When I looked up what was Calgary known for I wasn’t expecting the nickname “Cowtown”to come up. It’s quite a cute nickname given that about 1.2 million people live here and we haven’t seen a cow yet. Calgary has been voted the best Canadian city to live in and the fifth best in the world by Business Insider.
It is a lovely city we have really enjoyed our time here and have of course helped the local economy a little. Steve found us a great hotel out at the airport which was really inexpensive and a great place to stay. So each day we’ve been shuttling from our hotel to the airport and then catching the airport shuttle into town..
Now some photos…
Big Daddy is one of 56 pieces of public art that are all around downtown Calgary. I have probably walked past quite a few of these over the last couple of days without registering – I’ll just have to come back again to report on a few more.
Within the CORE shopping mall is a large indoor park and botanical garden called the Devonian Gardens. There are so many different little spots that you can sit and relax, it is really astonishing. The website describes it is an “urban oasis in the heart of Calgary” and I would completely agree with this description yet another unexpected delight in this city. You can book an event here in the one hectare garden or simply sit with your coffee and have your lunch.
As we were walking through the streets of Calgary we came to this beautiful building and imagine my delight it’s the Calgary Public Library.
This building was opened in 2018 and was $245m CAD to build. The building turned one on 14 September, I would have loved a piece of first birthday cake.
The Olympic Plaza was built in 1988 for the Olympic Winter Games and in winter had the only refrigerated outdoor ice surface in town..if you feel a little like skating in your lunch hour.
We have had the most wonderful time on this trip and Calgary was a most beautiful place to finish our holiday.
Au revoir Calgary it’s been grand 💋.
“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” Ibn Battuta
The drive from Jasper to Banff is pretty straightforward and only takes a couple of hours if you don’t stop (which is impossible). Many have described the Icefields Parkway that meanders through the heart of the Canadian Rockies going through two national parks as one of the most beautiful drives in the world, I would agree. We have travelled this road a couple of times now and there is so much to see and the views are outstanding.
When we left Jasper the weather was pretty mild but there was a hint of something in the air and so we knew that rain was coming.
Our first stop at Sunwapta Falls is about 30 kms out of Jasper. They are crazy noisy and obviously very powerful with a drop of about 18 and a half metres. Sunwapta means turbulent water and boy does it fit. The water here originates from the Athabasca Glacier which we are on our way to next. If you are a keen white water rafter some groups start from just below these falls. Speaking of which we haven’t crossed paths with the gang we saw earlier in our trip and they certainly did come to mind when I saw the sensational and scary drop and force of this water.
As we got closer to the Athabasca Glacier the rain started and the air was feeling colder and colder – so different from a couple of days ago when we were here last.
The plan is for us to take the self directed Toe of the Glacier Trail which is about 1km climbing 30 metres and takes about an hour to complete. This glacier is one of the six toes of the massive Columbia Icefield which was formed over 240,000 years ago. You are able to travel by bus onto the Glacier and then take a walk on the Glacier itself but with queues being so long and not really wanting to be part of a big group, we got ourselves rugged up for another walk. By the time we got out of the car it was almost horizontal rain and it was cold but we hadn’t seen anything yet.
Along our hike there is information posted along the way by the National Park folk. it came as no surprise to me that apparently icefields produce their own weather, further cooling air as it passes over them and that winds generated here are strongest in autumn.
Other markers which were just numbers demonstrated how the Glacier is getting smaller over time. Over the last 125 years the Glacier has lost half its volume (since railways started) and is now receding by about five metres a year. The idea that something that had been here for thousands of years is slowly melting away is really quite shocking. This is the most visited glacier in North America and so we tourists are part of the problem but are also a great way to spread the word about mans impact on these natural world heritage sites – so it’s a tricky balancing act.
After a warm hot chocolate in the Visitors Centre where we also watched a film, we continued our trip to Banff. We are here for two nights before heading to Calgary for our last few days before flying home.
We are booked into a lovely lodge about 10 minutes from town. It feels like you are in a little cabin in the woods..
Banff is of course known for its hot springs as well as it’s many outdoor activities with about 8,000 people living here – many of them Australian. Every restaurant and shop we were served in has had at least one Aussie accent..from Cairns to Perth to Melbourne – there are obviously jobs for young Aussie’s with working visas. There are also 65 grizzly bears in the National Park which is 6,600 square kilometres hopefully we will see one. 🙄
A trip to the picturesque Bow Falls started our day it’s aa short walk from downtown Banff good to stretch our legs and not too many hills.
Downtown Banff is busy with tourists and tourist buses. Some of the shops are quite lovely and there are so many dogs here..I love it.
I probably haven’t mentioned it before but lots of people travel with their dogs. I didn’t see any on the cruise but ya never know – haha that would have been hilarious and dangerous I know but the possibilities.
Our final stop for the day is Lake Minnewanka a glacial lake that is 21 kms long and 142 metres deep. It is estimated that people have lived near this lake for over 10,000 years this is based on stone tools and spearheads that were discovered by archeologists.
Tomorrow morning we head for Calgary for a coup,e of nights and then home. I’ll touch base one more time from Calgary, I have loved every moment of this trip it has been truly amazing.
I once read somewhere that a photo can’t give you a sense of the scale of the mountains that are the Rockies. They are so high and so commanding, the colours so rich and the detail so clear. As we have driven and hiked through them you become so aware that you are so small but not in a scary way it just hits you all at once. The other thing is that fabulous mountain air, there is nothing quite like it is there. Its so fresh and vibrant, it kind of grabs you in a really great way…yep I’m liking these mountains.
We are now in the picturesque or should I describe it as charming town of Jasper. Jasper has a population of about 4,500 people so it is not to big at all. A walk down the main street of town is a matter of minutes. The three hour trip from Lake Louise took about seven, there is so much to see. Steve has really mastered the little Golf and we are so loving having the freedom it has given us.
Our first stop was the Crows Foot Glacier along the Icefields Parkway about 40 kms outside of Lake Louise… pretty nifty isn’t it.
The funniest thing happened when we got back to the car we were stalked by this crow he looks so cross perhaps he is unhappy with the name of the Glacier?
You might be wondering why starry nights in Jasper – well did you know that Jasper National Park is the second largest in the world Dark Sky Preserve. This means that there is limited artificial lighting visible which creates the right conditions for dark sky viewing. The community here is actively working to eliminate or at least reduce light “pollution” in all its forms. If we were here in October we could have been part of the Jasper Dark Sky Festival – gosh we might need to come back ! How cool is this.
As I was getting all excited about this Steve let me know that of course given the way Australia is populated we also have Dark Sky areas and so after investigating we do have a recognised Dark Sky area in Australia in the central west of NSW the Warrumbungle National Park. So a local place to enjoy night sky gazing. What a fantastic initiative, we might need to see when the Warrumbungle festival is as we are missing the one here in Canada☹️. How did I not know about this until now, I was obviously being kept (or keeping myself) in the dark (I know I’m corny but it had to be said).
Back to the trip, so our first full day in Jasper started with a coffee from the friendly guy (Nathan) here where we are staying. He is also new to Jasper but unlike us is here to stay for a little while, he was able to give me some great tips on Banff which I have stowed away for when we get there.
Another great tourist information centre who were able to fill our day starting with Maligne Canyon and Lake. The canyon is so impressive and is the deepest canyon in the Canadian Rockies. There is an almost four hour hike you can do of this canyon which will take you to the six bridges that cross the canyon.. we decided that we had a lot to see today so would park at the first bridge and then drive the car down to the fifth…. it was all so lovely.
And then to the way to the Maligne Lake just walking along the road we saw..
From here we headed to Mount Edith where Steve and his crocs were going to get up close and personal with a glacier. This mountain was named after a British nurse who was executed during the First World War for helping allied prisoners escape from Brussels. Aren’t some people extraordinary.
The drive up this mountain is tough – if you have read the Lord of the Rings and can recall the trek that Sam and Frodo took over the plains of Mordor to get to Mount Doom, all along the way you are thinking gosh they must be almost there and then there is just one more chapter. Well this describes our trip up Mount Edith…it was a long, steep trek in the car with many an obstacle (like oncoming traffic). The road is narrow, there aren’t any reassuring guardrails so you often feel that you are inches away from a the car sliding off the road and down the mountain as you take on the endless (or so it seems) hairpin turns. It is like that first time you drive down the Clyde from Canberra to the Bay but on steroids. I am absolutely sure that it is a fine road for the locals but for us on a different side of the road let’s just say it was a relief to get to the car park.
It’s a bit of a trek then up to the viewing platform but I tell you Canadians look after people visiting their national treasures well. There is always a spot to have a bit of a rest just when you need it and you guessed it boy was it worth it when you arrive at your destination.
As I waited at the viewing area Steve made the decision to go right down to the pond. Why didn’t I? Well the signs about possible falling ice and avalanches kind of turned me off and my old legs had about reached capacity so thought it wise to stay put.
After making our way back down the mountain relatively unscathed we made our way home listening to our designated local radio station Real Country (as you will hear in this video) and we spotted a couple more four legged friends.
Wow wow wow… yesterday afternoon we checked into our lovely room here in Lake Louise. I know that a lot of people speak quite highly about this part of Canada and I have to say they are completely correct. Yes it’s expensive, no you can’t get a little carton of milk for your cup of tea but that all fades into the background when you start walking or as I can now officially say “hiking” around this sensational place. Why the “” that’s because the minor celebrity travelling with me insists we weren’t hiking we were just walking up huge mountains and back down them again. But more on that later, I’ve missed a bit – the drive to get here.
We are back in avalanche territory and you know this because there are lots of signs along Highway 1 that ensure that you are well aware of the potential for avalanches. We have now discovered that the trip from Revelstoke to Lake Louise is the most dangerous piece of road in Canada, it is mighty beautiful though. I am just pleased that we are travelling now and not in a couple of weeks when you have to use snow chains. We both agree that would be an unwanted complexity to driving in another country.
We decided to stop at the Hemlock Grove National Park and Boardwalk which is the only inland hemlock and cedar rainforest in the world. The great thing about this Boardwalk is that it is easily accessible for anyone with a mobility issues or who is driving a prams as it has ramps all the way. In the last few days I have had the opportunity to learn more about these old growth forests than I have expected (and that’s a good thing).
Quick drop off at the hotel and then a drive to Moraine Lake. Bear in mind that this lake is described as grand and gloomy. Adventurer Samuel Allen First came here in 1894 and apparently was suitably impressed yet he said.
“I saw at the base of No.1 Mt. Heejee a grand and gloomy lake, reflecting in its dark surface the walls and hanging glaciers of Mount Heejee.”
His buddy Walter Wilcox later named it Moraine. The pair obviously did an awesome job of advertising both Moraine Lake and Lake Louise because soon thousands came to visit.
That of course continues today and there are a lot of people here even on a weekday. We picked our time right though and we drove out here just after 5.00 pm and easily found a park and had plenty of Lake one on one time.
Back to the hotel for some rest …and phew the red chairs are back!
Great dinner and sleep getting us ready for the day ahead. We tried our luck on driving up to Lake Louise but unfortunately all of the car parks are full and so it was back down to the Village to get a shuttle bus. It’s actually an old school bus, I saw a few of these late yesterday and was surprised by the number of students who lived in the mountains and yes I said it out loud – duh!
And so based on a discussion with a great girl at the Information Centre last night we decided nah we won’t just walk around this Lake we need to see it from on high. We walked and at some periods rested up the 3.5km walk up to the Lake Agnes Tea House and Lake. It was tough, noting that we could have made it more difficult for ourselves by going up on horseback ….boy the can poop!
I should mention at this time that this morning when I was working out how many layers of clothes I needed to take with me, Steve had made the choice to visit Lake Louise in shorts and his crocs. About half way into our hike a guy who we walked past was so taken aback that he had to have a chat with Steve about the crocs and there was no mistaking the admiration in his voice.
During our trip up the mountain walk every gorgeous soul who was coming the other way said it is so worth the walk and they were so right.
Lake Agnes was named after Lady Agnes MacDonald the original First Lady of Canada. In 1886 Lady MacDonald visited Lake Agnes (oh my in those dresses not sure how she did it ) and loved the beauty of the lake.
The Tea House first began serving hikers in 1905. It is an absolutely amazing family owned business they have no electricity or running water and once a season a helicopter delivers flour and sugar. The rest of the supplies needed to serve the hundreds of travellers a day is brought up using the same trails as we did today.
And importantly the tea is fabulous.
While I was very happy to have a pot of tea Steve decided to head up to the Little Beehive, yes another 1.1 kms up ! His photos are awesome, see below.
Upon Steve’s return a group of twenty somethings continued the theme started earlier in the day about Steve’s ability to wear crocs on the climb. They were in awe – no kidding and then proceeded a discussion about crocs. And so on that note my post finishes with a photo of Steve wearing his crocs at the little waterfall 100 metres below Lady Agnes Lake.
We made our way down Highway 1 from Kamloops to the mountain city of Revelstoke. Revelstoke has 6,719 residents officially (according to the Canadian census) but like all of these mountain towns the numbers are far greater during the summer and winter seasons.
It’s a beautiful drive with great music we are really getting into classic country…Tammy Wynette, John Denver and Johnny Cash or when we lose the signal Classic Rock (it’s odd because I keep waiting for Cold Chisel or Hunters). And of course the beauty of having our own car which Steve is driving like a local is that when we see a sign that peaks our interest we stop. Our first today is at Shuswag Lake. This lake is the source for the South Thompson River and has a surprising 1,000 kilometres of shoreline.
It is really beautiful and we take some time to watch people walking their dogs and getting their boats ready to go out on such a lovely day.
Our next stop is the Tsutswecw Provincial Park previously known as the Roderick Haig-Brown Trail Park. As well as being quite stunning it plays a really important role in early October (so we were here just a couple of weeks early) during the run of the Adams River sockeye salmon – this is the place that some of the salmon spawn.
It’s a lovely spot with a nice walk through to the river and it was great for me to learn a little bit more about Roderick Haig-Brown a revered Canadian writer, conservationist and fly-fisherman. He wrote 25 books with his first being Silver –The life of an Atlantic Salmon. The stuff you find out along the way absolutely fascinating. He also wrote a number of children’s books including the award winning The Whale People a fictional book about a young Nootka Indian boy who learns and masters the art of whale hunting.
“I have been, all of my life, what is known as a conservationist. It seems clear beyond possibility of argument that any given generation of men can have only a lease, not ownership, of the earth; and one essential term of the lease is that the earth can be handed on to the next generation with unimpaired potentialities. This is the conservationist’s concern.”
Roderick Haig-Brown, 1950
A quick trip from there to Revelstoke and the great Lodge we are staying at with a pink bath – this takes me straight back to my nanas house 😀.
After further admiring the bath (well it was really just me that was enamoured) we hit the Revelstoke Tourist Information Centre where we hear a familiar accent behind the counter and speak with a girl from Melbourne who has been here for 18 months and is of course loving it. She gave us some great tips on what to do and where to go. So we ventured into (for the first time) the Mount Revelstoke National Park. This place is all about hiking, climbing, biking, rock climbing, fishing and rafting, but also thankfully walking….I have my boots and I plan to use them.
As we were walking towards this waterfall at Blanket Creek (noting that when we got in the car it was drizzling that has quickly turned to rain but all is okay as this time I am wearing a waterproof jacket) we hear a group obviously having a fantastic time …when we arrived we discovered that they had just kayaked down this waterfall with go pros tightly fastened to their helmets and one guy videoing from the shore. They were super excited that we had seen this but unfortunately we had to admit that we had in fact missed it so we all enjoyed the video it was terrifying from a sensible mums perspective but so very cool.
Our first stop the next day is at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk in the Mount Revelstoke National Park. This is according to the signs the worlds only natural inland rainforest. Some of the trees here were seedlings in the late 1400’s yep they are pretty old.
From here we travel to Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk. This lovely walk is just over a kilometre and it leads you to I guess a swamp. I must say I was slightly disappointed as I really thought I was in a Disney movie up until I saw this…
A lily pad without a serenading frog….and while we are at it where are the birds tweeting their sweet sweet songs…. gee wiz!
It was actually a real treat and a nice walk and a completely different ecosystem from others we have come across in this trip so far.
From here we headed up the mountain …. oh my goodness.
At the summit they have the “First Footsteps” where you can follow the footsteps of the First Nations People who have lived in and around Mount Revelstoke National Park for centuries.
My photos don’t do the mountain justice it is truly beautiful and there are so many trails you can take. We really only had time to get to the summit which was extraordinary. We also loved Revelstoke the people were lovely, we had a couple of great meals one in the local pub and another at a pizza place, the accomodation was great and the town is pretty as you will see from some of the photos I took around town.
Our first stop in our Canadian Rockies escapade is the city of Kamloops. The word Kamloops is the English translation of the Shuswap word which means where the rivers meet, and almost 80,000 people live at the junction of the North and South Thompson rivers. The trip from Vancouver was about 4 hours mainly on Highway 1 which was great for us as driving on a different side of the road can be (and is) extremely stressful.
We have a zippy little Golf to cruise around in which we are loving.
The folk of Kamloops are absolutely thrilled that in the last 24 hours they have received 1/3 of their September rainfall. Yikes – we are only here for one full day and were a little concerned about seeing as much as we could with the weather the way it is.
We started our day with a visit to the Kamloops Wildlife Centre where they rescue and rehabilitate animals. Many of the animals have been orphaned as babies and brought in for care. In the case of Clover (a beautiful bear) he was released back into the wild for a short period of time however he was picked up again and it became clear that his chance of survival was low and so he now resides here at the Wildlife Centre. His story here is not unusual there are a number of orphaned animals who didn’t learn the skills they needed from their mums and so would find it very difficult out to survive.
My photo doesn’t do this building justice. It’s got a great look to it and is incredibly green using recycled and innovative materials such as wood chips in the building itself and uses natural light and renewable energy for heating and cooling. Sorry no photos of the animals….
From here we decided to walk the Rivers Trail alongside the Thompson and North Thompson rivers. The sections we were on were all paved and some of the trail went through the suburb of Tranquile unfortunately the weather was not on our side and so while we had great plans to get more of the trail completed today wasn’t a great day for it….but I did get some photos.😀
We finished our day with probably my personal Kamloops favourite our self directed alley art mural tour – wowsers! There are 30 murals in total and I have included a selection. I’m a huge fan of these and love seeing them in unexpected places.
These murals are huge and so amazing. As I wandered through the back alleys of Kamloops I kept thinking how unbelievable these would look on a sunny day.
One of the things that struck me most is that Kamloops is as described by the tourist bureau “ boldly unscripted”. There are signs everywhere that the city is in a period of renewal and I must say I’m a fan. We had a great time in this surprising place that is not at all what you expect.
We are about to embark on our drive through the Canadian Rockies in our little navy Golf thankfully with a SatNav that is not telling us where to go in French (like our last experience in Belgium) phew!
Before I launch into my next post from Kamloops I have some beautiful photos from our cruise and thought you may enjoy them as much as me.
”The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Jacques Cousteau
Our last port visit was to the very pretty Victoria the capital of British Columbia. Sadly this was were I discovered that my raincoat was not waterproof…yep hot damn! Ah but an opportunity to buy a new jumper 😀.
So as the title of this post suggests Victoria is a city of beautiful gardens that attracts lots of honeymooners and retirees. The ship didn’t dock until about 5.30 pm and we had limited daylight but I was able to snap some shots of Fisherman’s Wharf on our walk into town. Aren’t these places gorgeous they are a mixture of businesses, homes and bed and breakfasts.
And I managed a night time and cloudy day time photo of Parliament House. Great building would love to go inside one day.
As well as getting wet we took a night time bus tour which was kind of hilarious… the commentary was good (that’s where I got my fab tagline). The windows kept fogging up lots of heavy breathing obviously and because of the foggy windows, the rain and the fact that is was dark we couldn’t see much at all. We don’t do many of the hop on hop off buses preferring walking or self directed tours but this kept me and my new Victoria jumper out of the rain so was money well spent. The alternative was the local Maccas using their wifi and getting to the know the locals.
I leave you with the second best bit of information for the night and that was that often the seaplanes can’t take off because there is a whale on the runway – classic.
Skagway – the place where the north wind blows. These days there are 400 or 700 (depending upon who you talk to) permanent residents who live in this lovely little coastal town. This number expands significantly during the peak cruise season when a heap of people from all over the States come into town to work.this is of course consistent with all of the other gorgeous places we have visited.
In the late 1800s it was a different story this was then a bustling town that was central to the gold rush and as a result has a hard and at times tragic history. There are many sad stories of the thousands of Americans and their animals that died trying to make their way to the gold fields.
This was a bleak time in American history when 90% of Americans were desperately poor and with the media hype about finding gold and the idea that this would turn your life around many made the difficult decision to either come alone or bring their families with them to find their fortune.
There were many obstacles including first travelling by sea along the Pacific coast to get to Skagway or Dyea. Then once you arrived you probably needed to payoff the notorious Soapy Smith (what a cute crooks name) who ran the lawless town of Skagway. If you survived that you then travelled 450 miles from Skagway to the goldfields. And you were not simply travelling with your backpack and horse the Canadian government had a requirement that each person had to have food and supplies that would last a year to gain entry to the Yukon. Remembering that there were 100,000 prospectors entered the north western part of Canada between 1896 and 1899 that was a huge number of months to feed. This meant that much person (man, woman or child) carried about 1 ton of materials across this harsh country – in many cases it took people between six and twelve months to arrive. And many died during this time.
Today you can take the train which is what we did, and boy it’s gorgeous and quick about 45 minutes. How different from those people who made this trek over a hundred years ago in most cases just trying to make a better lives for their families.
Some more fun facts about Alaska and Skagway:
There are no termites in Alaska
There are no snakes in Alaska
There is no poison ivy in Alaska
There are no fish in the Skagway river as there is too much silt
The train stops at a little town in Douglas which is on the Canadian border where only 20 people live and they are mainly Canadian custom workers.
Some shots of this little town it is really quite lovely … remind me to tell you the story of the ever so Mollie Walsh we’ll need time and a stiff drink ..
On our return from our Ketchikan adventures we sat on our balcony as the fog came in always on the alert for a passing whale or dolphin which unfortunately for me didn’t eventuate. But hey that’s okay because our alarms were set for the early morning wake up call as we went further into the Inside Passage and our first glimpses of the Dawes Glacier.
Our photos don’t do this part of the world justice. There is nothing quite like standing on your balcony breathing in beautiful crisp air (which I understand is the cleanest on the planet) and watching pieces of ice float by. I did try not to think about that moment in Titanic where Jack slowly sinks into that freezing water but it is there with me as I firmly hold onto my phone as I know if I drop it my photos and contact numbers will be gone forever as my phone sinks and freezes much like Jack.
Before coming here I had wondered about the impact that all of these cruise ships would have on this part of the world (noting that it didn’t stop me from coming) so was pleased to hear that our captain along with other cruise ship captains make changes to the engines so that the carbon footprints that are left here are as small as possible.
Our afternoon is in the town/city of Juneau. Juneau is the capital of Alaska and was founded during the gold rush – is there a theme here (there most certainly is). Some things I didn’t know about Juneau – there are no roads into or out of Juneau as it is surrounded by seven ice fields and therefore can only be reached by boat or plane. Juneau has an international airport you can fly to Canada from here. This sounded really familiar to me and then I remembered when Canberra airport was only going to have flights to New Zealand. There’s something about these capital cities.
Juneau is a big city by Alaskan standards and has more than 30,000 permanent residents. It is 17 metres above sea level and yes as you can imagine this can cause significant problems.
We had decided not to book anything through the ship for this port and so hopped on a bus that would take us to the Mendenhall Glacier. The bus driver took the one highway in Juneau to get us there. The Mendenhall Glacier is the worlds largest glacier that is accessible by road noting of course that the town itself can’t be accessed by road. Yep I’m loving the quirkiness of this place. The Glacier sits alongside (well kinda) a beautiful waterfall within a government protected recreational area.
As well as going to see the Glacier and the waterfall there was also the opportunity to see one of the 37 black bears that live within the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area but sadly none were coming out to play with the hundreds of tourists walking through their home – go figure.
On a final depressing note 100 feet of this glacier is being lost per year.