Bruce and I headed back up north again, this time on a small group land tour of Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies. We had never done a 100% land-based tour, and it was our first time traveling with Odysseys Unlimited, a company that specializes in small group tours of 12-24 people. Like everything else in travel this year, the tour was sold out, and 24 is the largest group size we would travel with in the future. Fortunately, we had a good group, though. Everybody was punctual; and, amazingly, nobody even caught so much as a cold. We returned home from our 11-day trip on September 1, and we are happily Covid-free.
Let’s get the trip review out of the way first, so I can move on to what I like sharing the most. Would I travel with Odysseys Unlimited again? Absolutely! The tour was excellent, and our tour director, Scott Robertson, did a fabulous job. Buyer beware, though: The Covid-19 policy in place when you book (and pay for) the trip may not be the same by the time the trip actually occurs. We booked with Odyssey expecting mandatory masking on the bus (as stated in their policy); however, Canada dropped that policy right before we arrived, so it was dropped for our tour. The majority of our group still masked; however, some did not. As a result, us maskers tended to gravitate towards each other during group dinners whenever possible.
Having said that, I’m sure glad we booked a group tour and paid for it before the prices went up! The prices of everything up there has skyrocketed, so we would have probably paid more for the trip had we done the exact same things on our own. In addition, when car parking lots were full at the highlight spots, our bus/ “motor coach” was able to drive right on in to the separate bus parking area without a problem.
Otherwise, my only other recommendation would be to avoid flying with Air Canada if at all possible. Ranked as one of the worst airlines in the world, they lived up (or down) to that reputation. Our flight to Calgary was canceled, and we ended up arriving seven hours later than we were originally scheduled, missing our only day in Calgary. The silver lining was being re-booked on Delta Airlines and through Minneapolis rather than Toronto. Our experience flying home on Air Canada reminded me of uncomfortable past flights on old United Airlines planes with cramped seats, and that’s not saying much.
Now that I have the negativity out of the way, it’s all positive from here on out.
Since Bruce and I arrived at the Hyatt in Calgary too late to join the group for the welcome dinner, we didn’t meet everybody until the following day when we set off for Glacier National Park. As it turned out, at 60, I was the youngest of the group by ten years; however, most of the group were active enough to handle the walks and hikes.
Before our lunch stop at Waterton Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which adjoins Montana’s Glacier National Park, we took in the views from the Prince of Wales Hotel. The wood structure was built in 1927 and perched high above the lake. Thankfully, it survived a fire in 2017, because it is a beautiful hotel with spectacular panorama views!
(For all pictures in my blogs, click on the image to see full screen view.)
Our group lunch was in town, followed by enough free time on our own to walk to Cameron Falls, see the town, and walk along the lakefront. This was the first of many beautiful waterfalls and lakes we enjoyed during the trip, and my first opportunity to test out my hip after having a second surgery on it last spring (the first was in 2014). SUCCESS! Eleven days of hiking and a lot of walking with zero pain. Thanks, Dr. Andrachuk!
After crossing the 49th parallel into Montana, we arrived at St. Mary Village, our base for two nights. This is where we had the gloomiest weather; however, it rained while we were enjoying our dinner, and then stopped before we left the hotel’s restaurant and were greeted with this:
We saw both ends of the rainbow, but just missed seeing the middle, due to the cloud cover. Scott happened to capture the rainbow in its entirety on his phone and was nice enough to share it with the group:
What an amazing first night in the Rockies! That beautiful sight followed what proved to be a big surprise for dinner. Our voucher covered a three-course limited-menu dinner at the hotel’s Snowgoose Grill, which was fabulous, even though it is rated only 3.5 of 5 on Trip Advisor. I should have photographed the massive and delicious marinated strawberry, goat cheese, and candied pecan salad that was served on a bed of mixed greens. It was as large as a main course salad I would order in a restaurant for lunch. Bruce’s soup was tasty! We both ordered salmon, which we ended up choosing for our main course every night, when dinner was included during the tour. Fabulous! When dessert arrived, I had to break out the camera for this giant-sized brownie and Bruce’s apple crumble with huckleberry sauce, both served with delicious Sweet Peaks Montana ice cream. How we made room for it, I’ll never know…
Dinner also included any glass of wine or beer from the list, or a non-alcoholic drink. Bruce’s local huckleberry lemonade was awesome!
We didn’t expect this, that’s for sure. As (mostly) non-meat eaters in beef and buffalo country, we were prepared for 11 protein-craving days of “you’ll-have-nothing-and-like-it.” Oh boy, were we wrong about that!
Our upstairs room at the lodge had rustic mountain décor too cute not to make me laugh. The highlight, however, was the balcony looking out over the river flowing by. We kept our sliding glass door open until we got cold, so we could enjoy the mesmerizing and thoroughly relaxing sound of the water. Ahhh!
Next up: Glacier National Park: St. Mary Lake & Many Glacier