Oh so famous Lake Louise – Alberta, Canada

Comments 17 Standard

Our final stop in the Canadian Rockies was ever-popular and very crowded Lake Louise.  Located in Banff National Park, it’s one of the best known lakes in the Rocky Mountains. Even a little girl we met in Montana gushed with excitement when she overheard me mentioning it to her parents.

Lake Louise

A distant view of Lake Louise framed by Mount Victoria

If you’ve missed our previous Canadian Rockies tales, click on the posts below for a catch up:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Banff National Park

-Sightseeing in Calgary

-Visiting friends in Edmonton

-Wonderful Jasper National Park

-Captivating Icefields Parkway

We didn’t waste time once Betsy was set up at the campground.  We hadn’t seen a single bear during our past few Canadian stops, and we hoped we might catch a glimpse of a grizzly while riding the Lake Louise Gondola.  But no such luck during our 14-minute cruise up to 6,850′.  Happily we were rewarded with some pretty spectacular scenery instead:

Lake Louise Gondola

Some areas beneath the gondola make up a prime wildlife corridor where no hiking is permitted

Grizzly bear sightings happen here, hence the area is known as the Home of the Grizzly Bear.  Huge amounts of money have obviously been spent on fencing to keep the bears and humans separated:

Lake Gondola

Touch the blue bar only to go through the gate for your hike (at your own risk).  Thanks, but we’ll look elsewhere!

No red chair but a wooden one with a view

No red chairs here, but this nice wooden one provided views just as good!

Bow Valle

We reached the top to enjoy a fabulous panorama of Bow Valley and its surrounding mountain range

After taking in the views and with no bear in sight, we rode back down on an open chairlift, breathing in fresh mountain air as we relaxed.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Lake Louise Ski Resort

After the ride we swung by Lake Louise and did a quick “recon” just to see what was in store for us over the next few days:

Lake Louise

 

Hordes of people congregated along the lakeshore taking all manner of selfies and posed shots:

Lake Louise

Who can blame them, this lake is gorgeous!

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House Trail

Judging from the tour busses and overflowing parked cars throughout the area, we knew an early start for our hike the next morning was mandatory.  Despite the 29º morning chill, we bundled up in layers (for the first time I wore two pair of pants) and followed the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.  Several tourists were already strolling along the shore trail before 8:00am, but we left the majority of them behind as we started more serious climbing.

Lake Louise

A still Lake Louise on a cold morning.  The backdrop of Mount Victoria and hanging Mount Victoria Glacier make this place a stunner

The 6.8-mile trail is a moderate hike, and we added an extra mile to Abbots Pass while gaining 1,215′.  We traveled counter-clockwise via Mirror Lake in the shadow of Beehive Mountain.

Beehive Mountain

Yep, looks like a beehive

We meandered along streams, waterfalls and forested areas until the landscape eventually became more rocky and barren.  It revealed fully the valley below the mountains, long ago carved out by the glaciers that gave this trail its name.

Lake Louise

From previous experience, we knew that sunlight reflecting off the “rock flour” in the water is what gives lakes here their spectacular turquoise color

Grouse

While taking pictures of the lake, this curious grouse seemed to sort of materialize from out of the bushes

Plain of Six Glaciers

Taking a break after hiking the first ridge line – from here on it was a steady hike up

For most hikers the tea house is the end of the trail.  The original tea house was built in 1924 by Swiss guides employed by the Canadian Pacific Railway.  It’s still in operation, and the staff rotates out each week, hiking back out as the new staff comes in to take their place. Food and supplies are replenished via helicopter.

Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House

Hikers resting and/or sipping tea at the tea house

We continued on an extra round-trip mile along a lateral moraine to the Abbots Pass viewpoint:

Abbots Pass Viewpoint

The path continued along a narrow ridge, with a drop off to the glacier below

Abbots Pass Viewpoint

At the end of the lateral moraine we could barely see Abbot’s Hut.  To the left is Mount Lefroy and to the right is Mount Victoria

Abbots Hut, originally built in 1922 by Swiss guides working for the Canadian Alpine Association, is a staging point for serious climbers in the area.  It was named after an American named Philip Abbot who fell to his death in 1896 on Mount Lefroy.  Apparently he was North America’s first recorded climbing accident.  Today supplies are flown in, and ambitious climbers can access it via British Columbia or from Lake Louise.

Abbot Pass Hut

That speck at the top of the glacier is Abbots Pass hut, Canada’s highest national historic site

After being blown away by the enormity of the mountains (11,000′ and higher) and glaciers, we began our long slog back to Lake Louise.  The return offered a different perspective of the impressive mountain features surrounding the lake.

Plain of Six Glaciers Trail

Heading back to Lake Louise along the plains of the six glaciers (although I failed to identify them)

Pika

I finally saw a pika busily gathering his winter stash

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Melt water cascading down from the glaciers carries the glacial silt (rock flour) with it.  At this point the agitated water is off-white

Lake Louise

Looking back at lower Victoria Glacier where we were just a few hours ago

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Fairmont Chateau across Lake Louise

Arriving back at our campground, Dave and Faye had settled in next to us and we were thrilled to see them again.  They had just arrived from their 61-day Alaska Caravan, and we were excited to hear all about their adventures and activities.  It seemed they had brought the sun with them, as it remained sunny during the whole time we hung out together.

Betsy parked side by side with Solitude

Moraine Lake

During dinner we agreed that we had to be at Moraine Lake early the next morning to beat the crowds.  This lake is as popular as its cousin just a few miles away, with tour busses a-plenty.  And for the second day in a row the temps were in the high 20’s when we headed out.

Morraine Lake

The ready foursome – Dave, Faye, myself and Steve

The best way to appreciate the beauty of this famous alpine lake is to follow a flat, easy trail that weaves through its shoreline trees.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake encircled by the Ten Peaks, all of which top out over 10,000′

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For another view of the lake we hiked up “the rock pile” just as a busload of tourists arrived.

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The rock pile behind us was the result of an avalanche

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The view from the top of that rock pile was one for the books!  Gorgeous, fabulous, stunning.  The iconic image of Moraine Lake and the Valley Of The Ten Peaks was used on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill between 1969 and 1979.  The beautiful deep blue water with a backdrop of towering snow-capped mountains is one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies, and possibly in all of Canada.

Moraine Lake

The twenty dollar view from the rock pile

Our walk along the shoreline and on the rock pile was short, and we were pumped up for a few additional miles.  So we decided to tackle another trail that lead to Consolation Lake.

This lake is a key area for grizzly bears in Banff National Park, and it’s where we saw a sign requiring hiking in groups.  The area encompasses critical bear habitat where a concentration of female grizzlies live and raise their cubs, hence visitor access is managed to protect visitors and minimize disturbance to bears.

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The 4-mile round-trip trail to Consolation Lake got a bit tedious at the lake, because we had to climb over large boulders and rubble fields to reach our destination.  But our reward was yet another crystal clear lake.

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Goofing off between boulders

Consolation Lake

Crystal clear Consolation Lake

Later on, the four of us had a wonderful time comparing stories of our Alaskan Adventures, and there were hints of returning there together.  Dave and Faye shared smoked salmon and halibut they brought back, and I cooked Pancit and Lumpia. Between fun hiking, good food and great happy hours we had a ball at Lake Louise.  For sure we’ll meet up again down the road.

Bow River

Goofing off again by Bow River

Finally, it was time for our 26th border crossing as we re-entered the U.S. on a cold and rainy day.  It’s great to be home!

Crossing border

At the border on a soggy day – you never know what to expect here.   They took away our rice!

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That wraps up our magical time in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  Our almost 5-week stay gave us experiences far beyond our expectations.  The jaw-dropping landscape and postcard-perfect scenery kept my cameras humming.  We think we came at the right time to avoid the worst crowds, the penalty being some chillier than expected weather.  But we’ll never forget this part of our adventure!

 

Next up:  We’ve done it!



 

Captivating Icefields Parkway – Canadian Rockies

Comments 17 Standard

Highway 93 is a major north/south highway that begins in Jasper, Canada and ends in Wickenburg, AZ, 1,720 miles away.  The stretch from Mile 0 to Mile 144 is known as the Icefields Parkway, and it links Jasper to Lake Louise in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.  It winds along the Continental Divide, through Jasper National Park and Banff National Park, traversing some of the wildest and most rugged land imaginable – mighty mountains, vast sweeping valleys, raging rivers, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and simply spectacular scenery.

We had seen pictures and read friends’ blog posts, and now we certainly agree it’s a must see, must drive for any visit to this part of Canada.

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The parkway was built during the depression era, and due to the rugged terrain and short warm season, it took 9 years to complete.  Click here for more history about the parkway.

The trip can be made in three hours or less, but why rush it?  The jaw-dropping scenery will slow folks down soon after they cross through the entrance gate at Jasper (you need a Parks Canada pass to drive through), and likely wildlife encounters grab everyone’s attention.

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Our official greeter, as he watched over his harem

Bull Elk's harem, what a stud!

Bull Elk’s harem, what a stud!

We explored the parkway on several occasions.  While at Jasper we went as far as the Columbia Icefield – the border between Jasper NP and Banff NP – on one drive.  On another day we drove to Valley of Five Lakes near Jasper and picked up a trail there.  Finally, we drove all the way with Betsy to our next destination at Lake Louise.

Ice fields Parkway

There are several viewpoints, interpretative displays, points of interest and photo opportunities along the route that once again kept my camera in overdrive.  Some pictures were “drive-by shootings”, while others were taken while we were on a trail.

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Tangle Falls

Tangle Falls is a roadside waterfall

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Columbia Icefield

Columbia Icefield, the largest in the Canadian Rockies, is a surviving remnant of the thick ice mass that once mantled most of western Canada’s mountains.  Nearly three-quarters of the park’s highest peaks are located close to this ice field, and the area is the center of all glacial adventure.

Columbia Icefields

Columbia Icefield straddles Jasper NP and Banff NP.  At the center is Athabasca Glacier

One of the most popular tourist attractions is the trail to the toe of Athabasca Glacier.  It ‘s a short but steep hike that ends close to the edge of the receding glacier.

Toe of the Glacier Hike

The trail to the toe of the glacier runs over limestone uncovered by the ice.  Steve’s got his gloves on, it must be in the 30’s again!

The Athabasca glacier is one of the “toes” of the Columbia Icefield, and is 2.3 sq. miles long and 300–980′ thick.

Athabasca Glacier

At the toe of the Athabasca Glacier

After that trek we crossed the parkway and visited the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center to learn more about the history of the parkway and the gradual recession of Athabasca Glacier.

Icefield Center

The very popular Columbia Icefield Discovery Center

Athabasca Glacier

Steve enjoys his coffee (not from that chain outfit in Seattle, John) where the toe of Athabasca Glacier was in 1843

Ice field Parkway

It took 600 construction workers nine years to complete the parkway

One of the plaques mentioned that because of a warming climate, the Athabasca Glacier has been receding rapidly for the last 125 years.  Losing half its volume in that time, the shrinking glacier has left a moonscape of rocky moraines in its wake.  Below are photos from 1940 and Sept, 2016.

Wilcox Pass

Further along the parkway was Wilcox Trail, where our hearts pounded as we climbed to the top of the ridge for a rewarding view:

Wilcox Trail

Wilcox Trail

Is he smiling because he made it to the top first, or…

Red Chair in Icefield Parkway

…because he spotted another pair of red chairs?  Ain’t that a grand view!

There are six pairs of red chairs scattered around Jasper National Park, but we’d found only two so far.

Glacier Adventure

Zooming into the glacier we saw tourists enjoying Athabasca up close and personal aboard an all-terrain Ice Explorer.

The Drive Back to Jasper

Iceland Parkway

Looking down at the parkway heading south

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Female Big Horn

Clueless tourists like this one make me cringe!

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Sunwapta, meaning ‘turbulent water’ in Stoney native language, offers a drop of 60′ and is 30′ wide.

Sunwapta Falls

The roaring Sunwapta Falls

Valley of Five Lakes

Off the parkway is the Valley of the Five Lakes, which was close to our campground.  We followed the long loop (6 mi) counterclockwise, passing five extremely clear lakes displaying shades of jade or blue, depending on their depth.

Rain was due the morning we hiked the trail, but thankfully we finished our trek before the skies opened up.  The lakes were amazing, and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Valley of Five Lakes

Lake #1

Valley of Five Lakes

Lake #2

Red Chair at Valley of Five Lakes

Our third pair of red chairs at Lake #3!

Valley of Five Lakes

Lake #4

Valley of Five Lakes

Lake #5

 

Driving Betsy to Lake Louise

We got a new perspective during this drive on the parkway, as it had snowed the previous night.  It added a beautiful dimension to the already breathtaking scenery.

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Steve removed the door screen and touched up Betsy’s windshield for his favorite photographer – he’s so sweet!

Glacier Skywalk

We didn’t take the Glacier Skywalk. It was pricey and the view here wasn’t as good as the one at the Discovery Center

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Ice fields

Columbia Icefield after a dusting of snow

Waterfowl Lake

Waterfowl Lake

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Approaching Lake Louise, we saw the “million dollar overpass”, built just for bear, elk and other wildlife that may want to cross the Trans-Canada Highway.

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Pedestrians not allowed on this overpass

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The drive along the Icefields Parkway was sensory overload, and one of the highlights of our Rocky Mountains adventures.  A visit to the Canadian Rockies would be incomplete without experiencing this captivating area.

 

Next up:  Oh So Famous Lake Louise



 

Wonderful Jasper National Park – Jasper, AB

Comments 15 Standard
Maligne lake

This post details stop #4, at Jasper National Park.  It’s loaded with pictures of stunning scenery and awe-inspiring natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains.

canada-rockies

Although the weather was not always picture perfect, I managed to capture a lot of the surrounding beauty.  The cameras stayed warm on this stop!

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We didn’t waste any time upon our arrival in Jasper, immediately hitting the visitor center to get the scoop on the must-do’s in the park.  With only a few days here (Sept 6-10) we would be challenged to see as much of Canada’s largest National Park as possible.

Founded in 1907, it is one of only 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  We could see why, as everywhere we looked there was no shortage of crystal-clear lakes, glacial rivers, amazing glaciers, cascading waterfalls, deep canyons, alpine forests and wildlife – all surrounded by towering mountains.

Athabasca River

Foggy morning over Athabasca Valley and River

Our home base was in the heart of Jasper NP.  Whistler’s Campground (Steve’s review here) was next to the town of Jasper, which is nestled in the wide Athabasca Valley.

Jasper, Alberta

The town of Jasper is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks

Jasper, Alberta

Main drag in Jasper

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Raven Totem Pole

A landmark in town stood near the railway station

Two Brothers Totem Pole

Two Brothers Totem Pole- tells the story of a journey long ago of an unusual connection between the west coast islands of Haida Gwaii and the Rocky Mountains

Whistler Campground

Betsy was snuggled in among the pine trees in an electric-only site

Bull Elk

This bull elk was a daily guest at the campground, as he kept an eye on his harem

We wanted to experience the beauty of Jasper NP on foot, as there are more than 615 miles of hiking trails of various difficulty to choose from.  But we were here during berry season, and the lady at the VC marked several trails as closed due to heavy bear activity.

On most days the sun was hiding behind the clouds and morning temps were in the 30’s. We had to push ourselves hard to get out and hike in those chilly conditions, but we did fairly well.

Berry

That’s bear food!

Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake is surrounded by several towering mountain peaks, and is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies.  It’s a very popular spot, and bus loads of tourists were enjoying the lake view with us.  But we left them behind as we followed a trail named after Mary Schaffer, who along with friends was one of the first tourists at the lake in 1908.

Curly Philips Boathouse, Maligne Lake

Turquoise colored glacial Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake

Boat tours were filled to capacity, even on dreary days

Mary Schaffer Loop Trail

Stands of pine and spruce lined the Mary Schaffer Loop Trail

Moss and lichens covered the grounds

Feather mosses covered the forest floor

Maligne Lake

Brrr…I’m guessing this was some kind of a crazy ritual?  It’s 35º out here!

Maligne Lake

Final look at Maligne Lake

Maligne Canyon

There are six bridges that criss-cross Maligne Canyon, and we followed the steep trail up to the fifth bridge.  The canyon’s karst system is cut incredibly deep through limestone, and water tumbles through a series of falls and drops.  Some geologists speculate that parts of the canyon were originally deep caves that have since been uncovered by glacial scraping and water erosion.

Maligne Canyon

View from the fourth bridge

Maligne Canyon

Looking down at the canyon, see the people way back there?

Medicine Lake

Along the Maligne Scenic Drive we stopped at Medicine Lake, considered a unique body of water.  It’s described as such because its water vanishes and re-appears each year.  In the springtime runoff fills the lake, but by September (when we were here) the continuously-dropping water level exposes the bottom.

The disappearance of the lake was a mystery until the discovery of a massive underground river system under it, which is where the water all drains.

Medicine Lake

By September a mudflat and ribbons of water are all that remain

Medicine Lake

You know a lake is shallow when a man can walk his dog all the way across it!

Pyramid Lake Island

Just a few minutes out of Jasper is a lake-dotted terrace named Pyramid Bench.  The island and lake around it get their names from Pyramid Mountain, which stands nearby at 9,064′.

Pyramid Island

Pyramid Island

Pyramid Mountain

Clouds obstruct Pyramid Mountain

Athabasca Valley

The trees have started to turn – yay!

Patricia Lake

Patricia Lake (left) and Pyramid Lake viewed from an overlook

Patricia Lake

Colorful boats at Patricia Lake

Pyramid Bench

The trails here are not well marked, so Steve had to be diligent with the map

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We found one of the six pairs of Red Chairs overlooking Pyramid Mountain

Mount Edith Cavell

From Pyramid Lake we drove further south to see Mount Edith Cavell, also recommended at the VC.  The mountain is named after a British nurse executed during World War I for her part in helping Allied prisoners escape occupied Brussels.  Getting there involved following a twisty road built in the 1930’s.

Mt Edith Cavell

A 9-mile switchback road lead us up to the mountain

Since we had just completed a 6-mile hike at Pyramid Lake, we followed the Path of the Glacier Trail here.  It’s an easy walk that took us across rocky landscape to the great north face of the mountain.

Path to Glacier Trail

Trail through glacial debris

Path of Glacier Trail

Interesting material along this trail

This impressive 10,826′ peak receives heavy snowfall even during the summer months.  My photos can’t capture the enormity of the mountain and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Mt Edith Clavell

We had lots of company here, since we arrived in the afternoon

Angel Glacier

Angel Glacier – hanging from the mountainside, it sits in a cirque between Mount Edith Cavell (left) and Mount Sorrow (right), supported (so it seems) by its “wings.”

Clavell Pond

Small but stunning opaque green Cavell Pond

Jasper SkyTram

Whistler’s Campground was only 2 miles from the Jasper Skytram, so we just had to take a ride.  It whisked us up Whistler’s Mountain to an elevation of 7,472′ in 7 minutes.  The payoff when we arrived was panoramic views of Jasper NP, and green valleys and mountains that stretched for miles.  The town of Jasper lay below, and we caught a glimpse of our campground tucked under heavy forest nearby.

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Athabasca River

Gazing down at Athabasca River – look at that glacial water!

Jasper

Look, there’s the town of Jasper!

Ice field Parkway

Running along Athabasca River is the Icefield Parkway

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We enjoyed the breathtaking views, then tried to rush a short hike to the summit – only to turn around halfway as ugly clouds approached, the temperature dropped and ice began pelting us.
Whistler Summit Trail

Whistler Summit

The trail to Whistler’s Summit – we made it just up to the snow line and decided to turn around

Jasper Tramway

On the way back down we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow developing over Jasper and the whole valley.  It was awesome!

Jasper Sky Tram

Somewhere under the rainbow is Steve, that little speck!

jasper over the rainbow

Double rainbow over Jasper

The rainbow signaled our departure back to lower elevations, but it was just the beginning of more spectacular moments to come.

 

Next Up:  Icefield Parkway



 

 

 

Visiting friends in Edmonton, Alberta

Comments 8 Standard
Muttart Conservatory

The map below is the route and stops we made while in Alberta.  If you missed our previous stops, click here for stop #1 and here for stop #2.  For our third stop, we could have driven straight to Jasper National Park via Banff National Park.  But we had Canadian friends in Edmonton that we were excited to visit.

canada-rockies

Leaving Cowtown (aka Calgary) behind, we moved north to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta and the farthest north we would journey this year.

Queen Elizabeth II Highway

A silo lumbering down the road – Queen Elizabeth II Highway

But before visiting our friends, we checked out West Edmonton Mall – dubbed the largest shopping mall in North America, and the tenth largest in the world.  We had no plans to buy anything, but we wanted to see this mega-mall for ourselves.

It’s massive!  At Galaxy Land, Steve was itching to ride one of the roller coasters until he saw the waiting line.  There were huge crowds everywhere we looked – at the stores, recreation areas, iceskating rink and everywhere in between.

Galaxy Land, West Edmonton Mall

The Mind-bender rollercoaster that Steve was eyeing

West Edmonton Mall

Crowds in every nook and cranny at the mall’s Sea Life Caverns

World WaterPark, West Edmonton Mall

Folks even come here during winter to the world’s largest indoor wave pool

We stumbled upon the T&T Asian Supermarket, and I couldn’t resist pulling Steve into this Asian mega-market.  That ended our wanderings in the noisy and crowded mall, as we had to haul our bounty out to the car.  Well, I didn’t think we’d be buying anything!

West Edmonton Mall

Steve determining how much more fish we can stuff into our freezer

Back to our real reason for this stop – to visit friends Matt and Gloria.  We met them last February in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, when we took our first caravan south of the U.S. border.  They were one of the few caravan couples to cross two international borders (USA and Mexico) to join the party.

Having friends in interesting places is always a good thing!

High Level Street Car

Aboard Streetcar Edmonton #33

Our first excursion with them was on a beautifully refurbished high-level trolley car dating back to the early 1900’s.  During this short jaunt the conductor/driver shared the history of the streetcar (which took 17 years to rebuild from scratch), and a sense of Edmonton’s early days as we rode across the 100-year-old high level bridge.

High Level Street Car

Crossing the highest streetcar river bridge in the world!

Streetcar number 33

With Matt and Gloria – our awesome personal tour guides

The streetcar took us right to the Alberta legislature building, the province’s foremost historic site.  We were a bit early for the first tour, so we wandered around the 55-acre grounds.  The sun was behind the clouds, and it was a bit chilly as we admired the acres of buildings and manicured lawns.

Alberta Legislative Building

Alberta Legislature Building

We caught the first free tour of the day and learned about the building and heard some fascinating stories behind its portraits and magnificent art.

Alberta Legislature

We marveled at the marble pillars and carved oak of the Beaux-arts architecture

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Our knowledgeable guide answered several questions regarding the structure and function of Canadian government

On the fifth floor, our tour guide pointed out a section dedicated to Alberta’s “Famous 5.” In 1927, Emily Murphy and four other prominent Canadian women fought a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that decided the word “person” did not include women.  These women fought hard and won a legal and political battle to have women recognized as persons under the law.  They have been celebrated for their many contributions that paved the way for women to participate in other aspects of public life, and the assertion of women’s rights.

 Famous Five

“Women are Persons” sculpture celebrates the Famous 5

Fort Edmonton Park

Our next stop was a main attraction in Edmonton – Fort Edmonton Park.  It’s a living museum that represents four distinct time periods and explores Edmonton’s development from a fur trade post in the vast Northwest to a booming metropolitan center after the First World War. The park has authentically re-created streets of the years 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920.  It was a unique way to give folks a chance to experience what life was like long before digital technologies came along.

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The 1920 ladies and the new gal in town

Fort Edmonton Park

1905 – a representation of tent living during pre – WWI boom years

Fort Edmonton Park

Along “Year 1885”  – The Settlement Era

It was in the year 1846 section that I learned about the significance of the beaver in Canada. Without beavers, Canada as we know it would not exist.  Everything changed the moment early French explorers realized, “Well, they don’t have any gold, but damn those rodents would make good looking hats.”

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We learned that fur trade was instrumental in the development of the country that would become Canada, and the beaver was at the heart of that enterprise.  Its pelt was used to make everything from felt hats to robes and winter coats.

Felt top hat

Shiny felt top hat made from beaver pelts

It was this demand for beaver pelts that prompted the Hudson’s Bay Company to establish a trading post.  The sole purpose of the post was to trade European goods to the local Cree, Blackfoot and other indigenous people in exchange for valuable beaver pelts.  The use of the beaver as a symbol stems back to the company’s coat of arms that dates to 1621.

Rowand House

The reconstructed Big House, originally built at Fort Edmonton in 1842.  It was the impressive residence built for John Rowand, chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company

Boys and Girls Day

The following day was the boys and girls day out.  While Gloria and I went to a conservatory to smell the flowers, the boys had their fun at the airport.

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At the Muttart Conservatory were four glass pyramids, each housing thousands of species of plants of distinct environment representing different biomes of the world.  They were the arid, temperate and tropical, with the fourth being a featured pyramid.

Muttart Conservatory

Gloria and I inside the featured pyramid, which displayed unique plants celebrating its 40th anniversary

On the other side of town, Steve and Matt enjoyed some guy time at the airport.  Matt had very generously set up a flight for Steve with his friend Eugene, in the beautiful Van’s RV7 that Eugene built.  They flew for about 40 minutes and did a roll along the way.  This plane really made Steve miss his flying days and got him thinking – oh oh!

Matt also showed Steve his amazing project plane, on which he is engineering a custom-built amphibious landing system.  Steve was so upset with himself that he had left his camera at Matt’s house, but he still totally enjoyed his time with “the flyboys” and started wondering what we might do after our RV travels…

on-wheels

Matt’s cool plane before the amphibious project began

cockpit

That’s a nice clean cockpit!

Matt and Gloria were wonderful hosts, and they showed us how Canadians entertain guests from across the border.  We can’t say enough how grateful we are for the time they spent with us in their beautiful city and home.  We’re so happy we’ll be hanging out with them again in Puerto Peñasco next winter!

Matt and Gloria

Cheers to you, Matt and Gloria….the first drink’s on us in Mexico!

 

Next up:  Jasper National Park



 

Sightseeing in Calgary, Alberta

Comments 8 Standard
Trees

Following our wonderful journey on the Rocky Mountaineer and a few days in Banff, a bus took us back to Calgary Airport where we had left our car when we flew to Vancouver.  We hastened back to Cochrane, where Betsy was patiently waiting at Bow Rivers Edge Campground.

Bow Riversedge

Betsy was in good company at Bow Rivers Edge Campground

Our first glimpse of Calgary was the rows and rows of homes built on the hillsides.  As the corporate home of Canada’s oil and gas industry, the urban sprawl here has grown despite problems in the oil market. Although Calgary covers roughly the same land area as New York City, it has only about 10% of the population.

Calgary

Just a section of the urban sprawl – with no trees around these homes are exposed to the elements

We took an excursion into the heart of Calgary on a cool and cloudy day.  With parking and traffic being such a hassle in the downtown area, we opted to use the city’s light rail transit (CTrain) and let our legs take us the rest of the way.

Calgary Train

Yes, another train ride!

First we had a bank convert some of our U.S. dollars to Canadian, at a rate of $1 to $1.28CAD.  While doing so, Steve engaged the teller into a conversation about what to do and where to eat in the city.  The lady was very helpful, like most of the locals we’d met so far.  Keeping her advice in mind, we began to meander around the city and made several discoveries.

Wonderland

A dramatic representation of a girl’s head called Wonderland – right in front of the Bow building

Train Calgary

We noticed the city was very clean, even here at the light rail station

Stephen Avenue was declared a National Historic District by the Canadian Government.  It’s a major venue for boutique shopping, bars, pubs and restaurants.

Stephens Avenue, Calgary

Seen from a catwalk over the street, Stephen Avenue has been turned into a pedestrian mall

Trees

Gigantic 26-metre-tall “Trees” sculptures on Stephen Avenue

Calgary, Alberta

Reflections on buildings

The city’s largest inner-city park is Prince’s Island Park.  It’s an island with a number of pleasant trails for walking and relaxing.  This is where Steve and I saw something weird. Stopping to observe the scenery, it was eerie to see about 30 people standing totally still in one area, staring down at their phones. Obviously, Pokémon is all the rage up here!

Prince's Island

Steve was thinking “Dawn of the Dead” when we came upon this scene

Black Squirrel

The black squirrel too was busy

The bank teller also suggested we stop by River Cafe in the park to taste their offerings.  We tried their Fish and Game Board appetizer, which was a bit gamey but quite yummy.

River Cafe

Fish and Game Board – Bison Pemmican, Wild Boar Prosciutto, House Cured Bushier Salumi, Juniper Smoked Lox, Smoked Salmon Rillete, Game Terrine and Canola Seed Crackers.  We need some wine over here!

With contented tummies we continued to walk around the island and crossed a red tubular pedestrian bridge that connects the southern Bow River pathway to Downtown Calgary.

Peace Bridge, Calgary

Peace Bridge built without piers crosses the Bow River

Peace Bridge

Walking through Peace Bridge

Have you seen a 30-seat bicycle before?  These riders are committed to supporting heart disease and stroke research, and they were a lot livelier than the ones we saw on that other corner!

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The Calgary Tower may not be quite as impressive as the CN Tower in Toronto, but it still commands a great view of the city and surrounding area.  Had it been a clearer day we could have seen the Rockies to the west.

Calgary Tower

627′ free standing Calgary Tower

Calgary Tower

A view from the top

Calgary Tower

My tummy actually churned as I looked straight down at the street below!

Bow River

The Bow River, which we’d seen several times in the Rockies, winds through Calgary on its way to Hudson Bay

If I know there’s a friend or relative living in an area we’re visiting, I always drag Steve with me to meet them.  While here, Hardy and Cheng welcomed us into their home.  Hardy was only 12 years old when I lived in his house as a boarder on an island in the Philippines.

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Ramon Vamenta, a distant relative of mine, caught up with me through Facebook.  We met up for dinner with him and his wife Lisa.  It was a pleasure to see them again.  Steve is amazed that I have friends and relatives even this far north!

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Calgary was placed on the map when they successfully hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988. The venue has been transformed into a high-performance athletic training facility and family fun park.

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Although there are no athletes in this family, one of us is always up for a bit of fun…

The plunge

Steve thought the 810′ long water slide was one of the actual olympic flumes, but it was instead just this inflatable one.  Looks like he still had fun!

…while the other is content to pose in more stationary places:

Jamaican Bob Sled

This bobsled was used in the movie “Cool Runnings”, the story about two Jamaicans who made a debut in 1988

We could have spent much more time hanging out in Calgary, we found the city to be beautiful and clean.  The locals were friendly and the drivers very courteous.  Being the gateway to Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is even more appealing as a must-see city north of the border.

Calgary, Alberta

Goodbye, Calgary till next time

 

Next up:  Visiting friends in Edmonton



 

Banff National Park – Banff, AB

Comments 19 Standard

2016-08-31-AB-1470733.jpgAfter being spoiled and indulged aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, we disembarked at our final destination, Banff, a busy town within Banff National Park.  We didn’t bring Betsy here, planning instead to stop at Lake Louise later to meet up with friends.  So instead we extended our stay to three nights and rented a car for our explorations.

Banff (pronounced “Banph”) is named after Banffshire, Scotland, the birthplace of two of the original Canadian Pacific Railway directors.  It was originally founded and developed with tourism in mind, after the discovery of extensive hot springs in the area and the subsequent creation of Banff National Park.  The founders were very successful, as this little town is busy year-round.

Banff, Alberta

Cascade Mountain overlooks the town of Banff

Driving around town

Just a few miles away was the birthplace of Canada’s National Park System, and Banff National Park.  At the Cave and Basin Historic Site, we visited a naturally-occurring warm mineral spring inside a cave, with a nearby emerald-colored basin – both discovered in 1883 by three railway workers.

The discovery captured the attention of the nation, and since then it’s been expanded and protected.  Leading to the creation of Banff National Park in 1885, it was the first national park in Canada and the third national park established in the world.  Besides numerous hot springs, the park also contains at least 25 peaks rising 9,800′ or more.

A hugely popular public spa was built and operated for many years:

Banff Upper Hot Springs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the many natural mineral hot springs in the area that attracted travelers a hundred years ago.  Canada Parks maintains them, preserving their authentic heritage.  For $7.50 we could have joined folks for a steamy soak, but alas we came unprepared.  So instead I simply took a picture of them soaking as we soaked in the scenery of the surrounding mountains.

Upper Hot Springs

Upper Hot Springs, one of nine naturally-occurring hot springs in the Banff area

Driving up winding Tunnel Mountain Road, we stopped at Surprise Corner.  It was possibly named by locals because of the surprise that comes after a sharp corner.  We certainly enjoyed the sudden appearance and incredible view of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel:

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

The surprise was the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Continuing along scenic Vermillion Lakes Drive, we got a good look at Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain.  The lakes here are the most important wetlands for migratory birds in Banff National Park.

Mount Rundle

The massive limestone wall of Mount Rundle with its towering cliffs stretches 7.4 miles southeast

Sulphur Mountain

A couple taking a break at the lake in the shadow of Sulphur Mountain

Walking around town

Being a fairly small town, navigating around was easy and Banff Avenue was a long stretch containing shops, boutiques, restaurants and château-style buildings.  With mountain peaks dominating the skyline, Banff is one of the few places we’ve been that have the combination of gorgeous scenery surrounded by majestic mountains and opportunities to hike near town.

Banff National Park

Canadians know how to enjoy their summers, adorning their homes, shops and streets with an array of beautiful flowers:

 

Banff, Alberta

Parking is at a premium here, and hopping on the “Roam” local public transit is hassle-free

In Canada they call it Washroom

Up here their called washrooms, eh?

We meandered along the Bow River Trail and walked past roaring rapids as we climbed above Bow Falls:

Banff, Alberta

A wooden pedestrian bridge crosses the river near town

Bow Falls

Bow Falls was featured in the 1953 movie “River of No Return “

Mount Norquay, Banff

Mount Norquay across glacial Bow River, which flows through Banff

Didn’t I say Banff has great mountain sceneries which ever way you look?

Beyond the town of Banff

Leaving civilization behind, we drove beyond town and explored Banff National Park further north, along Bow Valley Parkway.  We didn’t drive all the way to Lake Louise, saving some of it for our stop in a couple of weeks.  Along the way, the front range and mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains began to dazzle us.

The eastern portion of the parkway – called the montane – is a critical habitat for carnivores including wolves, cougars and bears.  From March 1st to June 25th, travel by vehicle, bicycle or on foot is not permitted between 8pm and 8am.  This is to ensure that wildlife can move freely across the landscape.

Grey Wolf

Our first sighting of a Grey Wolf!  It looked pretty black to us

Morons Curve- Bow Valley Parkway

A seemingly endless train at Morants Curve, following Bow River

Canadian Railway along the rockies

A wonderful view of Bow Valley, the emerald green river and glorious peaks

Sawback Range, Bow Valley Parkway

A sea of green, brown and red with specks of yellow

Sawback Range, Bow Valley Parkway

Jagged Sawback Range

With our time somewhat limited, we managed to squeeze in a decent 7-mile hike at Johnston Canyon Trail.  Having seen the overflowing parking lot the day before, we ensured an early start.  The trail follows Johnston Creek into a cool shady place between cliffs and magnificent waterfalls.

Johnston Canyon Trail

Interesting steel catwalks ran along the sheer rock walls

Johnston Canyon Trail

Yellow Lichens on pine trees

Lower Falls, Johnston Canyon Trail

Lower Falls as we returned near mid-day

Middle Falls, Johnston Canyon Trail

I call this Middle Falls

Upper Falls- Johnston Canyon Trail

Upper Falls, where most folks turn around.  We continued on to the “Ink Pots”

American Three-toed Woodpecker

A new bird for me – American Three-toed Woodpecker

We continued on and climbed above the falls to the Ink Pots.  Along the way we met a couple who stopped in their tracks when they saw a bear cross the trail.  They were happy to see us so we could hike as a group and make more noise along the way.  Kyle and Agnes became our instant “bear-deterrent friends”.

Johnston Canyon Trail

Thanks Kyle and Agnes for the picture, it was nice meeting you!

It was peaceful, quiet and beautiful when we arrived at the Ink Pots.  The area consists of several pools of emerald-colored mineral springs that bubble to the surface.

Ink Pots

I tried to capture the pool bottoms composed of quicksand that bubbled up to the top:

Ink Pots

One of the pools had this cool bubbling spring creation

These springs are unique in that they have a constant temperature of 4C (39º) and their basins are composed of quicksand.

Ink pots

Note the bubbling spring on the lower left forming a circle

The Red Chairs

Parks Canada has placed bright red chairs in scenic locations throughout the country’s national parks to help draw people to viewpoints where they can connect with nature.  On this stop we had two Red Chair moments:

Cave and Basin historic Site

At Cave and Basin Historic Site…

Mule Shoe Lake

…and at Mule Shoe Lake

Even the most appealing pictures I took here fail to convey the experience of being in these stunning surroundings and unspoiled wilderness.  But it was time to hop on a bus (included in our train package) for the return to Calgary and our lonely Betsy.  A rain storm during the ride from Banff National Park to Calgary completed an outstanding train trip across the Canadian Rockies.

 

P.S.  We’re back in the USA!  I’m ferociously trying to catch up with my tales and photos from our visits to Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper National Park and Lake Louise.  Bear with me as my weary fingers go into overdrive!

 

Next up:  A Visit to Calgary



 

 

 

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Vancouver to Banff, Canada

Comments 14 Standard
Rocky Mountaineer

As you may have noticed I’ve been absent from the blogosphere recently.  Once again, blogging and reading friend’s blogs must take a back seat.  Our days here in Alberta, Canada have been a marathon of fun, and tapping keys on the computer just hasn’t been happening 🙂

I’ve taken many pictures of the stunning Canadian Rockies for all to view and enjoy in my future posts.  For now let’s take a train ride!  

While perusing the exhibits at a railroad museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba last year (that story here), Steve saw a picture of a beautiful passenger train chugging through the stunning Canadian Rockies.  He couldn’t quit talking about it, and a year later here we were in the Rockies taking the dream trip that he had booked several months ago.

I wasn’t that excited about the trip at first, as I had ridden passenger trains to work hundreds of times during my working life.  But when he showed me the route and the promise of indulgence and relaxation, I was “all aboard” with the idea.  And it gave him a break from driving and cooking for a while!

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The Plane

We left Betsy parked at Bow RiversEdge RV Park (Steve’s review here) in Cochrane, Alberta, and boarded a plane to Vancouver where our getaway would begin.

West Jet Airplane

Steve’s first commercial flight in quite a while

We had visited Vancouver in 2012 – those blog posts are here and here.   With only a few daylight hours left when we arrived, we hustled to Harbour Center, where we used our voucher to see the city from 553′ up.  At the observation deck we had a 360° view, and although it was already twilight I managed to get some decent pictures.

Harbour Center

An outside elevator took us up to the Vancouver Lookout

Burrad Inlet

Burrad Inlet and a hazy view of West Vancouver

Historic Gaston

Historic Gastown

Canada Place

Built to resemble a ship sitting in Vancouver’s harbour, Canada Place has five iconic white “sails”

The Train

Rocky Mountaineer

He’d been waiting a long time for this moment!

The excursion we chose was a two day, one way First Passage to the West aboard the Rocky Mountaineer.  This route retraces the historic Canadian Pacific Railway’s route famous for uniting Canada by connecting it from east to west.  Boarding the train in Vancouver, we made an overnight stop at Kamloops and completed the trip at Banff on the 2nd day.  We chose the Gold Leaf Service so we could enjoy the luxury and comfort of a glass-domed coach with full-length windows. For the hotels we downgraded to the Silver Leaf Service, which saved us quite a bit of money and still provided very nice hotel rooms.

The awesome service began the moment we checked our luggage and hopped on the bus that took us to the train station.  This was our first experience having luggage transferred directly into our room at our next stops, and we liked it a lot!  They even gave us our room keys on the train so we didn’t have to check in at all.  Loved it!

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We were sent off in a festive mood

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Gold Leaf Service

Gold Leaf Service – this is the way to experience the Rockies!

The trip was superb, thanks to our coach hosts Pete and Shino.  They totally spoiled everyone, and also provided a colorful narration for the natural drama unfolding outside the windows.  In addition, we got a copy of the Rocky Mountaineer Mile Post, which featured a route guide listing points of interest along the way – referenced by mile posts.  It also explained information about the train, the history of the route, and the wildlife that we might see along the way (and we did see a bear, a couple of Bald Eagles and many Bighorn Sheep).

Pete and Shino

Pete and Shino were amazing

Downstairs in the dining car, Candace and Lynn made sure our tummies were always filled with yummy food and drinks.  Between meals we were plied with all the drinks and snacks we wanted.

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Fill it up, I’m not driving!

Here’s a sampling of our excellent main courses freshly prepared in the kitchen and served on real china:

Cheers to our new friends, Rocky and Marsha

Cheers to our new friends, Rocky and Marsha.  Rocky is a pilot, so he and Steve had lots to talk about

Day 1 – Vancouver to Kamloops

The first day of our journey took us from Vancouver to Kamloops in British Columbia.  The scenery unfolded from the lush green fields of the Fraser Valley through forests and winding river canyons surrounded by the peaks of the Coast and Cascade Mountains.  We also traveled through the desert-like environment of the British Columbia Interior.

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Pete or Shino would advise us in advance of any major photo opportunities, and the train would slow down a bit for us to get a good shot.  The downside was that taking pictures from within the glass dome showed reflections in many photos, and the common vestibule outside the car was always packed with people taking shots from there.

Hells Gate

The steep walls of the infamous Hell’s Gate Canyon on the Fraser River

Rainbow Canyon

Rainbow Canyon

Avalanche Alley

Rock sheds and slide detection fences protect the rails from unstable areas above – this area is called Avalanche Alley

Frazer River

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Our greeting party as we completed the first day

Once off the train we walked around Kamloops to burn some of the calories we had ingested during the day.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate – a monument honoring the vital role played by Chinese workers in building the railway

Kamploops

Concert at River Park in Kamloops

Kamloops Courthouse

A town in Alberta or British Columbia would be incomplete without lots of beautiful flowers!

Day 2 – Kamloops to Banff

On the second and final leg of our journey we continued east to our final destination at Banff.  We passed many more sparkling lakes and rivers, and an historic area.

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We passed through the spot where the last spike of the CP Rail Line was driven in 1885 at Craigellachie.  If not for the construction of the railway – built between 1881 and 1885 to connect Canada east to west – this dream-filled landscape would have remained hidden to the world.

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Kicking Horse River

We crossed Kicking Horse River seven times

The final section was an area full of railway history, tunnels, bridges and snow sheds. The most interesting part of our journey was when we entered the “Big Hill.”  In 1907, unique spiral tunnels were constructed that took 1,000 men 20 months to complete.  It allowed the climb to be reduced to a manageable 2.2 percent from the dangerous 4.5 percent that existed.  It’s described as a perfect maze, the railway doubling back upon itself twice, tunneling through mountains and crossing the river twice in order to cut down the grade. Pete narrated the entire 8-mile stretch as we traveled in the darkness.

Spiral Tunnel

The white dotted line is the route the train took through the Spiral Tunnel

Once out of the tunnels we had crossed the Continental Divide, the highest point on our journey.  This was the boundary between Banff National Park in Alberta and Yoho National Park in British Columbia.  We began seeing glaciers, high mountains and glacier-fed rivers.

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Bow River

Glacially fed Bow River

Rocky Mountaineer

A happy rocky mountaineer gives a thumbs-up to this trip!

We were among 625 passengers aboard 16 coaches.  On board we were surrounded with a team that ensured we had a wonderful journey.  There was a lot of interaction among passengers, especially during the lively commentary from Pete and Shino.  It was a luxury experience that definitely exceeded our expectations.

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Arriving in Banff, we extended our stay for two days so we could experience what the town is all about.  Since this post is already long, the automobile portion (actually a rented automobile) will be up next.

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Steve grudgingly gets back into the driver’s seat…

 

Next Up:  Banff National Park



 

A hidden crown jewel – Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada

Comments 30 Standard
Red Chairs
Chief Mountain Border Crossing

A 25-minute wait before entering the last two unexplored Canadian provinces of our adventure

It’s always music to our ears when “Randy” (our Rand McNally GPS) announces we’re crossing a state border, but it’s even more exciting when we cross an international border. So it was as we entered Alberta at the Chief Mountain crossing, just north of Glacier NP.

After answering questions such as “Did you bring firewood?”, “Where do you keep your gun?” and “How much alcohol do you have onboard?” we were good to go.  It can be a bit nerve-wracking, even on the 25th try!

Welcome to Canada

We’re looking forward to an exciting month north of the border

Our first destination in Canada was tucked away in the southwest corner of Alberta – Waterton Lakes National Park.  Its location, adjoining Glacier National Park in Montana along the international boundary, led to linking the two parks together in 1932.  It was the world’s first international peace park, designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.  It’s part of what has become known as the “Crown of the Continent,” with spellbinding scenery spanning the corners of Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.

Waterton Lakes NP has bragging rights as the only place on earth endowed with three recognized titles: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park and a Biosphere Reserve.  How special is that?  There was no question we had to check this place out!

Upper Waterton Lake

Upper Waterton Lake – this place embodies the peace and friendship shared along the world’s longest undefended border, and is the basis for creating the Peace Park

Red Rock Canyon

One of the scenic drives here is Red Rock Parkway.  It meanders through grasslands, rollings hills and mountains, and ends at a vivid red-colored canyon created through water erosion.  The red canyon is further accented by the surrounding lush vegetation and mountain peaks in the background.

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon

We followed a short trail around Red Rock Canyon, and continued on for another half mile to view Blakiston Falls.  We got only a peek at the falls, as the overlooks were blocked due to construction work.  But they couldn’t block the view to the highest peak in the park – Mount Blakiston – which towers above them all.

Blakiston falls

Mount Blakiston and a peek at Blakiston Falls

Our knowledgeable camp host mentioned that there were many opportunities to see bears along the parkway.  And sure enough, we saw some “indicators” that they had been on the roads as we drove.  It wasn’t long before we saw a mom and cub playing on a golf course early in the morning:

Bear’s Hump hike

This very popular and strenuous .9-mile trail climbs 738′ to a magnificent view of the area. Despite clouds hovering above, the views of Waterton Valley, the glistening Upper and Middle Waterton lakes and Waterton Townsite below kept our cameras blazing.  Being the first ones there in the morning allowed us to soak in the views and fresh air in solitude.  We enjoyed our breakfast on the rocks in perfect peace.

Waterton Valley

Hey, that’s Montana at the other end of the lake!

Mount Cleveland

Mount Cleveland is the tallest peak in Glacier NP, and several other mountains make up the southern end of Upper Waterton Lake

Waterton Townsite

Looking down at Waterton Townsite, a very cool and quaint little town with lots of good food and shopping.  There’s cold beer with our names on it somewhere down there!

Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales Hotel

Lower Waterton Lake

To the north is the best indication that Waterton is the only place in the Canadian Rockies where the prairies and mountains meet without a transition of foothills

Our excitement was heightened on the way back down.  Steve rounded a corner, and there was a black bear RIGHT THERE on the trail, less than 25′ away.  We had been making noise as we talked, but this guy didn’t seem very concerned about us.

He scampered away as Steve completed his heart attack and grabbed his camera to get a shot.  Funny he went for his camera and not the bear spray – I trained him well!

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International Peace Hike

How often can you hike in two countries on a single day?   This trek was guided by two park rangers and required us to bring our passports.  John and Pam had recommended this excellent guided hike to us, and we’re so glad they did.

Our guides were Elizabeth, an American park ranger from Glacier NP and Sierra, a Canadian Waterton Lakes NP interpreter.  They led us along the lakeshore for a moderate 8.5 mile hike that began in Waterton NP and ended in the U.S. at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station.  After presenting our passports to the officers we boarded a boat for a narrated tour back to Waterton.  That counts as two more border crossings, folks!

Lakeshore Trail

Sierra talking about the cultural history of the area

Glacier National park

Elizabeth presented the mountain peaks of both countries

Our guides were both passionate and knowledgeable, taking turns showing us what the two parks shared – an ecosystem with over 1,200 species of plants, over 60 species of wildlife and the various ways both countries work together for peace and friendship.

On the Canadian section of the trail, they talked about natural, cultural and historical aspects, while on the U.S. side each hiker was introduced to a plant specie and then encouraged to explain it to the rest of the group as we moved along the trail.  It was an excellent way for each person to learn about at least a few of the plants in the area.

International Border

That cut through the trees is the border that extends East to West all the way across the continent

International Peace Hike

Peace and friendship handshake between two nations at the int’l border

The pace of the hike was to Steve’s liking – no photo stops!  Except for the short breaks and a pause when we encountered a mama bear and her cub on the trail, we moved along at a good clip.

International Peace Hike

This guy was hauling supplies to the border – cool!

We thoroughly enjoyed this hike and learned a few interesting obscure facts.  One was that the trees and vegetation on the international border are cut alternately by U.S. and Canadian organizations every ten years to maintain the visual border.

Goat Haunt

From Goat Haunt, Glacier NP, USA – viewing the peaks at Waterton, Canada

Scenes around town

Watertown Village is a cute colorful townsite in the heart of Waterton Lakes NP.  It was founded in 1904 by the Western Coal and Oil Company based out of Vancouver, BC. According to the 2011 census, Waterton Park Township has 88 permanent residents in 31 of its 181 dwellings.

Waterton Village

Many of the shops were adorned with colorful flowers

Buck around town

Mule Deer are iconic residents of the village, looks like this one’s on his way to breakfast!

waterton village

I just couldn’t pass up a yummy pistachio ice cream after our long hike

Trappers Mountain Grill

Tall and short beers after another hike.  Steve told me to hurry up and just take the damn picture!

Cameron Falls

Cameron Falls can be viewed at the southern end of town

Red Chairs

I finally got my chance to sit in one of the strategically placed red chairs at the best lookout in Waterton, they are very popular here

Bear's Hump

Bear’s Hump (or Mt. Crandall) viewed from the marina

Prince of Wales Hotel

A view across Waterton Lake at the Prince of Wales Hotel, built in 1927

Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel up close

Prince of Wales Hotel

Inside the lobby at Prince of Wales Hotel, a little rich for our blood!

Bear sightings were a daily occurrence, be it on the trail, at the lake or on the golf course. They’re all over up here, and we haven’t seen this many since our trek through Alaska.

Cinnamon Bear

Just move along, unless you’d like to be my breakfast!

At 195 square miles, Waterton NP is the smallest of the Rocky Mountain parks in Canada, and it can be visited in a day.  And since it’s adjacent to Glacier NP it could easily be added to your itinerary – just don’t forget your passport.  But we’re glad we spent several days so we could enjoy the town and get in some excellent hiking.

If you’re planning on coming to Canada next year, you should know that entrance to all national parks in 2017 will be FREE to celebrate the centennial of their park system.  That’s good news if you want to save money on park passes, but we’re guessing the most popular national parks will be very busy.

 

Next up:  A brief run into another province – Saskatchewan!