Friday, August 26, 2016

Jewels in the Canadian Rockies

Jewels in the Canadian Rockies

(FYI - we are actually in Anchorage by now, at the end of August, but reliable internet access has been in short supply, so these blog posts are delayed.) 

While there are many beautiful places, sights and creatures in the Canadian Rockies, on our journey thus far, the finest "Jewels" have been Lakes Louise, Moraine and Emerald, in the province of Alberta.

 Colorful Welcome Sign

Lake Louise appears a bit dull without sunlight, despite the "hanging glaciers" on the mountains at center.
However, the Chateau (hotel) adds plenty of glitz 
and glam. It was built by the Canadian Railroad to 
help attract tourists to the area. 
We were not staying there, but did hear the train pass by 
our campsite(about 50 yards away!) with some frequency!

Chandelier in the hotel bar, which has a 
certain elegance and a grand view of Lake Louise.
The road leading to Lake Louise and to Moraine Lake 
divides in a "Y", just outside town, and often closes 
intermittently through the day, to control tourist traffic!

                                View of the illuminated turquoise Lake Louise from the 
                                top of the ski area across the valley on a gorgeous day

Wildflowers adorned the grassy slopes.

Paul on the other side of an electrified bear gate, since grizzly sows live in the area during the summer months. 

 Moraine Lake was carved out by glaciers long ago.

The glacier left a giant rock pile at the foot of the lake...
to be climbed by those (Paul) seeking a higher viewpoint

Semi-opaque water due to a high content of "rock-flour" 
reflects sunlight like a translucent jewel. This is a camera-phone
photo, so imagine how it appears to the human eye!

 A Plein-Air artist at work (acrylic). 
I tried not to drool onto her paint dish.

Dazzling hues in the water.
 Healthy Fungi in the forest.

Another beautiful spot nearby is Emerald Lake 

A footbridge with hanging flower baskets 
leading to a lakeside cafe called "Cilantro", 
with cheerful yellow umbrellas.

Visitors in rental canoes enjoy the sunshine 
and surrounding natural beauty.

The color of the lake in contrast to hanging baskets of fuchsia, almost vibrates!

No need to adjust your screens!

Thanks for traveling along with us.
Barbara and Paul

Friday, August 19, 2016

Breakfast Berries, Catwalks and Cascades

Breakfast Berries, Catwalks and Cascades

Between the Banff area and Lake Louise, the Bow Valley Parkway parallels the Trans-Canada Highway #1, linking the two communities. However the "1A" Parkway is MUCH more scenic and enjoyable than the high speed throughway. It's also very popular with hikers, bicyclists and those wishing to linger a bit. 

 Heading out to our hiking destination along the Parkway just before 7AM, we spied this young grizzly having a breakfast of berries. It was very vigorously stripping this bush of its berry load; ignoring all the cars stopping beside the road to gawk. We also gawked - from a safe distance in the car, until the bear appearing annoyed by all of the attention;sought the cover of the forest.

We set out on the path at 7 in the morning (and you know how much I love to get up early!) to precede the crowds; since this is one of the most popular trails in the area. Starting out at a balmy 37 degrees F, the Johnston Creek Canyon was calm and quiet save for the rushing water.

 A series of metal and concrete catwalks allows visitors to traverse the lower canyon that would otherwise only be accessible from the cliffs above. 

 The creek has cut new paths through the limestone at certain turns, hollowing out "rooms" in the stone above the Lower Falls water flow.

 Lovely aqua green pools form below cascades on the 2.7 mile pathway.

 More falls and pools.

 Falls and riffles still in morning shadow.

Gushing primary watercourse with delicate side cascade and another enchanting pool of cool, clear water.
We were glad to have enjoyed some of this color and charm before the crowds arrived and the sun heated up the canyon walls.

Thanks for coming along on this journey!
Barbara and Paul

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beautiful Banff & Minnewanka

Beautiful Banff and Minnewanka

After several days of driving across the prairies of Montana and Alberta, it was quite stunning to see the looming mountains of the Canadian Rockies, west of Calgary on our drive toward Banff. Despite a few sprinkles of rain, we enjoyed several nice sunny days.

The Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) weaves through the northern Rockies toward the town of Banff, located within Banff National Park. Walking around the town is like walking through a picture postcard. The surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful.

 Colorful wooden "jigsaw" sign welcomes visitors on the main street. And visitors respond! Throngs of tourists from around the world flock to see the spectacular setting of Banff. Like similar places, it's become a victim of its own success. Parking is difficult and long lines await those wishing to ride the gondola or see some of the more popular sights.

 Clouds lifting to reveal Lake Minnewanka with marina. One of Alberta's longest lakes, Minnewanka has plenty of space for hikers, kayakers, boaters and campers.

 Panorama of the placid aquamarine waters of Minnewanka. With a relatively high content of rock "flour" from glacier melt, the waters of Minnewanka, along with most of the lakes in the Canadian Rockies enchant visitors with a most stunning shade of turquoise

Glassy reflections of Mount Rundle (2948m) in shallow, placid Vermillion Lake. 

 Banff Falls on the Bow River on the edge of town. Once a stop on the Canadian Pacific Rail way, Banff attracted rail-traveling tourists, many of whom lodged in the railways' elegant and expensive set of Fairmont Hotels. One such lodging is perched just above these falls and next to the Banff Upper Hot Springs.

View of the Banff valley from the top of the Sulphur Mountain/Banff Gondola. The Bow River meanders through the town which is surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, just 2.5 hours' drive west of Calgary.

Read the Writing on the Stone!

Part 2 - Read the Writing on the Stone!

Canada has a number of Provincial Parks, similar to State Parks in the US, which offer pleasant, low-cost campgrounds administered by the provincial government.

Our first night inside Alberta, Canada, we passed through the town of "Milk River" and drove on dirt roads to the "Writing on Stone" Provincial Park. 

It is an area of spiritual and ceremonial significance to the Blackfoot "First Nations" tribe. They have used it for thousands of years to record pictographs and petroglyphs on the soft sandstone eroding beside the river. The riverbanks also eroded in such a way as to fashion eerie hoodoos, similar to those in the Bisti Badlands of NM.
Panorama of the Milk River Valley of Writing on Stone Provincial Park  

 Difficult to make out in bright light, but this stone carries depictions of animals, warriors with shields and traditional Blackfoot offerings.

 Photo of an early Blackfoot leader named "Yellow Kidney" 

 More Hoodoos above the river course

 Unusual sculpted outcropping where young men might go to fast for 4 days and nights on a Spirit Quest.

 The tranquil Milk River - named for its opacity from carrying particulate matter.

Park Management in Alberta

In Milk River, Population 816, a 100th Birthday is a BIG deal. There was a parade, softball games, free swimming at the pool, a BBQ and much merriment.

 Paul racing one of the earlier inhabitants of the Milk River community.

Next, we drive through Calgary to the beautiful Banff area.

Thanks for "traveling along" with us.

Barbara and Paul

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Journey of 8000 miles Begins with a Single Step Up!

A Journey of 8000 mi Begins with a Single Step Up! 

Photography*Art*Travel Blog from Canada-Alaska Journey

Dear Family and Friends,

Thanks for joining us on our long-awaited RV expedition through the US Rocky Mountains to Alberta, Canada, the Yukon, and then along the AL-Can Highway to Fairbanks. 
Southbound, we’ll then return through Denali National Park, Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, Haines and Skagway, then through British Columbia, and on to Spokane, Salt Lake City and home to Albuquerque.

The driving tour is expected to take about 7 weeks. 

Our missives with camera phone photos will be intermittent and irregular due to dependence on adequate internet access in the hinterlands of Canada and Alaska. 

Part 1 - The Journey of 8000 miles Begins with a Single Step Up! 
     Albuquerque to the Canadian Border

We departed home promptly at 8 a.m., on July 27th. 

Departing home in “Julie” our 2005 Newmar RV.

The weather was beautiful and the northern NM grasslands were quite green. Just past Las Vegas, New Mexico, the right hand exterior convex side mirror suddenly abandoned ship onto the roadway. That made judging distance in passing a vehicle on the left more challenging, and we spent the next 3 days on the cell phone trying to locate a replacement. 

Saying "So Long" to NM Skies, looking south at the mountains over Raton, NM

After dropping my sister, Marcie, off in Morrison (west of Denver), we headed a bit further north. Stopping for our first tank of diesel fuel at $2.12 per gallon, totaled $140, for a splendidly thrifty 8 miles/gallon!

We overnighted at Boyd Lake State Park near Loveland, Colorado. It is an urban lake, but quite pretty with very nice campsites and lots of boating, water skiing, and tubing activity. There were also a number of bicyclists and joggers around the lake on a paved trail.

The next AM we headed for WY and Casper, Wyoming, home of the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, established to commemorate the roughly 400,000 emigrants who passed westward through the Casper area between 1850 and 1868, following the California, Oregon, and  Mormon Trails. 

The Pony Express also operated during this time, but only for about 19 months; moving mail between St. Joseph, MO and Sacramento, CA at a speed of about 180 miles per day , with riders exchanging for a fresh horse every 10 to 12 miles. Those Glory Days came to an end with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. Since the Express required 25 Riders , 150 horses and 10 days to send a letter, prices started at $5 per half ounce of mail. In contrast, a 10 word telegram cost $7. No wonder we blather so much in bits, bytes and print!

 Sculpture of a Pony Express Rider at the National Historic Trails Ctr.
On to Billings, MT for the night. According to TripAdvisor, the most popular thing to do in Billings is to visit "The Rimrocks".  It is a lengthy 400ft. high sandstone escarpment on the north side of Billings where visitors can mountain bikes, hike, bird watch and enjoy and expenses you of Billings and the surrounding countryside.

The Rimrocks Park overlooking the city of Billings, MT

Passing through Great Falls on our way to the Canadian Border, it's easy to understand why they call this "Big Sky" country  On the advice of a friend, we stopped in Great Falls at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It is situated  beside the Missouri River and displays fascinating items and depictions (including a short Ken Burns documentary) of their westward journey & return in 1804-5. Commissioned by Pres. Jefferson to find the NW Passage, they set out from the hamlet of St Louis, to sail, pole, and pull their boats UPstream on the Missouri. At the "Great Falls", the expected half- day portage turned into a full month of toil to carry all of their supplies and boats 18 miles cross country around a series of 5 waterfalls. That setback nearly ended the exploration, as well as their lives, due to the early onset of winter in the Bitterroot range of Idaho. As history notes, the Lewis & Clark party survived their arduous 4000 mile, 18 month journey, failed to find a NW Passage, but explored and mapped vast regions of the continent that had not been visited by Europeans.

 Painted Buffalo like none ever seen by L & C

The Missouri River in Great Falls,  MT
The spec between island and L bank is a deer fording the river

Goin' north, Eh?

Please stay tuned, we have scores of splendid photos to share as we work our way toward Alaska.

Warm Regards,
Barbara and Paul