lake. It was raining all the way to the lake, weird tiny droplets blown away by the wind horizontally. It was only when I reached the lake and stopped the car that I realized it was actually snowing, something I had never experienced before. It was extremely cold, but full of tourists. The snow lowered the visibility of the mountains across the lake, but the view of the lake was still breathtaking. To get to the viewpoint, I had to cross a loose pile of woods sitting in the water, and the climb up on a large pile of big rocks.
From Moraine Lake, I drove south-west through all of Kootenay National Park, and stopped for the night in Radium Hot Springs. As soon as I entered the town, a group of Bighorn sheep passed in front of my car in single file, as if they owned the town.
09/27-28: Kootenay National Park, BC; Crossing the Border
The next day, I drove a bit of the way back into Kootenay, and hiked the Dog Lake trail, which was very nice. I then drove back to Radium Hot Springs, and hiked the Valleyview trail leading to Redstreak Campground, where I continued onto the Redstreak Restoration Loop trail. On the way, I saw some mountain goats resting near the road. After hiking all those trails, I drove south towards the Canada-US border. On the way, I crossed the Kootenay River several times, and drove next to many fields and golf courses. A nice view of the Columbia Lake was on the way. This lake is the source of the lengthy Columbia River, which I visited the year before in the United States. I slept that night in Cranbrook, BC.
On September 28, I crossed the border into the United States (and the state of Montana) at the Roosville station. Crossing the border by car was way easier than I thought it would be. I continued straight south until I reached Kalispell, where I bought an American SIM card, and spent the night at a motel. On he way to the city I saw many herds of cattle, horses and a lot of open fields.
09/29-30: Glacier National Park, MT; Driving to Bozeman
The next day I drove north-east to Glacier National Park. I drove on the Going-to-the-Sun Road up to Logan Pass, where I hiked the beautiful Highline Trail to Haystack Pass. The weather was great that day and the views were wonderful. After the trail, I resumed driving on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. On the way, I saw a small black bear walking next to the road, looking for food, completely ignoring the cars stopping to take pictures of it. I exited the park on its east side, and stopped for the night in the small village of East Glacier Park. My cell phone suffered a software problem that night, and I was forced to move to my older device for the remainder of the trip, causing a drop in photo quality...
I spent most of September 30 driving to Bozeman. Driving to Bozeman has shown me just how under-populated Montana is. I drove hundreds of miles through open fields, passing only a handful of very small, wild-west-looking, far-apart towns along the way. I did see a herd of Bison grazing near the road.
10/01-02: Yellowstone National Park, WY
On the morning of October 1st I drove to a place called Montana Grizzly Encounter, where I met their youngest grizzly bear, Bella. From there I drove to Yellowstone National Park. I had wanted to visit that park for years and planned to do so on each of my three previous trips to the US, but always had to cancel while on the trip due to the park being too far away. I was excited to finally get there, even though the weather wasn't too good and the skies were completely covered with clouds. The sun had not broken through once during the day.
I was absolutely amazed with what I saw in Yellowstone. Before reaching the park, the only animals I've ever seen at any national park were squirrels and snakes (and the black bear in Glacier). As soon as I entered Yellowstone, I saw many Elk laying next to the roads or running around the buildings of the Mammoth Hot Springs area of the park. I hiked the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail, passing next to several beaver ponds and ending at the hot springs themselves, which are quite impressive. During the hike, I stumbled upon a female mule deer, standing right next to the trail looking at me attentively. She was just a few meters from the trail, and as visitors are supposed to stay at least 25 yards away from deer, I couldn't continue. I started shouting at her to leave, but she just kept looking at me. I backed away, and she walked towards me; I stopped, she stopped; I backed away again, she approached again. Finally, I pulled an air horn from my belt and gave a short blast that sent her running away. Later on the trail I surprised two male deer, which was weird as I shouted my arrival just a few seconds earlier. As opposed to the female, they saw me and immediately ran away.
After the hiking trail I drove south-west through the park, next to steaming lakes and rivers, exited the park on its west exit and stopped for the night in the city West Yellowstone. It was raining almost all the way there.
I traveled in Yellowstone the next day as well. I drove east towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As long as I was in the car driving, it was raining outside. The rain seemed to have miraculously stop whenever I stopped and went out. On the canyon, I started with a view of the upper falls, then took Uncle Tom's Trail down to the lower falls. Climbing back up, I walked the rim trail until I reached the famous Artist Point, where a lot of people were taking pictures of the canyon. After hiking all the way back to the car, I drove back west to see Old Faithful geyser. It was really cold, but thankfully I've only had to wait a few minutes before it erupted. I figured the eruption would take just a few seconds, but it took almost 3 full minutes.
The rain started back as soon as I got back to the car, quite heavily this time, and I drove south out of the park, into and out of the adjacent Grand Teton National Park, finally reaching Jackson, Wyoming, where I booked a night.
10/03-04: Grand Teton National Park, WY; Night at the Idaho Drive-In; Missoula, MT
On October 3rd I visited Grand Teton National Park. The weather was still very cloudy, but at least it stopped raining. The peaks of the Teton mountain range were all covered in clouds. I hiked a loop trail visiting Taggart and Bradley lakes. After that, I drove to Mormon Row, to see the famous old barns built by the Moulton brothers in the 19 century, overlooking the mountains.
After Grand Teton, I drove west to Idaho. Before leaving Wyoming, the road actually climbed up on the Teton mountains, making me drive for a while inside a cloud. In Idaho, I booked a room in Saint Anthony, and then drove nearby to Rexburg, to the Teton Vu Drive-In Theater. I had never been to a drive-in theater, and it was an extremely enjoyable experience.
I spent all of the next day driving north-west to Missoula, from which I were to fly to Las Vegas the next day. I planned to leave the car in the long-term parking lot of the Missoula Internation Airport, and so had repack my belongings, which had grown somewhat bigger during the road trip, and decide what to leave behind in the car.
Las Vegas & California
10/05-08: Las Vegas, NV
On October 5 I flew to Las Vegas. As I always do, I checked into the South Point Hotel, where I booked a room for four nights. I spent those four nights playing Blackjack in the casino, watching movies in the hotel's theater, walking on the strip and just relaxing from the long road trip.
10/09-10: Jerry Seinfeld & It's Not Dead Fest, California
On October 9 I rented another car, and drove all the way to Los Angeles to see Jerry Seinfeld performing in Hollywood's Pantages Theater. It was ridiculously hot in California, at a certain point on the way reaching 41°C. I don't like LA, and wasn't happy driving through California's traffic jams, but thankfully I was only there to see Jerry, so as soon as the show was over I drove back east to San Bernardino, where the It's Not Dead Festival was set to take place the following day, in San Manuel Amphitheater.
The festival was absolutely fantastic. The amphitheater is located at a beautiful location with views of the mountains. The extreme heat did not detract from the awesomeness of the festival. I saw many bands I love, some that I've never seen before, like Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, The Vandals and Lagwagon. I also got to see my three favorite bands again: NOFX, Less Than Jake, and the greatest band of all time - the Descendents.
10/11-15: Vegas -> Missoula -> Calgary -> Israel
The night of the festival I slept in Victorville. The next day I drove back to Las Vegas. On October 12, I flew back to Missoula, where I've picked up my previous rental car, and immediately drove back north into Canada. I spent a night in beautiful Fernie, BC, drove the rest of the way to Calgary the next day, where I mostly rested for the remaining two nights of the trip. On October 15, I flew back to Israel.