Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Coast to Coast

We were on the 1.00 pm ferry at Tsawassen and walking around the U Vic campus by 3:30. I don't have the exact number in front of me but we've traveled a little less than 8,000 km in the past 3 weeks. What a trip.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Along the BC/Washington Border

We’ve spent the last two days on Hwy 3 winding through the Kootenay boundary and then the northern Cascades, anywhere from 1 to 30 km north of the US border. It’s getting repetitive using the words great and beautiful but there you go. We stayed in Osoyoos last night. The home to Canada’s only pocket desert. The claim is it’s a misplaced piece of the Sonora desert in California, and while it doesn’t look as dry as that did. (we drove in to town in a heavy shower, May being the wettest month) it does have a similar, if a little less barren, feel and look. Except that the Okanogan runs through the middle of it, forming Osoyoos lake at this point, and irrigation has made the desert bloom with orchards and vineyards.

Today we drove up the Similkameen valley and then down the Skagit to Chilliwack. It was a marvel and a surprise.

As we got father from the rockies and closer to the populated section of BC we expected the scenery to calm down but it didn’t. The similkameen valley is amazing. We stumbled upon this empty campground while loking for a place to let Elly run. Just above it was a broad sandy glacial terrace with an amazing variety of wildflowers, views all around of open forest and talus slopes, and a wide open place to chase sticks.

By the time we were heading down the Skagit valley we were back in the thick BC forest and stopped for another walk in the forest and over the bridge in the Cascade recreation area.

Tomorrow we’re on to Vancouver Island.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Friday and Saturday in B.C.

Friday was overcast all day and raining for most of it. First day like that since Ottawa, so no complaints, and it presented some new looming images of the mountains, the pictures don’t do it justice.

For that matter I’m not feeling like the words are covering it either. Counting Saturday, which I'm about to write up as well, we’ve now had 4 days of touring through the mountains. Long uphills, long downhills straight or winding, rain and sun, up to 20 degrees down to 7 but always this great imposing presence. Soaring thousands of feet immediately above or plunging below or distant peaks that go on forever. It’s been great. Anyway, we head north from Golden along the western shoulder of the Rockies looking across at the Selkirk range of the Columbia mountains.

The trench between continues all the way south to Mexico even though the Columbia river runs north, curls around the Selkirks and only then goes south to the US in the next trench to the west.
The Selkirks are home to Glacier National Park and it’s famous Roger’s Pass. We stopped at the information centre in the middle of the pass and and got an amazing description of the railroad, the constant huge avalanches and the remote back country full of glaciers. These are all at least a half day hike up the mountains. My excuse is either the rain or that it would have been to much for Elly. As we head down the western side of the Selkirks we stop at a couple of old growth forests. They are interior temperate rainforests with beautiful huge Redwood and Hemlock trees.

We arrive in Revelstoke early enough to tour the railway museum. We’ve basically been following the rail line since Ottawa so it’s become more significant and interesting every day.
Sarah and Rory, and their kids Nelson and Alexandra, welcome us for dinner and a room for the night. Norah has stickers and for the kids and books to read and so immediately wins their hearts.

Revelstoke is another town with a really comfortable feeling. This time we have the advantage of touring the downtown farmer’s market with Sarah, Rory and the kids as companions. This is the first place since Ottawa (well maybe Winnipeg) with what I’d consider normal urban plants. Almost, but not quite Halifax. Seems to be all ahead of Halifax but maybe (I hope) that’s just because we’ve been gone so long. Feels like we’ve been in wilder green spaces for quite a while now.
Back on the road we’ve decided to head south. Roughly following the Columbia river with the highway switching over to the smaller Slocan valley for a while. Beautiful mixed softwood forests reaching up almost to the tops of the slightly less forbidding mountains.

Down by the rivers or reservoir lakes we’ve started to see some rich looking farmland along with luxuriant forest. We lucked into to a dog loving motel owner here in Castlegar. She looked Ely over, approved and gave us her special unit with a picture window lookin in to the woods and down to the Columbia river. On to the Okanogan tomorrow.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Banff to Golden. Only 200 km

At first Banff seems like too much of the popular tourist town it is. Too expensive, too slick and too many people, even if that’s just for May and just compared to our other stops.

Then Elly and I get startled by the deer, also out for a morning stroll downtown, and later the sun shines and every direction you look from the riverside greenspace the mountains and forests are brilliant, we chat with a nice couple from Washington DC and the place takes on its appropriate role. I think we need the “world class” Banff, with its multiple lanes of highways and train tracks through the Bow valley, its horde of trendy spots, and its visitors from all over the world. It lets the rest of the Rocky Mountain parkland, (and there’s a ton of it) be there own various degrees of wild, if that makes any sense.
Anyway we pulled out around 10.00 and leisurely toured outside town and along the more casual Bow Valley Parkway (not the TCH) to Lake Louise.

It was cold and spattering there but by the time we were finding new wildflowers in BC’s Yoho National park it was sunny again.

The Kicking Horse river gorge there, with the TCH and rain tracks running through it is as impressive a gorge as I’ve ever seen. This parks “Hoodoo” section is closed and I’m guessing it’s because of a recent forest fire. The colours were like a painted mountain.

Golden is nestled between mountain in the valley where the Kicking Horse river meets the Columbia.

From the Icefield Parkway

Yesterday's network kept dying so here are a few more from that drive before I get on to today.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wow what a Day!

We thought we had been seeing some amazing scenery in the Prairies and Northern Ontario. And we had. Places like Kakabeka Falls just north of Thunder Bay, Winnipeg’s great city parks like at The Forks, Saskatchewan’s Cypress Provincial Park, and Alberta’s Brooks Provincial Park, to name a few, have all been stunningly beautiful. But today topped it all. We started off from Rocky Mountain House and traveled west through Nordegg and then into the Icefield Parkway that runs between Banff and Jasper National parks. This parkway was originally constructed (one lane to start) in the 1930’s by poor laborers using picks and shovels and paid at the rate of 20 cents per day. It opened in 1940 and has since been widened and improved. It is touted as “the highest and most spectacular road in North America” and it definitely lives up to the claim, at least as far as we know. We followed it west up to the Columbia Icefield and then all the way back down to Lake Louise. Before we ever got to the park the various stops looked over the start of the rockies and over a huge man-made lake called Abraham’s Lake. The water was relatively low which actually made for a surreality. All around where there had been more water in previous times, the shore was made up of a white surface, possibly rock or a fine gravel and it glowed. The water was that turquoise (or maybe vermillion) that we had previously only associated with the famous Lake Loiuse. It turns out that all the lakes around here are that wonderful colour. The icefields refer to the glaciers that still exist and show themselves all along the parkway at the tops of the mountains. We got to walk up to one of them. Chris has always been fascinated by how the glaciers came and went in our home province. Here we could see the actual moraines of gravel that were left by the glacier each time it advanced and retreated. There are signposts showing how far along it had been in 1908, 1924, all through the 50’s, 80’s and 90’s. If Chris was excited, Ellie was downright ecstatic! She absolutely loves snow and the mountains. She ran and rolled up and down the hill, well at least as far as her extend-a-leash would allow. Over the course of the day, we also saw a fair amount of wildlife including a coyote, a moose, a deer, and a couple of bears. Tonight we are in Banff. And since it is too expensive to stay here long (especially with a dog) we went right away up to the Banff Springs Hotel to have a look. The hotel is imaginative, expansive, and is situated in the most beautiful possible setting. We walked around comparing menus in their multiple restaurants and ended up having a light meal in their Grape Room, actually a wine bar.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday – Medicine Hat to Rocky Mountain House

As beautiful as everything has been, we both felt that certain anticipation about tomorrow’s travels when the Rockies first came into view as we drove west from Olds just south of Red Deer (too hazy for a photo) and on to Rocky Mountain House. We finished our time in the Prairies with a walk in a pretty park on the TCH, full of birds like this Barn Swallow,

and then north to Drumheller to see the Hoodoos in the Alberta Badlands.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Shaunavan to Medicine Hat

Norah this time. I've always wondered what the Prairies would be like. We stayed at a place 2 nights ago that is the home town of W.O. Mitchell. My image from reading "Who has Seen the Wind?" was of a very dry, dusty, and windy town and landscape. While we did see a couple of tumbleweeds, the landscape isn't dry for the most part. I mentioned earlier that there is a pond for every duck. We found out today that they are not ponds at all, they are slews (spelling?). Some nice people from Herbert Saskatchewan corrected us on that one. The look off (called a Butte) gives a rare perspective of the Prairies to the north and east.

Today we also learned that what we had thought were deer (see pictures from yesterday) are actually antelope. Fairly early this morning I noticed what looked like road-kill and was trying to identify the dead animal when it stood up and looked right at me! It was a fox just out sunning himself at the side of the road. We figure that it can't be very hard work being a predator of those small prairie dogs as they are so plentiful.

Even the hawks don't have to go far. They sit on a fence post at the side of the highway and just wait for one to run under their noses, I mean beaks. The scenery in southern Saskatchewan is stunning and we pretty much had the road to ourselves making rubber-necking quite acceptable. Even if another car does come along, you can see them from miles away and get out of the way.

Try a photo from yesterday