A Travellerspoint blog

Day 24

Whistler, BC, Canada

sunny 20 °C

Woke this morning to find the sun shining outside – the things we do for this country seeing we are from the Sunshine State. Our buffet breakfast was very nice and we sat looking out the window at all the tows that go up to Blackcomb Mountain.

We decided to get on the sight-seeing trail as soon as possible as rain is predicted for tomorrow (Sunday). We bought one ticket for the Peak-2-Peak gondola ride from the hotel and had to line up with the bikers and tourists at the booth for the other. You see, the slopes are now used for downhill mountain biking and there are men and women of all ages with their bikes heading for the mountain.

The gondola to the first mountain, Whistler, is in two stages so you have to make sure you stay on. Once we reached the top the view was magnificent - 360° view over the entire valley. I thought that that was it until Ross pointed out that the Peak-2-Peak bit was another larger gondola ride across a very deep ravine to Blackcomb. What a sight – and what a feat of engineering again. The wind was blowing quite strongly around the middle of the ride and I was not looking forward to the return trip.

Once on land again we took to a walking trail that led us to Fitzsimmons Lookout. While we were climbing through the rocks another tourist indicated that he was watching an animal below us. It came out and we were lucky enough to see a marmot. It was beautiful. It is so annoying that other tourists do not stay quiet and yell out which of course scares the wildlife away. I did not get a photo which was disappointing but the memory is there. We finished that trail and started a walk that took us up to the reservoir of water that is used to make snow. It was quite windy but very lovely in the sun. Once we went back down we had to face the trip back over the ravine. All was well and we made it back safely. The view over the ravine is amazing but it is so high up. I did take a look down.

Back in the village we took a bit of time to look at the shops and also to share a toasted Panini. We had been told where the Olympic rings and flame were so we took some pictures there. The concierge had also told us about a 5 km trail to Lost Lake so we headed off on that walk. We actually saw a blue tailed bird and we had to be careful not to stand on the tiny “toads” that were migrating to the creek. It was a pleasant walk through the rain forest. While we were in this area we checked out the pro shop but once again we did not find what Ross was after.

We’re going to have a quiet night in downtown Whistler – dinner then watching TV.

Posted by gpric6 24.09.2011 18:40 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 23

Whistler, BC, Canada

overcast 25 °C

The night at Emerald Lake was enjoyable. We had dinner in the restaurant with the view to the lake until the sun disappeared. On our return from dinner, I took the opportunity to light the fireplace. As you would know, we don’t have much call for fireplaces in Queensland. However, we lit the fire and before we knew it the room was full of smoke and the smoke alarm went off. Ross was madly fanning the detector and I was screaming at him to shut the door as I was sure that that was the problem. After a short time, there were footsteps running to the room above us then a knock at our door. “Fire Department” was the call. Apparently the whole four rooms in our block would have had the alarm go of at 9.45pm. Whoops!! Anyway he was a lovely young fireman from the Gold Coast and he helped us get rid of the smoke in our room so we didn’t suffocate. No one said to open the flue to put some warm air up it!!

We woke a little later than expected but with no heater on, we slept sooooo much better. Once we checked out we headed off. Of course we had to be ferried back to the car to the overnight parking area. We did a quick check at Field and then headed west. Today was to be a non-stop trip. We left the pine forests of Yoho National Park at around 9.30am. We finally exited Kicking Horse Pass and found some flatter driving. Those mountain engineers need medals for the roads they create. We continued through Glacier NP and Revelstone NP, both worth looking at more closely but we didn’t have time. We eventually passed a section of lake area, one spot showing the floating log technique. We followed this lake for many kilometres and saw that water sports and river boats were a big attraction .

It was interesting to see that as our drive took us towards Kamloops, the more arid the landscape became. We were meant to stay at Kamloops but thought we would try to make Whistler. Buying fuel is a challenge. You have to pre-purchase it so when I went in at Kamloops Husky, not really knowing how much I would need, I took the option of $50 on the cc. Of course that didn’t fill “the tank” so I paid the first amount and then told the woman I needed more. Gee I was pleased we were not stopping there as she was not at all sympathetic to my case. When in Banff the young boy just took my licence as a security. We bought coffee at Tim Horton’s and the young girl asked if we wanted the sweetened or unsweetened latte? Alleluia, now we know why the coffee has been so sweet.

Now on the other side of Kamloops heading west, the land is dry, bare, rocky and arid. However there was a lake and at one point a golf course. Unbelievable! This landscape continues but instead of golf courses, farms appear. It is quite remarkable and reminiscent of the Okanagan Valley.

We eventually had to turn and head south. Now this was an extreme. The roadway north of Lillooet was unbelievable. The Frazer River from the north has carved a canyon. This canyon was mostly bare, deep and rugged. Farms hung off some flanks. As you near Lilloet, the road continues its tight curves and steep descent. The other side of the township shows little change except that you begin to climb. Those windy roads are not what you call fun… and the speed limit is annoying!!

After a slow and methodical trip we rolled into Whistler at 6.30pm BC time and it was raining (10 hours travel). We had done what they said could not be done and that was to drive from Emerald Lodge to Whistler in a day. We checked into Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The young guy accepted that I had seen quotes on the net and honoured those prices. We do have to pay$30 per day to park the tank as there is limited parking in Whistler. Breakfast is complimentary. It has been raining here for the last few days so we hope we can bring some sunshine to this area of the mountains. Whistler looks like a very interesting and modern place to be. We had dinner at a bistro close to the hotel and it was great.

It was interesting to note that our journey started in the pine forests of Yoho, travelling across desert and then reaching pine forest again. What a diverse and fascinating country this is!!

Posted by gpric6 23.09.2011 22:40 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 22

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, BC, Canada

overcast 15 °C

After making it to bed before midnight, sleep was difficult. The heating almost cooked me and I thought for sure that I would look like a prune when I rose. Ross did try to adjust it but without much success. I opened the window at 2am to cool the room down. That meant that I could hear the Bow River flowing by which was fine but when the cars started arriving in the early morning I had to get up and close it. Breakfast was enjoyable but creaky staircases and bathrooms that you can’t swing a cat in are not my idea of being comfortable, nor double beds. Ross reckons Abraham Lincoln probably sat in the chair that was in our room.

After buying the obligatory fridge magnet of Lake Louise, we headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway through Kicking Horse Pass. This meant we had left Banff National Park and also Alberta, entering Yoho National Park and returning to British Columbia. The first highlight was a stop at the Spiral Tunnels viewpoint where you can view the entry and exit portals of a railway engineering marvel. These tunnels were completed in 1909, reducing the original railway grade of 4.5%, the steepest of any in North America, to a much safer 2.2%. While we were there a train came and we could see that when the engine exited the tunnel the rest of the train was entering it … amazing. The exhibits told of runaway trains and avalanches. I bought a book for my dad about the building of the tunnels which also gives some background on Kicking Horse Pass and The Big Hill.

The next stop was to be Takakkaw Falls on Yoho Valley Road. Takakkaw means magnificent in Cree. As we commenced the 17km drive we came across the Meeting Place. This is the confluence of the glacier-fed Yoho River and mountain-fed Kicking Horse River. There is a very distinct colour difference of the waters. It was a very pretty spot.

The road to the falls was excellent. At one point, we had to drive up this 3 levelled swithchback. Believe it not there were buses at the falls so we were trying to work out how they negotiated the zigzag as we had to reverse “the tank” to get around one. I am sure there would have been a great deal of screaming and gasping coming from the bus.

The Takakkaw Falls were magnificent, being 254 metres high. Water from the Daly Glacier, 350 metres from the falls, feeds it. In winter, it freezes to a small trickle but in the thaw, water thunders down. It is amazing to stand at the bottom of the falls.

We made a quick stop at the Field visitors centre and paid another $19 to the rangers for the last night in Yoho NP. We headed towards Emerald Lake and found a place where the force of water over time has created an eroded rock archway over the Kicking Horse River. This spot is called the Natural Bridge. There are so many amazing spots and it is only when seeing them you really appreciate their beauty and wonder.

Our final destination for the day and for a pre-booked overnight stay was Emerald Lake Lodge. We had to leave the car in a parking area and call for a shuttle bus. It is amazing how misleading information is in brochures. When they say complimentary parking you at least expect to have your vehicle with you not several kilometres away. Also, I have not yet found the part of the lodge that was in the picture. Once again, Ross is not a happy camper. The girl at reception said we were early for check in. She said that we could have another room but would lose our view so I said we would wait. While making a dinner reservation, the room became available. She then said that the view was not of the main lake but of the lagoon. Boy, short changed again. The water view looks like something the beavers have created. However the room is very comfortable but no TV again. However we do have a fireplace but were not game to light it and leave it unattended. We will light it tonight. And we found the building that was in the brochure!!

Anyway, after the first nana and poppy nap for a while, we headed out for a 5.2 km walk around the edge of the lake. We started from the left side, which has very flat terrain, with common pine forest. There is an avalanche corridor that falls each year. As you continue to the far end of the lake, it becomes quite swampy. This is where the glacial deposits brought down by the streams are reclaiming the lake. Eventually Emerald Lake will no longer exist although I don’t think this will happen in our lifetime. The plants at this end of the lake are regenerating and it was said that eventually the banks will be as well covered and lush as the other end. We crossed a stream whose water was so clear. This then led to a rainforest, created by the shadow of the mountain and the heavy rainfall. This rainforest is not found in many places in Canada and is very different to the forest on the opposite side of the lake. Our walk took about 1.5 hours as we stopped to smell the roses at many vantage points.

Even though it has been overcast today, the colour of the water is magic. It is a deep turquoise-blue. It is so dark in places and lighter in others. On the whole, Yoho National Park has been well worth the stop.

So as to confirm yesterday’s achievements we found out that the tea house was 385m above Lake Louise which meant that the gradient was slightly more than a 1 in 10m rise the whole way. Also the Canadian rabbit that I could not name correctly was a pika or rock rabbit.

Posted by gpric6 22.09.2011 17:40 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 21

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

sunny 15 °C

Following a very late night or should I say early morning, we slept through the alarm. Sleep has evaded us ever since we arrived here. We decided to get a light breakfast rather than the $15 per head offered by the International. So booked out, went to Safeways to stock up on fruit and then headed for the Fudgery just so that we have graphic images of what they create.

We headed north towards Lake Louise. Rather than going back on Highway 1, the Trans-Canada, we opted for the drive along the Bow Valley Pathway. Our first stop was at the Johnston Canyon. It offered a 1.2 km trail to a set of falls. This proved to be worth the effort. The canyon was created by glaciers and 8000 years ago, when the Egyptian pyramids were brand new, this canyon was only half as deep as it is now. The Johnston River continues to carve deeper each day. We only went to the lower falls but it was impressive enough seeing the volume of water that runs through. There was a small cave that you could climb through and on the other side, feel the light spray from the waterfall. Not a good day to decide to wear white jeans as there was a fair bit of mud on the floor. On our return to the car we saw another ground squirrel. We were all set to take a photo as it appeared to have a darker colouring than others we have seen, when a very inconsiderate tourist made a noise and scared it away.

Back in the car to our next stop, Moran’s Lookout, a vista made famous by this man when he took a photo for the Trans Canada rail to try to entice people to come to the area. There are some lovely lodges along this drive especially the one closest to Bakers Creek. We arrived in Lake Louise at 1pm and headed straight for Moraine Lake. It was beautiful of course but the sun was not shining in the right place for good photos. The water is a spectacular colour but I don’t think our photos will do it justice. We have the memories though.

Next on our list was the Lake Louise gondola ride. I had planned to be there for the 3pm nature walk. However when we went to buy tickets we were told that we could take the ride up but would have to come straight back down as a grizzly mother and her cubs had been sighted close to the exit and the nature walk was cancelled. This is a great ski area with a chalet on sight – my kind of spot. The ride up was great and not scary as it was just the chair lift used for transporting skiers. The view over the valley was great but photo opportunities were spoiled with not being able to get off, hence cable wires in every photo. We did see a black bear eating below us on the way up.

We went straight to the Deer Lodge for a 4 pm check in. Now I think we will have one regret for the trip and that is not staying at the Lake Louise Chateau. Deer Lodge is right next to it but it could possibly be heritage listed. I described it as rustic. Ross preferred the word ancient. The room is very small and we discovered it had no TV. Also we had difficulty locating the lift as there isn’t one so we had to lug the baggage up three flights of stairs. We may have saved a few hundred dollars but sometimes you do wonder. Breakfast is included.

By this time it was 4.45 so we headed towards the lake but once again, the sun’s position interfered with the photos. My main agenda for Lake Louise was the walk to the teahouse. We didn’t actually know where we had to go but we did find the trail indicator. I also didn’t know that there were 2 teahouses. The other was a 6.6 km trail. Around 5.10 we headed off on the 3.4km walk to Lake Agnes Teahouse. Now once again they neglected to describe the terrain ahead of us and we thought with our advance training of walking the streets of Boondall that 3.4 km was going to done in 30 mins. Try 1 hour 20 minutes. We went up and up and up until we finally arrived at the teahouse. Of course it closed at 5pm so we couldn’t even have a cuppa. I had to stop every few metres to try to catch my breath. I challenge anyone to repeat this feat. On the way up you see glimpses of the beautiful coloured lake through the forest. About two thirds of the way up is Mirror Lake which doesn’t really rate a mention in my book. The next section was even more gruelling as the incline increased but some of the views were magnificent. Lake Agnes itself is worth the effort. The teahouse has been in this location for over 100 years. We were lucky enough to meet with a small Canadian rabbit. It has smaller ears and no tail and it does not hibernate. He tried to burrow into the side of the hill to escape.

The trip back down to the chateau took 45 minutes. We had to walk fast as our dinner reservation was for 7.30. We left the teahouse at 6.45pm. We were only 15 minutes late by the time we changed our shoes - didn’t worry about changing clothes. Dinner was nice. We stuck with steak and also fitted in dessert – rhubarb streusel and berry cheesecake.

The night could be a long one as we can hear next door through the walls and people banging doors etc. Hope Emerald Lake Lodge is of better construction as it is owned by the same company as Deer Lodge. We head for Yoho National Park tomorrow and have a reservation for the Lodge.

Posted by gpric6 21.09.2011 21:35 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 20

Banff, Alberta Canada

sunny 15 °C

Day 20
Banff, Banff National Park, Canada

After a reasonable night’s sleep we awoke and looked out the window of our room on the sixth floor. There was a heavy frost on the Banff Springs golf course but the day was looking beautiful. We could see people below all rugged up so we knew it was cool outside. It turned out that at 7am it was -2 °C. The sky was blue and almost cloudless.

Having tidied our belongings, we headed downstairs to enquire as to where the golf club house was. There was a complimentary shuttle bus to it so we took advantage of this offer and headed there. It was disappointing as the goodies we were looking for were not as good as the Jasper samples. So we climbed back on the shuttle bus and headed back. As we crossed the Bow River Bridge, the driver spotted a coyote. It was sitting on the bank below the hotel. Its tail was so bushy and it looked beautiful. The driver said it was waiting to cross the bridge.

Following check out we headed back to where we had seen the coyote as the Bow Falls were there. The golf course was opening slowly as the frost melted. Then it was off into the township of Banff in search of accommodation for the night. We walked along Banff Avenue and sort prices from several places. It was interesting that many of them offered breakfast in their tariff. We decided on the Banff International Hotel as it was close to the town centre and was also reasonable. It offered free internet, laundry facilities that we needed desperately, parking and full breakfast for $15 if we wanted it.

One job out the way so we had to find a place to try to get the movie camera downloaded. One brochure advertised an internet café that downloaded photos so we searched the downstairs of the arcade mentioned. The best way to find this icafe is to find the arcade that has the fudge shop on the right hand side as you enter. OMG it smells so good and looks even better. Anyway the young guy said he would download the files. This ended up taking 5 hours after several hold ups.

I was anxious that we were missing such perfect weather while we sat waiting for the downloading so we left the camera and headed up to the Banff Gondola. We had bought a combined ticket at the Athabasca Glacier yesterday which saved $10 each. The gondola is up near the Rimrock Hotel and it climbs to a height of approximately 7200 feet. It is not good to hang out on a line of wire so high up. I was not game to look down. Ross was enjoying the view. Fortunately there was no breeze, just a smooth ride. I had a good look once I got up there and the view was truly magnificent across the Bow Valley and back to the TransCanada Highway.

Back in Banff Township we booked a restaurant for dinner, started the washing and collected the video camera. We chose a Greek restaurant, Balkan, in the centre of town and the food was delicious. Moussaka was served with rice, potato and some vegies. Now we all know how yummy baklava is. Well they had baklava cheesecake so we shared a piece as I couldn’t imagine what it would be like. Delicious! At around 8.30 a belly dancer started the entertainment. We then had some volunteers do the Zorba the Greek dance followed by the smashing of plates. I am not sure if this happens every night but we certainly enjoyed it.

Banff is one of our favourite places. It is such a pretty village. However, we can’t help but agree with the guide at the glacier who told us what BANFF stands for – Be Advised Nothing For Free!! He had an acronym for Jasper as well but I can’t remember it. It is also hard to believe how many young Aussies work here in Banff - what a life!!

Posted by gpric6 20.09.2011 22:14 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

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