Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cascade Gorge Railgrade, Christina Lake, BC, Canada


We got our mountain bikes out today and biked 12 miles on the Cascade Gorge Railgrade of the Trans-Canada-Trail Railgrade. The Trans-Canada-Railgrade used to be a train track over many miles in Canada, complete with trestle bridges across canyons and rivers. Once the train was no longer needed, the ties and rails were pulled and the train track bed path remains as a hiker/biker path.

We started the trail just west of the 395 junction (if you go, you'll see a small turn-out by the "Welcome to Christina Lake" sign). The first part was gravel , which went past the Cascade Gorge and over one trestle. (A very easy walk if you're interested, and not far at all.) The trail continues to a second, bigger trestle bridge with great views. The trail then gets a bit rocky, as it continues towards Christina Lake, and great views continue. We biked past Santa Rosa Road, (which is another trail head). We continued north, overlooking the townsite and the lake, and continued until Fife Rd (yes, another trail head). This last portion had some very rocky areas, and in fact, we had to get off our bikes and walk them a bit. The overall grade is 2-3%, and going our route, it was downhill at first, then uphill until Fife, then, obviously reverse that for the way back. If you want, you can make it a loop and bike back along Highway 3 from any of the roads, but we preferred the trail - more interesting and safer.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canoeing and Greek Side Restaurant, Christina Lake, BC, Canada

We had a slow morning, and decided to enjoy the beautiful weather by spending some time on the water of Christina Lake in our Sevylor Inflatable Canoe. After spending some time of the lake, we had a great lunch at the local Greek restaurant Greek Side Restaurant, where we split a Greek Chicken Pizza and had a wonderful waitress. This is definitely a place worth visiting if your travels find you in Christina Lake!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cascade Cove Campground & RV Park, Christina Lake, BC, Canada

We are staying at Cascade Cove Campground & RV Park for the next 4 days. It is about 1 mile past the town area right off highway 3. This is a small family run campground located on the Kettle River and very close to the the world famous Kettle Valley Railway and Trans Canada Trail. Cascade Cove has 50 sites with WIFI access and provides 8 minute showers for $1. There are also laundry facilities and a playground for the kids. All sites have plenty of grass and come with a fire pit. Wood sold at the campground is $5 a bundel. A short walk down to Kettle River and you will find a nice swimming cove that is private to registered guess.

Tip: if you get a back-in site and no one is behind you, then just pull through the sites.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Creston Wildlife, Winery, and Pub, Creston, BC, Canada


We did a variety of things today after getting a late start chatting with friends in the campground. The first place we went to was the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA) where for $3 per person, you can walk along their trails and enjoy a variety of wildlife, mostly birds. We were a bit late for the majority of their birds, but did get to see a Blue Heron, a few ducks, and some other birds. It was a nice place, and we'd recommend going, but only if in Creston earlier than the end of August.

We then went to get lunch at Creston's first winery ~ Skimmerhorn Winery & Vineyard, but were too late. We did spent some time trying their wines, and were happily surprised how much we enjoyed them! They had a nice pinot gris, pinot rose, and a pinot noir (they had 4 whites, 1 rose, and 2 reds). We were told that a few more wineries will be in the area within the next few years, so if you enjoy wines, this may be the place to come!

Since we missed lunch at the winery, we heard form a few locals that Jimmy's Pub & Grill at the Creston Hotel was a good place to eat, so there we went! We were not disappointed at all! It's non-smoking, casual, and had a variety of items on their menu. Brad had fish & chips with a Caesar salad - all very good, and Suzanne had chicken quesadillas - probably one of the best she's had! If you head to Creston, this is definitely the place to eat!

We leave tomorrow, but continue to say how friendly all of the people in Creston are - we were impressed at each and every turn!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada

Today was a cloudy and cold day in the Kootenay area of British Columbia, so we decided to warm our spirits in the Ainsworth Hot Springs. From Creston we again went north on the 3a highway to the ferry terminal at Kootenay Bay and then took the ferry across Kootenay Lake to Balfour. (This is the same route as described in yesterday's post). Once in Balfour we headed north along the west side of the lake to the town of Ainsworth and their hot springs.

What makes the Ainsworth Hot Springs unique is that it has great views of Kootenay Lake from the pool area, as well as a second pool with a horseshoe-shaped cave which goes back into the side of the mountain. This is the origin of the hot water. You can go in one side of the cave to exploring the chambers and come our the other side. Inside the cave the ceiling is covered with stalagmites and the water seems to get hotter the deeper you swim into the cave. The inside of the cave is very steamy and not will lit, so take it slow until your acclimate. To cool down a little, we proceeded to the larger pool which felt only warm in comparison to the cave pool (kept at 106 degrees). Both pools have ledges along their side to sit and soak. There is a small third pool (it's the size of a small hot tub) was the cool pool. This was way too cold for us so we skipped this adventure while remembering our purpose was to soak and relax, and goosebumps didn't support that goal.

This hot springs is smaller than the ones we have been to, but with the cave and the views it's worth a stop. The change/shower rooms were very small and crowded. There are no lockers, but you are given a bag for all your personals and then you check the your bag into at the desk for safe keeping. (This service is free.)

As a bonus on our trip, we found out that a Letterbox was hidden at the hot springs. So after our soak we followed the clues and found it. Check out this link to the Letterbox website to find out what it's all about. We have found it has encouraged us to go a few additional places during our travels that weren't in our initial plans, plus that bonus of finding the actual letterbox!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kootenay Lake trip, British Columbia, Canada


We took a long drive around Kootenay Lake today, first heading north on the 3a, passing through a few small towns until we got to Crawford Bay ~ a lovely, quaint town with a few shops and places to eat. The first place we stopped was the North Woven Broom Co. They hand-make brooms from the (100% raw, unprocessed) tassels of the Broomcorn plant from the Torreon region of Mexico. It was very cool to see the two people making brooms, learning about the brooms, and seeing their store. Their brooms were featured in (to name a few): Promotions of the Harry Potter bocks in Canada, the Bewitched movie staring Nicole Kidman, the TV series Star Trek, Broadway shows, and their even in the Smithsonian! I know this sounds odd, but North Woven Broom Co. was a really cool place with very nice people!

We then went to a few more shops, including Fireworks Copper & Glass, as well as Barefoot Handweaving - both stores were full of great items, as well as wonderful people who were happy to explain their craft. We had lunch at the Black Salt Cafe in Crawford Bay, which was very good, albeit a bit slow in the area of service.

It was then onto the Pilot Bay Lighthouse near Kootenay Bay, which involved a short dive (less than 5 km) and a short hike (less than 1/4 mile). The lighthouse is no longer used, but it's fairly well maintained and you can get good views of Kootenay Lake and the surrounding area.
How to get across Kootenay Lake? Well, by the (worlds longest) free ferry between Kootenay Bay and Balfour. The ride takes about 30-minutes, and allows for some nice views of the mountains, lakes, and towns along the lake. Once in Balfour, you can go north to Ainsworth Hot Springs, or south to Nelson, which is the route we chose today. Nelson is a fairly large town, with many Victorian homes from about 100 years ago. There is a main Street, Baker, with many stores and restaurants, as well as the "uphill" neighbourhood that you can take a driving tour and see many of the Victorian buildings of yore. We were actually disappointed with Nelson (perhaps because it was later in the day), but it seemed busy, the stores weren't as quaint as we hoped, and the Victorian buildings were most easily seen via a driving tour, and we would have preferred to walk. It does seem like a nice town, though, with some beachfront, so we just may not have hit it on the right day (for us). At Nelson, you're equidistant form Creston, whether you go over the pass or take the ferry, and since the ferry takes about an hour more (wait time & sailing time), we drove back via Rte. 6, then Rte.3.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kokanee (Columbia) Brewery Tour, Creston, BC, Canada


The brewery tour costs $2 per person, and it is well worth it (and not only because it includes a full beer at the end)! Be sure you check the times of tours, because it seems to change everyday. (Our tour was supposed to start at 2:30, as posted, but they decided to postpone it until 3.) Regardless, be sure you get there early enough to take pictures with the (giant, as if there were another kind)) Sasquatch in the front of the building. The hour-long tour takes you through all areas of the brewery, from the making the wort, fermentation, aging, bottling & labeling. It really was quite fascinating - especially the bottling area. Be sure to bring your camera - you can take photos everywhere in the brewery - there are no restrictions. (You do need closed-toes shoes, though.) At the end you can sample one of their four beers, and watch a movie of Kokanee's various advertisements, commercials, and spoofs. Even a non-beer drinker will like this tour.

Creston Valey Farm Tours, Creston, BC, Canada

The Creston area is known for a few things ~ temperate weather, orchards, and Kokanee Beer.

Our first stop was the Blueberry Patch Country Market where we picked our own blueberries and had some awesome blueberry pie! They have a quaint store, and you can also pick strawberries, as well as blueberries. If you're not into picking fruit yourself (i.e. Suzanne), you can just buy already-picked blueberries. We then went onto Orchard Barn Studio & Gallery, which is housed in a 1908 barn ~ they had candles, gift items, and artwork.

The last market we visited was the Under the Apple Tree Farmer Market where we purchased a variety of fruits & vegetables. They offer farm fresh eggs and organic produce.

One thing we've noticed in our short time in Creston ~ the people here are exceedingly nice!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Scottie's RV Park & Campground, Creston, BC, Canada

We are staying at Scottie's RV Park and Campground for 5 nights this week as we explore the surrounding area (Creston, Kootenay Lake, Crawford Bay, Kootenay Bay, Ainsworth Hot Springs). The campground is very clean and well-treed, and the husband/wife couple who own the place are very nice (Morgan & Debbie). They have laundry, washrooms with free hot showers, free wifi, book exchange, etc... It is a small, compact 44-site campground, but quaint and quiet. As far as we are concerned, this is the place to stay in Creston

Tip - It's easy to go over the border to Idaho (8 miles from Creston) to get gas - just tell the 'ole border patrol that you're going to get less expensive gas (and beer), and they don't bat an eye - everyone does it. (We'll save about $30/tank, that's about one night of camping.) Be sure to go early in the day, and ask when the border opens/closes so you don't get caught on the wrong side.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kootenay National Park, BC, Canada

We took a short hike today since we didn't get going early enough, and we ddin't feel like driving an hour to the longer & better hikes in northern Kootenay National Park. We hiked up th Juniper Trail towards Radium Hot Springs, which had a few fews of the valley, but was mostly in trees. The trail takes you to the Hot Springs, and we returned via the Redstreak Campground Trail (find the trailhead past the bathrooms at the hot springs). It was a nice hike (more a walk), again in trees, but it totalled about 6.4km (~ 4 miles), so it was nice to stretch the legs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Invermere, Windermere and Fairmont Hot Springs, Canada

We drove to Invermere, Windermere and Fairmont Hot Springs today. Here's the synopsis:
  • Invermere ~ has a few cute shops to see and restaurants; also has the largest food store in the area: Sobies.
  • Windermere ~ is right on beautiful Lake Windermere; has neighborhoods, but no shopping area. Lake Windermere is quite nice.
  • Fairmont Hot Springs ~ the town isn't much of a town, the only thing to do is visit the hot springs which are large and busy, but still quite the attraction. We prefer Radium Hot Springs over Fairmont Hot Springs. Here's the website if you're interested: www.fairmonthotsprings.com

If you're a golfer, there are about a dozen gold resorts in a 2 hours drive.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Radium Valley Vacation Resort, Radium Hot Springs, Canada

We stayed at Radium Valley Vacation Resort for 4 nights, and chose it because it was an RPI Park. (Feel free to email us if you want to know more about RPI parks and our experiences with them.) It was a very nice park ~ each site had a grassy area, a pavilion with a picnic table and barbecue (you pay an additional $1/day, minimum $5, for propane). There was a recreation center with 2 pools (one indoor, one outdoor), a hot tub, showers, washrooms, book exchange, library, game rooms with table games, family room with tv, adult lounge with tv, etc... They also had laundry and washrooms with free hot showers. There is cable at each site as well. It was a clean, spacious park, and well maintained.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Baker Creek Bistro, Lake Louise in Banff, Canadad

After canoeing in Lake Moraine, we had our (last recommended) lunch in Lake Louise at Baker Creek Bistro. The lodge was nice, and had a small dining room. Brad had a bison pastrami with brie sandwich which he liked very much, but Suzanne’s macaroni & cheese was rather bland (we actually find the cheese in Canada to be bland). The service was just okay; out of all our meals at Lake Louise, this was our least favorite.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chateau Lake Louise & High Tea, Lake Louise in Banff, Canada

The Chateau Lake Louise is very nice and on Lake Louise itself. It has great service in all areas, the employees are polite, helpful, respectful – Suzanne is a good-service hound and loved it. They have many (expensive) restaurants, services, tours, can exchange money at front desk – great rate and no fee (better than the ATM in Ft. McLeod where we got Canadian money). There is valet parking for $15, but you can park on own in “government” lots for free. Be sure to get there early in day (before 10am) or after (after 4pm) or parking is a hassle. They even have a “lobby dog” named Sonny who is a seeing-eye dog “drop out” (he was afraid of cars) who hangs by the tour desk (to the left of the reception desk). He was quite sweet & mellow – you can even take him for a walk!

While at the Chateau, we had High Tea in the Fairmont dining room, which is lovely. There was great service and it was a great meal since we took tea at 4pm, and it replaced dinner for that evening. After starting with Champagne, there was fruit cocktail with contrineau, great scones with Devonshire cream & strawberry jam, a variety of four tea sandwiches: salmon rolls, tomatoes on crisonti, cheese, egg salad w/ cucumbers (I’m not doing these justice with these descriptions) and five desserts - small chocolate Mousse, apple flan, citrus meringue, pistachio tartlet with strawberry (filled with cream), a flourless orange cake, and of course, tea.

TIP – If it is sunny, do not sit by windows as if can be very, very hot (the dining room gets direct sun in the afternoon). If you go there for dinner, it is recommended you dine after 7pm, when the dining room cools.

Bow Falls Hike, Lake Louise at Banff, Canada


Bow Falls hike is a very nice, about 3 hours in length. It starts with a lovely walk around Bow Lake towards the head of the lake, where you follow rushing water the entire way. You go over two small hills, then a bigger hill where can see canyon. There it forks - you can go left (over boulder suspending over canyon) to the Bow Hut, or right (what we did) to the Falls. The trail is a bit difficult to follow to the falls, so be sure follow cairns.

Tip – start this hike early in the in day since the water levels rise on sunny days and it makes getting back somewhat potentially difficult (unless you don’t mind taking off your shoes and wading through glacially-cold water…..).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parker Ridge Trail, Banff National Park, Canada


Parker Ridge (trailhead 4 km south of the Icefields Centre) Trail is a very steep hike, but more than well worth the effort – it has some fabulous views! You hike behind the Columbia Icefields to spectacular Saskachawan glacier (not seen form the road) with its small lake (unfortunately, it was a cloudy day and our pictures do not do it justice). Be sure to walk to the left as well for more views. It’s about 3 hours with lots of time at top, which can be cool & breezy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Eiffel Lake hike, Lake Louise at Banff, Canada


We hiked to Eiffel Lake today, a trail that boasts of 10 peaks, in fact, those peaks are found on the back of some Canadian $20 bills. The trailhead is at Moraine Lake, where except for the short trail part-way up the lake, all trails are in grizzly country. Thus, there is a rule that you need to be hiked in a tight group of 4 or more people. If you are smaller than a group of 4 (like us), you can wait at the trailhead and join others. We joined a couple for the first leg who were very nice, and then at the split between Eiffel Lake & Larch Valley/Sentinal Pass, they went onto the latter hike, so we waited about 20 minutes & joined another group heading our direction to Eiffel Lake. The trail is quite steep in beginning with many switchbacks, all in trees but once at the point where the trail forks, it is open and flat. The people we hiked to Eiffel Lake went on, but we hung out for a while and started back on our own until another group came by, and one of their members joined us for the hike back to the trailhead.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lake Louise Station, Lake Louise in Banff, Canada

Again, on a recommendation, we ate lunch at Lake Louise Station, a restaurant made from the original railroad station at Lake Louise (in fact, a train went by while we ate lunch). It was very nice and very casual – the meals are well-proportioned, you can easily share, or take half home for another time. There are also train cars where dinner is served – also recommended and looked great, but we never made it there for dinner.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise at Banff, Canada


The Plain of Six Glaciers hike starts at the Lake Louise lodge and follows the lake to the end. This part of the trail is hard packed, level, and popular. At the end of the lake the trail starts the climb up through a series of switchbacks to reach the teahouse. The trail at times contains a lot of loose rock and has jagged rock to step over and around, so definitely wear sturdy shoes. The entire hike is mostly in the open, and has amazing views of glaciers along the way - we even heard and saw glacier ice/snow breaking free many times while on the hike. The teahouse is a preserved hiking chalet and is now used to reward hikers on making that far with a good assortment of teas and many good treats, like their homemade chocolate cake, scones and apple pie, to mention a few. The teahouse is open to views, so it’s a wonderful experience to have a nice cup of tea while having these amazing views.

If you have the energy, then definitely continue to the Plain of Six Glacier Overlook. This is a continuation of the main trail that take you about mile closer to the glaciers, plus gets you full view of more glaciers and the Abbott Hut perched on top ( not viewable from the teahouse). The trail is completely open, and most the time you are hiking up and across huge piles of loose rocks deposited decades ago. At this end of this trail you are at the end of the canyon and have great views of the entire Lake Louis valley (down onto the lake) as well as the mountains behind the lodge area that you can’t see from the lodge. From this perspective you also can see the that loose rock that covers the valley floor is actually rock and dirt covering a glacier.

Tips: the teahouse only takes cash, go early and be on the trail by 9-10 to beat the heat and crowds. Wear sturdy shoes for there is a lot of loose and big rocks on the trail.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Emerald Lake Trail, Yoho National Park, BC, Canada


We decided to go to Yoho National Park, and walk the Emerald Lake trail. First let’s talk about Emerald Lake. This is a very popular and frequented lake, so get there early. There are accommodations and boat rentals. There is a nice paved path around the left side of the lake. This path will eventually meet up with the trail on the other side of the lake to make a complete loop. This gives great views of the Burgess fossil beds, glaciers and the mountains that frame this beautiful aqua blue lake. It doesn’t take long on this trail to leave the tour bus crowds behind. The left side of the lake trail is much shorter than the trail on the opposite side, so if you want to see the end of the lake and don’t have the time to do the complete lake loop then take the same trail back.

We took the Emerald Lake hike up to Yoho Pass and waterfall. This hike starts with the paved Lake trail starting in the parking lot. Take the paved trail to the end of the lake this is about one third of the hike. Watch the signs for the Yoho Pass trail. This is in the middle of the alluvial fan. This trail take you further up the valley and through the alluvial fan. There are many parts where you cross running water using wooden planks and many other places where you will need to jump over small branches of the creeks. This area was very passable because most the creek beds were dry, but this might not this the same if you try it during the spring run-off. Continue on the trail until you reach the base of Yoho Pass and start climbing. This is where the hike went from easy to moderately difficult. Now you are about two thirds of the way to the waterfall. You continue via many switch backs until you reach the waterfall. Behind the waterfall is an amazing vertical wall of rock. It’s an interesting perspective to be at the bottom looking up. From this view point, there are great views of the lake and the entire valley and surround mountains. Continuing further you will reach the Burgess trail and if you go over the pass you will reach Takkawaka falls.

Tips: Go early to beat the tour bus crowds if you are just hiking the paved side (left side) of the lake.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Johnston Canyon Hike and Storm Mountain Lodge, Banff National Park, Canada


We got a late start today, and the weather wasn’t great for a long, view hike, so we did the Johnston Canyon Hike - along with everyone else! Definitely start early in day – it’s a very busy hike and paved nearly the entire way. You can hike to lower falls which are nice, then onto the upper falls, which are nice as well. It’s about 1-2 hours for entire hike (we did it in 1 ½ hours). There are some really great views and we recommend the hike, but watch the crowds. The best parking is not in the main lot, but by the restaurant/bathrooms.

Not too far form the Johnston Canyon area is Storm Mountain Lodge where it was recommended we have lunch. It is a 1922’s out-of-the-way lodge – adorable, quaint, great food – lovely log cabin with a great waiter – we definitely recommend to go for lunch or dinner. It had a simple menu and great dessert. (We highly recommend the peach cobbler!!)


(We saw this Osprey & nest nest on the bridge to Johnston Canyon.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lake Louise at Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

The Lake Louise area of Banff National Park has a small townsite (not really much of one) and two campgrounds – one for tents that’s in an electric fence and one for trailers. Some trailer sites are shared sites, which is two trailers park side-by-side, but each “site” still has its own area with a picnic table and electric. There were good hot showers and washrooms. They also offer nightly ranger talks in the tent area of the campground. You can hear the train – day and night, but it isn’t too loud. We stayed here for 9 nights.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jasper Townsite & The Other Paw Bakery, Jasper National Park

We wandered the townsite again today, and also went to a great place for lunch ~ The Other Paw Bakery. It has simple sandwiches, soups, breakfast items, etc.... It was great food - wish we discovered it earlier in our stay.

Tip - look for that coupon sheet with the Downstream Bar on it - there are two coupons - one for for The Other Paw Bakery and one for Bear Paw's Bakery. Yum!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Maligne Canyon Trail & Downstream Bar, Jasper National Park, Canada


Maligne Canyon & Lake – This is a very nice short hike, which took us about 1-2 hours round trip with many photo ops along the way. The views are better and more visible if you hike from 5th Bridge to 3rd Bridge (south to north). Following this direction you immediately cross the river and begin your accent into the canyon. At the beginning the river is quit wide but becomes very narrow at places where it cuts through deep canyon walls curved out by this river. There is a point where are large percentage of the water that flows in this portion of the river comes out of holes in the canyon walls. This water comes from Medicine Lake and seeps underground until it emerges into this canyon. This is very interesting to see. The further north, the canyon gets deep and narrower so you find yourself looking down at the water.

Tips: hike from 5th to 3rd bridge and then back on the trail. It’s much longer walk back if you go all the way out the road and walk that back. You only need to go as far as 3rd bridge. Go early, for this is a very popular hike and can get very crowded later in the day and when tour bus let out.

Maligne Canyon & Lake – This is a very nice short hike, which took us about 1-2 hours round trip with many photo ops along the way. The views are better and more visible if you hike from 5th Bridge to 3rd Bridge (south to north). Following this direction you immediately cross the river and begin your accent into the canyon. At the beginning the river is quit wide but becomes very narrow at places where it cuts through deep canyon walls curved out by this river. There is a point where are large percentage of the water that flows in this portion of the river comes out of holes in the canyon walls. This water comes from Medicine Lake and seeps underground until it emerges into this canyon. This is very interesting to see. The further north, the canyon gets deep and narrower so you find yourself looking down at the water.

Tips: hike from 5th to 3rd bridge and then back on the trail. It’s much longer walk back if you go all the way out the road and walk that back. You only need to go as far as 3rd bridge. Go early, for this is a very popular hike and can get very crowded later in the day and when tour bus let out.

Downstream Bar – This nice, un-crowded pub is in the basement off the main road facing the railroad tracks. Friendly people, pool table. Couches, several televisions. The menu is mainly burgers and typical bar food but they did offer a couple main items like steaks and salmon. We sampled several bar type items (we split a bunch of food - a Caesar salad, chicken wings with honey garlic and barbecue, onion rings and nachos) and found them all pretty good. Waitress was nice but like most places here the service wasn’t great. Very pleasant though. The food and drink were expensive like everywhere else in the National Parks. – This nice, un-crowded pub is in the basement off the main road facing the railroad tracks. Friendly people, pool table. Couches, several televisions. The menu is mainly burgers and typical bar food but they did offer a couple main items like steaks and salmon. We sampled several bar type items (we split a bunch of food - a Caesar salad, chicken wings with honey garlic and barbecue, onion rings and nachos) and found them all pretty good. Waitress was nice but like most places here the service wasn’t great. Very pleasant though. The food and drink were expensive like everywhere else in the National Parks.


Tip - ask around for a coupon sheet with coupons to area sops - there was one this summer for 15% off food at the Downstream Bar

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park, Canada

We enjoyed Miette Hot Springs ~ there are two heated pools, one that is more shallow for kids/families and one that was deeper so there tended to be more adults in this pool. The water temperature was quite hot, they advertise that it is 40oC (108oF), but it did not feel that hot. There is a slight sulphur smell, but you get use to it quickly. There are also two cool water. There is ample deck space for sun bathing and also a small covered which provided some needed shade. There are not enough chairs on the deck versus the number of people in the pools, so you have to move quickly and show not mercy when a chair become available. There is no food or drink allowed in the pool area, but they do have a small cafĂ© off to one side of the pool where drinks and snacks can be purchased and eaten there. There are lockers for a one-time use for $1, and you can rent swim suits and towels. The women’s locker room had individual dressing areas, unlike the men’s which was one large room. Both locker rooms had open communal showering areas.

There are a couple of hikes that originate from the main parking lot. One goes to the ruins of the original bath house. You can walk through the remaining walls and foundation. Information plaques and pictures are provide that provide the history. Further up the trail you can go to the hot springs source of this original bath house.

Tip: Bring a lunch for there is a nice picnic area right off the parking lot.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Drive down the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Canada


Drive down the Icefields Parkway – It is 100 km from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield and Icefield Centre at the Athabasca Glacier. We noticed in this area that the clouds build as the day goes on so we purposely choose a morning that was clear to take this drive to insure the views would be at there best. As luck had it, the day we picked was cloudless so the views were perfect. We started the trip traveling down Hwy93a. It’s a nice forested drive initially, then the mountain views begin. Hwy 93a is small and in the morning has very few cars so it would be a good place to see wildlife. At the end of Hwy 93a is Athabasca Falls where we stopped and viewed the falls along with all the bus tour groups. Beautiful falls and a must see even if it’s crowded. We then continued on the main highway through the parkway. With not a cloud in the sky we drove south and stopped at almost ever turn-out to view the glaciers, mountains and valleys. We finally stopped at the Icefields Center. We had our picnic lunch outside on their patio which faces the glacier field…what an amazing sight. The displays on the lower level are a must to understand and appreciate the history and geology of the area. We then loaded up the truck and headed back to Jasper. The whole trip took 5-6 hours round trip which includes spending 1-1.5 hours at the ice center.

Tips:
1) If you get to the ice center and the cafeteria is not busy, then take advantage of it for tour buses come in frequently and in an instant there are huge lines of people trying to get food.
2) Take the drive in the morning because it seems clouds build towards the afternoons.
3) Pack a lunch to along the way at the many picnic areas off the road or at the ice center. You can avoid the tour bus crowds altogether then.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jasper Townsite & Something Else Restaurant, Jasper National Park

Something Else Restaurant is mostly Greek cuisine but also served other fare like Pizza – which is what Brad had and was very good. The restaurant was nice decorated and not busy for lunch on this day. Suzanne had spanikopita which she liked. Brad’s 10 inch pizza was thick crusted and more than one person could/should eat, so it’s definitely two meals. Prices were typical for the Jasper area…on the high side. In summary, the food was good and service was just okay. After lunch we meandered the Jasper townsite – there are lots of restaurants, tourist shops, etc… the typical fare one would expect. There is a library, school recreation centre, two laudromats, a couple grocery stores, about three gas stations. The main shipping starts at Patricia street and works its way in a couple streets – not hard to miss at all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Edith Cavell hike, Jasper National park, Canada




It’s a long drive up a windy road to the parking lot where the trails begin. No trailers or campers are allowed, but a parking lot is provided at the beginning of this road to unhook your trailers and leave them. This is a very, very popular hiking area so go early in the day so you are done by mid-day when the people arrive in doves. The parking lot at the trail heads becomes full quickly and the road leading to the parking lot becomes lind with cars on both sides (not a very natural sight).

The main attraction is this canyon are the views of Angel Glacier hanging over the mountain melting into the lake below which is mainly covered by the Edith Cavell glacier. The lake has a light milky green color, and at the time of our hike contain several icebergs. The first hiking area focuses on hiking over mounds of rock piles left by the extinct glacier to the lake with your return via the valley floor back to the parking lot. These trails are totally open, so plan accordingly. The other trail in the valley follows a rock pile ridge on the south side of the valley. This gives you views of the lake from the mountain wall side and more views of Angel glacier. There is an ice cave to explore at the lakes edge as well. Opposite the mountain wall and Angel glacier is the hike up the north side of the canyon. This hike climbs 1500 feet in elevation and gives you great views of Angel glacier and the lake from above. This hike winds through several alpine meadows that are home to Woodland Caribou and Grizzlies. Both are very rare to see in this area. The hike has several loops of varying difficulty that you can take going to three distinctive lookouts. If time is short, we recommend at hiking to the first or the lower lookout and if time permits the second lookout is a little further…definitely worth the extra time. The third lookout is at the top of the canyon and much further from these first two viewpoints. The top lookout will give you views of the entire valley/canyon and other surrounding mountains. All this hiking is in alpine areas at or above the tree line so there are many great view points.

TIP - get here early to avoid the massive crowds. No dogs allowed on these trails for they scare the endangered Caribou (of course do these park warden think the massive amounts of cars and people in this area have no impact on these animals…you decide.)




Willa Caruso Steakhouse and Bar – We were looking for something light to eat, and came upon this restaurant. The hostesses were very nice, however our waiter was just okay, not very attentive and the food was the same – just okay. They have outside balcony seating, bar seating (where we sat), and a dinning area - all areas order from the same menu. It’s a steakhouse so maybe we just didn’t get the right food (onion soup, pita & hummus plate). – We were looking for something light to eat, and came upon this restaurant. The hostesses were very nice, however our waiter was just okay, not very attentive and the food was the same – just okay. They have outside balcony seating, bar seating (where we sat), and a dinning area - all areas order from the same menu. It’s a steakhouse so maybe we just didn’t get the right food (onion soup, pita & hummus plate).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Fort Jasper Point Trail, Jasper National Park, Canada

This trail to the view point starts right at the parking lot and you immediately go up a series of wooden stairs. Then the trail continues up stairs built into the rocks, small forested areas until you reach the viewpoint (about a mile maybe a little longer). From the viewpoint at the top you have a 360 degree view of the entire valley. It is amazing…you can see the parkway mountains in the distance, all the mountains around Jasper, the entire Jasper townsite and all the glacier water colored rivers that run through the valley. This hike is moderate and is about 2-3 miles round trip. This hike is a must especially if you don’t have a lot of time in the area. The parking lot is also a collection place for commercial and private river rafters and kayakers. So it’s interesting to watch them land and load up the big rafts. Tip: wear hard soled shoes for there are jagged rocks on part of the trail. Bigger tip: go on a clear day for the best views of the distance mountains.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada


There are tons of campgrounds in Jasper and Banff, and Whistler Campground in Jasper is the largest by far, with over 600 sites. In fact, it seemed too big for the staff, as many rules (such as bare camping) were not enforces. “Bare camping” is maintaining a bare campsite – having all food, water, etc.. in a hard-sided car or trailer, since bears have been seen in the campground. We did find out that you will need reservations here over any long 3-day weekend, but not necessarily during any other time of the summer, unless you want hook-ups. As with the other Canadian National Park campgrounds, there were washrooms and hot showers provided, as well as fire pits and firewood. The very cool thing about Whistler Campground is the herd of elk that frequent the campground – in fact, they often came into our site to eat and would walk within 4 feet’ of us when we would be enjoying the evening outside or they slept under the low spruce branches near our trailer.

Tip - WIFI is available at the public library and the time of this writing was $2.50 for one hour or you can buy a library membership for $15 which will get you an hour of WIFI free each day. You’ll get a password the first time you pay your $2.50, and they didn’t seem to change the password the next day when we went back and sat in the parking lot………

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