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.

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Glacier National Park, BC

Glacier Park Lodge 1994

On our very first Canadian holiday in 1994 we spent a couple of nights in Glacier Park Lodge at the top of Rogers Pass, BC. What fun to stay there again, we thought! Sadly, a cursory search of the internet showed that time has not been kind to the Lodge. The adjacent gas station closed in 2009 and the Lodge in 2012. A series of lawsuits has left them both derelict and unloved and, although the Parks Canada Visitor Centre in between is still open, it’s a depressing place to visit, especially as the Trans Canada to either side is undergoing massive road-works at the moment.

Glacier Park Lodge 2017

So where did we stay? Well, on the eastern edge of the park we found Heather Mountain Lodge – the best accommodation of our entire trip. A beautiful setting with fluffy neighbours:

 

– and fabulous food:

 

And yet – you might have noticed a certain haziness in some of these pictures and in the one of Glacier Park Lodge in 2017. The mountains in 1994 were much clearer. Look at these two, taken a couple of days apart this year, of roughly the same view at Heather Mountain Lodge:

 

This was the effect of fires further west, the smoke from which, depending on wind direction, obscured our views most days and contributed to poor air quality. Now I know that’s trivial compared to the lot of the poor people who were being evacuated from their homes, so I’m not complaining (really). It just added to the melancholy feeling of seeing the old lodge so run down. Add to that the helicopter in one of the galleries above which landed and took off several times from our hotel’s grounds. We thought it was taking water to the fires, but it turned out to be searching for a young Irish tourist who had drowned in a nearby lake.

This was also where I found that my body had developed far more aches and pains than it had in 1994, or even 2007 when we last visited the Rockies. The trails in Glacier weren’t long but some of them were very steep. My knees hurt on the way up and my ankles on the way down. Did I moan? Ask John! On second thoughts – don’t. You might be shocked if he repeats my language.

Marion Lake

A steep, forested hike to a mediocre lake and a viewpoint which would have been lovely without the smoke!

 

Meeting of the Waters

An easy walk past the confluence of Asulkan Brook and the Illecillewaet River. This was pretty, and took in the ruins of the first hotel in the area, Glacier House.

 

Rock Garden, Loop Brook Trail and Bear Creek Falls

Three short trails: Rock Garden over lots of, surprisingly, rocks; Loop Brook along the route of an old railway line; and Bear Creek Falls – the name says it all.

 

Asulkan Valley Trail

When I was looking for the old pictures of Glacier Park Lodge, I also found photos of the hike we did up to the Asulkan Glacier in 1994: clear blue skies and the mountains in all their glory. This was three times as long and twice as high as the Marion Lake trail we did this year, yet I’m smiling (and rocking a fabulous pair of leggings it has to be said).

 

So, a slightly negative post – is the moral never to go back? It can be sad to return somewhere you’ve had a really happy time only to find that it doesn’t live up to expectations. Having said that, I did enjoy our stay: just maybe not as much as some of the other places we visited.

From Glacier, we headed back into Alberta and north to Jasper.

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.

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!

Canadian Rockies: Num-ti-ja Lodge

Num-ti-jah Lodge
Num-ti-jah Lodge

Our original intention was to drive straight from Banff to Jasper, but friends recommended Num-ti-jah Lodge so we stayed there for a couple of nights. The Lodge, about 25 miles north of Lake Louise, was built in 1920 by pioneer guide and outfitter Jimmy Simpson. He wanted it to be large but only had short timbers, hence the unusual octagonal shape. We loved it.

The evening we arrived, we went straight out onto the Bow Glacier Falls Trail which left from the Lodge’s parking lot. That worked up an appetite for dinner!

The following day we tackled the Helen Lake Trail. I always find it weird to be so high that I’m standing in snow, yet wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. After Num-ti-jah, we headed for the Icefields Parkway and Jasper, so there will be more Rockies walking from there next week.

Canadian Rockies: around Banff

Canadian Rockies 2007
Canadian Rockies 2007

My birthday is in July, which is wonderful because it means I can usually spend it on holiday. In 2007 I turned 50 and chose to celebrate in the Canadian Rockies. What a great fortnight we had! It was also the start of a run of annual North American road-trips, only broken last summer when we went to Orkney and Shetland instead. Normal service will be resumed this year….

After flying into Calgary, our first stop was Banff, though we weren’t staying in the illustrious Banff Springs Hotel as shown in the gallery – we were somewhere much more lowly. We had a wonderful few days amongst the lakes and mountains, most of which I can no longer identify with any certainty so have helpfully labelled “Near Banff”. You can probably tell from my body language and general demeanour that kayaking wasn’t for me; I much preferred hiking.

From Banff, we headed north on the Bow Valley Parkway to our next stop – Num-ti-jah Lodge. Coming up soon!