Trip Report - Canadian Rockies July 2007

Aug 8th, 2007, 05:16 AM
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Trip Report - Canadian Rockies July 2007

Hubby and I traveled from Washington, DC to the Canadian Rockies for a week-long vacation July 18-25, 2007. In lieu of writing a trip report, I am going to paste a portion from my journal. Don’t say I didn’t warn you — it is long!!!

Photos will be forthcoming when I finish processing them. I’ll add a link to the end of this post when they are available for viewing.

VACATIONING IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

“If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.”
CPR Railroad Officials

JULY 18, 2007
LET’S GO TO THE ROCKIES

It’s 6:30a and we’re flying over a sea of white. The blue skies around us are a bit hazy. There are occasional breaks in the puffy clouds, giving us a glimpse of terra firma 34,000 ft [10,200 m] below us.

Four hours ago, the alarm was waking us for the long day ahead. Now, we’re on a Boeing 757 en route to Chicago — we have an hour left on our 1½-hour flight. The attendants are serving beverages; about the only thing you get on short-haul flights these days. We brought our own breakfast with us, so no matter.

We’re sitting in the exit row — seats 9A and 9C — next to the gangway through which we boarded the aircraft. The seats are on the narrow side, with fixed armrests. Can’t complain about the legroom, however; there is neither a row of seats nor a bulkhead in front of us. With the middle seat empty, we are quite comfy in fact.

** DULLES SAGA

We left the house at 3:32a — just two minutes behind schedule. There was practically no traffic en route to Dulles; a benefit of being out on the roads at such an early hour. The parking spirits smiled on us and we found a spot as soon as we turned into the green lot at economy parking. A few minutes later, we were on the shuttle to the terminal. All smooth; all stress-free. Then we entered the main terminal. Bye-bye stress-free morning!

Online check-in is supposed to eliminate having to wait in line when you get to the airport. Right!!! None of the self-check kiosks were operational until 4:45a, so we joined a short queue of three to check our bags. We waited; and we waited. Forget slow, the line wasn’t moving at all. The sole agent on duty was handling a passenger with a problematic situation. Twenty minutes later, we started to see some action. Ten more minutes, and we were getting our bags tagged. Our request for exit seats was honored and the gate agent assigned us new seats on both legs of our forward journey. Yay!

With tagged bags in tow, we next headed to the bag drop off. At this point I have little confidence that our bags are on the flight with us. Why? Because there was no one manning the x-ray machines where we were directed to leave our bags. The attendant there said not to worry, but leaving our bags with the 30-40 other suitcases already stacked by the machines was not confidence-inspiring. That we had little over an hour before departure did not help matters either. Oh well; this is why we packed the carry on with an extra set of clothes!

Waving goodbye to our bags, we headed to the security gates where we had the third unpleasant surprise of the morning. A very, very long line of passengers and just a few screening lanes open. I know I shouldn’t stress over things like this, but I can’t help it. I miss the days when air travel used to be fun! Anyway, the line moved at a steady pace. Just as we neared the head of the line, another ten or so lanes were opened and we were directed to one of the new lines where we went through the metal detectors without mishap.

With six seconds to spare, we boarded the mobile lounge to Terminal D. Sighing with relief, I noted that it had taken us an hour to get through the formalities. We made it to the gate 17 minutes before the posted boarding time. The good news: there were very few passengers in the waiting area. We kept our fingers crossed that the window seat in our exit row would not be occupied. And so it turned out to be, allowing me to move into that seat once the aircraft doors were closed and armed.

And so here we are. For a while we had a bed of fluffy white clouds beneath us. They made an intriguing contrast with the dark skies in the distance. Now, the clouds are gone and there is lots of green ground below with a few dense concentrations of urban centers here and there. The pilot has just announced that we are on initial descent into O’Hare; time to put away the laptop. Catch you when we’re on the ground.

** EN ROUTE TO CALGARY

With an on-time departure of 8:02a, we have started the second leg of our air travel. The CRJ700 [Canadair Regional Jet] that we are flying is much smaller than the 757 that brought us to Chicago. In fact, I had to gate-check the carry-on bag. I’m not concerned, however, since I watched it being loaded onto the plane from my window seat in Row 12. We’re in exit row seats again. There’s plenty of legroom, but the width of the seats leaves a lot to be desired. It sure pays to be petite! There are only two seats on either side of the aisle, leaving no room to spread out on this sold-out flight. The pilot has announced that flying time will be 3 hours and 10 minutes. We gain another time zone in the process, putting Washington two hours behind us. There is an advantage to flying west, but we’ll pay the price on the return trip.

The flight attendants will be coming around with beverages soon. I think I’ll take a break from journaling and read my book for a while. The book, Last Train to Istanbul, is written by Ayþe Kulin, a Turkish author. It’s a work of fiction based on the documented efforts of Turkish diplomats to save hundreds of Jewish people during WWII. Quite a page turner; thanks Mom, for sending it to me.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:19 AM
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** AT THE RESORT

We’re settled into our studio accommodations at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort, which is on the outskirts of the Banff townsite — about 4 km [2.5 miles] away. The location works to our advantage. We’re well away from the day and nighttime noises of town; not to mention the dust and noise of the street construction on Banff Avenue, the main street that runs through the townsite.

Our ground-level studio apartment is small, but more than adequate for our needs. Everything is in one room — the sleeping area, the sitting area, and the kitchenette; the en suite facilities are separate. A tidy little package. As hot as it is right now, it doesn’t look like we’ll need the fireplace, but it adds a nice ambiance nonetheless. There is no A/C, so hopefully this heat wave will not last long.

So what happened before we got here? I’ll pick up from where I left off on our flight to Calgary. The flight was uneventful. For the most part, we flew above a fluffy bed of clouds, so there was nothing to see outside the window. With no in-flight entertainment, we passed the time reading.

We landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Going through customs was a cinch and within a few minutes we were saying farewell to the friendly Canadian agent who processed our passports. Remember the two checked bags that I didn’t think would make it. Well, ye of little faith — they were amongst the first to show up on the baggage carousel. My hat’s off to UA on this occasion. I still wonder how they managed to misplace a bag on a direct flight for which we checked in three hours early [on our adventure to Antarctica in December 2006], yet managed to get all of our bags to Calgary despite a yet-to-be operational x-ray kiosk and a short connection time.

By 10:45a, luggage cart loaded, we were heading to Hertz to pick up our rental. A few more minutes, and we were driving out of the parking garage in a fire-engine-red Dodge Caliber. Heading west on 16th Avenue, we found the North Hill Shopping Centre where I thought we would find a Scotia Bank ATM. No joy in that respect, but we did find a food court and a Safeway. After a quick bite to eat at Edo’s, we did our grocery shopping. Just as we were about to check-out, there was a power outage, but a few of the registers remained operational and we were able to complete our purchase. One final stop — at a Scotia Bank ATM in a Shell gas station near the Foothills Medical Center — and we were heading out of town.

“It sure doesn’t feel like we’re in the Rockies,” Mui commented as we drove west on the TransCanada Highway. He was right; the gently rolling hills and lush fields dotted with cows looked nothing like the pictures of the Rockies we had seen prior to our trip. There was an explanation — we were nowhere near the mountains yet. We didn’t have to wait long for our first sight of the Canadian Rockies. They suddenly appeared from behind the thick haze. Knowing that we would have better views of the mountains in the week ahead, we did not dally en route.

The drive was uneventful and before we knew it, we were driving through the entrance to Banff National Park (NP). With our pre-purchased park passes in hand, we didn’t even have to stop. I couldn’t help but grin: “It sure pays to read the Fodor’s boards!” I said, referring to the little tidbit I had come across about using the express lane if you already have a park pass.

Following directions from the resort’s website, we took the first Banff townsite exit. Within minutes we were pulling up in front of the gatehouse at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. “This is more like it,” I commented when a cooling breeze enveloped us as we walked up the stairs to the lobby. It was a nice change from the warmer-than-expected temperature we had experienced on the drive from Calgary.

We stayed in the suite just long enough to put the groceries away before driving to the townsite. The construction on Banff Avenue was not pleasant, but having heard about it in advance, we were prepared for it. The first order of business was a visit to the Information Center to pick up brochures and maps, and check trail conditions, etc. Also, I wanted to verify that our park passes — I had ordered group passes, but the little stubs of paper read ‘1 adult’ — were correct. It turns out that they weren’t. No problem; they were easily exchanged for an annual pass [seven days is the break even point].

The temperature inside the Information Center — indeed in most of the buildings we entered later on — was stifling. When we commented, the locals were quick to say that the heat wave was totally unusual. Under normal circumstances, air conditioning might have been a luxury, but everyone was bemoaning the lack of it today.

** THE HEAT IS ON

We went back into Banff town after dinner to catch tonight’s documentary movie at the Information Center. We were delighted to feel a breeze cooling things down considerably since our foray into town earlier in the day. Wandering up and down the main drag, we window-shopped and got a couple of ice cream cones from Cows. No; I don’t mean real cows, although that is where the base for ice cream comes from . The Cows I’m talking about is an ice creamery/souvenir shop on Banff Avenue.

When we wandered into the Information Center just before 7:00p, we were greeted by a wall of heat — remember, no A/C and there’s no cooling breezes inside. We made a brave attempt to watch the documentary, but we failed. Twenty minutes into it, we had to leave as the temperature in the theater was worse than stifling. Outside, it was a different story — cool breezes again. After a short drive up to the Banff Springs Hotel, we returned to our suite where a cooling shower revived us just long enough to reach our goal of staying up until 9:00p, even though our body clocks were screaming 11:00p.

We have all the windows in the suite open, and the small fan is working overtime. It’s not going to be a pleasant night … just too darn hot.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:20 AM
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JULY 19, 2007
AROUND BANFF TOWNSITE

Greetings on a morning of thunder and rain. I heard vague rumblings around 4:30a. My first thought was that the weatherman had missed the mark — again; the rain and thunder had been forecasted for around midnight. Oh well!

Last night, we decided to make this an easy day. The weather seems bent on forcing our hand and slowing down our pace. We need a planning day, so I don’t mind. We’ll just don our raingear and go for a long walk if the weather doesn’t let up. At least the heat that plagued the area yesterday seems to have broken — for now. Yesterday they were forecasting 24C [75F] as the high for today. We’ll see.

Time to go do some sightseeing.

** BOW FALLS

Pleasantly exhausted, we’re calling it a day — it’s after 8:00p. We picked up some sandwiches from Evelyn’s — tasty, but I would have preferred thinly sliced bread over the country slices; the sandwich was just a bit too thick for me to bite into. After dinner, we went to the gatehouse to use the Internet. The smallest package the resort offers is one-hour and the time cannot be banked over a period of days. We’ll go to the cybercafé I found in the townsite if we need to check messages again.

We walked out the door this morning thinking the rain was over. Surprise! It was raining quite heavily, but the brief shower was over by the time we put on our raingear for the short walk to the car. Rather than taking Banff Avenue into town to get to the Bow River/Hoodoos trail, we took Tunnel Mountain Road. It was still overcast when we stopped at the Tunnel Mountain overlook for a few pictures. The refreshing breeze felt quite good. The scent of pine trees was in the air and we took deep breaths, enjoying the change from the city exhaust smells that we’re used to.

Surprise Corner indeed had a surprise in store for us — a very nice view of the historic Banff Springs Hotel — affectionately known as the ‘Castle in the Rockies’. Here we had our first experience of hoards of tourists descending on overlooks en masse.

We dallied, taking advantage of the lulls between busses to take our pictures and enjoy the ever-changing light on the face of the Banff Springs Hotel as the sun rose higher, playing peek-a-boo through the clouds moving across the sky. Then, we geared up and headed out on the Bow River/Hoodoos trail — 5.1 km [3.8 miles] one way. Having heard that mosquitoes were prevalent in the area, we were prepared with our insect repellent. Unfortunately, the natural repellent did little to keep the mozzies away from Mui. After a couple of bites that quickly became swollen, we bagged the trail and returned to the car for some deet protection.

Rather than returning to the same trail, we drove into Banff, crossed the Bow Bridge, and found the Bow Falls trail. With lunchtime at hand, we took our picnic to a bench overlooking the falls. The skies were clear; the sun was out; a light breeze was keeping the mid-day temperature at bay. We had just finished our simple repast when two busloads of tourists descended on us; it was time for us to take a hike — literally.

Before walking the trail, we crossed the bridge over the Spray River, passed the golf course, and scrambled up a short path to perch on some rocks overlooking the confluence of the Spray and Bow rivers. There were only two other people here, but before we could congratulate ourselves on finding a quiet spot, several more people arrived. And so we headed off on the trail.

Stopping often to enjoy the falls, the river, the mountains, and the wildflowers in bloom, we walked the 1.2 km [3/4 mile] one way trail that parallels the Bow River. Trees provided plenty of shade, and the scenery added to our pleasure in the afternoon. The narrow path along the river was closed due to flood damage, so we had to walk along the wider inside path. We didn’t mind, however, as the river was still in view to keep us entertained. Clouds moved in occasionally, but for the most part, clear skies accompanied us to the end of the trail at Bow Bridge.

** COLORFUL RIBBONS OF FLOWERS

In 1934, an architect by the name of Becket wrote that Banff was “…to have a geological garden which will be the only one of its kind in the world. It will depict in rock, plants and models the evolution of life…the Cascades of Time.” And so Cascade Gardens was born.

Rather than immediately starting the return trek to the falls, we walked over to check out the gardens. There were quite a few people wandering around, but it wasn’t overly crowded. It was Becket’s intention that the gardens be a journey through time. He envisioned pools that would represent the main geological periods during which the Rocky Mountains were formed. Cascades of water — representing time — would connect the pools that were to be built from rocks of an appropriate age. His vision sort of came true — lack of funding and some geological errors resulted in a different reality being represented in the gardens. Knowing this did not diminish our pleasure in the visit. We strolled the flagstone paths, enjoying the flowers laid out in ribbons of color. From a high perch, we checked out the view of Banff townsite — a study of chaos thanks to the construction along the length of Banff Avenue — with Cascade Mountain standing sentinel duty at the far end.

Little did we know when we decided to visit the gardens that we would end up being part of a wedding. When the officiate first approached us about being witnesses, we were a little unsure, but we figured, “What the heck.” Having made a last-minute decision to wed in Canada, the couple was casually dressed in shorts and t-shirts. I offered to take pictures as well since they had just a throwaway-camera for the occasion. The ceremony lasted about 20 minutes, with the officiate moving us from one location to another — I guess he wanted to make sure there was a variety of backgrounds for the photos. After the couple was declared husband and wife, we bid the newlyweds well in their life together and headed back to the Bow Falls trail.

Loath to leave the beautiful scenery behind once we arrived at the car, we took our afternoon snack to a spot on the river banks and enjoyed Bow Falls for a little while longer. Eventually, we left the falls behind and drove into Banff townsite. After a quick stop at the Information Center to check on trail closures [for bear activity], we window-shopped on Banff Avenue. The dust and noise from the ongoing construction had us beating a hasty retreat. But not before we had an opportunity to check out the qiviuk products made from the underhair of musk oxen and pick up sandwiches from Evelyn’s.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:21 AM
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JULY 20, 2007
GLACIAL LAKES & WILDLIFE

Dinner tonight was sandwiches from Subway. Not the most exciting meal, but dining out would have taken too long. Normally, a slow-paced dinner would not be a problem, but we returned from our day’s outing quite late and had too much to do before we could really call it quits.

What a day we had! I think Mui would agree that it exceeded our expectations. And not just because of our ‘bear encounter’. But more about that later.

We were up at 4:00a and on the road by 5:15a. With sunrise yet to come, the sights en route were hidden from view. It actually worked to our advantage, as it prevented us from dallying along the way. We did stop briefly for our first wildlife sighting — a female deer — and for a few photos of mountains adorned by wispy clouds. The rising sun turned the tips of the mountains golden, adding color to our pictures.

We arrived at Lake Louise — not the village, but the lake itself — as the sun bathed the mountains in the soft light of early morning. Our timing could not have been better. Bundled up in layers, we pulled our qiviut caps around our ears, put on gloves to keep our hands warm, and went to work creating images of the lake and mountainscape. It definitely felt colder than the 10C [50F] temperature we had woken up to just a few hours before, but we didn’t mind. The spectacular scenery took our minds off the cold. We spent about an hour on the boardwalk in front of Château Lake Louise, the world-renowned hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as part of their plan to bring tourists to the area.

It’s generally agreed that Tom Wilson, a packhorse owner working for the CPR, was the first European to see Lake Louise [1882]. He was brought here by his Stoney guide, Edwin Hunter. The Stoney knew this lake as ‘Lake of Little Fishes’. After seeing the color of the water, Wilson determined that it should be called ‘Emerald Lake’. This name was changed a short while later when the lake was renamed ‘Lake Louise’ in honor of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria. Now that I have seen Lake Louise, I find the name to be apt. After all, not only does Mount Victoria, and its namesake glacier, stand guard over the lake like a mother protecting its offspring, but the waters that fill the lake are primarily born of Victoria Glacier.

Taking a break from photography, we set about having breakfast. The benches were wet from the early morning showers, so we had to eat standing up, but we didn’t mind. The scenery was transfixing. From our vantage point, the lake’s famed milky-blue color was not yet apparent. Regardless, we were entranced by the ever-changing color of the lake as the sun rose higher in the sky. The surface was glass-smooth with not a ripple to mar the mirror images of the mountains reflected on the water. That there were no more than 10-15 people sharing the view with us added to our pleasure. Everyone spoke in hushed tones appropriate to a landscape that could be deemed nature’s cathedral.

I had read that the Château and its environs turn into a zoo on summer days, with busloads of tourists descending on the boardwalk en masse. After seeing the crowds that packed the boardwalk later in the day, we have no regret about giving up a few hours of sleep and starting our day so early.

** TEA AT HIGH ALTITUDE

Around 8:30a, having gotten our fill of the view in front of the Château, we headed off on the Lake Agnes trail — approx. 3.4 km [2 miles] one way. During the relatively short hike up, we gained an elevation of 387 m [1,270 ft]. I wouldn’t say that the trail was strenuous — and in fact, it is rated moderate — but there were parts of it that had us huffing and puffing just a bit. We took it slow, however, letting the speed-hikers pass us, and enjoyed being in the midst of nature. There weren’t many people on the trail at that early hour, which we were happy about. With the scenery hidden behind a thick forest of trees reaching to the sky, there were no grand vistas to entertain us. Occasionally we caught glimpses of the incredible milky-blue color of Lake Louise well below us, but that was about it. Undaunted, we pressed on, breathing deep the lingering scent of spruce trees wafting on the air. [We curtailed our deep breathing once our path merged with the horse trail and the scent of the trees was replaced with ‘eau de manure’.]

At Mirror Lake — about 2.5 km [1.5 miles] into the hike — we stopped to catch our breath and check out the deep green color of the lake and the majesty of Big Beehive rising behind it. The sound of a waterfall — Bridal Veil — was all the incentive we needed to continue the last kilometer of the hike. The waterfall was small, but we sat down on a boulder and enjoyed the sights and sounds as the sparkling water crashed upon the rocks.

Perched on a site dominated by Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, Mount Whyte, Devil’s Thumb, and Mount Niblock, the teahouse loomed up from behind the trees as soon as we climbed the stairs from the falls and turned the corner. We had made it! And what better way to celebrate than to order some treats — expensive, but worth every penny.

It is said that when she first visited her namesake in 1886, Lady Agnes [wife of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John Macdonald] uttered, “This is Lovely!” I agree. Sitting on the terrace, bundled up in the jackets we had shed on the hike up, we enjoyed the lovely, refreshing scenery around us. The two people who were sharing the deck with us departed soon after our order was delivered, leaving the crumbs on their table to be nibbled on by a Clark’s nutcracker. Thus it was that we had the peace and quiet of Lake Agnes to ourselves; if only for a brief time. By the time we were ready to hit the trail again an hour later, the place was packed with hikers of all ages.

Although we had come prepared to extend our hike by looping around via the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, once on the path, we decided to return to Lake Louise via our ascent trail instead. As we made our way down, we encountered more and more people. Seeing the crowds, we were once again glad that we had sacrificed sleep to enjoy the quiet hours on the trail and at the teahouse.

I was amazed to see how many of the hikers were attired in flip flops and flimsy sandals; footgear definitely not suitable to hiking in the mountains. Nor did they seem to have any layers to put on once they reached the comparatively chilly high altitude of the teahouse. During the final stages of our hike, we were stopped often by people wondering how much farther they needed to walk to reach the teahouse?! They were not happy when we informed them that they were merely at the beginning of their trek; many of them gave up and headed back to Lake Louise.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:23 AM
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** ALONG THE LAKESHORE

Our jaws dropped open at the sight that greeted us when we walked off the trail. The boardwalk was wall-to-wall tourists, everyone vying to take pictures in the same spot. Not wanting to become a part of the mob scene, we headed towards the far reaches of the lakeshore path.

The hour was nearing 1:00p and our tummies were calling out, “Feed me; feed me.” We found a bench overlooking the lake at the end of the paved path and sat down to enjoy our picnic lunch. Hidden behind a tree, we had a bit of seclusion from the visitors walking the easy path along the shore. The tree served a dual purpose and provided much-appreciated shade — by then it was 26C [79F].

After resting for a bit, we decided that the 2 km [1.2 miles] lakeshore path would serve admirably to walk off the calories we had consumed. We encountered fewer people the farther down the trail we got. By the time we reached the far end of the lake, we had very few people sharing the path with us. We sat on a boulder and watched how the alternating play of light as the sun went in and out of the clouds changed the color of the lake. Wildlife — ground squirrels and birds — scampered about looking for food. Rock climbers added to our entertainment.

Eventually, we had to leave our serene haven and return to the crowds. Stopping to smell the flowers, and take pictures of the Château and its reflection on the lake, we slowly made our way back to the boardwalk. Well, one of us walked slowly, while the other one speeded up after hearing the notes of Scottish bagpipes carried on the breeze. Mui arrived on the boardwalk near the Château just in time to catch the last few pieces of highland music being performed by the RMNACSTC CNIECAMR Pipes & Drums Corps. I got the impression that the musicians were Royal Canadian Army cadets; they were dressed in kilts and dress-green shirts. [I did a bit of research when we returned home and found out that the initials stand for ‘Rocky Mountain National Army Cadet Summer Training Centre / Centre National d'Instruction d’Eté des Cadets de l'Armée de Rocky Mountain’.]

After the unexpected entertainment ended, we went inside the Fairmont Château Lake Louise for a look-see around the hotel that has been around, in one form or another, since 1890. Although we found it to be dark and overly warm inside, the understated elegance of the décor was pleasing. And the views out the second floor windows were breathtaking.

** WILDLIFE TO ROUND OUT THE DAY

After eating our afternoon snack on the boardwalk, which was rapidly emptying of the crowds, we got in our rental car for the drive back to Banff town. Within minutes, our already ‘great’ day got even better — a ‘moose jam’ on the road from the lake to the village of Lake Louise. We were alerted to the sighting by the multitude of cars that had stopped in their tracks and the mass of people with their cameras and camcorders all pointing in the same direction. Mui let me out so he could get the car safely off the road and I watched the last few seconds of a moose calf nursing as its mother munched on grass. They both grazed for a bit before heading into the dense trees and out of our sight.

“That was the icing on the cake,” I said to Mui as we entered the Bow Valley Parkway for a leisurely drive back to Banff town. Hah! Not more than 20 minutes into our drive, we came across another traffic jam. It wasn’t immediately apparent what was causing the commotion, so we parked the car and got out to scan the area. It didn’t take long before I was calling out, “Bear; bear!” — a black bear was eating berries on a nearby hillside. A small frisson of alarm went through me. Granted, the bear seemed unconcerned by the presence of cars and people lining the road, but it was, after all, less than 100 m or so [330 ft] from us. Keeping the car between the road, the bear, and us allowed for a safety margin that made us comfortable enough to enjoy the encounter. Mui got some good footage, but I had a bit more difficulty tracking the bear with the camera. I didn’t care, though, and after a while, I put the camera aside and just burned the images of the bear into my brain.

Again, I was satisfied with all that we had seen and done, but there was one more wildlife sighting to round out our day — a bull elk grazing by the side of the road. It had a relatively small rack — still covered in velvet, indicating that the antlers were still growing. We stopped the car on the shoulder, but didn’t get out. The elk was less than 10 m [33 ft] away and we did not want to disturb it. It raised its head, looked at us for a minute, and then went back to grazing. Moving from one fresh patch of grass to another, it walked by our car. Just before it disappeared into the trees, it turned and posed for me — thank you very much, Mr. Elk!

And on that note, we concluded our drive, stopped to pick up dinner in Banff townsite, and returned to our studio apartment at the resort. A very fulfilling day indeed.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:24 AM
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JULY 21, 2007
LAKES & FALLS

With the thermometer reading 10C [50F] and the hands on the clock showing 5:00a, we left the room this morning. Waving to two deer grazing by the road, we got on the TransCanada Highway. Not having shed its nighttime color, the sky was still dark. Ominous looking patches of clouds dotted the sky and it started raining as we passed the exit to the Bow Valley Parkway. Hoping that the sun would be shining by the time we reached the Lake Louise area, we decided to proceed with our plans to have breakfast at Moraine Lake before continuing to Yoho National Park.

Alas, the sun was nowhere to be seen when we parked the car, but at least it was no longer raining. There was only one other car in the lot; not a soul stirred around the lodge — a good omen that we would have the Rockpile to ourselves. Layered against the morning chill, we walked the short trail rather than clambering over the boulders to get to the overlook. The indescribably beautiful blue-green Moraine Lake and the rugged Ten Peaks greeted us. Ahhh! What a sight! We had no reflection since the sun was hidden behind the clouds, but the lake’s depth of color made up for that bit of disappointment. The bare hint of a rainbow created by the stray rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds added to our pleasure.

We sat on the bench overlooking the lake. It was 6:30a. We had the place to ourselves. Quiet reigned, with only the sound of rustling trees, chirping birds, and scampering ground squirrels reaching our ears. We took out our simple repast and proceeded to enjoy our breakfast in surroundings of breathtaking beauty. A family of Japanese tourists showed up with their guide, asked our permission to take pictures, and quietly disappeared — all within a few minutes. We clambered over the rocks to get closer to the shoreline and continued to enjoy the scenery.

Around 8:00a, we left the Rockpile. Our intent was to walk along the shoreline. Seeing two busses disgorging their passengers and noticing that it was drizzling again, I said: “Judy_from_Calgary suggested visiting a canyon if it’s raining. How about we do that?” Having heard from me about Judy and her posts on Fodor’s, Mui agreed. After stopping in the gift shop to get a pin for our collection, we got back on the road.

** A YOUNG CANYON

Hoping to see wildlife near the road, we took the Bow Valley Parkway to Johnston Canyon. No sightings. When we pulled into the Johnston Canyon parking lot around 9:45a, it was quite full. “I guess we’ll have plenty of company on the trail,” Mui commented. And so it turned out to be. After all, we can’t be amongst the early birders at every place we go!

Taking our time to enjoy the sparkling, clear waters of Johnston Creek and the many waterfalls along the way, we slowly made our way up to the Lower Falls 1.1 km [.7 mile] away. All around us was evidence of the power of water. “You know,” I said to Mui, “these canyons are not that old. They were formed about 10,000 years ago when the glaciers started to retreat.” “And how do you know that,” he asked. “I did my research before leaving home,” I replied with a wink. He wasn’t surprised; he knows well my habit of spending a lot of time doing research before every trip and blurting out tidbits when they come to my mind later on.

With the crowd on the trail, I had no expectation of seeing any major wildlife. We saw mostly ground squirrels. Many of them had made an art of standing on their hind legs and begging for food — a sure sign that visitors were feeding them despite the warnings not to do so. There were scratches on a few trees that prompted me to wonder if bears might be in the area; but the loud chatter, I knew, would keep them at bay.

When we arrived at the Lower Falls there were a lot fewer people than I anticipated. Glancing around, it didn’t take me long to figure out why. People were staying just long enough take pictures before following one of two routes: back down to the canyon floor, or up to the Upper Falls. The roar of the falls thundering into a deep pool of blue water made conversation difficult. Standing against the cliff face, we enjoyed the power of nature in silence.

Crossing the bridge over the creek, I peeked into a small cave that turned out to be a natural tunnel leading closer to the base of the falls. I returned to don my raingear and replace my Panasonic FZ-50 with a small point and shoot camera enclosed in a waterproof casing. I walked through the short tunnel to emerge on a narrow ledge at the foot of the falls. The roar was deafening and my raingear was soaked within seconds. I could barely keep my eyes open against the water that was pouring on my face. It was considerably cold as the power of the plunging water created its own breeze. What an experience!

Mui took his turn next, leaving me to guard the backpack. He returned a few minutes later, his raingear as wet as mine. He was grinning from ear to ear. At that moment I couldn’t have agreed more with Mr. Wallace Stegner who is quoted on the signage along the path: “I gave my heart to the mountains the minute I stood beside this river with its spray in my face and watched it thunder into foam…” (The Sound of Mountain Water).

After drying our raingear as much as we could, we pressed on to visit the Upper Falls another kilometer or so further up the trail. There were more people than I anticipated, but far fewer than we had encountered on the trail below. In fact, at one point, I was able to sit on a bench with not another soul around — Mui was further down the trail taping something that had caught his eye. Except for an occasional breeze rustling the bushes and trees, and the scampering of four tiny feet as a ground squirrel rushed by with its loot clenched in its teeth, there wasn’t another sound. A Wallace quote on a nearby sign said it all: “As the roar of the river fades, tune in to the more subtle voices of the forest: the wind in the trees, the twitters overhead and the rustles at your feet”.

When a group of people approached where I was sitting, I watched to see if they would stop to enjoy the quiet. Nope! They took a few pictures and hiked on with nary a thought given to the cathedral-like silence that pervaded the area. When Mui reached my spot of respite, he said, “I can’t believe how quiet it is.” Glad that he had noticed, I joined him for the rest of the trek to Upper Falls.

Upper Falls, although higher at 30 m [100 ft], was not as impressive to me. I think it was the distance between us and the falls that diluted the experience. That’s not to say that I’m not glad we made the effort to go up there; I am. But after the thundering, up-close experience at Lower Falls, Upper Falls fell a little flat for me.

What I did find really interesting at the viewpoint, however, was the close view of the ‘weeping wall’ — a wall of yellow rock, streaked black and brown, with a sheen of water coursing down its face. The nearby signage explained that the wet surface is ideal for the growth of travertine algae, a primitive plant, which removes carbon dioxide from limestone-saturated water. The limestone crystals that are left behind accumulate on the rock, building new limestone out of old. Thus this is one place in the canyon where water is actually building rock and not eroding it.

Walking back from Upper Falls, we found a bench near the junction to the Ink Pots trail. We decided it would do nicely for our lunch break; especially since it overlooked a set of cascades that might have been Cavern Falls. I couldn’t help but mutter that it would have been nice to know the names of the various falls in the canyon — just my penchant for labeling things! [Too bad I didn’t think to ask in the gift shop! Oh well; next time.] We took out our lunch and munched away in view of the falls. People came; people went. Few of them stayed long. No problem; we appreciated having the small niche in the trail to ourselves.

Encountering even more people heading up than were going down, we hit the trail back to the canyon floor. We would have preferred to hike up to the Ink Pots, but somewhere along the way our priorities had changed — we needed to get back to town and see if we could get the boa ties on Mui’s shoes repaired, or at least get him a pair of replacement shoes.

It was 2:00p by the time we made it back to the parking lot; but first we made a stop to get some ice cream from the stand at the bottom of the trail. It wasn’t great ice cream, but it sure tasted good to us as we sat on some boulders near Johnston Creek. As we pulled out of the overflowing parking lot, we noticed a long queue of cars parked along the Bow Valley Parkway for as far as the eye could see. At first we thought it was a wildlife sighting, but there were no people around. That’s when we realized that all those cars belonged to people who were hiking the Johnston Canyon trails. Thanking our lucky stars that we had started out relatively early, we turned south towards Banff town.

We drove the parkway under mostly cloudy skies, with occasional patches of blue peeking through. The weather had cleared while we were in the canyon and there was no sign of rain, but we didn’t regret having changed our plans. Johnston Canyon was plenty rewarding and I’m glad we spent so much time there.

Our only wildlife sighting en route to Banff townsite was a trio of bighorn rams, one of which had the full-curl horns. They were grazing along the road, but there was nowhere to park the car. How inconsiderate of them to show up in such an awkward spot ! Hence, our time with the sheep was short; we took a couple of quick photos and continued on our way.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:26 AM
  #7  
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** CHORES BREAK INTO OUR SIGHTSEEING

Back at the resort, we decided on a plan of action — Mui went shoe shopping; I did laundry. I didn’t really want to spend my time sitting in a laundry room, but it seemed logical to split things up and not waste more time later with the drudgery. After all, it was my idea to pack light for this trip! Our timing worked out perfectly. I was taking the clothes out of the dryer when Mui walked in with a brand new pair of Northface trail shoes on his feet. We’ll see about getting his old shoes repaired when we return home.

** WOULD YOU LIKE ELK OR BISON

Dropping the laundry off in our room, we headed out for dinner. It was only 4:30p, however, so we decided to drive the Minnewanka Loop first. In hindsight, we would have done better going later in the day — the light would have been better for photography. What few cars were on the road were all at Lake Minnewanka, enabling us to have a peaceful drive on the loop road. We did have company for our wildlife sighting of bighorn sheep, but the crowd was small and we were able to spend some quality time with a ram, a couple of ewes, and some shy lambs. Sitting on a hillside, the ram provided an excellent subject for photography; it got even better when one of the females joined him a short while later.

Parking the car behind the Information Center in Banff townsite, we headed to the Spaghetti Factory for old time’s sake — we have fond memories of the Spaghetti Factory at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Our dinner plans were derailed, however, when the hostess informed us that the wait time was over an hour. After perusing my list of restaurant recommendations, we headed to the Bison Mountain Bistro in the Bison Courtyard where we were immediately seated at a table on the patio. [The Courtyard gets its name from the two ancient bison skulls that were unearthed during construction.]

Mui, who is more adventurous when it comes to food, ordered the elk burger and I got the pan roasted wild salmon. We enjoyed a glass of the local brew while we waited for our meal to be served. The food was quite tasty and I was pleasantly surprised by the crunchy sea asparagus ragout that accompanied my salmon. The crowning touch was the Lavender Smore we ordered for dessert — a flourless chocolate cake topped with a lavender-infused marshmallow, and drizzled with Alberta honey. Very yummy!

One of the downsides of long daylight hours is that the body doesn’t want to quit. So, instead of immediately returning to the resort after dinner, we drove up to the famed Banff Springs Hotel for a quick look-see. The understated elegance was a bit of a surprise for all the hype we had read about the property. The views from the terrace overlooking Bow Falls were very impressive. Perhaps on our next visit, we’ll take one of the official tours of the Banff Springs Hotel.

And that rounds out our day. We’re putting a flexi-plan in effect for tomorrow. If the skies are clear and there is a promise of sunshine by the time we reach the Lake Louise area, we’re going to stop at Moraine Lake and then continue to Yoho. Otherwise, we’re going to head north and hope that the weather gods smile on us for a drive up the Icefields Parkway.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:27 AM
  #8  
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JULY 22, 2OO7
GLACIERS GALORE

It was a looooooooong day; we’re pleasantly tired and don’t regret our decision to drive as far as Sunwapta Falls and back. We stopped at almost all of the viewpoints en route and did a couple of short walks. We refrained from doing any lengthy hikes, however, because of the distance we wanted to cover. We’ve already decided that since we have an annual parks pass, we’ll be returning next summer. We’ll do justice to the Icefields Parkway then.

It’s almost 10:00p. We still have chores to take care of, so it looks like we’ll be getting a late start tomorrow. I took the laptop with me today, so all of the pictures are already downloaded; one less thing to do tonight.

It was just after 5:00a and quite chilly when we left the room to walk the short distance to the car. We kept an eye out for the bear that we’d been told had been frequenting the grounds. No luck with the predator species, but we did see a couple of ungulates near the entrance to the freeway — whether they were deer or elk, I cannot say; all we could see were some glowing eyes.

By the time we reached the Lake Louise area, the undersides of the cloud cover was streaked pink and red. We pulled off the highway to photograph the display of light. As the colors dulled, we noted that the sun was remaining hidden by the overcast. “I guess it’s the Icefields Parkway today,” Mui said as we headed to the 93 junction under a light rainfall. Just past the entrance to the road, we stopped briefly to watch a black bear hurry across the road. The animal was in constant motion, and the light was not good to capture any images, but that did not stop us from enjoying the close encounter — the bear couldn’t have been more than 25 m [82 ft] from us.

And so started our journey on a road billed as ‘the most beautiful drive in the world’. We had high expectations of this day’s outing — after all, how often do you get to drive a highway that runs through 230 km [138 miles] of World Heritage Site scenery through two national parks?

** PART I — MORNING ON THE PARKWAY

We stopped at the Hector Lake viewpoint for breakfast. The 7C [45F] temperature and light drizzle kept us inside the car, so we enjoyed the view through the windshield and ate our simple meal with the car’s heater cranked up to keep us warm. “It’s a good thing we have our raingear with us,” I commented as the drizzle accompanied us to the next viewpoint — Crowfoot Glacier.

Glaciers are not new to us. We saw plenty of them in Alaska and, more recently, on our trip to Antarctica. Still, seeing Crowfoot Glacier hanging in midair in the high reaches of the mountain was quite impressive. With the sun hidden behind the clouds, the blue of the glacier was evident to the naked eye; it was even better when we remembered to use the binoculars we had in the trunk of the car. It was hard to believe that we were a mere 300 m [990 ft] from the cliff-face at this point. “That’s what this printout states,” I retorted when Mui looked at me in disbelief after I gave him that little tidbit of information.

We continued our drive, arriving at Num-ti-jah Lodge. It was drizzling, but we donned our raingear and walked the short trail to the edge of Bow Lake for a better view of Bow Glacier and the falls by the same name. “Just imagine,” I said to Mui; “the whole area from Banff to Lake Louise was once covered by this glacier.” [Yes; another one of those tidbits I picked up on the web.] Except for a couple of anglers, we were the only ones around. As we stopped to enjoy the scenery and nature’s peacefulness, I couldn’t help but bemoan the lack of just a tiny bit of sunshine. Mother Nature was in a snit, however, and not in the mood to cooperate.

As we turned to walk back to the car, my eye was caught by a movement in the lake. The water was ruffled by a strong breeze, making it difficult to see what was riding on the surface. Just as I was about to declare that it was only a log, the object changed direction, giving me a better angle of view. “It’s an otter,” I whispered to Mui and started following the shoreline in the hopes that the otter would come ashore. No such luck; after a while, it turned farther from shore and I returned to join Mui.

The next stop was on our list of must-sees: Peyto Lake. Seeing only one other car in the parking lot, I heaved a sigh of relief that we would have some quiet time to experience the beauty of what I had thus far only seen in photographs. The short walk to the overlook was steep in a few places, but not overly taxing. On either side of the path, wildflowers swayed in the breeze, begging me to stop and take pictures. I resisted the urge, and we made it to the overlook in only 15 minutes!

The sight that greeted us was something to behold — I can only imagine how much better it might have been had the sun graced us with its presence. I had read an article describing the lake waters as ‘robin’s egg’ in color. All I can say is that the glacial flour suspended in the water gave the lake an indescribably beautiful pale blue-green color. “Look,” I said to Mui, pointing to the distinctive shape of the lake, “now I understand why this lake is nicknamed ‘Dog Head Lake’.” Indeed, the far shoreline looked like the profile of a dog and the rest of the lake looked like a long neck.

Viewing the scenery in its entirety from left to right, we were able to see the source glacier in the mountains; the edge of the lakeshore where murky, latte-colored, silt-filled water runs into the lake; the point at which the silt and the blue-green waters meet; and the entire body of the lake. It was the perfect location for me to practice taking a panorama. Before I could set up the tripod, however, loud voices heralded the arrival of a bus tour. The overlook that had been peaceful moments before was now a scene of chaos. After photographing a hoary marmot in the rocks below the overlook, we left. Taking our time on the trail back to the parking lot, we stopped often to smell the flowers — or rather, take photographs. It was still overcast, but at least the drizzle had stayed behind at Bow Lake.

As we neared the end of the trail, a couple asked us how far the overlook was. They seemed concerned when we said, “About 15-20 minutes, depending on how fast you walk.” “It’s really worth it,” I offered by way of encouragement. “It’s not the walk,” the woman replied; “we saw two cars in the parking lot with their windows smashed in, so we’re wondering if we should take turns going to the overlook!”

Her words had the effect of an ice-cold shower. Was one of them our car? With visions of having to spend time with the local police dancing in our heads, we rushed the rest of the way down the trail. Our worries were for naught, however, and we found everything in good order. A car parked on the other side of the parking lot — it had not been there when we arrived — was the one that had been broken into; we didn’t see the second car that was vandalized.

After a stop to take a look at Snowbird Glacier, we continued on to Waterfowl Lakes. What a peaceful place; and just what the doctor ordered to soothe our frazzled nerves after the incident at the Peyto Lake parking lot. Coincidentally, we met a Canadian couple here that mentioned there had been another break-in at the Peyto Lake parking lot the day before — they were there when the police were investigating the incident.

It was drizzling again and Mount Chephren was covered by low-lying clouds. The ground was flooded, so we kept our distance from the shore. “This would be a good place to see some moose,” I commented. None showed themselves if they were around. We would have stayed a little longer except that the couple we’d been talking to called out that there was a grouse and five chicks in the brush nearby. So we went on a photo safari for grouse. Tramping through the brush, we found the ‘mum’ calmly wandering in the bushes, chirping constantly to give her chicks a sound to follow. The chicks were scampering about, searching for food. One of them stopped — considerately doing so in a patch of sunlight peeking through the clouds — and I was able to get a very nice photograph.

We topped off the gas tank at Saskatchewan River Crossing — the gas station at Lake Louise Village was closed when we pulled in around 6:00a. With the noon hour at hand, our goal was to find a place to have a picnic lunch. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that … our plans were altered by a black bear sighting. There was quite a crowd stopped on the roadside, watching a bear trampling through the bushes in search of juicy berries. It must have found what it was looking for as it stuck around for a while; so did the growing crowd of people. I just enjoyed the scene, not attempting to take any photographs in the increasingly heavy rain.

Having settled on Bridal Veil Falls for our picnic site, we made one detour en route to the viewpoint. As we were driving up to the falls, I happened to glance back and saw another waterfall right around the big bend in the parkway. Mui flipped a u-turn and we went to take a closer look. It was a beautiful waterfall, partially hidden from view by the side of a cliff. The power of the flowing water was evident even from a distance. [Since returning home, I have done some research and found that the waterfall we saw is ‘Sideways Falls’ — 180 m (600 ft) tall. It is one of two falls born from the nearby Saskatchewan Glacier.]

By the time we arrived at the Bridal Veil Falls viewpoint, the rain was reduced to a drizzle. Canceling our plans to eat our lunch sitting on the rocks, Mui parked the car so that we could see the falls across the canyon through the windshield. We made short work of the PB&J sandwiches and the carrot sticks we had brought along for our mid-day meal. Then, wanting to stretch our legs a bit, we went exploring. Hearing the sound of rushing water, we followed an indistinct trail in the trees and were rewarded with the sight of the headwaters of a waterfall. The rushing water was squeezing through a very narrow canyon, which added to its power and strength, before plunging down the edge of a cliff. The rocks at the edge were slippery from the mist falling back to the ground; not wanting to have an early meeting with our maker, we maintained our distance. [Subsequent research at home — what we saw was the top of Panther Falls.]

Around 1:00p, we passed from Banff to Jasper NP. “It’s taken us six hours to make it this far,” I commented as we drove to our next stop.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:29 AM
  #9  
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** PART II — A TASTE OF JASPER NATIONAL PARK

Initially, we had planned to do one of the guided hikes on the Athabasca Glacier, but with the rain once again coming down hard, we didn’t even consider the possibility once we arrived at the Icefield Centre. After debating whether we wanted to do the snocoach tour instead, we nixed that idea as well. After all, we had done a helicopter landing and walk on a glacier in Alaska, so it wasn’t like this was going to be a new experience for us. I suggested we continue our drive and do the short hike to the glacier toe on the way back if the weather cooperated. So, after making use of the facilities and buying a couple of pins for our collection, we continued north.

En route to our turnaround point — Sunwapta Falls — we stopped at Tangle Falls for a few minutes. Plenty of people were climbing the rocks around the falls, but there was no sign of the sheep the map suggested we keep an eye out for. Eventually we arrived at kilometer 176 and Sunwapta Falls. Considering the late hour and the distance we needed to drive back, we had to content ourselves with seeing the falls from the viewpoint.

Sunwapta is a Stoney word meaning ‘turbulent river’. Our first view of the falls certainly lived up to that name as the river tumbled down a cliff face and raced down a canyon. There were just a few people at the Lower Falls overlook, but that changed when we retraced our steps and walked over to the Upper Falls.

Stopping at the bridge first, we took a couple of pictures. Then, we walked down closer to the falls where we found an even better vantage point that underscored the power of the falls. There was a light mist in the air and the sun was out; a faint rainbow was briefly visible across the face of the falls. “I don’t think I want to find the end of that rainbow no matter how much gold there might be in the pot,” I commented as we walked to the far end of the viewpoint. Here, perched on some boulders overlooking the point at which the waters tumble down to create Upper Falls, we ate our afternoon snack and enjoyed the scenery around us.

It was 4:00p when we left Sunwapta Falls to start our drive back to Banff town. Under skies alternating between overcast and sunny, we stopped briefly at the Stutfield Glacier and Sunwapta Canyon viewpoints, but did not dally. We knew we were doing a disservice to the sights, but we reasoned that we would do better on our next visit.

With no sign of rain, we arrived at the Columbia Icefield. “Let’s check out the glacier,” Mui suggested. Noting that the Athabasca Glacier at one point reached almost to the road [in 1948], we drove to the parking lot at the base of the glacier. The toe of the glacier was hidden behind a tall mound of moraine left behind as the glacier retreated.

From the trunk, we pulled out our raingear, our fleece jackets, qiviut caps, and gloves. With other visitors looking at us strangely, we donned our layers and headed off on the short walk to the glacier, passing markers showing where the toe used to be at various points in the past. We might have looked funny to all those people who were visiting the glacier in tank tops, shorts, and flip flops, but I bet we had a more enjoyable time on the glacier than they did — it was downright freezing, especially with the breeze coming off the glacier. It was particularly funny to see two miniature dogs dressed in winter coats getting their picture taken in front of the glacier — at least they were properly attired.

At the area set off by cones, we stepped foot on what is touted as being 400-year old ice. There were no crevasses to worry about here, but the sheen of water from the melting glacier made for an icy, glass-smooth surface. Holding onto each other, we side-stepped up the gentle slope. The treads on our shoes gripped the surface and we managed to stay upright. Around us, several people were attempting to walk on the glacier wearing flip flops. One person thought it would be a good idea to just go for a barefoot-walk! Luckily, he heeded the warnings of an onlooker and did not follow through with his plans, thus leaving the glacier with the skin on his soles still intact.

Remembering what I had read on one of the signs along the trail, I told Mui: “Take a good look, another 100 years, and this glacier will probably be gone from this valley.” It was a sobering thought. There is a lot of debate about global warming and its effects. After hearing from so many people about the unusually high temperatures they are experiencing this summer, it’s hard not to believe that global warming is not hastening the recession of the glaciers.

After a quick stop to use the facilities at the Icefield Centre, we once again got on the road. We made no stops on the way back. On second thought; that’s not completely true — just before Waterfowl Lakes, we slammed on the brakes and pulled off the road for a black bear that appeared out of nowhere to cross the road in front of us. Since it was so close, we didn’t venture far from the car, but I did manage to get a picture of it before it disappeared over the barrier and into the bushes below.

One minute the bear was there; the next minute it was gone. This encounter, more so than our previous sightings, underscored the speed with which bears can move. Something else this encounter underscored — in their excitement at seeing wildlife, people do things that are a recipe for disaster. The oncoming cars and the vehicle in front of us just stopped in their tracks in the middle of the road with no regard to traffic. People; people — a picture is just not worth putting yourselves and others in danger!

We made the return drive under brighter, bluer skies, but the patches of cloud were still thick. Around 7:30p, we pulled into Lake Louise Village to pick up a couple of sandwiches for a picnic dinner. Remembering that Laggan’s only offered pre-made, wrapped sandwiches, I pulled out my trip book to check on a note I had made about another deli a Fodorite had posted about. Yup; there it was — the Trailhead Café, right next to the grocery store.

Not wanting to drive another 14 km [8 miles] to Moraine Lake to eat our picnic dinner, we went to Lake Louise instead. In the early evening hour, the boardwalk was mostly empty. Rather than sitting on a bench and having our view disrupted by passersby, we sat on the edge of the boardwalk, resting our feet on the rocks. The late evening light gave us a completely different visual from the one we had enjoyed a few days before. Taking pleasure in the deeper colors of the landscape surrounding us, we ate our very tasty, made-to-order sandwiches.

And so ended this very long day. It’s almost 11:00p; sleeping in tomorrow is sounding like an excellent idea at the moment.
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Aug 8th, 2007, 05:31 AM
  #10  
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JULY 23, 2007
TRAINS & FALLS

We just got back from a trip into Banff townsite — treated ourselves to some ice cream from Cows. Afterwards, we drove out to Vermillion Lakes where I got a nice shot of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain reflected in the calm, green waters. We would have spent more time there, but the mosquitoes were out in droves and we didn’t have any bug repellent with us.

Today was our day to ‘Yoho’ — that is, visit Yoho NP in British Columbia (BC). The Parks Canada website explains that Yoho is a Cree expression of awe and wonder; definitely an apt name for this national park.

We were up at 5:00a — that’s our idea of sleeping in — and on the road soon after 6:00a. The thermometer read 13C [55C]; there was more blue sky than clouds. A nice change from the previous few days. Getting on the TransCanada Highway, we headed north to the Field, BC junction. En route, we listened to the CD we were given at the Banff Information Center. The narrative verified that the two overpasses on the way to Lake Louise are indeed for wildlife to safely pass from one side to the other. It was interesting to learn more about the measures being taken to protect the wildlife and the ongoing debate about use vs protection.

** PART I — SPIRAL TUNNELS

First stop of the day was the Spiral Tunnels overlook on the TransCanada Highway. The trees have grown to the extent that you can barely see the train tracks, but you can glimpse the entrance and exit into the tunnel built into Mount Ogden.

Except for a few people who made brief stops to use the facilities, we had the place to ourselves for the duration of our 1½-hour wait for a train to go through. What did we do while we waited? We watched the low-lying clouds pass through the valley. We ate our breakfast and read the interpretive signs explaining the history of the tunnels. We studied the mock-up of the tunnels. We walked around. We sat down. We did a bit of calisthenics in the crisp morning air. We made sure we were downwind of the stinky facilities! Still, no train. “We’ll try our luck at the overlook on the Yoho Valley Road,” I eventually suggested.

So why were we so interested in seeing a train go through the tunnels? After all, a tunnel is a tunnel. Not so the Spiral Tunnels. Here’s a bit of the history of the tunnels that I pieced together from what I found on the internet and the interpretive displays at the overlook.

When the railroad was first built through the Rockies, there was a portion over Kicking Horse Pass where the grade was very steep. At the time [1884], the CPR had neither the money nor the time to build a gentler descent, so they got permission to go ahead ‘as is’ temporarily. The ‘Big Hill’ track dropped at a 4.5% grade, twice the maximum allowed by the government contract. [To give you an idea of how steep that is: when a five-car train descended Big Hill, the locomotive was 5 m (16.5 ft) below the last car.]

A 15-car train needed four extra engines to help push it up the hill. They had to go slow and this caused delays in train traffic. Lack of speed was not the issue for the trains heading down Big Hill; just the opposite, they traveled too fast. In fact, the first train to go down the track derailed, fell into the river, and killed three men. Spur lines were built to catch the runaway trains and switches were set to these spurs and left that way until the switchman knew for sure that the oncoming train was in control.

Frustration built amongst the CPR people. A solution was needed. And quick. Engineers were finally inspired by Swiss tunnels that spiraled into mountains and built a figure-eight track that allowed them to decrease the grade to a manageable level. In 1907, construction began at either end of the tunnel. Twenty months and 75-carloads of dynamite later, the two ends of the tunnel met in near-perfect alignment — they were off by just 5 cm [2 in]. Big Hill, having served for 25 years, was abandoned. Later, parts of it became a carriage road. Today it is the TransCanada Highway that runs down Big Hill.

So, if this route through Kicking Horse Pass was so bad, why did the CPR build the railroad through it? The answer — from one of the signs at the overlook:

Why did the Canadian Pacific Railway ever choose such a precipitous route for their main track through the Rockies? Certainly, James Hector, who mapped the Kicking Horse Pass in 1858, never recommended it as a major transportation corridor. Running out of food, getting kicked by his horse, and then struggling up the final steep pitch convinced him this route was a poor one.

Despite Hector’s warnings and the misgivings of early surveyors, the railway did choose the Kicking Horse Pass in 1881. While the long-favoured Yellowhead Pass, 200 km to the north, offered a gentler passage through the mountains, Kicking Horse line was far enough to the south to block competition from American branch railroads. The route across the southern prairies was also 122 km shorter than the Yellowhead line.

So significant was the choice of Kicking Horse Pass to the transportation history of Canada, it was designated a national historic site in 1971.


So now you know the rest of the story and why we waited so long to see a train go through the tunnel. A long-enough train — and the freight trains in Canada are long — would present us with the opportunity to see at least part of the figure-eight design of the tunnels. Our wait in the morning was in vain; but we were eventually rewarded. More about that later.

** TAKKAKAW FALLS

Takkakaw is a Cree word that means ‘magnificent’. With such a moniker, we had high expectations of our visit to the falls. We were not disappointed.

Driving up the curlicue that is Yoho Valley Road, we negotiated the tight switchbacks and arrived at the Takkakaw Falls parking lot. The lot was crowded with cars, but few people were around. And there were no tour busses. Enduring the odd looks given to us by passersby, we kitted ourselves in our raingear and headed to the falls.

From the first moment we set eyes on Tak Falls, we knew we were in for a treat. Before crossing the bridge over the creek, we took pictures of the falls from a distance. Then, placing our camera gear in the backpack, we took out our point and shoot camera. Secure in the knowledge that the waterproof casing would protect the camera, I put it around my neck and we crossed the bridge for a close encounter with the roaring water.

As we approached the falls — the second tallest in Canada [380 m (1248 ft) with the free-fall portion alone being a 254 m (838 ft) vertical drop] — we could feel the chill in the air. No wonder; though the source was out of our sight, Tak Falls is born of Daly glacier. It didn’t take long for the mist from the falls to start raining down on us. No matter; unlike the wet and shivering people around us who were turning back from around the halfway point, we were dry under our raingear. Taking pictures from different vantage points, we walked closer and closer to the falls, getting wetter and wetter with each step we took. Leaving Mui to videotape the scenery, I clambered over the boulders strewn in my way and approached the base of the falls as close as I could; I stopped when the water pouring down on my face made it impossible to keep my eyes open. [Call me crazy, but I thought it was important to see where I was stepping!]

After my ‘natural shower’, I rejoined Mui who decided to hurry back to the car to dry out the camera casing — just in case! Following behind at a much slower pace, I eventually made my way back to the car as well. As I passed a trio of women who were staring at my bedraggled appearance, I couldn’t help but grin at their comment: “We should have brought our rain pants and parkas, too!” It pays to be prepared!

** NATURAL BRIDGE

Leaving the falls, we encountered a couple of bull elk grazing on a hillside near the road. One of them had a really big rack, but he didn’t cooperate with our desire to capture his digital image. Partially hidden by a bush, he kept his head down to graze on the fresh grass before disappearing into the trees. The other bull was more cooperative, stopping occasionally to raise his head and stare at the tourists whose cameras were clicking fast and furiously.

We made only a brief stop at the Spiral Mountain overlook at the base of Yoho Valley Road. We would have stayed longer, but we couldn’t even see the tunnel entrances. Either the trees have grown too tall; or we just didn’t know where to look; or both.

Since it was nearing lunchtime, we stopped at Natural Bridge before continuing onto Emerald Lake. This stop turned out to be quite different from what I expected. In my mind’s eye I was envisioning a towering rock whose center has been eroded by water to create an arch spanning a creek or river — something like the Natural Bridge in Virginia. What we found was quite different.

At the overlook, we faced a limestone formation through which the powerful Kicking Horse River is continuing to carve an opening. The nearby signage indicated that where the water now gushes through a hole in the limestone, there used to be a waterfall. Then, the powerful waters of the river found a crack, slowly widened it, and finally came pouring out in a powerful torrent after years and years of erosion. And so a bridge was formed, but a much smaller one than what I thought we were going to see.

Taking our picnic lunch to nearby rocks, we sat at the edge, dangling our legs over boulders that are slowly being crushed into silt by Kicking Horse River. The slight chill from the water felt quite pleasant and we ate our simple meal under the brightly shining sun.

eenusa is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:35 AM
  #11  
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** EMERALD LAKE

By the time we arrived at Emerald Lake, the mid-day temperature was downright hot; the thermometer read 28C [82F]. With no cooling breeze, it was stifling.

The beauty of Emerald Lake stunned our senses — emerald green waters edged by trees and surrounded by craggy mountains. Hanging baskets of multihued flowers added even more color to the scenery, as did the bright yellow umbrellas on the deck of the lodge. Canoes, painted a brilliant red, dotted the serene waters. “Why couldn’t we have come here first thing in the morning,” I thought to myself as I surveyed the landscape. Upset with myself for not planning the day better, I became downright grumpy for a while. Thinking back on it, I think the heat also played a role in making me moody — I don’t do at all well in the heat.

Gathering up our gear we headed out to do the 5.2 km [3 miles] circuit around the lake. Unfortunately, we did not get far; the heat was just too uncomfortable. “When we come back to stay at Lake O’Hara next year, we’ll just have to make time for Emerald Lake as well,” I suggested as we walked back to the car. We were both crestfallen, but I know we would have been miserable had we continued.

** SPIRAL TUNNELS — PART DEUX

On our way back through Field, we saw a train sitting on the tracks. Hoping the visitor center could tell us which direction the train was headed in and when, we made a brief stop. Unfortunately, the woman I spoke with did not have the information we were looking for. Keeping our fingers crossed, we raced up — abiding by the speed limits, mind you — to the Spiral Tunnels overlook on the TransCanada Highway. The place was crowded with passengers off a tour bus. There were also a lot of cars parked in the lot that had been empty in the early hours of the morning.

“I’ve been here 30 minutes already; no action yet,” said a train enthusiast. Setting up the tripod, we joined the vigil. We waited; and we waited. The bus left, taking most of the people with it. Those people were quickly replaced by a load of passengers from a Brewster tour bus. “The train has got to be on its way; we just passed it,” gushed a passenger. So we waited some more; and some more. Finally an hour and ten minutes later; we gave up. “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” Mui said as we drove out of the parking lot.

We hadn’t gone more than a couple of kilometers when suddenly a train appeared on the tracks paralleling the highway. “I wonder if it’s headed in the right direction,” Mui mumbled. There was only one way to find out. He made a turn as soon as he could and raced back to the overlook. I have to admit, we did not pay much attention to the speed limit this time.

Finally, for all the time we had invested, we were rewarded with a train going through the tunnels. Within a few minutes of arriving at the overlook, a train appeared on the tracks below us. Tooting its horn, the train passed in a blur as we caught glimpses of it through the trees. I have no idea how long it was; but it was long [a train enthusiast standing near us said that the maximum number of cars a freight train can have is 117].

Soon, someone was calling out, “There it is.” Sure enough, the engine was going into the tunnel. I looked at my watch to start timing it. Four minutes later, the engine was exiting the tunnel on the lower tracks. The rest of the cars were still going through the tunnel entrance; there were three layers of train cars on the tracks below and ahead of us. Slowly, the tail end of the train disappeared into the tunnel. When the last car came out of the tunnel on the lower tracks, I looked at my watch. A total of eight minutes had elapsed.

We spent over three hours at the overlook. Was it worth it? You betcha!

** BLACK BEARS OBVIOUSLY LIKE BERRIES

“Let’s see what the Bow Valley Parkway has to offer us,” Mui suggested on the way back to Banff town. Never one to turn down an opportunity to see wildlife, I agreed. We were rewarded with our best black bear sighting yet.

The large number of cars parked along the road at Morant’s Curve was our first clue that something was going on. Finding a spot safely off the road, we joined the throng. “What’s everyone looking at,” I asked. “There’s a black bear eating berries down there,” a lady responded, pointing her finger towards bushes that were shaking like they were caught in a hurricane. “I think it’s the same bear that was here yesterday,” she continued. No sooner had she completed her sentence that the bear appeared from out of the bushes.

The bear was maybe 30 m [100 ft] away; definitely no more than that. It was not in the least concerned about all the cameras pointed in its direction. It had one thing and one thing only on its mind — to gorge itself on as many berries as it could. It sat down in front of a bush, held a branch, and stuffed its face full of berries. Then, it lumbered over to another bush, sat down, and ate some more. And some more. And some more.

We enjoyed the encounter for about 30 minutes, taking in the scenery around Morant’s Curve when the bear was deep in the bushes and out of our sight. In one of those instances, a pair of canoers came down the Bow River. They had no need to paddle except to steer away from the riverbank; the currents were doing all the work for them. They literally whizzed by us; a sign of how fast the river was flowing. Doing Morant proud [he’s the CPR photographer for whom the curve is named], we even took time out of our bear watching to photograph a train that passed by. The engineer tooted the train horn in salute, and we all waved, wishing him a safe trip.

The crowd dissipated when the bear disappeared from view and our day came to a close on a high note.
eenusa is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:36 AM
  #12  
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
JULY 24, 2007
ONE LAST DAY IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

Tonight’s meal — leftover lasagna — was a bit anticlimactic after the great last day we enjoyed. That’s OK, though. We did not come here for the food. Besides, staying out as late as we did, and considering we needed to pack for our departure tomorrow, eating in was the right thing to do. Now, with the bags stacked by the door, it’s time to relax.

** BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Since the Banff Gondola doesn’t start operating until 7:30a, we were able to take it easy again this morning. We left the room at 6:45a and drove into town via Thunder Mountain Road. It was a relatively-warm 15C [59C], but we bundled up knowing it would be cooler at the summit.

There was no one else in the parking lot when we arrived at the gondola station. Soon, however, we were joined by two other couples — one from Ohio and the other from New Zealand. We chatted with them while we waited. Since we were not able to buy a one-way ticket up — we had planned to hike down — we bought round-trip tickets and Mui and I were on the first gondola to the top. We had the four-passenger gondola to ourselves, enabling us to move about the cabin and enjoy the views around us during the eight-minute ascent to 2,281 m [7,527 ft]. The scenery, despite the haze enveloping it, was quite breathtaking.

At the summit station, we wandered around the observation deck, getting a 360° view of the area. The setting was one we had seen in brochures — the Banff townsite, the Banff Springs Hotel, and the Bow River and Falls spread out beneath us; Lake Minnewanka in the distance; the jagged peaks of the Canadian Rockies rimming the valley. Although we were disappointed with the continued haze that lightly veiled the scenery, we were glad we had not waited until later in the morning. With just a few people around, it was very peaceful and we had the whole mountain to ourselves. Besides, since we dallied for a while, the haze did burn off before we headed back down.

After watching the gondolas ascending the mountain, we headed off on the boardwalk trail to see the historic Sanson's Peak Meteorological Station. Under normal circumstances, the 1 km [.6 mile] walk would not have taken long, but we stopped often to read the interpretive panels about the fauna and flora of the area. As we did so, tourists arriving on the gondola, speed-walked by us. By the time we arrived at the observatory, most of them were already on their way back.

The weather observation station was built in 1903. Norman Sanson, a meteorologist who was associated with the Banff Museum, climbed the 6 km [3.6 miles] trail every week to observe the weather from the peak that was later named in his honor; he did this for 30 years. As one of the signs near the observatory states, “He sometimes spent wild days and nights on the summit, stranded by howling gales and violent storms. He wondered several times if he’d ever make it back to Banff alive.” A large group of Banff residents accompanied him on his 1,000th ascent; they had a sunrise breakfast to celebrate the occasion.

Speaking of having breakfast on top of the mountain, we did just that ourselves while we still had the observatory to ourselves. At the sound of the backpack’s zipper, a ground squirrel came out of nowhere to join us. Mui was a bit naughty and teased it with a breakfast bar still in its wrapper, but we otherwise obeyed the signs not to feed wildlife. Seeing that we weren’t going to feed it, the squirrel climbed on the backpack for a peek inside. Luckily, we saw what it was up to and shooed it away; otherwise we might have inadvertently taken it hostage.

** ERIN THE MAGNET

If a nasty mishap is going to happen, I’m usually the bull’s-eye for it. Mui calls me the ‘mishap magnet’. Case in point: on our last trip to New York City, someone balled up the remains of their lunch and carelessly threw it on the street; a speeding cabbie hit the foil ball; the mess of hot dog and mustard found me as its target. At least this time I did not end up with food stains all over me.

Here’s how today’s mishap played out. We were just returning to the summit gondola station when someone called out, “sheep.” It was a bighorn ewe wandering on the other side of the boardwalk railing. I was lucky and got a couple of photos before a group of tourists started oohing and aahing loudly. When they added clapping to their repertoire, they scared the ewe off — no surprise there.

At the far end of the trail, I came across the same ewe again. It stood around for a while, looking at me periodically. I took a couple more photos and enjoyed its company. Suddenly, the ewe’s presence was noted by a group of people. In their excitement, they started rushing forward, paying no attention to where they were going. Before I could get out their way, they rammed into me. I was able to keep my balance, but my sunglasses and my monopod flew out of my hand and over the railing, landing at the hooves of the sheep they were chasing. The least they could have done was to offer an apology; none was forthcoming. They disappeared around the corner, still chasing the poor sheep that was running at top speed by then. We were able to recover the monopod; we never did find my sun glasses.

And so ended our trip to the top of the mountain.

** BOW RIVER LOOP

I was amazed to see that it was 11:00a when we arrived back in the Banff Gondola parking lot. We were obviously having a good time as we had not noticed the passage of time. We studied our options for the rest of the day and decided to do the Bow River Loop — a long walk with no elevation gain.

Hoping to see more wildlife, we took the Bow Valley exit off the TransCanada Highway. We encountered a couple of bighorn sheep right at the entrance of the parkway, but did not stop to enjoy the sighting since we were in a very awkward place. A little further up the road, parked cars signaled another wildlife sighting. Unfortunately, we were too late to see the black bear sow with her cub. Better luck next time. There was a crowd at Morant’s Curve. “Aha; the bear is back,” I thought. No such thing. It was a group of train enthusiasts waiting to photograph a train on the curve. Having already done that, we did not join them, but since the light was coming from the right direction, I did click off a couple more photos of the splendid scenery.

We arrived at the Bow River Loop trailhead a little after noon. Noticing a train on the tracks at the Lake Louise Station — now a restaurant — we wandered over to take some photographs. Next on our agenda was lunch. Grabbing our picnic sack, we made ourselves comfortable at the edge of the river and enjoyed our simple repast. It was quiet with no one in sight.

At 22C [71F], it was a comfortable afternoon, with a breeze keeping the heat at bay. The 7 km [4 mile] circuit-walk was very pleasant and was mostly in the shade of trees. We had the entire trail to ourselves as we walked in sight of the fast-flowing river. The river gurgled; the birds chirped; a trio of yellow-bellied sapsuckers tapped away at a tree; red squirrels sent up the occasional alarm when we unknowingly encroached on their territory; the breeze rustled the tree branches, berry bushes, and fireweed growing at the edge of the riverbank. Otherwise, quiet reigned. At one point, we found ourselves on a path with an electrified fence on one side. “Must have been erected to protect against bears,” we surmised as we carefully opened and closed the gates.

By the time we returned to the trailhead around 4:30p, we were pleasantly tired. Stopping at Lake Louise Village, we bought a couple of ice cream cones to re-energize ourselves. Afterwards, wanting to see Moraine Lake under sunny skies, we headed up the road. There were a couple of construction stops en route, but nothing that was too bothersome. The parking lot was starting to empty, so although there were a lot of cars, we had no trouble finding a parking spot.

Unlike our first visit, the Rockpile was bustling with people. Scrambling down the rocks overlooking the lake, we found a quiet spot and sat down to enjoy our afternoon snack in view of the brilliantly colored lake and the towering peaks surrounding it. We would have stayed longer, but at 6:00p we decided to head back to Banff townsite to handle our chores — visiting an internet café to check in for our flight and packing for the trip home. We returned via the Bow Valley Parkway for one last chance at wildlife sightings, but were left empty handed this time. Can’t complain, though. We had six black bear sightings on this trip — not to mention all the other animals we encountered.
eenusa is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 05:38 AM
  #13  
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JULY 25, 2007
GOING HOME … BUT A DIFFERENT WAY

We’re at cruising altitude on the first leg of our trip back home. We’re still flying east, but not as far as Chicago. Instead, we’re on UA flight 1126 to Denver. At least we’re not traveling out of our way to catch our connecting flight to DC.

This change in plans is not by choice, rather it’s dictated by weather in the Chicago area that has apparently caused a lot of flight cancellations. Had we kept to our original plans, we would have ended up staying overnight in Chicago as UA had already rebooked us on tomorrow’s 6:00a flight out of O’Hare. Of course, we did not know about any of this until we checked in for our flight. What we experienced today, once again validates our preference for arriving early at the airport. With no one in line behind us, the agent was able to take her time to find alternative routing for us. We won’t be arriving in DC any earlier than originally planned – which was around midnight to begin with – but at least the 2:45p departure from Calgary reduced our waiting time at the airport by over an hour. That’s a plus.

** EARLIER IN THE DAY

Last night, we set the alarm to 7:00a. After the hectic pace of the past week, sleeping in was a treat on this last day of our vacation. Seeing blue skies when we pulled open the curtains felt odd. After all, we had gotten used to being on the road well before sunrise. With plenty of time on our hands, Mui baked the croissants we picked up from Safeway last night, and we had a leisurely breakfast.

Around 9:15a, we checked out of the resort and drove to Surprise Corner in the Banff townsite. The temperature was a balmy 14C. I know that’s not really warm, but we had grown accustomed to being bundled up in layers for our early morning outings. After two busloads of tourists rushed on and off the overlook, we took a couple photos of ourselves using the Banff Springs Hotel as the backdrop. Not sure the time we spent there was worth it, however; the sun was very bright, making photography a bit tricky. Oh well; nothing ventured, nothing gained.

With time on our hands, we decided to drive the Minnewanka Loop again. After all, we thought, with the hiking trails closed due to bear activity, we might have an opportunity for another bear sighting. No joy! Not only were there no bears, but the bighorn sheep that had entertained us a few days ago were in hiding as well. Can’t say that I blame them. After all, I wouldn’t stick around for long in bear country either! Regardless of the lack of wildlife, we enjoyed the quiet, early morning scenery, took some photos at Two Jack Lake, and were on the road to Calgary at 10:30a – right on schedule.

** PLANS CHANGE

An uneventful drive took us from the Rockies to the rolling hills of the flatlands. An hour or so after leaving Banff, we were on the outskirts of Calgary. Driving through the construction mess on 16th Avenue, we stopped to fill up the tank before arriving at the airport. Turning in the car at Hertz was a piece of cake, and within minutes we were headed to the UA check-in counters.

With our tagged bags still on the luggage cart, we rounded the check-in counter and entered a little patch of the United States in Canada. Thanks to an agreement between the two governments, we cleared US customs in Calgary. We will, therefore, be arriving in Denver as though we were arriving on a domestic flight.

Once we cleared US customs, we handed our luggage to the baggage handlers waiting to collect them. At the security gate, one of the agents smiled and said, “I have selected you for a random search.” Remember; I’m the magnet that attracts such things! What she meant was that I would receive a ‘pat down’ in addition to the usual security measures. No problem.

There was no sign of the Boeing 737-300 aircraft at Gate 31 when we arrived at 1:45p. The board still showed us on time however. I have to say that the crew did a good job of turning the flight around on time after the plane arrived at 2:00p. We started boarding at 2:30p and the doors were closed and armed on time at 2:45p; it took another 10 minutes or so for us to pushback.

** LEG TWO

I said earlier that someone is looking out for us on this trip. Not only did our flight [UA 200] to DC depart Denver on time, but we managed to change Mui’s seat to the aisle seat next to mine. Even better, we’re on another Boeing 757 and in the same seats we had on the DC-Chicago flight a week ago. What that means is that we’re right next to the aircraft door with no other seats in front of us. Plenty of legroom for this three-hour flight.

We had over an hour at the Denver airport before they started boarding the flight. We wandered around for a bit before going to our gate. The friendly UA agent put Mui’s name on the list to move him to 9C if the passenger in that seat did not check in. We really had no hope that this would happen, so it was an especially nice surprise when our name was called just after boarding began.

I hear a lot of complaints about UA, and we’ve had our share of mishaps with this airline — most recently in the form of a missing bag on the non-stop from DC to Buenos Aires in December 2006. Our experience on this trip, however, has been nothing but positive. Now, I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for my October trip to Turkey.

It’s now 11:00p — we have 1 hour and 15 minutes left on this flight. They’re showing a comedy as the in-flight entertainment; not my cup of tea. Our itinerary receipt showed a meal service. There was one — for first class passengers. In coach, they sold ‘buy-your-own-box’ meals. Since the flight attendant described it as “Not very substantial,” we dined on our own healthy snacks instead.

The laptop’s battery is about to give up the ghost, so I’m going to wrap this up. Final words tomorrow…

JULY 26, 2007
WE’RE HOME

Our flight from Denver landed at 12:05a this morning. We were first off thanks to our exit row seating next to the door. The transfer to the main terminal via the mobile lounge went without mishap. While Mui went to get the car from the economy parking lot, I collected the luggage — all three bags made it OK. We were home by 1:30a and in bed by 2:00a. Totally exhausted, I slept like the dead. I didn’t want to get up when the alarm went off at 7:00a, but with a big proposal effort underway, I had little choice. At least I was working from home and did not have to go into the office.

And so our fantastic holiday has concluded. For the first time in our travel history, we’re planning a repeat visit to the same destination for next year. This is partly due to the fact that our annual park pass is good through the end of July 2008. Having paid the price, we might as well get two trips out of it for the price of one. Even though the destination is the same, we will be doing and seeing parts of Banff, Jasper, and Yoho parks that we missed this time around. Time permitting, we might even add Kootenay to the list. We have plenty of time before we have to decide our exact itinerary.
eenusa is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 07:41 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Bart, Robinson, Gadd and Pole, move over.

For anyone who doesn't know, they are authors of guidebooks about the Canadian Rockies.

Your detailed report will be very useful to future travellers to the area, eenusa.

Glad to hear you had a good time.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 09:41 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 603
Wow what a great report. I live in Calgary and you have reminded of what is just outside my door!!!
Cruiseryyc is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 10:21 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 84
I was thinking the same thing. It's too bad that it's cloudy and rainy today or I could see the mountains from my office window. It's really too bad that we take them so for granted. Great trip report!
Lenore_Trippy is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 12:34 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 84
PS - Can't wait to see your pictures!
Lenore_Trippy is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 02:21 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 153
eenusa
Wow!
What a detailed report.
I am printing it and it is 30 pages long.
Thanks, we will profit from your experiences for our upcoming trip.
don76 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2007, 02:55 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 72
Great report, thanks for taking the time!

catsmom317 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2007, 03:28 AM
  #20  
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 818
You're all welcome; the journals are a labor of love, and I enjoy sharing them. For those of you who live in the area - you have a very nice backyard. For those heading there, have a terrific time.
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