Rocky Mountain High – Jasper in June

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Lake Maligne as viewed from Spirit Island

Sometimes,when travelling, the weather gods are not on your side! Driving  from Clearwater to Jasper,  on the third leg of our road-trip  we intended to stop and see Mt Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. However, we couldn’t  soak in what is apparently an amazing view as we found ourselves surrounded by thick mist. All was not doom and gloom however for as we climbed higher, we drove out of the mist into the sun and found ourselves surrounded by the awesomeness of Jasper National Park. Nestled in its heart is the charming town of Jasper, where we settled into our own little cabin in the woods, a charming and comfortable lakeside cottage for two at Patricia Lake Bungalows.

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Patricia Lake from the porch of our cottage. It was  cold when we were there, so didn’t try the canoes. I probably wouldn’t have fallen in but you never know …

As we were staying for three nights, we had time to really explore some of this amazing World Heritage area. The management at Patricia Lake Bungalows couldn’t have been more helpful and gave us great advice about walks, attractions, the best supermarket, eateries and how to operate the hot tub. Nothing was too much trouble! There was even a special bottle of wine to help us celebrate a special anniversary.

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A very nice drop! Thank you Patricia Lake Bungalows!

Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain

On our first afternoon, we decided to explore Pyramid Lake. Patricia and Pyramid Lakes are just a few kilometres from Jasper township and are connected to each other and the town by hiking trails. In fact, Jasper has so many hiking trails that you have to prioritize.  Even though we were staying next door, so to speak, we drove to Pyramid Lake to explore the lake via a hiking trail which took us along the shoreline, past the resort and across a small wooden footbridge to Pyramid Island. There we admired the wonderful views across the lake of Pyramid Mountain and its reflection.

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It’s easy to see why it’s called Pyramid Mountain!
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The lake was so clear and still, perfect for reflections.

Back home at Patricia Lake, we enjoyed similar views but the snow capped mountains added a special magic I think.

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Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake

We woke to a cloudy day and decided that it was perfect for exploring. About an hour’s drive from Jasper lies Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake. Although I had read that the upper Canyon could get very busy when tour buses arrive, I hadn’t appreciated what  ‘busy’ meant in this context.  We thought we were relatively early;  arriving at the canyon around 11am.  The carpark was reasonably empty and  we smugly set off  to explore the excellent self-guided interpretative loop trail that follows the upper reaches of the  gorge. We found ourselves crossing the canyon several times, the bridges providing wonderful photo opportunities.

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The water churns along
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carving out caves in the canyon walls
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cascading down waterfalls
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and disappearing into the forest!

By the time we reached the fourth bridge, an hour or so had passed and it was time to retrace our steps, for we wanted to check out Medicine and Maligne Lakes after lunch.  We were astounded by the number of people we encountered walking down, as we climbed to the top. The tour buses had arrived … in droves. Despite the crowds, which at times resembled a herd of wildebeest scrabbling for a spot at the waterhole,  this was a wonderful place to visit and explore. Next time, we would like to allow more time to explore the canyon further, as far as the fifth and sixth bridges perhaps.

Leaving Maligne Canyon, we drove past Medicine Lake to the beautiful Maligne Lake. Everything about this lake is wonderful.  It is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Ringed by snow-and-ice-capped mountains, the 22 km long lake stretches past serene Spirit Island right to the melt-water channels of Coronet Glacier.

We lunched at the Maligne Lake Day Lodge & View Restaurant which had an adequate menu and a fabulous view and then explored the foreshore of the lake, learning about some of the history of the area,  while some of the locals tried to say hello.

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I can see you!

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The path winds past the historic boat shed where there are canoes for hire,
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while the  changing colours  of the lake invite you to linger … and contemplate.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we returned to Jasper where we still had time to wander around, looking for that special souvenir to bring home and enjoy a leisurely dinner in front of the fire,  overlooking Patricia Lake. Bliss!

 

Spirit Island

Morning bought sunny weather, so  we returned to Maligne Lake and took the Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island.  This boat cruise was definitely one of the highlights of our Canadian holiday. Excellent commentary and amazing scenery made for an unforgettable experience.

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The boats are not so big that they intrude on the landscape or impact the environment in a negative way

On the water, we were amazed by the changing colours of the water.

 

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Is it blue,  blue green, aqua, turquoise, jade ……?

But nothing prepared us for what awaited at Spirit Island.

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 Here it is impossible to take a bad photograph for it is so beautiful where ever you look! 
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An amazing place!
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Even google liked one of my photos and decided to ‘play’.

Alas, our cruise was over all too soon and we headed back to Jasper. Reluctant to let go of the magic, we decided to have a late lunch at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge. There on the deck, overlooking the pool and Beauvert Lake, enjoying a delightful meal and exceptional service, we certainly felt we were living the good life.

All too soon, our time in Jasper was at an end. There was one disappointment. We travelled to Jasper in early June and the road to Mount Edith Cavell was not yet open. Locals had rated this hike as good as the boat cruise if that’s possible, so this too, will also have to wait till … next time.

 

 

Waterfall Wanderings in the Canadian Rockies

Waterfalls and raging rivers dominated Stage 2 of our road trip as we drove from Whistler to  Jasper along  a ‘road less traveled’ via Pemberton,  Lillooet, Kamloops and Clearwater. This was a very rewarding experience as we were not surrounded by hundreds of fellow tourists, allowing us time to drink in the silence, to find the special magic, that something unique and wonderful that nourishes a connection with the wilderness.

 Whistler to Kamloops

 Nairn Falls

We left Whistler on an overcast but dry day. We  had lots of time to stop and explore along the way as we were only driving to Kamloops and it’s light well into the evening in early June.  Just outside Pemberton, we stopped at Nairn Falls on the Green River to stretch our legs and check out our first Canadian waterfall. The walk to the waterfall, along the Green river was lovely.

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The path climbed a little but was quite easy. It is a 3 km return walk.
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Occasionally, I just had to find a seat and enjoy the view and yes the leaves were really this lovely shade of green as the sun was  peeking through!
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The falls at the end of the walk were quite impressive. They are 60 metres high and you can view both the upper and lower falls.

Joffre Lakes

All too soon, we were in the car. Passing through pretty Pemberton, our next stop was  Joffre Lakes. We had learned about them from a couple from Adelaide, as we lay soaking  in the hot tub at the Summit hotel in Whistler. Alas, Kenn and I didn’t have the four plus hours  needed to complete the 10 km round hike, so we just walked along the path to the lower lake.

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Imagine what the other lakes are like if this is the least scenic!

Then came the best part of the drive to Kamloops. The road to Lillooet winds through snow capped mountains that seem to hover all around you. The sun kept making an appearance, breaking through banks of clouds,  making  glaciers gleam and sparkle and frosting the tops of the deep green trees which lined the valleys. Then this alpine perfection changed. As you drive further inland towards Lillooet, the road enters a rain shadow and the countryside becomes sparse and dry creating an interesting contrast with the coast.

Lillooet

This is a little hamlet on the Fraser river and was our stop for lunch at the Rugged Bean Cafe where our meal and coffee were delicious.

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I think that British Columbia is the hanging basket capital of the world.

Earlier than we had anticipated, we found ourselves in Kamloops. This was only an overnight stop so we quickly booked into our motel, Accent Inns, Kamloops.    (https://www.accentinns.com)  We were pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and well equipped our room was, considering this is a 3 star rated motel.  Guided by a lovely receptionist at the Inn, we explored the riverside park in the heart of the city where the Fraser and Thomson Rivers meet.

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There was a river beach but it was  quite dangerous to swim there according to the warning signs
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Indigenous carvings enlivened the park

Kamloops to Jasper

Clearwater and the Wells Grey Provincial Park

Next morning, after a simple breakfast at Accent Inns, we found ourselves bound for Clearwater, gateway for the Wells Grey Provincial Park. No-one seemed to know about this park back in Australia but I was intrigued by some comments on a couple of blog posts I had read while in the  research phase for our trip. Waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls, the blog posts enthused. Worth a stop I thought!

Clearwater was only about an hours drive from Kamloops and our first port of call was to the park information centre. With a limited time frame, they were able to advise us which of the many waterfalls we should visit and which walks were feasible. So map in hand and my navigator’s cap on, we drove into the park. Our first waterfall was the Spahats Creek Falls.

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Falling into a steep gorge, this waterfall impressed
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We were reminded a little of the Blue Mountains in NSW

Next came the Dawson Falls or ‘Mini Niagara’ according to the locals. This too, was quite impressive I thought.

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The path takes you along the river to the top of the falls.

But we saved the best for last, the lovely Helmcken Falls on the Myrtle River. Firstly, we  walked for about an hour to the top of the falls along the Rim Trail. This was a great hike as you follow a rampaging river hurtling along to the falls. The sound is amazing!

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You wouldn’t want to slip!

Reaching the top of the falls, you find yourself surrounded by mist and spray.

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It’s a long way down!

 

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Now you see it, now you don’t

Retracing our steps along the Rim Trail, we encountered a young couple coming towards us exclaiming excitedly, ” Did you see the bear?” We hadn’t, but soon after heard some ominous growls emanating from deeper in the woods.

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‘There’s a bear in there … ‘sang Kenn to torment me!

Thankfully however, we didn’t have a close encounter  (I love bears … from a distance) and I can assure you that while I didn’t set a new land speed record, I did make it  back to  the car very, very quickly.

Soon, we were on our way to the viewpoint for a panoramic view of the falls. the waterfall was really beautiful and I loved the way the Canadians have made the viewpoint so accessible  for everybody.

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So beautiful and we could see where we had hiked – notice the spray near the top of the falls? That’s where the Rim Trail leads to.

Finally, our day trip into the Wells Grey Provincial Park ended with a visit to an early settler’s now abandoned homestead. One could only wonder how they coped with the isolation and the cold in those early years.

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Such a simple life!

Finally, it was time to retrace our steps to Clearwater and find the Hummingbird BnB, our home for the night. We were thrilled to see some deer and a couple of bears crossing the road on our way. One of the benefits of staying in a BnB is that you get to experience a place like a local. Some of our most memorable meals in Canada came from a recommendation from a BnB host. Doris, our hostess in Clearwater, recommended the Hop “N” Hog Tap & Smokehouse.  And it was wonderful. Sipping signature beers and working our way through a gigantic plate of amazing ribs, we wished that we could stay  a little longer here and perhaps take a white water rafting trip. Maybe next time.

Next morning,  while Doris served up a lovely breakfast, we saw hummingbirds for the first time in the wild. So tiny and so fast! Then we were on our way to Jasper. Doris had recommended stopping at Mount Robson Provincial Park on the way, but when we got there, it was so foggy and overcast that we drove on past. I will have to look at the highest point in the Canadian Rockies another time. This part of the drive to Jasper was spectacular. I suspect that I looked a little like one of those clowns that you see at a country show: mouth always open, head moving constantly from side to side!

A road less traveled and that made all the difference

 

 

 

Whistler Wonderland

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Whistler was the first stop on our road trip through the Canadian Rockies and proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. It had it all: mountains for as far as you could see, metres of snow, tranquil lakes hidden in woods so dark and deep, I thought I was in a Robert Frost poem and a charming, accessible, snow globe village. My daughter, Melissa and her husband Ben spent a year in Whistler, as many young Aussies do, and to this day it holds a special place in their hearts. I now appreciate why they found it so difficult to come home!

Getting There

On a cloudy, grey day, with our luggage in tow, we made our way  from the Sylvia Hotel in the West End to the airport where we picked up our car. Using the excellent bus and train system, it was surprisingly easy and cost only a few dollars. Having said that though, a taxi would have only cost us around 25 dollars. We chose the former because we had time and wanted to pretend we were young backpackers if only for a few hours.

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Grey clouds threatened but blew away

The drive from the airport into the city and over the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore was not too difficult. Our car didn’t come with sat nav and  we chose not to upgrade. Kenn was confident that he still had excellent map reading skills and sure enough we soon found ourselves zooming over the bridge and onto the Sea to Sky highway. We had scarcely travelled 30 kms and the weather started to clear.  The highway skirts the coast with wonderful views over the ocean and then climbs firstly to Squamish and finally to Whistler. The drive was breathtaking, so much so that I forgot to take photos. I just wanted to look and look some more.

The Summit Hotel and Spa

We stayed at the Summit Hotel and Spa located on Main St close to the Marketplace and the Town Plaza, a great location as it turned out. Initially, I chose this property  because  I found an incredible special on booking.com and after checking with Melissa re location and facilities, booked.  In fact it was so good, that when we went to check in at reception, the girls  had never seen a booking so cheap!  Was I a forger? A cheat?  The back records had to checked to verify my booking.com  reservation confirmation.   A few anxious moments  … and then smiles all round.

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A very comfortable bed – a good night’s sleep was enjoyed by all.

We certainly couldn’t fault our apartment. It featured a separate bedroom, a living room complete with kitchenette and gas fireplace, a luxurious bathroom and a delightful balcony overlooking the pool and hot tub with views to Blackcomb mountain. A perfect home away from home for four nights!  Leaving our unpacking for later, we spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the village and getting our bearings. Just around the corner from the Summit we discovered  an Aussie pie shop  (peakedpies.com) which had an amazing variety of gourmet pies at reasonable prices.  Just the thing for a late lunch.

Lost Lake

The next day dawned cloudy, cool and overcast but rain was not predicted so we decided to walk the Lost Lake loop. This was on Melissa’s must do list. It was an easy 5 to 10 km walk. Initially we walked through woods, dark and deep until we reached the lake.

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The path was very easy to follow. For bikers there were lots of side trails of varying difficulty. Something for everyone!

Crossing a wooden bridge over a bubbling stream,

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Almost has a Japanese garden feel to it, don’t you think?

we came to a pontoon.

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Such a calm day.

Here we had to stop . There’s just something about wooden walkways that invite one to explore…

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It was all ours to enjoy

This would be a perfect spot for yoga, I thought. I could visualise myself attempting downward dog listening to the water lapping the deck,  drifting into a zen like state. But my vision was shattered when  Melissa told me that this is a favourite swimming spot for the nudist community. I couldn’t  believe anyone would actually enjoy swimming here. I had dipped a toe into the water and even if I had a thermal wetsuit on, I wouldn’t dive in let alone clothed only in my birthday suit! Bits would freeze off I’m sure.

We resumed our walk and every turn of the track seemed to give us yet another vista of peacefulness.  We returned by taking the track to the upper village along a delightful covered bridge.

It was time to tick off another item on Melissa’s must do list. Eat a zog dog and poutine. Essential Canadian fare!  I can’t report that we found them super delicious. A Zog dog is a saucy hot dog and poutine is basically hot chips with gravy and cheese curds. They were a bit salty and stodgy, perhaps best consumed on a cold winter’s day after a run down the mountain. Then, I imagine they would really hit the spot. We wandered back to the Summit where we enjoyed an hour or so in the hot tub and sauna before indulging in a great value for money dinner at the Spaghetti Factory.

spaghetti factory
We loved the food and the atmosphere of this eatery. However, I discovered that they only do a naked Caesar Salad – lettuce, croutons, dressing and Parmesan cheese. No chicken, no anchovies,  no bacon, no egg! Probably better for the waistline though.

It was packed but it was no hardship to sip a cocktail or two while we waited for a table.

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I was very happy after one or was it two of these?

 The Peak to Peak Gondola

This has to be the best gondola ride on the planet. The sheer scale of the Peak to Peak Gondola is breathtaking. We scored a beautiful day and made the most of it.  First of all, we rode the gondola up Whistler mountain.

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As you can see, the gondola gives you unparalleled views all around.

Up you go, up some more and when you think  you have reached the summit, you go up, up and up! Below, the village dwindles away.

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So far away!

As the summit,  we grabbed a bite to eat and then explored a little before climbing aboard the Peak to Peak gondola.

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A hive of activity. 

We found the Olympic Inunshuk and of course took a photo in front of the Olympic Rings.

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 I love how Kenn has captured the alpine colour palette in this photo

Going across to Blackcomb mountain on the gondola allows you unparalleled mountain and valley views. We were lucky enough to catch the glass bottom gondola as well. It’s a long way over as you can see in these photos.

Once we reached  Blackcomb, we watched the skiers and snow boarders flying down the mountain. Skiing in late Spring! We could have caught the gondola back to Whistler mountain and then down to the village  but decided to catch the  Blackcomb chairlift down the mountain instead. And we saw bears! Playing in the flowers! What a day!

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There were a couple of bears  but  obviously they didn’t want to pose together for us.

Walking on top of the world.

The following morning was also wonderfully sunny, so we caught the Whistler gondola up the mountain again to walk the only Alpine track that was open. It took us to Little Whistler Peak. Although we have walked to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko in Australia, this was very different. There was so much snow and ice and we were so much higher. The air felt so clean,  so good that you just wanted to drink it all in.

The walk follows a service road and climbs very steadily to the peak. As you round bends in the road and look behind you, wonderful vistas open up.

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We couldn’t believe our eyes, so, so beautiful.

Soon, we found ourselves walking between walls of ice that seemed to get higher and higher as we climbed.

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This is one wall that I would not be able to leap with a single bound!

 

And there were ice sculptures!

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I thought that this looked like an elephant. Am I being too fanciful?

All too soon, we were at the end of the walk, feeling at one with the world.This was such a lovely thing to do. Descending on the gondola, we were captivated by the mountain bikers taking on the mountain. This was not an activity that I wanted to pursue but what an adrenaline rush for the riders!

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In his element – Kenn loving life!

 These were some of the highlights of our Whistler stay. Of course there was so much more: museums, cafes and restaurants, bike rides and of course hot tubbing our aches and pains away under the stars, just to list a few.

 While Whistler comes into its glory in the winter, it’s a wonderful destination that offers so much all year round to visitors of all ages. We were sad to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebird days in Vancouver

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Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park
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Rock sculptures on English Bay

Do you ever secretly wonder if a place you are about to visit will live up to all the wonderful things you have been told about it?  Perhaps wonder if the weather will slow you down or keep you indoors when you want to wander, explore or perhaps challenge yourself?  Or perhaps worry that the hotels you’ve booked over the internet will turn out to be bedbug ridden dives instead of delightful gems worthy of a rave review on Trip Advisor? I don’t think that I’m a glass half empty sort of a person, but flying over the Pacific Ocean, on our way to Vancouver, some of these thoughts flitted across my mind.

And when you have had some reservations, how good is it when everything turns out to be so much better than you imagined! Turning on fabulous weather, known as bluebird days, for us, Vancouver turned out to be one of the loveliest, most accessible and fun cities I have visited: a place where the forest meets the sea surrounded by snow-capped mountains. I felt guilty for ever imagining that it could be any different.

We arrived early morning and made our way from the airport to our hotel, The Sutton on Burrard St,  by taxi. Here we met our friends, Helen and Phil, who had arrived a day earlier. The hotel very obligingly checked us in at 9.00am (book in is usually 3.00pm) and after a shower, we were ready to explore our surroundings.We were all catching an Alaskan cruise the following day and after the cruise, planned to spend a few days in Vancouver before heading off on our separate adventures. All up, we spent five days, four nights in Vancouver.

Day One

Vancouver is a very easy city to walk around and to me at least, didn’t seem crowded at all and if you don’t feel like walking, the bus, rail and ferry system is excellent and very affordable. I was stunned to see so many cyclists safely navigating the city traffic, something we don’t see as much here in Australia. Initially, while Helen and Phil went cycling around the sea wall, Kenn and I walked to Canada Place on the harbour where we would be boarding our cruise ship.

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There were signposts on the deck to other parts of Canada. Couldn’t resist – I can’t be the only fan of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ !
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On our way to Stanley Park, along the sea wall, we found the marina.

We then made our way along the sea wall to Stanley Park. Words cannot do this park justice. Because I was feeling a little jet lagged, we only explored the city side of Lost Lagoon, leaving the park for a more thorough exploration when we returned from the cruise. The combination of sun, sea, trees and flowers was intoxicating, much more effective than a double shot latte for lifting one’s spirits after the long flight from Australia.

 

Exiting the park at English Bay,  we munched  on the best hot dogs for lunch, while watching the tankers round the point.

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Bit different from Byron Bay.

We were amazed by the number of locals who were out sunbaking, (though they need to visit Byron to experience a ‘real’ beach), rollerblading and cycling along the promenade. They seemed to exude a real zest for life and the outdoors, which was infectious. I felt healthier just looking at them.

Then it was back to the hotel for  a bit of a rest before dinner in Gastown, a short walk from our hotel. Phil led the way to  pre-dinner drinks at the Black Frog, a very atmospheric watering hole, specialising in local beers and wines while Helen discovered the culinary delights of the Flying Pig for a memorable first Canadian dinner. From our upstairs window, we had a great view of the famous steam-driven clock and the fairy-lighted streets.

PicMonkey Collage gastown

Day Two

What a difference a good night’s sleep makes! Next morning we were up early, ready to explore a little in search of that special coffee and a light breakfast. They take their coffee seriously here and we were spoilt for choice. In the end, we chose a cafe that specialised in Italian coffee and had a cute outdoor dining spot.Then a quick peak at the shops before we made our way to Canada Place ready for our Alaskan adventure.

Day Three

A week passed all too quickly on the cruise and we found ourselves disembarking on a cloudy Friday morning. We caught a taxi to our next hotel, The Sylvia on English Bay. I had chosen this hotel for its position on the Bay, the price and its proximity to Stanley Park. It was really very comfortable, considering that it was rated as a 3 star hotel. We had only a partial view of the sea but our room was large and comfortable and the views from the restaurant and hotel bar more than compensated.

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Our room was on the sixth floor. Hotel has many original features including the lifts.

Luggage stashed, we made our way to Granville Island, a gourmet’s paradise. We took a baby ferry ( these ferries look like they should be in someone’s bathtub) and were there in no time. There was so much produce on display in the food halls that it was difficult to make a choice. Eventually purchasing some artisan bread, cheese and salumi as well as home made soup and new season berries, we found ourselves a comfortable seat on the wharf and indulged in lunch while buskers entertained us.  There were lots of handmade arts and crafts as well for those looking for something a little different to take home.

We spent the afternoon at the Vancouver Aquarium, located in Stanley Park. If you love animals and the sea, this is a must see. Every gallery was fascinating but I especially loved watching the children discover the clown fish in the tropical gallery and learning to touch the starfish in their purpose-built environment.

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Nemo is so cute!

 I laughed along with everyone else at the antics of the beautiful Beluga whales, gleefully splashing unsuspecting members of the audience. And what’s not to love about super frisky sea otters?

Another plus for The Sylvia was that it is close to the restaurant precinct along Denman St.  When in a new city I prefer to dine out,  enjoying the people, savouring the scents and the lights of the city at night. We eventually chose a Turkish restaurant for dinner. I should have asked how big were the portions as they were enormous and Kenn and I could have shared. For those who like to eat in,  I noticed that many of the restaurants did take-away which would be cheaper as you wouldn’t have to pay the tip.

Day Four

Another fine day greeted  us. After a very hearty breakfast in the lovely dining room at the Sylvia, we headed off to Denman St to hire some bikes. A ride along the sea wall that borders Stanley Park beckoned us. This is a very easy, flat ride along a designated bike path. Kenn and I were soon zooming on our way. There was only one problem. When I found myself nearly falling off my bike because a delightful bunch of Japanese girls were giggling their way around,  ahead of me, I knew I wasn’t the slowest bike rider on earth anymore. Indeed, I had to master overtaking or topple off!

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I saw a lot of Kenn’s back on this trip!

Then it was time to really explore Stanley Park. We had lunch at the Tea House Restaurant, not realising that it was an upmarket establishment. They very kindly let us in despite being dressed in exercise clothes. We then walked deeper into the Park. We found our way to Beaver Lake which was covered in waterlilies about to burst into bloom.

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Beaver Lake in late May

 

It’s always interesting, the people you meet on your expeditions. As we were leaving Beaver Lake, I stopped to look at some berries which looked very appealing but which I thought might be poisonous. A young man stopped and told me that they were Salmon Berries and edible! Lucky me! But its a small world. It turns out that he is an iron man, training to compete on the Sunshine Coast in July.

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A tart taste but nice.

The rose garden, as one might expect, was full of beautiful roses, some of which were scented.

Day Five: The Grouse Grind

Today was the day when my fitness would be tested. Kenn and I had agreed to join Helen and Phil on a jaunt to Grouse Mountain. They wanted to walk up the mountain and catch the gondola down, a walk known as the ‘Grouse Grind’ and advertised as being ‘Nature’s Stairmaster’. We used public transport, a seabus and a bus, to get to the beginning of the walk at the base of the mountain. This was indeed a tough climb, 853 metres (2,800) up to the top of the mountain.  But while the trail is not long, (it’s only 2.9 kilometres long) you feel as if you are climbing a steep staircase as the average gradient is about 30 degrees. But it is beautiful walking up through the forest.

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Steps and more steps and more steps

It took time and a lot of pit stops … a lot of pit stops. They have a competition in Vancouver to see who can post the fastest time for the grind, I think that I was in a competition with  a few others, to see who could post the slowest time. But a couple of hours later, I was thankfully relaxing in a delightful cafe on the summit, sipping a hot chocolate and perusing a menu full of healthy and hearty food options. After all, I needed to refuel!

But there’s more to do than the grind on Grouse Mountain. There’s lots of wildlife to see: Grizzly bears and birds of prey as well as a lumberjack show. For those who ride the gondola up, there are lots of hiking trails to explore as well. They didn’t really appeal to me for some reason.

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The two grizzlies were having a lovely play together.

And then it was time to go down via the gondola and enjoy the amazing view over Vancouver and the ocean.

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Certainly a tram with a view

Making our way home, picking up some Epsom salts on the way,( a long soak in the bath was definitely in order),  we discovered some beautiful old streets in the West End with some delightful architecture. I would have liked to explore these more but you can never fit  everything in.

As it was, the weather had been so ‘bluebird’,  I hadn’t made it to an art gallery or a museum or a  theatre, something I like to do when in a foreign city. But in a way, I think that the beautiful natural environment of Vancouver is what makes this city so special and I’m glad she shared it with us.

 

 

 

Road Trip through the Canadian Rockies

 

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Spirit Island, Maligne Lake, Jasper

Returning from  one of the most memorable and enjoyable holidays we have ever had, a month long trip to Alaska,  British Columbia and Alberta,  I wanted to share some of the highlights. From the start, Kenn and I wanted more time than an organised tour would allow, to do our own thing and soak in the magic. But, early in the  planning phase, I discovered that there was very little explicit information about possible routes and itineraries for couples like us who wanted to drive themselves through this beautiful region of the world and didn’t want to break the bank in the process.

Although we would be travelling at a popular time, late May and early June, I knew it couldn’t be that hard.  After all,  Canada is like Australia only with more snow and much higher mountains. Alright, they drive on the wrong side of the road, but my daughter Melissa assured me that the roads were excellent and that if she could co-drive an old Camry from Whistler to Alaska without getting eaten by bears, then  her father would have no problems whatsoever sedately driving from Vancouver

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View of Burrard Street from our window of the Sutton Hotel

to Whistler along the Sea to Sky highway

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Panorama from the top of Whistler Mountain

and onto Jasper taking the back road through Lillooet and Kamloops

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Pyramid Lake, Jasper

 and then along the Icefields Parkway to lovely Lake Louise ,

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Banff

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The Bow River at Banff

and back to Vancouver. A mere 3000 kilometres give or take a kilometre or two!

The outline of the route decided, I perused the map to pinpoint other wonderful places to visit and explore along the way. Some of the names of the lesser-known towns were seductive such as Lillooet,  Clearwater, Field, Revelstoke and Golden.  Yoho  and Glacier National Parks as well as the Wells Grey Provincial Park seemed well worth visiting and for anyone who loves driving, the thrill of driving one of the great scenic roads in the world, the Icefields Parkway, cannot be underestimated.

Car hire from Thrify was very affordable. We booked it through our travel agents, Narelle and Amanda at www.dynamictravel.com.au and  it worked out to be about $60 a day for a VW Jetta. We organised to pick it up from Vancouver Airport following our stay in Vancouver itself.

One  interesting thing we found out when we picked up the car was that we could have taken our car over to Vancouver Island on the ferry. We had been informed in Australia that if we did, we would not be insured. This is apparently not the case. Next time, I would check directly with the relevant car hire company by phone and email, as being able to take the ferry would save time and money.

Once, the route had been decided it was time to book accommodation. I decided on a combination of hotels, motels, cabins, apartments and BnB’s mostly sourced through Booking.com or through recommendations on Trip Adviser.  I restricted my search to mostly 4 stars. I’m not really a hostel or yurt person! I love a few creature comforts like fluffy bath robes and the occasional hot tub. Although we didn’t get to stay at the Fairmont, I was really happy with all my choices and found that booking early ( four or five months in advance)  saved a significant amount of money. The accommodation bill for three weeks  totalled approximately $3ooo.  One thing that I hadn’t factored in was the number of daylight hours at this time of the year in Canada. I’ve never been anywhere where it’s still light at ten o’clock in the evening and had worked out travel times so as to arrive at about four o’clock in the afternoon.

We had a fabulous time, helped by great weather. I am looking forward to sharing details of each stage of the road trip in later posts and hope you will join me. I would also love to hear about your adventures in Canada if you would like to share.