Posted by: glenswatman | September 3, 2007

200708-3- CANADA BC Alberta

SATURDAY 25 AUGUST – Head through the small
town of Eureka then to the border at Roosville.  There is no queue and after a few cursory questions we are back
Cranbrook where we have been offered a place to park up overnight.  Hospitality Club host Rhia is working until
mid afternoon.  She lives with her Mum
Gina who invites us into the house where we spend time chatting before being
taken on a tour of the town.  There’s
nothing special about it but it’s a good service centre.  The info centre was burnt down by animal
rights activists in 1999 because of its stuffed animal display but has been
reopened on the same spot and the new “wildlife museum” features stuffed road
kill!  In Wal Mart the check out
operator asks me where I am from as her husband is from Leeds.  I tell her Yorkshire and she asks if I am
the new family that have just moved into town. 
As I leave the store I see that Steve has bumped into the new residents
who have emigrated here from Huddersfield! 
Join Rhia and Gina for an evening meal that includes the famous locally
grown corn on the cobs. 



SUNDAY 26 AUGUST – We are invited into the
house for a home baked scone breakfast, delicious.  It’s late morning when we head off to the highest city in Canada
and one of its silliest.  After the
closure of the mine someone decided to transform it into a Bavarian village and
built false fascias onto the buildings and started selling Bavarian style goods
and food.  The centrepiece is the
Bavarian Platzl complete with the biggest cuckoo clock in Canada.  Somehow although kitsch it seems to work,
even the fire hydrants painted to look like Bavarian characters.  The next point of interest on our journey is
the Dutch Creek Hoodoos, huge weather worn cliffs right at the side of the
road.  Fairmont is famous for the hot
springs resort but we’ve been given a tip off that rather than pay $9 to use
the commercial swimming pool you can walk down stream to a section of natural
pools fed by water from the commercial one. 
In fact there are 2 sections, one with a waterfall dropping in to a
large natural rock pool and another where water trickles down a sort of rocky
slide into a small pool.  Not exactly
hot water but warm enough for a good soak and much more attractive than the
concrete rectangle above us.  At
Windermere on the edge of the lake we have a free camping spot offered by
Kerstin whose parents own a roadside fruit & veg selling shop.  We get a free ice cream and a place to park
round the back.  Kerstin and her friend
are off to Australia in October so gather lots of info from us.



MONDAY 27 AUGUST – We go into the shop to buy
some produce before leaving but Kerstin insists on us having it for free.  At Radium we enter Kooteney National Park
(inc in pass) and stop at Olive Lake to walk around to the spot where the
natural spring bubbles up.  On the main
highway Steve spots a black bear on the grass verge nibbling away at the
berries totally oblivious to all the traffic racing past.  Unfortunately we have too many cars behind
us for us to slow and get a photo but are still very excited about our first
bear sighting.  Verdant Creek is picture
perfect and venturing further into the park we reach area with snow-capped
mountain.  Many fires have gone through
over the years but with this type of tree the scars remain visible long
after.  There is a short walk to the
attractive Nuna Falls and a longer one to the “Paint Pots” where the
aboriginals mined ochre.  The minute we
leave the park we enter ALBERTA and Banff National Park.  Turn onto the Bow Valley Parkway towards
Banff in order to do the Johnston Canyon walk. 
2.9km take you to the second waterfalls but it’s a great walk almost
from the start.  Following the river up
into the gorge there are many rapids and interesting rock formations.  In many parts you are on a catwalk fixed into
the sheer side of the gorge.  The first
falls are very impressive dropping down into a lovely blue pool and with a
close up view through a small cave.  The
second falls are different again with calcium terraces at the side.  All in all a most excellent walk.  Back track and continue through Lake Louise
(visited previously) and onto the Icefields Parkway.  More stunning scenery on all sides and more of the beautiful blue
water in lakes and rivers.  Settle onto
Mosquito Campground for the night and hope there aren’t too many around.


$14.85 (£7)


TUESDAY 28 AUGUST – It’s been a 2 duvet, 1
blanket + hot water bottle night and still chilly.  It takes 1-hour for the central heating to bring the van up to
temperature in the morning.  Continuing
along the Icefields Parkway we reach the lookout for Crowfoot Glacier just at
the moment when the mist clears for a short time.  There’s an interesting environmentally friendly information
machine powered by the turn of a handle. 
Park up at Bow Lake near to the historical Num-Ti-Jah Lodge.  It’s strange shape too into account that
only short lengths of wood were available when it was built in 1920 but this
adds to its character.  We are here to
do the Bow Glacier Falls hike, 3.7km each way with 155m ascent.   The views are superb as we head around the
gorgeous green/blue misty Bow Lake. 
Amongst rocks below a landslide we manage to pick out the
well-camouflaged piko, a sort of small rabbit crossed with a rat.  Next we cross a stream to head onwards
through a boulder-strewn valley before beginning a big climb.  As the morning progresses the mist lifts and
we can see recent snow on the mountaintops.  
We’re heading up the side of a narrow gorge where a huge bolder has
jammed across it giving us an excellent downward viewing area.  The finale of our walk is to emerge from the
narrow valley opposite Bow Glacier Falls. 
Walking out is equally dramatic with stunning views in all directions.
Back at the lodge we notice some marques and lots of activity.  We find out that they are shooting a
commercial for a new Toyota car and the theme is a woman in the forest who
makes one out of leaves.  We see them
take their fake leaf model out to the fields to film it.  40km into the Parkway there’s an excellent
uphill hike to the Peyto Lake.  Said to
be one of the finest vistas in the Rockies it will certainly take some beating
with the glacial moraine leading into a long bright blue lake that draws your
eyes onwards to snow capped peaks.  Km
71 is our next stop with a 500m rough descent to view Mistaya Canyon.  Totally different from all the other ones
this is very narrow but twisted and very dramatic.  At Saskatchewan River Crossing Steve is delighted to find a pub
with big screen TV as Liverpool are playing. 
His excitement is short lived as the match is not being televised but we
make it our lunch stop and warm up with some home made tomato and lentil
soup.  We’ve done enough hiking for the
day so stop at KM88 Rampart Creek campground. 
It seems much quieter than last nights especially as we opt for a site
in the back loop, the riverside ones are beautiful but the river is very
noisy.  There are now envelopes at the
honesty box so we assume a ranger will call.


$14.85 (£7)


WEDNESDAY 29 AUGUST –The rain wakes us up
early.  No one has called for any fees
so we figure that if we make a break now we will have had a freebie!  In spite of the rain it’s a clear morning so
we get a fine view of the weeping wall before climbing “the hill” at the top of
which we photograph Bridal Falls. 
Arrive at the Parker Ridge trailhead but the rain is worse and there’s a
bitterly cold wind so back to bed for a couple of hours.  By the time we have had a snooze and then
breakfast it is 10am and the weather still poor so we give up on the hike and
continue into Jasper National Park to Columbia Icefield centre.  This is a highlight of the park with a huge
and busy visitor centre.  We are parked
directly opposite the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and the scenery is outstanding.  I’m keener than Steve to do the tour onto
the Icefield so go it alone.  The $35.95
(£7.50), 90-minute trip begins with a conventional bus out to the edge of the
glacier.  There we change to a specially
designed 6-wheeler Ice Explorer giant all terrain vehicle.  Begin with a 35% descent onto the ice for
our drive up through the Icefield with an interesting commentary.  Once we are parked up everyone gets off the
bus to wander around and takes photos. 
It’s incredibly cold but we have a great view of the surrounding area
and other glaciers.  When I get back I
find that Steve has been chatting to one of the rangers who has recommended a
better walk for us rather than the long steep hikes to Parkers Ridge or Wilcox
Pass but it is further along the road. 
After lunch we drive across to the Glacier car park from which there is
a steep walk to the toe. Many signs warn of the hazards of leaving the cordoned
off area.  In 2001 a young boy fell into
a crevice and died of hypothermia before he could be pulled free.  In spite of this we see many people
venturing beyond the safe section seemingly totally oblivious to the
dangers.  We opt to walk along the
moraine below the glacier first to the left where we see an ice cave, many
water carved crevices and areas where water seems to bubble up from under the
glacier then disappear further downstream. 
To the right is even better.  At
one point you can crouch down to see under the glacier and through to a
waterfall.  Around the corner we are
stunned by the spectacle of a sheer blue ice wall with a cave underneath.  Spend ages looking at it from all angles and
taking far too many photographs. 
Seriously impressed, you bet.  
It’s now mid afternoon and almost too late to fit in the hike the ranger
suggested so we return to the visitor centre park that doubles up as overspill
camping.  By nighttime there is only one
other motorhome on the car park and he can do little to interrupt our
360-degree stunning views.




THURSDAY 30 AUGUST – Our grandson Daniel 10th
birthday so we will try to give him a call later.  Make an early start to do the ranger recommended Beauty Creek
& Stanley Falls walk, 6.4km return. 
We miss the car park the first time, as the only sign is a small square
one showing walkers.  In fact many of
the places in the park are badly signed, signed in only one direction or worse
still not signed at all.  Anyway we head
off on a low dike across a wet area then join the old, torn-up Banff-Jasper
highway for a short stretch.  Once we
reach Beauty Creek we turn to follow it upstream.  It’s actually more like a raging river as it passes through the
narrow gorge that we climb above.  The
Creek makes many twists and turns and we see a lot of beautiful
waterfalls.  At a sharp tight turn there
is a really spectacular high fall gushing over cliffs.  The track worsens and we scramble
precariously over slippery clay like landslides.  By the time we’ve been going just over 1 hour (the walk should
take 2-3 hours) I think its getting dangerous. 
Steve explores a little further ahead but doesn’t find anything
different.  Walking back along the same
track we can only conclude that Stanley Falls were the high dramatic ones but
they would only have been just over ½ hour into the walk and with no signs
around we were not to know.  The scenery
on the parkway has changed, there are still dramatic Rocky Mountains but on our
right are huge steep smooth angled rocks with pink and grey shiny crevasses and
an area where rock fall must have left the huge pink rocks strewn by the
roadside.  Our next point of interest is
the short side road to the very busy Sunwapta Falls.  They are just a 5-minute gentle downhill stroll from the car park
so easy enough for almost everyone to do. 
We still find them impressive as the river upstream negotiates an island
then hurtles down through a gorge in two stages.  At the bottom of the gorge the sheer cliffs force it to make a
sharp 90% turn creating lots of rock erosion and many rapids.  Check out Honeymoon Lake campground but they
are very small sites and not really by the lake.  Further on at Mount Kerkeslin we encounter a different
problem.  There are only a handful of
sites on the river and these are small and shelve off towards the water but
worse still almost all the sites in the forest are also sloping.  We drive around the whole camping area twice
before making the best of a bad job using ramps.  It’s early afternoon and we are ready for dinner and all the
campsites from here on to Jasper are the more expensive commercial ones.  Steve walks up to the pay phone but it
doesn’t seem to be working so we miss our chance of phoning Daniel.  It’s a very pleasant afternoon so Steve sits
out ready and I have a nap.  I join him
outside after washing my hair but this must attract the mosquitoes as I am soon
forced back in.




FRIDAY 31 AUGUST – Sticking with the routine
we make another early start and arrive at Athabasca Falls where we catch a
motorhome free camping in the car park, good for them.  Known to be one of the busiest tourist sites
in the park we are early enough to enjoy it alone.  Another different style of spectacular falls with an abandoned
channel you can walk through where the water previously ran.  At the end of the park we arrive in Jasper,
full of tourist souvenir shops but a good place for us to do Internet and pick
up a few groceries.  The rocky mountain
train is in the station and I am surprised to see that there is only one
special car with viewing area on the whole train.  Soon after leaving town we are back in BRITISH COLUMBIA on
Pacific Time (BST – 8 hours).  It’s
pouring with rain but still a scenic journey past many mountain lakes.  Turn south on highway 5 and just through
Valemount we see a track on the left with a parking area in the forest.



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