Saturday, September 28, 2013

This Has Never Happened Before

I'm home a day early! We were supposed to stay in Bellingham tonight, but we got there at about 2:00 and Dad was fine with going the rest of the way home. That was okay with me, but I only had 3 more hours. Kim and Dad had an additional 1:45 from Olympia. It took a bit longer than 3 hours due to the torrential rainfall we experienced on the way. It was absolutely nasty! Kim and Dad didn't stay too long at the house.

Overall, it was a great trip. Would have been nice to see more wildlife, but the scenery was fabulous. It was really great to spend some extended time with my sister. Even though we weren't raised together, we have much in common. Not only is she my sister, but I consider her a cherished friend.

Dad was a trooper. He put up with us girls maybe trying to help him too much at times. It's a bit of a fine line to walk.

Tomorrow, it's back on the bike. If the rain continues as predicted, it might be the trainer in the garage.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ahhhh, We Had to Come to the City

We have been in three major National Parks in the last week. We have seen a few deer, a few grouse, and two mountain goats. We have not seen a single bighorn sheep, caribou, moose, or bear. Today we left Jasper National Park, headed for Kamloops. It is the biggest city we have been to since Spokane. All along the way today we saw countless road signs telling us to watch for moose and deer. We didn't see a single one.

We came to Kamloops. We saw this sign.

Sure enough, just after the sign, we saw a few on the hillside.

We continued on to our hotel. After we got settled, Kim and I decided to go see if we could find more sheep. We went back to where we had seen them first. Of course, they weren't there. At the next opportunity, we turned right onto a side road. We were able to slow down and look up the hillside. Kim spotted a couple, so we pulled over. Dad had given us his camera. The bighorns were quite high on the hillside. Dad's humongous lens (50-500 meters) was still in the car. I pulled the beast out and put it on the camera. Kim got out the tripod. 

At first it wouldn't take the photo. The screen said at the 500 meter distance, the f-stop had to be on the biggest number. Okay, I could do that! Then, it took the photos just fine. Here's a few that I have cropped.

A female?

After we put the big camera away, we followed the road up to Lake Paul. We didn't see any more sheep (apparently, we got too far away from town). The Provincial Park at the lake was nice.

After Kim and I came back into town, we scoped out a restaurant for dinner (Mexican). When we arrived at the restaurant, there were a couple of guys playing guitar and singing in the restaurant. There were envelopes on each of the tables telling the musicians' story. They were two cyclists (Santiago Sarmiento and Gustavo Nemitz) from Brazil, riding from Ushuaia, Argentina to Alaska. Their ride is called the Ecovuelta Project Tour. I should have asked to take their photo, but I didn't think about it. They were nice guys. I told them I want to do the Pan-Am Hwy. They said I should do it for sure!

Outside the restaurant, the tree trunks were wrapped with sweaters.

We head back into the US tomorrow. At least we finally saw some bighorn sheep. We just had to come to the city!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Good Day For Flying

Woo Hoo! Woke up to blue skies and sunshine! I called the helicopter place and we got the go ahead for our helicopter flight at 1:00.

We left Jasper for the 2 1/4 hour drive back South. Even though we had just been on the Icefields Parkway yesterday, with the change in the weather, it was a different experience. For one thing, we could see the tops of the mountains!

We passed back through the Columbia Icefields. At The Crossing, we turned off the Parkway onto Hwy 11. From there we had about 25 minutes to the Icefields Helicopter Tours base. We had time to spare, so we stopped and took this photo.
This is actually a reservoir that is part of the Saskatchewan River. The Cline River feeds into it from the Cline Glacier (the reason for the blue green color).

We arrived at the helicopter place. Since we were the only customers, as soon as we got our boarding passes, we were cleared to board the helicopter. 
Pre-flight photo

Our flight was 20 minutes up the Cline River to the glacier. Matt, our pilot, pointed out the various features. The Heli was a four-seater, so we all had window seats. Dad got the front seat.

Alpine lakes (they fish for Golden Trout)

The reservoir/Saskatchewan River

All too soon we were returning to the base and touching back down.

We collected our personalized "certificates" and started the drive back to Jasper (our third time on the Icefields Parkway). We stopped at The Crossing for some lunch (extremely expensive cafeteria food).

The sun was still shining for the drive back.
It was a beautiful drive back to Jasper. However, we still didn't see any wildlife except this bear at The Crossing.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wildlife At Last!

Day 5--Banff to Jasper

We found a great cafe in Banff for breakfast. Well, I thought it was great anyway (Dad, maybe not so much). I had a delicious cranberry coconut bar and hot cocoa. 

Before getting on the Icefields Parkway, we had to get to Lake Louise. Lake Louise seemed to be much smaller than Banff. We refueled the van, and continued on. Shortly after leaving Lake Louise, we came through the Entrance Station for Jasper National Park. This time there was no mistaking which lane to be in. It cost us $39 to enter the park for two days (Glacier cost us $25 for 7 days)!

Now we were on the Icefields Parkway! Surely we will see wildlife today! The first scenic stop was Lake Herbert. 
Beautiful reflection of the Canadian Rockies in Lake Herbert

Back in the car, we noticed it was starting to snow. We had already seen a dusting of snow on the ground. Apparently, it was the first snow of the season (in September???). 

As we cruised the Parkway, we were looking for wildlife. Of course, we didn't see anything. However, the scenery more than made up for the lack of animals (well...we still wanted to see some animals).
We're watching!

There were pullouts all along the way. We stopped at the Weeping Wall (it was sooooo sad).
The white steaks are waterfalls.

The colors were changing, and I also got a photo of a thistle with snow on it.

At the Columbia Icefield, we were able to get some lunch in the Columbia Centre.
 After lunch, we wanted to drive up to the Athabasca Glacier. We could see the tour busses going up the road. Turns out, we couldn't go up that road (we think the tour busses were taking the people up who were doing the snow cat tours on the glacier). We could only go to a parking area at the base of the glacier terminus. Dad and Kim stayed in the car while I hiked up the trail to get some close up photos of the glacier. 
The trail up.
At the terminus.
Beautiful blue ice.

As I was walking along the trail, I could see people walking on the glacier. They were roped up and progressing slowly along the glacier. I heard someone yell that they needed some rope. Someone had fallen in a hole or crevasse. It must not have been too bad. No one seemed too alarmed. Although, I was relatively far away.

Continuing down the road, we could see a bunch of cars pulled over and people standing and pointing cameras up. Of course we pulled over too. It was a couple of mountain goats up on the hillside!
Finally! Some wildlife!!!

Even though we saw multiple signs warning us to watch for wildlife, the two goats were it. 

We arrived in Jasper and easily found our home for the next two nights. We are literally poolside. Here is a photo.
This was taken from the door of our room.

I made a reservation for us to do a helicopter ride over the glaciers tomorrow. Got everything arranged, then asked how to get there. We have to drive back down the Icefields Parkway about 2 hours to get to the Icefields Helicopter Tours place. The weather is supposed to be good. We fly at 1:00. 

Lots of Mountains, Still no Wildlife

Day 4--Banff

We got our earliest start this morning. We were psyched to be getting on the road at 8:00 since we had an almost 7 hour drive to Banff. As we went to turn onto Hwy 17, we saw a sign for the border crossing. We had 14 miles to go, and the border opened at...9:00. So much for getting an early start. So, we just took our time. The mountains were beautiful, so it was not a waste of time.

We made it to the border right at 9:00. The border agent asked us the usual questions. He asked if we had any weapons besides the camera Dad was holding. Funny guy.

We pulled off at a viewpoint.

While Dad was figuring out his mondo huge camera lens (getting ready for all those Bighorn Sheep), Kim and I made ourselves some breakfast of strudel bread with peanutbutter and some cranberry juice.

I had our route all planned out. It would take us through Kananaskis Country to Banff. We would be traveling the Bighorn Hwy. Perhaps we would see more than just cows.
Playing "chicken" with the cows. We won, they moved first.

We came into Pincher Creek and refilled the gas tank. Moving on, we followed my directions. Everything was going good until we turned to head to Kananaskis Country. Once again, we encountered one of those nasty "Road Closed" signs. Okaaaayyy...change of plans...again.

We followed the "Cowboy Trail" (aka Alb 22) toward Calgary. We stopped for lunch at Subway (I would have been willing to eat someplace besides Subway, but there weren't really any other options (at least I checked off an Alberta Subway). As we continued on our way after lunch, we came over a rise and were directed to pull over to the side of the road by a flagger. Soon, a pick-up truck came slowly toward us.
Ahhh, so that's why we were pulled over. Sure enough, a short time later the house came down the road.

Once the house went by, we were able to get back on the road.

The Cowboy Trail took us to Trans-Canada Hwy 1. This highway runs from BC to Nova Scotia (someday I will do the trans-Canada bike route). We finally started to see signs to Banff. Either the other route was much longer, or my calculations were way off. Even with all our stopping, it was not going to take us 7 hours.

Soon, we were driving through the entrance to Banff National Park. Somehow, we ended up in the wrong lane and did not stop at the Entrance Station. There was no way to get back to the entrance, so we just kept going. We found our hotel, the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa. 

Since we arrived early enough, we decided to go do the gondola ride today. Dad didn't feel like going, so Kim and I went.

Of course, it was spectacular.
That's Banff Town below

After making a 360 around the top, we caught the gondola back down.

Oh, did we see any wildlife today? Bighorn Sheep? We sure did! Here's a photo.

Rainbows-6, Wildlife-0

LDay 3--Glacier National Park

Today was the day, time for the Going to the Sun Road! We packed up and got on the road. We made the turn toward West Glacier and Going to the Sun Road. What do we see ahead? A sign that says, "Road Closed 33 miles ahead--Logan Pass". WHAT??? We continue past the Glacier Park sign to the Entrance Station.

Sure enough, as of last night, the Going to the Sun Road is closed at Logan Pass. Dang! That means we go up to the Pass, then have to come back down and go around Glacier to the other side. That makes for another 2 1/2 hours of driving. All we can do is roll with it. Besides, we have all day...

We make a brief stop at the Apgar Visitor Center and get a map. The Ranger highlights our route telling us where we will likely see wildlife and whatnot.

Driving on the Going to the Sun Road, we near McDonald Lake Lodge (where we originally planned to stay) just as three of the "Red Bus" Tour busses pull out. We decide to follow them, figuring they know the most scenic places to stop. 

The busses first turn to cross a bridge at the end of McDonald Lake. We followed and got a great photo of the lake.

We continued to follow the busses for awhile, but then ended up pulling off to take photos. It was raining, but the scenery was still spectacular. Here's a photo.

We continued driving up and up, pulling out frequently to take photos. The higher we got, the more the rain turned to sleet. Finally we reached the top of Logan Pass. As an aside, although the climb is long, it is pretty much a steady 6% grade. Doable on the bike. 

It was very foggy and sleeting quite heavily at the top. The red busses were there. Kim and I got out, but it was pretty darn cold (on a bike it would have been miserable). I walked up to the closed Visitor Center, took a photo and slid my way back down.

Pretty darn cold!

We went back the way we had come. Down, down, down. 

We stopped a few times coming down. Back to McDonald Creek, we stopped and Kim and I walked to a lookout.

We returned to Hwy 2 and started our "Detour" to get to Babb. We crossed the Continental Divide again at Marias Pass. There was definately a change in the landscape.

Notice the faint rainbow. This was just one of 6 rainbows we saw today (what that really tells you is that it rained most of the day).

When we reached the turn to go to Montana's Duck Lake Lodge, we decided to go on into Babb and go up to Many Glacier. The Ranger said it was a good place to see some wildlife. Up to now, we had not seen a single wild animal--not even at the top of Logan Pass (where there are supposed to be tons of Big Horn Sheep--maybe they didn't care for the nasty weather???).

Shortly after turning on the road to Many Glacier, we saw a grouse on the side of the road. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo. We did get some nice mountain photos along the way.

We drove back to Babb. Montana's Duck Lake Lodge is like a hostel. We have three twin beds in our room. The sink room is across the hall, the shower room is next to that, and the toilet room is the next one over. I'm sure this is the first time my dad has stayed in this type of establishment.

We did find some wildlife finally.

Hopefully, tomorrow, the sheep will decide to come to the party.