Summer Vacation Across Canada to Glacier Nat’l Park (Niagara Falls, Banff, etc.)

This summer we took across Canada and visited a number of amazing places — Niagara Falls, Banff National Park, Glacier National Park, Theodore Roosevelt Park and the National Buffalo Museum.  This post shares some of the picture and also one harrowing afternoon’s adventure as a car accident unfolded in front of us. Some of the best experiences were the hiking trips we too in these beautiful national parks!

Before too much more time passes, I wanted to share some of our travel adventures.  These days, this website is a little less of a family blog and more of a homeschool resource, but it still serves that purpose for our family and we go back and check out some of the ‘Trips We Have Taken‘ or check out pictures from ‘Where we used to Live‘ (ie. pictures from when we lived in Australia. The kids were all born there.)

Anyway, traveling is actually quite an important part of our homeschooling. It gives the kids experiences and perspectives that go way beyond what we learn here at home.  🙂

Like I said above, this trip took us slightly north to Niagara Falls. One of our most adventurous days happened on the flat, yellow plains of Saskatchewan (everyone was okay in the end, but the story is intense!), a visit to Banff National Park (Canadian Rockies) and Glacier National Park (in Montana), and then a final week in Minnesota for a week of German language camp at Waldsee (Concordia Language Villages).

We left the first week of August and got back about at the end of August.

After packing the car (and car top) with camping gear, we all piled in the car and headed to Niagara Falls.  For us, it’s just a long days drive (about 8 or 9 hours).

We got to Niagara Falls in the evening. They have  a fireworks show each evening at 10pm. This was the view from the 14th floor of our hotel as we watched the evening fireworks display!Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

The next day, we headed out and did the “classic” tour of Niagara Falls. This included the journey behind the falls, a boat tour and a white-water walk.  We all agreed it was an amazing day! 🙂


Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls - Boat Tour

The next day, we had to head out super early (for our family) to start driving across Canada! Ontario was just beautiful as we drove around the Great Lakes.  Then the landscape changed as we continued out West.

You would think the long, straight flat roads in Saskatchewan would be uneventful. There’s a picture of the road below. Flat, right?
Saskatchewan CanadaSeveral crazy things happened one right after the other!!
We had just stopped for lunch and Tony was taking a turn at the wheel. I had settled in with a book when Tony said, “Oh no, this isn’t good.” What he told us later was that the car in front of him had veered off to the left and then seemed to over-compensate veering sharply to the right off the road. I looked up in time to see it rolling over as it rolled off the side of the road.
We stopped and I immediately opened the car and started running towards their car. I was checking to look for smoke or flames. I just leapt into action. (Years and years ago I had trained as an EMT, but have long since let that certification lapse.)
A young teenager was coming towards me (he was the driver)… I asked if he was okay and if there was anyone else in the car. He said yes and gestured toward the other side of the car. I told him to get away from the car (since I didn’t yet know if there was a fire or flames anything. … There weren’t thankfully!)
When I got to the side of the car, a woman was trying to crawl out the window. The car was on its roof, though and had collapsed somewhat so she couldn’t climb out. She was stuck half in-half out of the truck. Luckily there were no flames and the other two people were out of the car and were just fine.
As I looked her over, I saw she had a huge, 3-inch long very deep gash on her upper arm. I ran back to the back of our car… I knew exactly where over very big first aid kit was. Usually, it’s pretty buried when we’re on a long trip like this, but for some reason this time I thought I should keep it up at the top. (I *still* shake my head in wonder that I knew right where our super-deluxe first aid kit was!! You would be too if you saw how jam-packed we were with all our camping gear!)
I grabbed it and ran back to the accident scene. I got various bandages and the other bystanders (who by this time had pulled over too to see if they could help) were great about opening the gauze and helping to wrap up her arm. I then went to check the rest of her body that was trapped in the truck, just to make sure she wasn’t severely injured but couldn’t see or sense it.
Then when I went back to check on her again, I saw she had two more very deep gashes on her forearm that I hadn’t noticed because she had been resting her arm in the grass. We got those bandaged up as well. In situations like this, time seems to go on the slow side. Eventually the fire truck arrived and propped up the truck… and then not long after that the ambulance arrived as well. We could tell that the experts had it under control and headed off.
We still had about 6 1/2 hours left in our day’s drive.
We hadn’t been on the road for more than 20 minutes when we came up to a boat that we had passed a day or two before. Right then, some plastic flew off the back of the boat and bounced on the road in front of us.
We were a bit jittery and all talking about that. Not 5 minutes later, we were coming up to a giant over-sized load. Logan asked what it was. We assumed they were moving a house or something. (You can see it in the lower picture below.) As we came up behind it, a tire blew out and pieces flew out onto the road in front of us! Tony deftly drove around the shredded bits of tired and we drove on down the road.
I managed to take a pic, just after the tire blowout!  It looks like a giant dumpster now, doesn’t it?!
Tire Blowout
After that, we looked forward to some beauty and relaxation in Banff!!
We got up early in the morning and headed into the (Canadian) Banff National Park. We headed to Lake Louise first, because it can be really challenging to find parking.  We lucked out, getting one of the last spots.
We walked along this stream to get to Lake Louise.
Banff National ParkBanff - Lake Louise
There were wild fires in the area, so the view of the mountains was clearest when we first arrived. It became more hazy the longer we were there.
We decided to rent a canoe, which was well worth it! The views were stunning!
Banff National Park - Lake LouiseThen we popped back into the car. We stopped at one place for lunch.
Banff National Park - Lunch
And then, we did some hiking. Pictures just never do it justice!
Banff- HikingBanff - HikingBanff-national-park
The next day, we headed back across the border and headed to Glacier National Park in Montana.
The night we arrived in Glacier lightning started a fire on the other side of the lake where we were camping. The other campground was evacuated (with just an hour’s warning). We were far enough away that we could stay… though there was a lot of smoke and ashes covered our car and tent…
If you look at the lake pictures below, you can see the smoke-filled clouds as they moved towards us along the lake (top middle compared to the bottom picture).
Glacier National Park
They closed the main road through Glacier, but we did make the trip around and spent some time hiking up near Logan Pass in Glacier. So we were able to see some of the glaciers in this park too (we had seen glaciers in Banff as well).
Glacier - Hiking
Big Horn Sheep GlacierGlacier National Park - Logan PassGlacier National Park - HikingThe girls and I wound up turning back a little sooner then Tony and LD… we made a friend while we were hanging out!
Ground Squirrel in Glacier National ParkGround Squirrel in Glacier National Park

We wound up leaving a day or so earlier than planned because the road through Glacier was closed and it was smokey. 

We headed to Roosevelt National Park and spent a day driving and hiking there. On one of the hikes we did, we had to take off our shoes to wade across the shallow river.  We headed up into the hills. We wound up at a Prairie Dog Town, which was really fun!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - Prairie Dog TownWe spent a couple of hours at the National Buffalo Museum & got to see the World’s Largest Buffalo! 🙂

National Buffalo Museum - World's largest buffalo statueThen we headed to Minnesota. We had to drop Hubby off at the airport to head back to work.  Then the kids and I went to Family Week at Waldsee, the German immersion camp at Concordia Language Villages.

Why German?  Well, that’s the foreign language that I learned in high school and college (and also I watched the German TV station when I was in the Peace Corps in Hungary and was living in a small town in south western Hungary).  And while I speak some Hungarian too, that’s not a practical language for the kids to learn in our homeschool!

Why Waldsee? We have attended the German immersion camp a number of times. We all spend the entire day learning the language, from breakfast til bedtime! All the activities, games, language classes, group activities, soccer, dancing, Oktoberfest (the girls are dressed up for that in the middle picture below)… absolutely everything is in German.  The kids learn more in that one week than they do in months of our homeschool work (in German). So, it’s an important componenet of our homeschool curriuclum.

One happy thing this year was that we met up with another homeschooling family from Utah (big wave to all of you!!!) who we had met there several years ago!!  My kids had an amazing time and can’t wait to go back next summer. They hope to become fluent in German! Great goal!!

If you want to help your kids language skill massively improve… you might consider Concordia Language Villages as well.  As I mention below, they have 15 language camps to choose from! 🙂

All too soon, it was time to jump back in and start the long (22hour!) drive home!  The first part past Minnesota’s many, many lakes is really pretty, though!


The drive through Chicago… not so fun or pretty.  But we made it back safe and sound!

And, that brings us to the end!

Once we got back home, I caught a terrible cold that put me in bed for several days.  It’s passed on to the kids (two of them were in bed until 4pm yesterday and only got up to eat… they still sick this morning)… so we’re only slowly getting back into the routine of things!

I have TONS of posts written in my head… so I hope to get back into a better blogging habit soon!

I hope you had a lovely summer too and are enjoying your homeschool year so far!


Here were pictures from our trip out West a couple of years ago and other trips we’ve taken if you are interested:

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