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Three weeks in Alberta and BC - Mini trip report

Three weeks in Alberta and BC - Mini trip report

Jul 21st, 2004, 08:04 PM
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Three weeks in Alberta and BC - Mini trip report

Before I left, several of you asked me to give a short report on part of my trip to the Rockies, Prince Rupert, and the inland passage ride on the BC ferry.

I think the glories of the Icefields Parkway have been well discussed in other postings.
We drove it on a perfect day and it was its usual splendid self.

From Jasper, we drove westward to Vanderhoof, BC, to spend the night enroute to Prince Rupert. The North Country Inn was a good place to sleep and the restaurant associated with the motel was much better than expected. The chef was trained in Germany and he was really good.

The drive to Prince Rupert the following day featured two elements: rain and trees.

The next morning we took the Queen of the North ferry for the 15 hour cruise to Port Hardy on the northern end of Vancouver Island. The boat was fine, and the food was very good. After exploring the passenger decks, and watching the landscape, I finally got bored with it after about 5 hours. More pine, spruce and fir trees on both sides of a narrow strip of water. I had expected more dramatic scenery. Instead, It was mostly more trees. For the cost, I don't think that part of the trip was worth it.

The remainder of the trip culminated with two very different but very satisfying events. The first one was a visit to the BC Provincial Museum where Egyptian artifacts from the British Museum are on display. We spend more than 2 hours looking at the various art objects taken from tombs and looking at the usual mummies. Highly interesting to say the least.

The second fun event was a hike to Twin Falls Chalet in Yono National park where we had a small family reunion for two nights. Fran Drummond who runs the place is an accomplished artist with food which she cooks to perfection on a wood burning stove. (No electricity, so you get away from it totally.) Fran made sure the two boys had plenty of chocolate cake, which was a major highlight of the day for them.

Those of you with early teen aged children know how fast some foods can disappear! I think they inhaled the chocolate! Needless to say, Fran's cooking was the best food on the trip. How she does it on a wood stove beats the heck out of me. She knows how to select the right blend of firewood, and she watches the temperature guage very closely.

In all a fun trip.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 03:41 AM
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Nice trip report bob; great reading, as always. Lucky you getting to experience the spectacular icefields parkway again, one of my all time favorite places! I'm sure you've done the sno-coach in previous trips?

Also curious about Twin Falls Chalet in Yono National park - is that also where you stayed? And i gather it's kid friendly (altho our kids are teens/young adults now...) Just starting to assemble another western trip including more of the incredible canadian countryside. Thanks for posting!
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Jul 22nd, 2004, 04:52 AM
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Twin Falls Chalet was featured last night on Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies on PBS stations in the states last night. It was everything Bob said it was.
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Jul 22nd, 2004, 01:43 PM
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I will be happy to describe Twin Falls Chalet a little more. This trip for me and my wife was a repeat visit.

The chalet is small and made from heavy logs. The bedrooms are small and featue double decked bunks. Sleeping capacity when totally full is 14.

The shower is a solar headed affair. You need to move quickly!

The bunks are foam pads and a sleeping bag, or blankets if you think the bag is too much.

Dinner is by kerosene lamp light. It is served family style at a big table for all, including the staff.

I would describe the setting as rustic, but hospitable and comfortable. As for "kid friendly", it depends on the child. Our two grandsons had a great time, and the first night there was a 12 year old young lady there with her grand parents. So the youngsters soon had their own conversation going.

On one of our visits, there were twin 9 year old girls at the chalet. They fit right in and mom made sure they had a few games along to keep them amused. Watching them was like seeing double. The girls dressed alike, and every time one of them moved, so did the other one. Their parents could tell them apart, but I never figured it out.

The supply line for the chalet is expensive and so is the upkeep. As a result, some people find the prices high. I suppose they are, but if you want to be royally fed in the middle of the woods and sleep under a roof that does not leak in a warm, comfortable bunk, there is a price to be paid.

The water falls themselves are right in front of the cabin and you can view them coming and going.

The shortest trail up there is 5 miles from the Takkakaw Falls campground parking lot. It is the main Yoho Valley Trail. There is a more scenic alternative which involves ascending the side of the valley to the Iceline trail and following it to near its high point. Then hikers bound for Twin Falls descend to Celeste Lake, cross the Little Yoho River, and approach the chalet over a rock slide.

Another option, rarely taken, is to follow the Yoho Valley main trail to Laughing Falls, where the Little Yoho River reaches the valley floor. The trail to the Stanley Mitchell alpine hut branches off there as it leads west along the Little Yoho. Farther up, the Little Yoho trail intersects with the start/end of the Whaleback Trail. From the Little Yoho valley the ascent of the Whaleback is very steep. (It is not exactly a piece of cake from Twins Falls Chalet, either.)

The Iceline and the Whaleback are two very scenic trails, by most any standard. The view from the high point of the Whaleback is to me the grandest view in the Rockies because it is so expansive. In saying that, however, I realize I might well have told someone else that the view of Lake O'Hara from the Yukness Ledge is the best, or that the view from the Lake McArthur Highline trail was top notch. (I tend to be fickle that way.)It is about like asking which was the best strike in a 300 bowling game!

Fran Drummond, who operates the chalet, is something of a legend in her own time. If you can get her started, she can tell quite a few stories. This year she was able to get a grant to help improve the chalet structure itself. So this summer will not be a full season. The foundation logs that hold up the main part of the building will be reinforced and other repairs are scheduled.

bob_brown is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2004, 03:17 PM
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maj
 
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Ellen

We had just watched the Great Lodges of the Canadian Rockies with Twin Falls Chalet featured about an hour before I read Bob's report. I'm sure they will have it on again if you are interested. There are two episodes with the Twin Falls one being in the second episode. Another one that looked really interesting was Mt. Assiniboine. (I'm fairly new to this site--are you related to clarkgriswold from the US site?)

Bob--thanks for the great descriptions of the trails.
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Jul 22nd, 2004, 03:55 PM
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I think the Assinboine Lodge would be a great objective. The problems are these: If you walk, the approach trails are very long. If you take the helicopter, the cost runs up there.

I am not sure I will ever be in condition again to hike to it. So if I decide to go, the whirly bird is my only way.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2004, 04:24 AM
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Thanks for the additional info Bob as i know a return trip to the Icefields Parkway (our fave) is in our future. And yes, there's always 'a price to be paid' for incredible, unique lodging; in fact some lodging memories are priceLESS and it sounds like the chalet falls into that category.

Hi Maj! i think the clarkgriswold who posts on the usa board is my hubby's long lost third cousin's nephew twice-removed ..?!.. My hubby 'sparky' is clark_w_griswold.
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Jul 23rd, 2004, 06:32 AM
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mms
 
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I too saw the show on the Great Lodges and really enjoyed seeing places we had been and of course drooling over new places to go. The Assiniboine is on our list! Looks like the perfect vacation for us!
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Jul 23rd, 2004, 03:19 PM
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Am I correct in thinking the Egyptian artifacts exhibit costs extra to see? If so, did you think it was worth it?
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Jul 23rd, 2004, 07:18 PM
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It was extra. The admission charge was 22.50 C for the museum and the Eternal Egypt special exhibit. The old folks price was less, and I took advantage of it. There was only 1 admission price that I saw. I do not recall subdivided prices.

Was it worth it? Well, yes, for me it was, but such judgments are very personal. I wish I had had more time.
We were among the last to leave because a young man who knew his subject matter was talking about mummies. The attendant finally came over and told us all to leave because we were well past closing time.


bob_brown is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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Thanks, Bob. I think I'll go see it.

Glad to hear you were able to do some hiking.
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Jul 25th, 2004, 04:16 PM
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There was an extra charge to see some Imax presentation. Also, the Egyptian part took us 2 hours plus. If you want to see the other parts of the museum, which are very well presented, you need about 2 additional hours. There is a lot packed into a rather small space.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:42 PM
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Thanks for the report Bob-and also Thanks for confirming what I have posted here time and time again re:the Inside Passage ferry route from Prince Rupert.
Many times I've posted here that much of the route is drear and uninspiring.
The *best* part of the trip along BC's coast is the Discovery Coast daylight trip from Bella Coola to Port Hardy-there'll you'll see scenery that's much more dramatic and yet more personal.
I plan to be on that boat Aug 14.
http://www.bcferries.ca/schedules/discovery/
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Jul 31st, 2004, 07:25 AM
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I also saw the Pbs program featuring the twin falls chalet, to me it seemed magical. Did you make reservations far in advance? would you mind giving me a ballpark figure of its cost to stay? I heard a funny story about the honeymooners who had applause after the first night. SO I'm assuming quarters are very close. Was Fran as lovely as she seemed? I can only imagine the beauty of it all. Thanks for sharing your stories.
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Jul 31st, 2004, 03:48 PM
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In response to the question above, Fran Drummond of Twin Falls Chalet is for real. What you saw on film is the real Fran, no put up front, no acting for the camera. What you saw is what you get. She is a legend in her own time.

She is full of stories, mostly about idiots turned loose in the backwoods. I got her started once on the time she and others fished out the guy who fell over the falls trying to take a picture of himself on the brink.

He survived somehow. He was lucky that one of the guests at the chalet was an MD. He had Fran pack the guy in a sleeping bag to help combat hypothermia.

I usually make my reservation call well ahead because Fran is hard to reach these days. She has a major renovation going on at the chalet, and then she dashes over to Vancouver Island to check on her aging mother.

I am not sure how much longer this year she will try to operate the chalet because of the rennovations. Weather by early October starts to become a threat.

Here is the contact info I have. Fran Drummond (403) 228-7079
Box 23009
Connaught PO
Calgary, Alberta T2S 3B1
Canada

The place is small and the guest rooms are compact. The food is first class because Fran is a fantastic cook.

It takes a certain mind set to hike the trails to get up there, and to explore higher and farther while there.

It is not a luxury lodge dedicated to those who want to spend their time sitting and doing nothing. It is a lodge for the active.

There is no electricity and no running water. So that is why I say, you have to be of the right mindset. You will love it if that is your game.

On this recent trip, my son and his family met us up there. The boys loved the place. The older of the two thought the Whaleback was the most glorious trail he had ever seen.

My son loves that sort of thing anyhow because he has done it since he was 5 years old, first with us, and later on his own. Camping and backpacking for him are old hat. He climbed Mt. Harvard in Colorado with us when he was 12. On that trip we camped out at timber line at about 12,000 feet and found out about condensation freezing inside of the tent.

The rates are not cheap because of the immense expense of running and supplying the place. I think we paid $160.00 per person per day. But, if you want to be 5 miles from a paved road and still have a warm comfortable bunk, a roof that does not leak, strong walls to keep out the wind, and gourmet food, there is a price to be paid.

I can tell you right now that Fran's profit from that place is very slim. Given her opportunity costs, she probably goes in the hole. Running the chalet is a labor of love and it requires the strongest dedication.

I have been there several times and obviously, I am happy to be there time after time.
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