Lofty's Visit to Canada & the Rockies 2005 Rocky Mountaineer, RV tour
We flew from London/Gatwick on a bright sunny day in mid May and having reached a height of 37000 feet remained in sunshine throughout the whole trip, even the views of Greenland were great.
Having arrived in Vancouver we took an internal flight to kelowna arriving some 17 hours after leaving Gatwick, a long day! We stayed in Kelowna for the first week and having hired a car toured the area which was very relaxing. The weather was warm and it remained dry apart from a few spots of rain, the port area was interesting and Kelowna was a good all round shopping area, needless to say it had masses of places to eat out and too many "take a ways" to count on two hands.
I was pleased and relieved to see that Canada still had some of the geese named after it. When fishing at my local lake recently I thought they had all emigrated to the UK!
The resort we were staying at was fine, quiet and well kept, some of the neighbours were a little reserved and wanted to keep them selves apart from the the riff-raff
While others were positively hostile taking and devouring anything that happened to come their way. This chap was enjoyiong his meal, I feel sure it was a water bird that he had managed to catch,
Looking down "Duck lake" which was very close to our apartment, signs of snow still on the distant mountains which we had flown over to reach kelowna.
Having disembarked from the cruise liner we had a couple of days to spare, before joining the Rocky Mountaineer Train. There is no doubt that the city is interesting with modern and old building, the transport system of boats and sky train as well as old style trolley buses and taxis made it very easy to get around and fares were modest
The large modern glass buildings with the reflection of their neighbours along with Chinatown, the cruise ships in the harbour and sky train made Vancouver an attractive City.
Not being a City lover I was pleased to visit the large nearby Stanley park with its gardens and other visitor friendly activities. Its collection of totem poles were worth visiting.
Even if the flower boarders were being replanted the roses did not disappoint.
One of the main attractions in the city appeared to be the steam clock located in Gas Town which caused crowds to stop to hear it's steam activated whistles which indicated the time of day.
The following morning we were to join the the Rocky Mountaineer Train which would take through from Vancouver to Calgary, a two day trip within overnight stay at a ranch at kamloops. An early start was called for and the taxi arrived on time.
As we were not likely to undertake this trip again we had booked "gold leaf" thereby ensuring that we would be well looked after and have a good view, being seated in the double decker coaches.
We were escorted to our railway coach by staff complete with umbrella, and boy did we need it! After what seemed only minutes of boarding we were underway, making our way out of Vancouver in the industrial and rural areas away from the bustle of the city.
The weather had closed in and the view was poor, but there were more important things to do first, make out way to the lower level of our coach and have our breakfast, served of course by our very own waiters.
A very wet start butbut at least we were in the dry, passing other trains which in most cases gave way to the Rocky Mountaineer, there were a number of double decker coaches in our train which were mainly scattered throughout its length. It was also interesting to note that as we went up one side of the river other train companies were using the track on the other side.
"Hells Gate", the narrowest part of the "Fraser River", with railways running on both sides. To ride in the gondola which can be seen just left/centre of the picture would I feel would have been quite an experience! The turbulence and speed of the river at this point was quite unbelievable, how salmon navigate through such waters is beyond belief.
Similarly it is difficult to comprehend how the railway was cut through the mountainous terrain as well as rising to great heights via the spiral tunnels cut into the mountains, done the reduce the gradient of the track.
The upper tunnel travels through Cathedral Mountain is 3255 feet long and spirals at 230 degrees leaving the tunnel 50 feet higher than where it entered. In the case of some trains the front leaves the top of the tunnel before the rear has entered.
The Rocky Mountaineer train was pulled by two massive diesels not unlike the one passing us en-rout but of course painted in their own livery. The steam engine on display in the Town of Jasper was no doubt used in days gone by.
We were disappointed at the lack of wild life seen while on the train, apart from a few deer, and Osprey (Fish Eagles) nesting on the tops of the telegraph poles only one family of black bears was seen, never the less the scenery was fantastic and shouldn't be missed.
One little bear got frightened and ran away !
One little bear remained and continued filling his stomach while his mother remained calm and ignored us, she had seen the Rocky Mountaineer before?
A celebrated point along the track where the last spike was driven in thereby completeing the line.
These folk below were getting ready to white water raft down river, I suspect they hadn't seen the river way down stream at "Hells Gate"
By the time we reached the mountains the weather had cleared, and the views were truly magnificent, photography was very difficult if not impossible. Moving train, masses of trees, telegraph poles at more than regular intervals along with the redundant telegraph wires made it impossible to get good pictures as the next two photo's clearly demonstrate.
However there is more to life than photographs and the views, food and excellent service provided by the trains staff made the whole journey very worthwhile, One could easily claim the train journey of a lifetime.
Having arrived in Calgary by train we took a taxi to our hotel out of town, not being City people we felt it was best seen from a distance!
And after a good nights rest were going to pick up our RV (Recreational Vehicle )for a further two weeks holiday.
We stayed in Calgary overnight and having done some food shopping picked up the R.V (Recreational Vehicle) It was 26 foot long and a good 8'6" wide with the mirrors but there were no problems because the roads are very wide and traffic volume compared with the UK is nothing, out of town anyway. They do of course drive on the right but having done it on the continent there were no problems.
The R.V sites were great some providing all facilities which allowed you to connect to the electricity, dump waste water and empty the toilet system. Others provided only the minimal either way it didn't matter because the RV had everything aboard, lighting ,cooking ,air con, heating , toilets , and fresh water it sleep six so there was plenty of room. The vehicle a Chevrolet was easy to drive being automatic with cruise control and was economical on fuel (petrol) which was less than half the price it is in the UK.
The signs displayed on the rubbish bins made it very clear I was in Bear Country having spent one night at the first site in Canmore It was later learned that a female had been killed by a bear that same weekend. So the threat was a real one.
The next stop was Lake Louise where the site was again in the forest and it goes without saying right next door to a railway line. The National Parks Managers must have chosen a railway enthusiast to locate their site's because all apart one was next to a line which goods trains running at regular intervals, all of which sounds their horns about every 100 yards or so it seems!
The weather while at lake Louise was not good, very overcast and misty rain which didn't make for good photographs but even so the views were great and the colour of the water still very attractive with some snow still on the mountains.
The lake even in the overcast conditions looked mysterious, the colour of the water adding to it's mystic, and if you can believe it when we first arrived early morning we were the only two there. that soon changed of course when the notorious coach loads of tourists arrived.
Not a lot of wild life had been seen apart from a few deer and bears whilst on the train. In the park at lake Louise RV site a sign warned of bear in the area so that made and evening stroll a little less attractive. Even so sitting in the R.V the animals mainly deer and squirrels came very close and seemed to be acclimatised to sharing their forest with the R.V's. At the lake itself warnings were up of grisly bears and to travel in teams of at least six persons? I assume they cant eat more that six humans at a time!
This little guy was more put out than the deer, who were not in the least surprised at us being on their patch.
I'm sure if this guy had been bigger he would have slung us off, as it was he had a lot of chatter.
The following day I moved on, the weather no much improved but the change of scenery was very welcome that was when I saw the first black Bear, up close anyway I had seen the family from the train but that seemed different? I was now on the road towards Jasper from which HGV vehicles are banned so life was much easier from a driving point of view.
It was a pity but a wonderful as the scenery was the low clouds hindered the view. I was pleased that I had in fact got time to spare and so if the opportunity arose I could always double back and see it when the weather was in a better mood.
This Raven knew he was a beauty, and knew exactly where to perch for the best photographic opportunity; just like the one's in the tower of London, Intelligent and obliging, interesting that these were the largest birds I saw, it appeared all the Eagles etc were still in Alaska.
It was now possible as the weather cleared to take a few photographs but there was still considerable cloud cover.
Even so the views of the glaciers was spectacular, never having seen them before. I would have to make a point of coming back this way and hope the weather would be kind?
Despite the overcast conditions I decided to visit the Athabasco Glacier, along with taking a trip up the glacier in one of the purpose made vehicles, the driver made a big play about the amount the glacier has receded over recent years , I couldn't help but wonder just how much these vehicles had played in its demise, one in the heat created by their large engines and two by the large track tyres that ground the glacier to a slush. One can only add that in their defence the monies taken from the tourists does go to preserving other parts of the national parks, which I must say are well kept along with public toilets and other facilities.
Having found a RV site on the outskirts of Jasper I refreshed and even through the site was next to the railway had a good night, waking the following morning to a New World of bright sun and blue skies.
This was everything that I imagined Canada to be, you just couldn't have asked for anything more of nature or the weather.
Leaving the site early we located a quiet spot and parked up being rewarded by deer along with there young and the most beautiful of reflections in the lake.
No camera could do justice to the magnificent views which confronted me on this bright new day The sun had made such a difference to everything around me and the whole place seemed to come alive
Total peace and Isolation.
Jasper seemed to have a number of spots where you could just sit and relax, close to the river where the water ran cold and clear and everything was fresh and green .
Where even the butterflies came to admire the magnificent colours of the stones or was it to take a drink from the cool waters, nature in all its splendour. And along with that the weather was going to be kind and it stayed fine for days with just the very odd spot of rain.
Seeing how clear the weather was one couldn't resist to opportunity to go up the mountain in the gondola from Jasper, Looking down on the interesting the shape of the town along with the net work of rivers and lakes that lay nearby .Rail roads entering and leaving could seen clearly by the naked but difficult to see in the photo, it was from this point that the colossal length of the trains could be seen.
Having left spring below It was now back to very early spring, with snow still on the mountain top, despite this the flowers on the south side of the mountain were starting to bloom
Not all the flowers were seen up on the mountain top but several of the alpines were in bloom and the rest were found in bloom in the rocky mountain area.
Do you know who these folk are?
It was whilst in the restaurant up the mountain that I took this photo of the "Red Family" all had camera's but when I offered to take their photo none of the camera's would work due to low batteries. Having offered to take the photo on my camera I was given their e-mail address on serviette which unfortunately I had mislaid. So if you know this family who visited Canada /Jasper area early June 2005 who I would suspect came from either Canada or America, please put them in touch so that I can send them the photo I promised.
We got up early and made our way from Jasper to the Mount Robson Park, quite expecting to see a lot of wild life, no way, the only thing of consequence I saw was a Cougar which just happened to cross the road in front of us, it was in no danger from us I was going at an easy pace and he was still some distance away from the vehicle, I was later to hear from a park warden and others that they are rarely seen. When I reached Mount Robson as apparently is more often the case the summit was hidden by cloud. So we found a RV park for the night, avoiding the forest in this instance because of the mosquitoes which were jumbo size.
The following morning we made a very early start and saw the mountain complete with summit, with the sun coming up behind it a site according to one of the park wardens rarely seen. I wasn't sure if that was because the folk weren't up early enough or if the weather rarely allowed the summit to be seen?
Having taken a steady ride back to Jasper we was there in time for breakfast, parking in one of my now favourite spots on the outskirts of Jasper. It was here that I was greatly assisted by one of the wardens who happened to stop by, he directed me to the hot springs at Miette some 40 miles out of Jasper where he had the previous day seen a lot of wild life, and so having had breakfast off I went.
I saw Stage Elk a total of six Black Bears, Female Moose and more Black Bears, it was interesting that we had seen numerous signs warning of all sorts of animals and had not seen one in the area of the sign, that proved not to be the case with this bear warning sign, just behind the sign centre picture is one bear just wondering off into the undergrowth. So if you go to Canada do take notice of the warning signs they are for real.
And if you are still not convinced, then look at the size of this bear and there were two, both ran down a steep bank to cross the road just a head of me the vehicle coming the other way had little choice but to stop. Just compare the size of the bear with the width of their vehicle, they were BIG Bears and contrary to what I had been told these did run down that steep embankment. The inset picture is digitally manipulated to show what I think the first bear would have looked like had he stood up against the car, as it happened he wasn't interested in the car or contents and thank goodness passed it by.
Having now managed to see some of the wildlife, and in particular the Moose albeit a female, I made our way back to Jasper re-stocked with food, fuel and I just couldn't resist the temptation to purchase yet more polished stones, which looked more like sweets, even the flowers outside this shop looked good enough to eat!
Must be something to do with the Canadian air I'm hungry.
Now as the weather was very much improved with clear skies and high cloud we decided to head back into the Jasper National Park
The difference the the clear blue skies made to the views was unbelievable, reflections had appeared where previously there had only been dark waters, along with mountaintops where there had only been cloud.
We decided to stay in the RV park at the Glacier and were immediately joined by the locals in this case a Clark's Nutcracker, He appeared to enjoy my company and I enjoyed the improved views, the ice fields hadn't appeared anything like this when I passed through only a few days ago. Even Mount Andromeda on the left of the picture was clearly visible
This was a site I approved of, one of the only nights where we didn't have trains blasting their hooters and all for 8.5 Canadian Dollars , mind you there were no facilities apart from toilets and hard standing on the RV park but there was the hotel and restaurant part of the glacier site very nearby. Tomorrow I must move off back towards Banff but there is a lot to see before I exit the National Parks
The following day there were more surprises in store when I saw some big horn sheep and mountain goats both of which were loosing their winter coats. The goats were more interested in the natural mineral lick than humans with the sheep more adventuresome causing a considerable traffic hold up when they decided that everything including the road belongs to them, and as they were nearly four feet tall with well established large horns who was going to argue?
On a clear day one certainly couldn't fault the views, as well as the attraction and reflection in the various waters.
I woke the following morning to a bright clear day and having had breakfast we made off towards the Banff National Park, it is interesting to note that having bought an annual ticket when entering the park for the first time no further payments were required and it covered all of the National Parks the ticket having cost approx 90 Canadian dollars.
Just some of the beautiful flowers that were seen throughout the parks in some cases plants grown at home for rockeries etc growing in their native environment and a pleasure to see.
Colours that at home in your garden you wouldn't mix, nature knows best and all the colours blend and work well together in the wild.
As we made my way back through the park we visited the Parkway Ice fields and yet another large Glacier. In an art shop one would say the colour of the water in Peyto lake was wrong, but in this case it is correct, it's brilliant colour be produced by the finely ground talc like deposits filtering out from beneath the glacier, the weight of the Glacial ice grinding the substrata to a fine flour which then finds itself in the waters of the lake.
How pleasing in this instance to say that apart from the viewpoint overlooking this glacier, man had not commercialised its existence
Our next stop was at Johnston Canyon where we took a walk, as there were plenty of visitors about one didn't have to worry about the bears, they would either have been frightened off our had their fill!
What I did encounter however were Golden-mantled ground squirrels, and what delightful little fellows they were, obviously used to being fed although the law in the National Parks forbids feeding animals, which makes sense, if they become reliant on humans in the summer they will perish in the winter months when the food is not available
Not to be confused with the Columbian ground squirrel that seemed to appear everywhere.
Or with this beautiful little Least Chipmunk this little fellow made my day, he was so energetic and inquisitive, there was no doubt he was made to live in the wild and should never ever see the inside of a cage! he just melted into the background when in the wild "spot the chipmunk"
Or this little Red squirrel, just setting out in life, and how lucky to live in Canada, always providing he keeps and eye open for those birds of prey!
If you visit the Rockies do take a walk up Johnson Canyon it is well worth while, and at a steady pace its open to all. Of course you won't see all these animals in the same place but you will see them throughout in the Rockies.
From a distance they look like blue bells, when you reach them they turn out to be lupins, covering Railway banks and roadside verges.
I do hope you enjoy looking at these photos, it seems a life time ago when I took them but I still enjoy looking at them