Drumheller

Royal Tyrrell Museum

From Lake Louise, we left the Rockies and drove east: destination Drumheller. The road was flat – very flat – and I was puzzled when we came to the 3km sign for Drumheller: where was it? Surely we should see it by now? Then the road suddenly plunged down into the Red Deer River Valley, and there it was at the bottom. We were in the Badlands! (Badlands are a type of dry terrain where soft sedimentary rocks and clay-rich soils have been extensively eroded by wind and water.) The next surprise was how small Drumheller is. We were here to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, a world leading institution, which we expected to have rather more sophisticated surroundings (sorry Drumheller).

The third surprise was unpleasant. Our hotel claimed to have no knowledge of us and was “fully booked”. Now, I spent my entire career in public service and I know that the answer to a problem is “Oh, I’m sorry that has happened – let’s see what we can do to fix it.” The two staff here had obviously missed that memo and were truculent and defensive. Apparently, it was all our fault for booking through a third party, despite the fact that we had booked most of our accommodation through the same site months in advance and had no problem anywhere else.  It became my responsibility to call the booking company to sort it out – I was grudgingly allowed to use one of the hotel phones when I pointed out that it would cost me a fortune to use a UK mobile. I have nothing but praise for the young lady I spoke to who then spent half an hour talking to one of the staff, and – surprise again! – it turned out they did have a room, although more expensive than the one we’d booked. I don’t know why they couldn’t have found this in the first place: presumably the booking company was inveigled into paying the extra amount. I shan’t name the hotel, but I definitely won’t be using that chain again.

After my blood pressure had returned to normal, we set out to explore Drumheller. They love their dinosaurs. This T Rex is the largest dinosaur in the world, apparently – the one on the right is much smaller, it’s just the perspective making them look similar.

There were also smaller dinosaurs all around town. We even met one in our (nameless) hotel lobby! He arrived every morning to entertain the children, but didn’t seem to mind being photographed with a couple of slightly older visitors.

Drumheller is a former mining area and, if we’d had time, there is a mining trail we could have followed. We did visit one historic mine (which I’ll include in a later post) and stop for reflection at the memorial in town to all those miners killed in the area. A lot of names.

As for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, which we visited on our first full day, it blew us away. It has to be one of the best museums I have ever visited. The layout was so clear that you could easily follow a logical path through it, and the signs had just the right amount of information. And if all you wanted to do was look at dinosaurs (there were many young children who were there to do just that), you could still have a ball.

Why have so many fossils, particularly dinosaurs, been found in Alberta? Apparently, it’s because of the high sedimentation rate in the Late Cretaceous Period which meant that dead animals were buried quickly before they started to decompose, preserving the skeletons intact.

The museum also has a Badlands Interpretive Trail (below) which we spent some time exploring before, mid-afternoon, returning to our hotel to freshen up for our next event at 6pm – the Canadian Badlands Passion Play.

We didn’t know until after we’d decided to visit Drumheller that this was on, but we jumped at the chance to get tickets when we found out. The epic representation of the life of Jesus has been produced every summer since 1994 and, if you live nearby or are likely to visit next July, I strongly recommend it. There are a few professional actors involved, but most are amateurs and they are simply amazing. Photography during the play is not allowed – the first picture below was taken by John beforehand and the other two were supplied to me as part of a set sent to ticket holders after the event, hence the attribution.

The Canadian Badlands Passion Play 2017
The set © Canadian Badlands Passion Play
Cast and crew © Canadian Badlands Passion Play

The site for the play was a few miles out of town and there were hundreds of cars parked, yet the volunteers directing us out were so efficient that we hardly had to queue at all before we were back out onto the main road. An excellent and well-organised event.

On our second day in Drumheller we set out to explore the Badlands further and get some hiking in. More next time!

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Lake Louise

Lake Louise

On our previous visit to Lake Louise in 2007 we stayed in Deer Lodge, which is the only hotel actually by the lake apart from the mega-expensive Fairmont Château, but when we tried to book it in December 2016 for July 2017 it was already full! I looked at the Château prices and decided they were having a laugh, so we booked a hotel about 4km away in Lake Louise Village and commuted. There is a regular shuttle bus to the lake which we took the first morning, but only after queueing for ages in full sun. We decided it would be just as easy to walk back, and the second day we spent at the lake we walked both ways. There’s a pretty trail along Louise Creek, which can be extended via the old tramway which took Victorian visitors from the station in the village to the Château. The middle day of our stay we rode the Gondola up Mount Whitehorn.

Lake Louise Village

We were glad we walked back via the old tramway the first day, because it took us out near The Old Station Restaurant which we booked for dinner that night (excellent). Trains still pass through – we are always fascinated by their length in North America. We watched the one below for 5 minutes from beginning to end!

The other nights we ate in our hotel, the Lake Louise Inn, which served reasonable bar food and good pizza. I have no pictures of the Inn, it wasn’t particularly pretty. The red roofs by the river in the gallery above are part of the Post Hotel which was much more picturesque. Maybe we’ll stay there next time…

The Lake

A few highlights from our two days hiking by or near the lake. Considering how crowded the place was, I’m amazed John managed to get pictures with hardly anyone else in them – though the old rule holds good. Walk a few hundred metres from the car parks and most people melt away.

Lake Louise Gondola

The Lake Louise Gondola is a short drive from the village. We booked early morning tickets which included breakfast on the ground before heading up the mountain. At the top of the lift is a Wildlife Interpretive Centre, a couple of (very steep) trails to viewpoints and the fabulous Whitehorn Bistro. We rewarded ourselves after the strenuous hikes with a late lunch on their deck – fondue with great views, though as you can see we were still hampered by haze from all the fires.

After Lake Louise, we left the Rockies – but we weren’t going home just yet. We were heading for the Badlands!

Jasper National Park

Downtown Jasper

When we visited Jasper ten years ago, we stayed in a cabin outside the town. This time, we were very central and the big bonus of that is we got to appreciate some excellent restaurants right on our doorstep. I can heartily recommend Jasper Pizza Place, Olive Bistro, Raven Bistro and Syrah’s of Jasper – and there were several other places I’d like to have tried if we’d been there longer. So what did we do other than eat?

Jasper Town

Stroll along the main street, Connaught Drive (above), and I defy you not to be transfixed by the mountain views – but  trains and totem poles are available too.

Mina and Riley Lakes Loop

We followed this 9km trail right from downtown on our first morning, no need to even move the car. It was a beautiful, still day as you can see from the reflections – as we feasted on our picnics, the bugs feasted on us…

Jasper Tramway

On our second day we took the tramway more than 1000 vertical metres (3280 feet) up Whistlers Mountain from where we hiked the (very steep) mile to the summit. The views are awesome, and Parks Canada has helpfully placed some beautiful red chairs just where you can admire Mount Edith Cavell. (These chairs are all over the country – the idea is to share them on social media).

Whistlers is named for the hoary marmots which live on the summit. We saw several of them as well as white-tailed ptarmigans and golden-mantled ground squirrels. One of the latter appears to be trying to eat a tissue!

After a reasonable lunch in the tramway’s top station, we headed back down the mountain for another hike on flatter terrain.

Valley of the Five Lakes

There were, indeed, five lakes on this trail! Third Lake had another set of red chairs, just right for enjoying the view. I think I have these lakes labelled right….

Maligne Canyon and Lake

Our final day in Jasper was my birthday, which we celebrated in the worst weather of the whole trip. Our first stop was Maligne Canyon, a steep narrow gorge crossed by several bridges.

On to Maligne Lake, where we did a couple of short trails in a sleet-storm! This made the paths muddy and treacherous – you might spot that from the state of John’s left trouser leg. Yes, it was his turn to slip.

Maybe it was the cooler, wetter conditions that made this a good day for wildlife spotting. Deer in abundance, and twice – bears! Only one bear picture good enough to share though.

From Jasper, we headed back south to Lake Louise, our last stop in the Rockies.

Along the Icefields Parkway

Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake

From Glacier, we headed north to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. A few days later, we drove back down the same road to Lake Louise (there really isn’t any other way). We made several stops each time which I’ve combined into one south to north sequence, starting with the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint (above).

Peyto Lake and Bow Lake Lookout

This was a day of very poor visibility due to smoke blowing over from the fires in BC. From the parking lot at Bow Summit, a short, steep, paved trail leads to a viewing platform over Peyto Lake (first picture). It was thronged with people so we only got one photograph but, as is often the case, we carried on a bit further and lost most of them. The trail to Bow Lake Lookout goes through forest, moraine and snow, some of which is not terribly solid. Guess who went in to thigh level? Still, to make up for that we met a cute marmot. The view of Bow Lake was pretty enough but nothing like it could have been in other circumstances. The picture near the end of the gallery, slightly enhanced, is the best we have.

Parker’s Ridge

The trail to Parker’s Ridge, overlooking the Saskatchewan Glacier, is about half way between Lake Louise and Jasper. We hiked here in 2007 too – the weather wasn’t great then, but better than it was in 2017 with a squall of hail at the top. The panoramas below are just before the storm and just after.

Bears!

On the drive down from Jasper, we saw a mother with two cubs! Much zoomed and a bit blurry, but still – bears!

Sunwapta Falls

We stopped here on the way down and had lunch at the nearby Sunwapta Falls Resort. It wasn’t amazing, but it was a lot better than the meal we had at the resort at Saskatchewan River Crossing on the way up – although, to be fair, there are three places to eat on site. We chose the Parkway Pub for the views from its deck – I’d recommend you to forego the view and try one of the other options.

Athabasca Falls

We spent about an hour here exploring the various trails round the Falls. Such awesome power in the water – we were reminded of this by the plaques to those who thought it would be fun to hop over the fence and never came back.

Three busy days in Jasper coming up next.

Kananaskis

At Kananaskis Village

Kananaskis Country, south-east of Banff National Park, is an area we had not explored on our previous visit to the Canadian Rockies. This time, we enjoyed a stay at Kananaskis Village – basically, Delta Lodge and a few attached businesses. Originally developed for the 1998 Winter Olympics, it was later chosen to host the G8 Summit in 2002 for its get-away-from-it-all ethos – what world leader could complain at being surrounded by scenery like the above?

The main hike we did here was a lovely trail round Upper Kananaskis Lake, starting at the Upper Lake parking lots at its south-east corner.

Upper Kananaskis Lake near parking lot

From there, we crossed Upper Lake Dam (both Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes are now reservoirs).

Upper Lake Dam

We continued round the lake drinking in the views:

On the north shore, the path began to climb above the trees –

View from north shore

– ending in a huge boulder field, dazzling in the sun.

After picking our way down through this, we encountered rivers and falls as we made our way back along the west shore.

Two final panoramic views – as we neared the parking lot we could see people out on the lake enjoying the boating life.

I admit my feet were sore after this walk – our first of the holiday and yet, as measured by Fitbit, the longest of all at over 30,000 steps (although there wasn’t much climbing: we did much steeper hikes later on).

A last word on Kananaskis Village. There are two routes in and out.  On the way in, we took the long way round – the unsealed Smith-Dorian Road via Spray Lakes.

On the way out, we stuck to Hwy 40. When we woke up that morning it was pouring with rain, but by the time we got out onto the highway this had cleared to leave a pleasing mist over the mountains. I also include what I think is the only picture of our hire car, a Nissan Rogue, which served us well for three weeks.

Where were we headed? Into British Columbia’s Glacier National Park. Nostalgia is involved. In the meantime, I’m linking this visit to Jo’s Monday Walks. She takes us to Northumberland this week.

Banff and the Bow Valley

John is not impressed by tonight’s accommodation

On our previous visit to the Canadian Rockies, ten years ago, our first stop was in Banff which we remembered as being too busy to be really pleasurable. We decided to try somewhere different this time, but we did pop in to Banff to visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

Canada’s National Park System was effectively born at these hot springs. Known to aboriginal peoples for millennia, they were “discovered” by three railway workers in 1883. So many people rushed in to try to make money out of the springs that, to avert an environmental crisis, the government stepped in to create a reserve. Today, what was the bathing pool is decked and, when we were there, was set up to replicate a camp at the time of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

There were boardwalks to follow (see header image which mocks up the entrance to the first hotel) and we also hiked the Marsh Loop, a circular trail to the Bow River, where we met this impressive stag.

Planning a route in the Rockies isn’t difficult – there isn’t much choice other than East-West on the Trans-Canada Highway and North-South on the Icefields Parkway. The Trans-Canada skirts Banff which means we passed its exits several times. The first day we planned to visit the Cave and Basin, the queues to get off the highway were so long that we kept going east, took a detour onto the Bow Valley Parkway and stopped at Johnston Canyon with its multiple waterfalls.

To the east of Banff, we liked the small town of Canmore. Imagine having this view at the end of your street!

In Canmore, we bought these two hiking books which served us well over the next three weeks. Volume 1 included a loop walk in Bow Valley Provincial Park, an amalgamation of six interpretive trails which took us through moraines, riversides, lakeshores and forest paths. We couldn’t believe how quiet it was – we hardly saw any other hikers and ate our lunch alone in an enormous picnic area.

Coming up in the next instalment: Kananaskis, which was a lot busier.

Calgary

When in Rome…..

The first thing I did in Calgary was buy myself a big hat – yeehaw! I’m not sure it really helped me to blend in with the locals, but it kept the sun off my pale Scottish skin.

Our flight from the UK landed in early afternoon, so despite feeling as though we’d been awake for hours more than was natural (we had) we decided to see a bit of the place. The Stampede was about to begin, so it was buzzing. First, we went up the Calgary Tower for great views and a turn on the scary glass floor.

After that, we took a wee wander round town, enjoying some of its more quirky aspects.

My favourite, which will come as no surprise to those who know of my interest in women’s history, was the “Women are Persons!” or “Famous Five” monument (link has more information about the sculpture).

Wikipedia explains the background thus:

The Famous Five … were five Alberta women who asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” in the case Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General). The five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, created a petition to ask this question. They sought to have women legally considered persons so that women could be appointed to the Senate. The petition was filed on August 27, 1927, and on 24 April 1928, Canada’s Supreme Court summarized its unanimous decision that women are not such “persons”.

Fortunately sense prevailed the following year, which reduced the sense of outrage  I was feeling a little – that, and the waves of tiredness which were now washing over me. An early dinner and an early night called. The next day, we battled our way through the Stampede crowds to collect our car and set off for the mountains.

Glasgow Gallivanting: July 2017

Over the last few months, I’ve been taking part in a project at Glasgow Women’s Library to research the women associated with the Belvidere Fever Hospital in the East End of Glasgow around the time of the First World War. There isn’t much detail in the records, so the idea was to use our imaginations to create a series of dramatic monologues around our chosen women. On the 4th of July, this came to fruition with a performance and a book, both called Voices from the Belvidere, bringing to life fascinating stories of laundry maids who ran away, nurses who caught fever after fever, and the rare women doctors who followed their calling against all odds. My contribution was called The Zombie Ward: some day, with more time, I might tell you its story. In the meantime, here’s my protagonist, Nurse Watt, who caught my eye smiling in the centre of the picture above.

Happy birthday to me!

60th birthday in Jasper

My birthday is in July, and 2017 was a big one. 60! I can’t quite believe it. I celebrated on vacation in Canada, and here I am with some of my cards – from the three people who managed to send one in advance, and John who made me stand outside a shop in Canmore, Alberta, while he selected his.

Lake Louise

As I spent most of July in the Canadian Rockies, including Lake Louise as seen above, and I intend to blog much more about that later, it doesn’t leave a great deal of Glasgow Gallivanting to write about. So that’s it for this month – except to say that I hope you’ve had a great July too.

Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise

Saskatchewan Glacier
Saskatchewan Glacier

On the way down from Jasper to Lake Louise, we stopped off to hike the Parker’s Ridge trail which overlooks the Saskatchewan Glacier. The weather seems to have deserted us here, but I don’t remember that. It all looks very dramatic in the cloud.

By the time we got to Lake Louise, all was sunny again. On arrival, we climbed to a lookout over the Lake and the fabulous Chateau Lake Louise – and we had to do it twice!

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

On the map, it looked as though you could do a circular walk by taking a steep rocky path down from the Lookout to the Lake and following it round the water’s edge to the original starting point. However, when we got to the Lake it seemed that any previous path was long submerged. We paddled for a bit, but when it became wading we had to turn round. I got back up that steep rocky path PDQ and was glad that a) this was near the end of the holiday and I was much fitter than when we set out and b) we had a table booked for dinner which we would miss if we didn’t hurry. This was a huge incentive as you can imagine!

The next day, we hiked the Plain of the Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes trails. My main memories are that, despite my smile, I was very unhappy on the scree sections and (better) that there were two tea-houses on these trails. Unaccountably, we have no pictures of them, but I’ve checked the guidebook and my memory is correct. Scotland’s mountains need more tea-houses! 😉

On our final day, we ventured first to Moraine Lake:

Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake

Then we crossed the border into British Columbia. Many years before, we had a holiday in BC and the furthest east we ventured was Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. So this time we ventured west to revisit them and our two holidays “met up”.

The following day, we drove back to Calgary for our flight home. I’ve really enjoyed writing this series – I remembered the Rockies being beautiful but they are even better in retrospect. I want to go again! If you read earlier posts, you might remember that this was my 50th birthday trip in 2007. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that I have another big birthday coming up soon, so maybe I should celebrate in the same place? Especially as Canada also has a big birthday in 2017 (150th) and I’ve recently read that all National Parks will be free next year to celebrate. Watch this space….

In the meantime, our next Canadian trip will be to Toronto. Hints and tips from local bloggers welcome! And finally, this post is linked to Jo’s wonderful Monday Walks series. She has a lovely spring-time Algarve walk this week, which should cheer you up whatever your own weather is doing. Enjoy!

 

Canadian Rockies: Jasper and the Icefields Parkway

Along the Icefields Parkway
Along the Icefields Parkway

Heading north on the Icefields Parkway we stopped off at the Icefield Centre to take a tour of the Athabasca Glacier in an Ice Explorer, a vehicle with balloon tyres that can drive over the crevassed surface. There was also plenty of time to walk (slide) about on the ice and take pictures.

The next day (my 50th birthday) we hiked the Cavell Meadows trail. The snow-covered Mount Edith Cavell peeks out in the centre of the photo below – at 11000+ feet, no way were we ever going to hike all the way up that!

Mount Edith Cavell
Mount Edith Cavell

The Cavell Meadows trail took us to several viewpoints with good views of the mountain and Angel Glacier.

Day 2 saw us at Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake.

On our final day in Jasper we took the Jasper Tramway 3280 feet up the steep north face of The Whistlers – named after the hoary marmots that live there – and we were lucky enough to see one. From the upper terminal, we hiked to the true summit.

The next day we headed back south to our last stop – Lake Louise. More next Monday!