Friday, July 31, 2009

Canmore, Alberta

On our first day in Canmore, we spotted these elk bedded down right next to the freeway. Since it was raining steadily, we chose to take a "tour" of the Ammonite factory, featuring Ammolite, a rare gem found only in Alberta. It was interesting, but a total rip off for $10 as we were only shown the jewelry showroom and the guide read posters that we could have read for free. I had hoped to see the stones actually being polished or set.

No, I did not pick one up for a souvenir. A tiny, barely visible chip was about $40. The larger specimens as shown below ran about $30,000.

One of the more delightful experiences in Canmore was visiting their "Miner days" Art festival held in some Heritage gardens.

This wild bunny was visiting the gardens at the same time.

The average home in Canmore is about $850K. The one below is typical of the larger ones. This one below, I would guess at about that price or even more. Small building lots in the more upscale neighborhoods ran $700K-800K.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Banff National Park, Alberta

It began as a potential "rain all day" kinda day. Our plan was to visit Banff (the city) and visit the hotels, museums, art galleries, maybe drive around a little. As we began the drive and paid our entrance fee (you have to pay the park entrance fee to even visit), we saw the spectacular cloud formations surrounding the mountains and decided to drive the Bow Valley Parkway up toward the Icefields and Lake Louise. We noticed on the map a place called Johnston Canyon with two waterfalls to hike to. I didn't even have my hiking shoes, but we gave it a try. It was amazingly beautiful.
The hiking was aided with catwalks.

The first waterfall was so beautiful and we heard the upper was even more. So, we hiked a total of about 3.7 miles to see both falls.

Lower Johnston Falls. We walked through a little tunnel to get right up close.

The Upper falls.

Mountain Views along the parkway.

Icefields (glaciers)

We visited the famous Lake Louise.

And were more enchanted by the gardens, especially the Iceland Poppies....

....Than the huge hotel.

After lunching at Bill Peyto's Cafe in Lake Louise, we drove to Lake Moraine. It was just beginning to rain, but we grabbed our raingear and headed out on a short hike around the lake. The rain stopped and we had an awesome hike!

The turquoise blue of this lake is particularly striking. Apparently it is caused from tiny mineral particles originating on the glaciers.

Typical forest scene around Lake Moraine...

Yoho National Park, British Columbia

As the result of talking to someone in the hot tub, we were advised to "not miss" the opportunity to see Takakkaw Falls in Yoho Natl Park (which shares a border with Banff as it goes into British Columbia). It had rained earlier in the morning and the scenery was spectacular.

We loved this waterfall, wanted to stay there all day.

The river coming out of the falls was the "glacial" milky color. A different meaning to the term, "white water."

The bottom of the falls...misty, very cool...

After the falls, we drove to another destination in Yoho---Emerald Lake. We hiked part way around the lake. The color was incredible. Not always emerald, but sometimes turquoise, gray...

After a munchy lunch in the car, we hiked to Hamilton Falls. We caught some amazing photos...including raindrop spattered ferns...

Mossy gorges...

And eventually the falls...

On the way out, we spotted the sunlight peeking out on this "Jurassic Park" type scene...

As usual, photos do not do it justice. The "forest after rain" smells, colors and textures were fabulous.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Slot Canyon of the Canadian Rockies

Grotto Canyon was mentioned in one of the travel guides I consulted before our trip. It mentioned a pleasant, short hike up a canyon and pictographs. I thought that sounded cool--and the spot was only about a 20 minute drive from our condo. The place was Bow Valley Provincial Park just outside of Canmore. The Canadian government hits visitors with hefty fees to visit their National Parks (it cost $17 for a day pass for the two of us, even with the Senior discount). But, their Provincial Parks are free. We began early, found the trailhead, which was basically empty. The first part of the trail was open, dry, dusty and passed a Magnesium Oxide plant. It did have some wildflowers. I was taking photos and then my camera said "Memory Full". I had "forgotten" the memory chip and left it in the laptop back at the condo. Luckily, I always carried a back up camera with another chip....hike 1/2 mile back to the car to retrieve it. By this time, we wondered whether this hike was really worth it. Then, we reached the place where the trail crossed the "creek". We followed a trail up the other side of the mountain. It quickly became beautiful forest. But, a very steep hike up.

We did enjoy views like this.

The trail eventually came down off the mountain and re-joined the creek into a narrow canyon.

Beautiful moss features.

At this time, we were nearly the only ones in the canyon. We saw footprints of someone else ahead of us, but never saw them.

We arrived at the only cairn on the trip and it "pointed" the way to the pictographs.
We spotted this book left on the trail. Don't know who left it. Maybe they climbed up the rock face.

About half way up, we noticed a gray bird hopping and flitting ahead of us. She would perch on a rock, wait for us, then fly or hop ahead of us. It became very uncanny. It had to be an Angel bird. She guided us to the "grotto" and up a side canyon to a four tiered waterfall.

While we were at the waterfall, a guided tour group came up. The bird disappeared.

After the group went ahead and we started down, little gray bird appeared again and hopped ahead of us going down the canyon. When we began seeing people constantly coming in, she disappeared altogether.

Varnish on a seep near the waterfall.

The lowest tier of the waterfall. Bob walked up the slick rock to see the other tiers, but I stayed below. The rock was too "slick" for me. It was virtually polished like agate. Not sandstone or slate.

We went a little ways up the "dry fork" side.

On the way down, we came across these climbers and watched for a while. They even invited Bob to take a climb.

It was a fun, fun hike. And we were smart enough to follow the stream all the way down instead of taking the side trail up the mountain, which shortened the down climb significantly. We were ready for lunch and a nap after that one. We both noticed that we are much better at the "uphill" than at the beginning of the trip.