A Travellerspoint blog

Day 19

Banff, Alberta, Canada

sunny 5 °C

Following the rain last night, we woke this morning to discover all the mountains around Jasper covered in a light dusting of snow. There was bright sunshine and blue skies. We took photos of the lake at the Lodge and of the mountain where the Jasper tramway is as it was bare yesterday. We also shot the Athabasca River on our way out as the colour was just beautiful. We didn’t ride the tramway as the elevation was a little more than I could cope with.

Ross was disappointed that we didn’t do the tramway but was happier when we found the road to Marmot Basin, a ski area for Jasper. Our excitement ended when, after driving up into the clouds for 13 kms, we found that the road was closed. It was a worthwhile drive though – very picturesque.

Now, the Icefields Parkway was our challenge today – a good short drive so we thought. However when there is a photo stop every 5 metres, it is very time consuming. Our first stop was Horseshoe Lake followed by the Athabasca Falls. The latter were extremely impressive even though it was only the bottom part of the falls. There was another part of the falls that were further up and much more dangerous. We were reluctant to follow the trail that quoted 20 minutes as we didn’t want to lose too much time again.

The Icefields Parkway stretches from Jasper in the north to Lake Louise in the south, a distance of 229 kilometres. Along the way, around every corner, the Rockies loomed above, covered with snow and were bare in places. It has actually come to my attention the reason they call them the Rockies – they are ROCK!! It has always just been a name but now I see the connection.

We followed the Athabsca River all the way to where the glaciers started emerging. We also realised that the road had taken us as high as the snowline as we were seeing snow on the side of the road. A sign indicated that we were entering the Columbia Icefield. We were surrounded by snow on each side of the road up to the base of the mountains.

Our next stop was the Athabasca Glacier. Yesterday, the temperature there was -7 °C on the ice. It was raining and snowing, with wind blowing the snow sideways. Today, there were blue skies and sunshine. What an amazing experience! We bought our tickets and boarded a bus that took us up to the point where you board the special all-terrain vehicle. This is the only way onto the glacier. Hanging glaciers surround the valley. It was absolutely magnificent and well worth the stop. The mountain to the right of the glacier forms the 3-way cotinental divide. The Athabasca River flows north whereas the river on the other side of the glacier flows southwards.

Back on the road, we were determined to get to Lake Louise but were surprised to find what little distance we had travelled. As hard as we tried the photo stops continued to delay us. We came across traffic stopped on both sides of the road at one point and we knew there had to be wild life. Yes, a loan black bear was foraging on the berry bushes on the side of the road. How amazing to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.

Finally Lake Louise was reached but Chateau Lake Louise was booked out as was the rest of the township. So off to Banff we headed. Having arrived at Banff after 7pm, we decided to have a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs and will look for another spot tomorrow as we may need to stay here instead of Lake Louise on Wednesday night. Room service bought us two lovely hamburgers as we were quite tired and too lazy to get organised to go to a restaurant. Ross told me that we need to start getting to places earlier and I told him it was the driver’s problem.

The beauty and majesty of these mountains is difficult to describe. You have to see it to believe it. Is it any wonder people want to come here? I don’t think the many pictures taken will convey what we saw. A truly amazing experience.

Posted by gpric6 22:27 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day18

Jasper, Alberta, Canada

sunny 9 °C

The morning started well with a visit to Robertson’s, the local grocery shop in Banff. This was so we could have a picnic lunch on our way to Maligne Lake. Our first stop was Maligne Canyon. It was quite an impressive sight. The water flowing through Maligne Canyon feeds in from Medicine Lake. We saw that there was a trail walk for 40 minutes. We figured that that was doable so we headed off. The sights along the canyon were impressive. However we seemed to walk and walk and walk. I was of the impression we were to be on a loop trail. This was soon disproved when we discovered we had 1.9 km to walk back. Unfortunately that trail diagrams show the path flat and do not indicate that it actually goes through an elevation of around 400 feet. We headed off following tags on trees. This path took us a hill built for mountain goats. I actually thought I was going to have a coronary and was hoping the mobile would work to call a helicopter in. Once we reached the top of our climb, the view was impressive and we did eventually arrive back at the car park … 2 hours after we left and no bear sightings!!

Now I believe we have discovered a new term in photography – squirrel photography. This is where you try in earnest to photograph these cute little guys. We have tried to capture one ever since we were in Juneau. So we have lots of photos of bushes! However we did have success today after a great deal of patience.

Once I recovered from my trail workout, we had lunch in the car park and headed off to Medicine Lake. The Indians called it Big Magic Lake and hence the name today, Medicine Lake. This is because the lake will be dry by the end of October, and will fill again during the thaw. Scientists solved the mystery and they now know that the water feeds underground to the Maligne Canyon, leaving the lake draining and just a trickle for Fall and Winter .

Maligne Lake was at the end of our magical mystery tour for today. It was a beautiful sight and has facilities for boating. It was certainly worth the drive, even though it was about 5° outside.

Now the trip back was a bit rushed as Ross had booked in for golf at 3.30. Dress code prevailed so we had to rush to the room and get changed. On arrival at the clubhouse we found all the details we had given them the day before had disappeared. As we were slightly late, this was very annoying. Anyway all was good and we headed off in a buggy with two other Canadians – temperature 9 °C. Yes I went to golf as I was conned into believing I might see a moose or a caribou. Not so. We did see Canadian geese and a squirrel. I acted as the chief photographer. The mountain views from the various tees were spectacular. Some snow caps were visible but many were bare rock. We had a wonderful afternoon until it started to rain. We could see showers of snow hitting the peaks above us. Ross managed to complete 17 holes but we were just too cold to complete 18 and it was 7.15pm!! Well worth the game for the golf buff.

Following golf, we had a quick shower to warm up and then headed off for dinner at the casual restaurant, where we tucked into a lovely steak. The young girl who served us was delightful and it was certainly a pleasure to tip her. She went out of her way to find the wine I had enjoyed the night before. There was still light rain falling and it was very nippy.

We loved Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and would have been happy to stay there and relax a little more. I would recommend it to others.

Posted by gpric6 22:15 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 17

Jasper, Alberta, Canada

rain 7 °C

Dinner tonight was in the Moose’s Nook at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Ross ate venison and I had striploin, both being very nice.

The day started just as nicely. After a restless night’s sleep as usual, we were up and away by 8.15 am. Grabbed a cup of tea from Tim Horton’s and headed west towards Kamloops. It was a great 4 lane freeway but dry once again. Once we reached Kamloops we were able to head north. The drive was stunning as we were soon among the high, pine tree covered mountains. In one spot, there was a good example of sustainable forestry. The water in the creeks and rivers was many shades of blue and green.

It took some time until we finally started to see fresh snow on the mountain tops. The vistas were numerous and it is difficult to take good photos at speed!!

We stopped for several breaks, one being at Mt Robson, the highest point in the Rockies. However, the mountain was very uncooperative and hid behind the clouds. We had come through some heavy rain so we were lucky to see what we did.

After travelling around 450 miles we arrived in Jasper about 4.45pm. We were concerned about finding accommodation as we had checked on the net last night only to find so many places fully booked. Every place we went to had “no vacancy”. We were almost convinced that we would have to drive another hour east to Hinton to find a place to sleep. We were lucky that a young lad pointed out where the Fairmont Jasper was on the map he gave us and as it was on the way to Hinton, we called in. We could not believe our luck. We have actually booked in for two nights.

So after visiting the golf pro shop for Ross to book a game of golf tomorrow, we headed for dinner. And that brings me to where we started. Let’s hope we have lovely weather tomorrow.

Posted by gpric6 21:52 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 16, Canada

Kelowna West

sunny 18 °C

The morning started well with us off to the Hertz Office by 9am. We found out that we weren’t getting the Toyota Camry that we requested. We ended up with a Suburban!! It is from Canada so as we had a one way drop off, we are taking it back for them – and they charge us. Anyway we set off in our white “tank” and found the entry to highway 5 quite easily. We had to make a decision from very helpful advice we had received as to which way we would go from Seattle, our main problem being time and a booking I had made. In the end we headed north on the freeway and turned off at Arlington. From there we headed east through some beautiful mountains and national parks towards the Okanagan Valley. Once we reached Okanagan we headed north. The scenery changed drastically as we entered desert-like countryside. However this soon changed as we came to wine and fruit growing areas. The mountains remain rugged but the farmland and lake were stunning.

We reached the USA-Canada border at 5pm and we were selected to be searched. Lucky us! I even had to surrender my two beautiful apples that I bought yesterday. Had to eat all the other fruit so didn’t get them eaten.

We drove until 7pm when we finally found accommodation at the Holiday Inn at Kelowna West. It was a big day and we are looking forward to sleep.

Posted by gpric6 21:01 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Day 15

Seattle, USA

overcast 18 °C

After a restless morning’s sleep we dragged ourselves out of bed at 9.15. As we were repacking the bags the porter arrived to move us. The new room was quite satisfactory. In fact I like it better as it has a separate shower. However, we still don’t have tea making facilities which is most annoying.

After consulting the concierge we learnt that we could join the hop on, hop off tour that I had purchased from the Sheraton around the corner. The guy who was the tour guide had a split in the side of his pants and his pink tie looked like it could do with good wash. Looking past that, the commentary around the loop was informative and helped us to get orientated. After one lap, we disembarked and took the ride up the Needle, built in 1962. I am still not real impressed with these lifts that hang off the side of things. It has a very fast ascent and the view was excellent. The only downside was that it was overcast but apparently the weather is good as it is usually raining so we won’t complain.

A lunch of clam chowder, clam nibbles and fish and chips was had with some very noisy seagulls at Iver’s at Pier 55. It was our first lot of fish and chips for the trip and it was quite enjoyable. (We had missed breakfast altogether!!) Once the bus picked us up, we travelled to Pike Street, a market person’s paradise. We bought some lovely fruit and checked out all the artwork and listened to the buskers. The flowers for sale were really impressive and most were cheap - $5 per bunch. It was a short walk back to the hotel along the streets of downtown Seattle. We offloaded the fruit and a few groceries that we had bought and then headed out to Macy’s store in search of cabin luggage. Talk about shopper’s paradise – we had to go to floor 6 to find what we wanted and the stock in the shop was unbelievable. It would be my recommendation for the shopaholics that I know to plan a visit Vancouver or Seattle. I guess all the cities have shops like these. We went in to NikeTown which was enjoyable. Prices seemed to be reasonable.

On our walk to Macy’s Ross spotted a little street shop entitled La Creperie Voila. Of course he regretted straight away that he had brought it to my attention. The decision for dinner was made on the spot – savoury ham crepe followed by strawberry crepe for dessert. Luckily I didn’t have breakfast today!!

Posted by gpric6 20:57 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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