Monday, 1 October 2018

Canada trip September 2018. Part 2. Niagara Falls




Tuesday 18th September

We struggled out of our hotel room at 4:45 am trying not to wake up all the other guests and took the lift to the lobby for the 5 am airport shuttle. All was on time and we were at the check-in for a 7:30 take off with Air Canada to Toronto. A 3 hour flight landed us in Toronto, Ontario and warmth! It was 25 degrees and quite a change from the 3 degrees we’d left in Calgary.

We had a private sedan transfer booked as part of the travel package and the Niagara Airbus Company had a super black limo waiting for us and our driver took us the hour and a half ride around the shores of Lake Ontario to Niagara.



We checked into the Crowne Plaza hotel right on the side of the Niagara Falls tourist area, an older style hotel built in the 1920’s and oozing style, character and decadence.


Despite being told by our Trailfinders representative that “all rooms have a Falls view” ours had a view of the car park!
So it was back down to the lobby and see if we could change rooms, sadly none available that night but the promise of one tomorrow morning so as all we wanted was a shower, meal and a sleep we just pulled the curtains on the car park before having a table for two at their Steak Primehouse restaurant on the 10th floor. This time we were treated to a table in front of a huge window overlooking both Falls …. Amazing!

Evening meal with a view from the Crowne Plaza "Prime Steakhouse" restaurant on the 10th floor.


Wednesday 19th September

After breakfast at another table with a view we had a Bellboy call at the room to take us to our new room … this was all very well organized and he even had our new electronic key passes in his pocket. He took all our cases and whispered to us that this was going to be a fantastic room!
We now moved to the 11th floor, a Penthouse Suite with 2 rooms, a bathroom and a balcony all with one of the best views in Niagara. In fact I think it was the best in the hotel and we had till 11 the following day to “milk it”!

Knowing we were settled we had coffee in the sunshine on the balcony and watched the tourist boats going up to the falls. Our rooms also looked directly across the Rainbow bridge to the Customs booths at the US border.

The view from our balcony... room 1107.


We decided we’d get down there in the early afternoon for the boat trip. The “Maid of the Mist” boat with its people dressed in their blue coveralls runs from the American side of the river whilst the Hornblower Cruises and their red coveralls run from our Canadian side.

Totally geared up to the needs of the millions of tourists they serve we bought our tickets at an electronic terminal and took the elevator down to the river level.
Handed our red waterproof coverall we joined the boat, me with my camera wrapped in a Tesco bag along with numerous hankies and towels to keep it dry and the lens clean.







It was another glorious day and as we boarded the boat the sun was shining against a blue sky.
The boat first went up alongside the American Falls before going head on into the mist and spray of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
It didn’t disappoint!







The power of the water despite it being the end of summer was incredible and it took a huge amount of power to hold the boat into the falls for several minutes before turning and letting the other guests see the American Falls on our return.

In typical Canadian style when we went ashore we sat in a café area, drank a beer and listened to a live act singing in the sunshine…. Class!

The rest of the day saw me running around taking photos from every conceivable angle whilst Linda watched from the balcony enjoying the downtime and the opulence.





One of the tunnel lookouts from behind the falls.



A final shot from the balcony.


The evening followed with our last meal of the trip and we didn’t go any farther from the hotel Prime Steakhouse restaurant… and boy what a meal!
I went for the fillet steak and Linda had the lamb chops, a nice bottle of red Pinot Noir, finished off with a desert of Southern Comfort on the rocks!

Thursday 20th September

Awoke to an incredible view of the Falls from the bed!
Breakfast again on the 10th floor and then some time drinking coffee on the balcony of our room 1107.
Highly recommended…. Forget the credit card bill till I get home!

Sadly had to vacate our room at 11 am and then hang around till 1.35 when our guy from Niagara Airbus came to collect us and transport us to Toronto airport for our flight home.
The driver was Dimitrious, a Canadian Greek who was such a nice guy and a gentleman!
An uneventful trip back to the airport where we checked in and flew back to Heathrow at 6:35, landing back in the UK at 6:30 on Friday morning, as we were 5 hours behind time the flight was just over 6 hours … a mere hop for us!

Friday 21st September

Landed at 6:30 ish, collected our cases and caught the hotel shuttle back to the Crowne Plaza and fired up the car and then drove the 4 and a half hours home!

Good to be home!



Saturday, 8 September 2018

Canada trip September 2018 .... from my diary!


2018 Holiday to Calgary.

Just a quick transcript of my notes as we travel.....

 

Wednesday 29th August 2018.

We drove up to London Heathrow in the afternoon after taking Maya to the kennels.
It took 4 and a half hours with fairly light traffic until we got to within 50 miles of our destination when roadworks slowed us down a bit.

Our destination today was to be the Crowne Plaza hotel near to junction 4 of the M4 and very handy for Heathrow airport. They also have a good car parking package available and plenty of parking spaces to the rear of the hotel. We’d even gone past their usual 21 day “park & go” package and booked 23 days!

Checked into the hotel, showered and then a lovely evening meal in which we both had their delicious lamb shanks special. Ideal start to the holiday!

Thursday 30th August.

A leisurely breakfast before we headed in to the airport (prepaid when booking the hotel!).
Then my first mistake of the trip….. decided to use the Hotel Hoppa shuttle service in to terminal 2 instead of our usual, but more expensive taxi.

I knew that I needed to get the number H1 for our terminal and when a bus arrived we climbed aboard with all our bags and I asked the driver if this was the correct bus for terminal 2. Oh yes he said!

Oh no! was what he should have said as we pulled up at Terminal 5 and the driver just gets out and starts to wander off. When challenged he says “you’ve got the wrong bus mate, but you can catch the Heathrow Express back to terminal 2 from just along there”!

Sod that for a game of soldiers! Fortunately we had allowed plenty of time but didn’t fancy trying to catch a train so jumped into the next taxi on the line and said “Terminal 2 please”!

A few quid worse off but probably the same as if we’d had a taxi from the hotel in the first place!

Checked into our Air Canada flight and started the long wait!

Plane was pretty much on time and we boarded at about 12:20 and took off at 13: 10.

A reasonable amount of leg room in Economy class, some good movies to watch, decent music to listen to but the food was poor! Main meal was a Coleslaw starter followed by chicken in a mashed potato soup affair with a biscuit for dessert. All washed down with a ‘chilled’ red wine!
 Not my best airline meal!

However 8 ½ hours later we touched down in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Passport control & immigration was pretty straightforward and we collected our bags from the carousel and left the terminal in search of a lift to our hotel.

I called the hotel from the “Traveler assistance” desk and they told me a shuttle would be with us in 15 minutes. Maybe nearer 30 minutes but no matter, we were whisked away to the “Four Points by Sheraton Hotel at Calgary Airport”.
Checked in and after a good shower we were ready to eat once again!
A super meal in their restaurant and then an early night to try to make up for the 7 hours we’d travelled back in time.

Friday 31st August

A full Canadian breakfast was a good start to the day before we took a taxi a short ride to the Cruise Canada RV Rental centre a few blocks away.
Fortunately as we’d hired before we didn’t need to watch the “orientation” video and our particulars were already logged onto their website so by 10:30 or so we were out on the road and headed for Safeway to top up with provisions and fuel.

We also took in a visit to the liquor store a few doors along from the supermarket to get a few light beers and some nightcaps for around the campfire!
Then a visit to Walmart to buy a large “comforter” type throw as an extra to our sleeping bags knowing we were headed for the mountains and the likelihood of it being cold at night and the early mornings.
We usually manage to buy some charcoal and a small portable barbecue there but they’d run out of barbecues so a visit to the “Home Depot” across the road which looked almost identical to one of our B&Q’s and we were in business.

That was all the shopping we could stick for now so it was head west on the Trans Canadian Highway toward the Rocky mountains.

From the Bow valley campground


I’d pre-booked a campsite for the first night at the Bow Valley Provincial Park and we were there in about an hour. Not the best pitch we’ve had but it was Labour Day long weekend and we had struggled to book anywhere.
The site was along a track which
 hosted a strong North west wind and as we were so tired we decided against sitting outside to eat and instead had some soup and sandwiches inside before taking an early night.

Saturday 1st September

Rain overnight had beat against the walls of the motorhome but it had stopped by the time we’d finished breakfast and took a walk along the Bow river in the hope of seeing some wildlife.
A juvenile Bald Eagle, a Spotted Sandpiper, an American Robin and a stunning male Varied Thrush all made fleeting views but the landscape across the river with the mountain background was the true winner!

At about 11 we left and headed towards Banff where we also had a campground booked for the remainder of the holiday weekend. We stopped en-route at the Cascade Ponds and did a quick tour around the Lake Minnewanka Loop taking in the stunning scenery .

Cascade Ponds, Banff


On the way down the hill from the Johnson Lake junction we came across a family of elk in a meadow close to the tree line. We stopped and watched them for a while but there were a few people already there and a couple of young women were getting way too close the animals, a couple of female elk with youngsters, and they were forcing the animals to retreat into the forest. I guess better that than getting charged by them which was another likely outcome of their stupidity for getting too close to wild animals.

Later in the afternoon we checked into the Tunnel Mountain Village 2 campsite, one of the large sites that sits in the area to the east of downtown Banff.

We fired up the campfire and finished the evening with our first steaks of the trip cooked on an open log fire.
Sadly there is an alcohol ban on all the campsites for the 3 day weekend… unusual but nice to show we don’t really need it!

Sunday 2nd September.

Our body clocks still seem to be on UK time and we were up with the lark and out to the first tourist attraction by 8 am. It was just down the road where there are some Hoodoos on the hillside above the Bow River. I’d hiked down to these with Arran 27 years ago when we first visited this area. Now it was forbidden to go to them and we needed to view them from the fenced off area above.

A few good birds flying around the area including Raven, Dark Eyed Junco’s, Clarks Nutcracker, juvenile White-winged Crossbill and a few unidentified species.
Also good views of squirrel and photos of Chipmunks.

Chipmunk
Chipmunk


We then took a ride out to the other side of the town to the Vermillion Lakes scenic drive, a few miles alongside some beautiful lakes near to Highway 1.

Mostly ducks and Canada geese (although nowhere near as many as back in Cornwall!), a Great Blue Heron and a small wader that got attacked by a falcon and proceeded to hunker down on the gravel shore right next to our vehicle. I was thinking it could possibly have been a Baird’s Sandpiper but I’ll need to check my books on that one.

Possible Bairds Sandpiper

Later we went into Banff and had some lunch and a look around the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

By early afternoon it started to get really busy in town so after buying a few souvenirs for our granddaughters Skye & Lana we headed out to the countryside again.

A second drive around Lake Minnewanka and a stop for the views, then back to the campground to get the campfire lit and settle down for the evening.

Sausages and bacon over the log fire and then sit around the fire reading till dark, just as we’d planned.

Monday 3rd September

Woke to the sound of rain on the camper and sure enough it was heavy, luckily we’d planned a lazy day today as it is a “bank holiday” here for Labour Day so very busy.
Although it looks like the rain may have persuaded a few people to head off home early.
Also looks like it has snowed on the peaks as they’ve suddenly taken on a Xmas feel to them.
By about 11 am it started to clear and we went for a walk on one of the campground trails before lunch.
In the afternoon we decided to take another grand tour of the Banff area and did the Minnewanka Lake loop again and eventually saw a big bull elk with his harem in one of the meadows where the loop road joins the Interstate highway.

We then drove up the highway and off again at Vermillion Lakes where the sun had now come out and the area was looking fantastic.
I took a few landscape pictures until I spotted a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, a large wading bird which I managed to get fairly close to at the edge of the marsh and get a few decent shots.

Great Blue Heron
Greater Yellowlegs


Steaks on the barbecue with jacket potatoes done over the log fire were the finishing touch to the evening!

Tuesday 4th September.

Cold and sunny today with the shade temperature hovering around zero.
A brisk walk along the trail after breakfast and then it was move out of Banff time and heading North toward Lake Louise area.

We got off the main road and took the Bow Valley Parkway along parallel to Highway 1 and stopped at several places looking for wildlife but not finding it!

Despite it saying it was full we got ourselves booked in to the Lake Louise campground for the night and sat in the sun reading for a couple of hours. I also walked over to the Bow River just 75 meters away and photographed a couple of Goosander and some more stunning river scenery. A bit disconcerting was the bear footprints along the shoreline where I was standing!

Goosanders... although Mergansers to the locals!


After a bit of lunch and some more downtime we popped across to the village and filled up with petrol, did a bit of shopping and then decided to try to get up to Moraine Lake. We’d been up the hill towards it earlier but met “full” signs so thought by about 5 pm it may have thinned out. Sure enough we got up there and it was a place of incredible beauty.
The last time we were there was 27 years ago, it was noticeably busier and a bit more commercialized now but still an amazing place.

A
Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake


We aren’t going to bother with Lake Louise this trip as we’ve been there a few times befire and again a beautiful place but very commercialized…. And I hate that huge hotel… Chateau Lake Louise!

Back at the campground for 6:30 and ready to fire up the Barbecue for supper although no fire pit at this site so ,may not stay outside very late tonight as we’ve both got our thermals on already cos it’s bloody cold…. But then there are snowcapped mountains all around us in every direction!

Wednesday 5th September

We left the Lake Louise campground at about 8:30 and headed North on the Icefields Parkway, Highway 93 towards Jasper.
It was a beautiful clear morning and the first frost.
I stopped at the Bow Lake and took a few photos in the amazing morning sunshine… I remember being here on my birthday, 6th June, 27 years ago and the lake was then still frozen across!
Next up is a favourite place of mine, Peyto Lake, with its awesome glacial water colour and the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, a place to behold!
Sadly too many people now know of this special place and it was inundated with people at 9:30 in the morning!

Peyto Lake


The car park has been moved farther away from the viewpoint and the path to the lookout is narrow, pitted and steep in places.
Once there it was a fight to get near the balcony of the lookout and then there were people who had gone around the front of the boardwalk and were venturing out onto the rocks and thus obscuring everyone else’s view!
The view however was as always, amazing but the people… forget it!

So onward North along the Icefields on what has been named as “one of the top ten scenic roads in the world”!
I’ve not seen the other 9 but they’d have to be good to come close to this spectacular place.

Many photo stops later we drove into Jasper National Park and booked into the Wapiti campground just a mile or so out of town. “Wapiti” is the native Canadian name for Elk.

Late afternoon we drove into town to get some groceries and whilst there decided to go to a restaurant and have a nice meal.
Then it was back to the campground and sit around the firepit for a few hours with a drink before bed.
Our site came equipped with its own fir tree in which a squirrel was dropping cones all around us and up to 5 Dark-eyed Juncos were extracting the seeds from those cones at our feet.

Squirrel
Squirrel


Thursday 6th September

As we left the site this morning we came across a small group of Elk amongst the camping pitches and I grabbed a few pictures from the vehicle.
We then drove out to Medicine Lake and then onto Maligne Lake in the hope of spotting some wildlife.
Sadly not a lot around, spectacular scenery as usual but very quiet on the animal front!
On our first trip here we came across a Grizzly walking down the middle of the road and we were all fortunate to watch as it just walked on past our van without a second glance at us.

Not today however and we returned nearer to Jasper and had lunch by Lake Annette in a lovely parkland area with elk roaming in the wooded area and I had great views of a Loon, A great Northern Diver to us in the UK.

Common Loon or Great Northern Diver to the UK folks


We headed back to camp for a quiet afternoon only to find a herd of elk walking and grazing along our campsite.
As I was getting a few photos Linda shouted to me and as I turned around I saw a large Bull Elk  walking straight through our pitch, beside our barbecue fire pit!

It didn’t pose very well but he was huge and then stood in the road and “bugled” his call just a few metres away from us.
Great to watch and I’d have been even more pleased if it had turned toward me for the photo!
However Linda and I were taking no chances and keeping close to the campervan just in case we needed to get out of his way quickly!

Bull Elk
Bull Elk
Elk
Elk around camp
Female Elk
 
Steak and salad tonight on the barby and then sitting in front of the campfire till dark!


Friday 7th September


We left Jasper and the Icefields behind today and headed West along the Yellowhead Highway into Mount Robson Park.
Stopping at the park HQ & Visitor centre which overlooks Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
After picking up some info on campgrounds etc. we drove on toward Valemount and then on to Blue River where we got a campsite with electric hookups close to a restaurant and the highway.
Not the most salubrious place but it was raining and we felt we’d driven far enough for one day. However it had a laundry and internet access so we could catch up with news at home and have some clean clothes!

A super meal at the nearby Saddle Mountain Restaurant which was in walking distance of the campground was just what we needed on a rainy evening.


Saturday 8th September

A day of heavy hearts for us as it would have been our daughter Alaina’s birthday today but sadly she has been gone over 20 years now and it still seems so very raw.
I do know however that she would be delighted that we are carrying on doing the things we all loved, she enjoyed touring in Canada and the USA as a child and we have been to many of the places that all 5 of us visited 27 years ago.

Today we headed farther south along Highway 5, the Yellowhead and got down as far as Clearwayer which is the only gateway to the Wells Gray Wilderness area and Provincial Park.

After getting some groceries at the store in Clearwater we headed up the Park entrance road to see if there were any camping vacancies in the Park.
After stopping at some fantastic viewpoints along the way we came to the Pyramid Mountain Campground and drove in at about lunchtime and found plenty of spaces.
We grabbed a nice site at No. 19 and then chatted with the Campground Operator, a friendly guy named Miles.
He gave us some info and then showed us around to a few of the best places.

Took us to the Dawson Falls overlook and then on to Helmcken Falls, a vast waterfall into a volcanic basin and Canada’s 4th highest waterfall.

Helmcken Falls


On our return to the campground we saw an animal at the roadside and Miles told us it was a Fisher, a member of the mustelid family and looking like something between a Martin and a Wolverine.
I managed to grab a few “snatch shots” as it ran across the track as another vehicle came the other way and didn’t slow up.
A first for me and Miles asked if we could e mail the photos to the Park Authorities as they are an unusual sighting in the area.

Fisher

Fisher


A lovely evening around the campfire as it was warm and dry and I had a good fire going. It was only the first day that the total Fire Ban had been lifted in British Columbia because they’d had so many big forest fires this summer.
Despite a lot of looking still no bear sightings and this area is supposed to be one of the Black Bear strongholds!


Sunday 9th September

We carried on up the Park road toward Clearwater Lake and the Falls Creek campground.
Stopping along the way for photos at some amazing viewpoints along the Clearwater River.

Tried to stop at a place called Bailey’s Chute where I was told that the salmon were leaping but it was busy and we couldn’t get the RV in the car park, so we drove on the few miles to the campground which was absolutely beautiful.



We booked into pitch No.52 which overlooked the river and just got our camping chairs out and had dinner looking at the river and hoping to see some wildlife.

Mammals seem to be difficult to see at the moment although we did see some good birds, numerous Goosanders, Harlequin Ducks, a Pileated Woodpecker which came close to my call after he was calling on the other side of the river, and an Osprey carrying a fish in its talons.

We walked along the riverbank in afternoon to 2 sets of waterfalls in some of the most peaceful and tranquil places we’d been to on this trip.

Falls Creek

Falls Creek


Unfortunately it came to rain in the afternoon and as I type this it is still wet outside so it look as though there will be no campfire tonight and the steaks may have to go back into the fridge!

Well they didn’t go back in the fridge but were cooked indoors wedged into the frying pan!
Delicious they were too!



Monday 10th September

We left Falls Creek and drove a few miles back the road to Bailey’s Chute where we were able to park today.
A short hike down the path to the Clearwater River through the forest and some huge Cedars and we were at the narrow “chute” where apparently a Park employee named Bailey had drowned below the falls many years ago.

An Osprey circled over us and landed in the top of a pine over the deep pool below the rapids.

Osprey

We stood on the boarded overlook just a few metres from the falls and after a short while caught sight of our first Chinook Salmon trying to leap upstream. The water levels were fairly low but there was still quite a torrent running through the narrow section of the river and the salmon were really fighting to gain any foothold as they fought their way onward to their spawning grounds.
Someone remarked to me that these fish had swam about 1000 kms from the Pacific Ocean. I need to get my maps out when I get home to check that out!

After a few failures I eventually managed to get some shots of the salmon leaping through the white water.

Chinook Salmon


We then drove down out of Wells Gray Park to Clearwater where I filled up the motorhome with fuel before we headed down out of the mountains towards the Shuswap Lake area in the Okanagan.

Drove into Kamloops and looked at a campsite but it was right by an industrial estate so we moved on toward Salmon Arm along the shores of the Shuswap Lake which is absolutely huge with 1000 kms of shoreline!
After missing the turning for the first bit of shoreline and campgrounds we struck off the Highway 1 to another section of shore and drove for about 30 mins until we came across a decent looking campground beside a marina and restaurant called Finz at Blind Bay.
A bit expensive but fortunately it was now low season and a reduced rate and it had full hookups (water, power & sewer) plus good wi-fi access.

We took a meal this evening at the restaurant across the road at the marina and it was excellent and the place was really smart and the people welcoming and friendly.
We ate on an outdoor verandah which had a roof with heating and power controlled bug screens that came down as the sun dropped below the horizon and also shielded us from a torrential downpour.
The place was classy with a great ambience and to cap it all I could bird watch as I ate…. Just metres from our table we watched Red-necked Grebes, Goosanders, Common Loon (Great Northern Divers to us) & to cap it all an Osprey dived in between the boat moorings and caught a fish…. All topped off with a good bottle of Merlot!

Red Necked Grebe


Tuesday 11th September

A Northern Flicker (type of N.American woodpecker) outside the motorhome this morning!

Then forever onwards … hoping for a quieter day today as we drove for several hours yesterday so planning on going only as far as Sicamous at the far end of the Shuswap valley before the Highway starts climbing back up into the Rockies again.
We stopped a few times along the lake shore for coffee etc and finally booked into the Sicamous KOA on the outskirts of the town. KOA or Kampground of America is a franchise of campgrounds both in the uSA & Canada and offer a high standard of services. We have used dozens of different ones over the 27 years of visiting North America and rarely do they disappoint.
This one lived up to their promos and was beautifully kept with tidy grounds, clean hot showers, a store and even a swimming pool which I declined!

We got lucky as the hostess of the site told us of a bridge just 5 kms up a service road where we could see the Sockeye Salmon run in order to breed after travelling 600 kms from the pacific Ocean.
They take the Fraser River from the Pacific at Vancouver, then into the North Thompson River, then the Sushwap Lake & the Eagle River and eventually in this case a small creek called Yard Creek that goes under the Highway 1 and the service roads where we parked.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon

There were upwards of 80 salmon both dead and alive and all stages in between.
We’d seen this before in Alaska in 2015 but it is still vary hard to understand the life cycle of these magnificent fish.
There were pairs trying to spawn and males fighting amongst others so tired they were floundering about in inches of water.
You could just walk along and pull out 20 lbs fish with your bare hands. At its deepest the river was only about 18 inches but mostly just a few inches and the river was in a steep incline toward the mountains with the water there flowing quite fast.
It was very sad seeing all the dead and dying salmon however and despite being told a Black Bear was around feeding at this spot we failed to see it despite 3 separate visits.

Back on the campground I found some fantastic fungi, large Boletus type with a diameter of 14 inches on the cap, and lots of Shaggy Inkcaps all growing in a group.
There were lots of American Robins on the site and I counted 7 Turkey Vultures overhead plus a juvenile Bald Eagle.
The highlight of the birds however was a wader, I think a Juvenile Spotted Sandpiper, although it was very small so I’m not certain but it was feeding well around a puddle and a patch of open grass parkland. It allowed me some really close photo opportunities.

Juv Spotted Sandpiper

Juv Spotted Sandpiper


Burgers and bacon on the barbecue this evening with a couple of beers and then sat around a good campfire before bed.


Wednesday 12th September

We left Sicamous after another check for bears at the Sockeye Salmon site but no luck so we headed North east back up into the mountains towards Mount Revelstoke National Park.

We stopped in Revelstoke and picked up some groceries and went to the Visitors Centre and used their internet and picked up some brochures and maps.
Whilst filling up with fuel the Rocky Mountaineer train passed us heading up into the high peaks.

Another train passed us as we stopped en-route for coffee and Linda counted the payload…. 2 engines at the front hauling 85 trucks of what looked like coal, then another locomotive in the middle, then 84 more trucks and finally a locomotive at the rear, 169 fully laden trucks !

After Revelstoke we came into Glacier National Park, not to be confused to the one in Montana on the US – Canada border.
Torrential rain this afternoon so we decided to pitch up at our campground at about 3 pm at a National Park site, the Illecillewaet Glacier campground with 60 sites and no hookups and catch up on some reading & writing in the hope it may stop a bit later so we can fire up the BBQ.

Illecillewaet Glacier campground



Thursday 13th September

Well the rain stopped for a while so we could cook the steaks on the BBQ but it came back in bucket loads! It tipped it down all night and we were in a classic rain forest, halfway up a mountain and in amongst 100 ft Western Hemlocks. It certainly explains why there are so many rivers, lakes, waterfalls & trees!

This morning we had the heater on early after a disturbed night when Linda’s phone rang in the middle of the night with no-one there, then the rain was hammering the roof, and finally we heard something scratching around out by the BBQ. It was so dark I couldn’t see what was there and I certainly wasn’t going out looking… we are in Bear country, both Black & Grizzly bears!

Today we left Glacier and drove towards Golden and then on to the Highway 95 and Radium Hot Springs.
We travelled along parallel to the Columbia River and some amazing wetlands full of wildfowl.
It was 95 kms from Golden and the wetlands continued all the way and often were the width of the whole valley between the Purcell mountains and the Rockies.
This Columbia Wetland site is an internationally important Ramsar site.

We arrived in Radium at about 3 pm having put our watches forward an hour as we passed into another time zone and went from Pacific time to Mountain time … we are now 7 hours behind GMT.

Saw the Radium Hot Springs baths but it was cold and windy so thought twice about going for a dip!

Booked into the Redstreak campground, a Parks Canada site on the edge of the Kootenay National Park.
Sadly they’d had no rain here for a while so the campfire ban was still active and also they wouldn’t allow charcoal in the BBQ, only propane so we were forced to eat indoors this evening … having to use up our steaks before we go home …. and big ones at that!


Friday 14th September

We left the Redstreak campground just before 11 and headed south along the Columbia valley, just taking in the views and looking (in vain) for any wildlife.

I had a campground in mind on the Kootenay river but when we got there it was nowhere to be found, I think it did exist on my sat-nav but no longer in existence in reality.

Hey ho, we had some lunch and then decided to try the Lakeshore Resort and Campground near to Windermere and Invermere.

We hit lucky as it was right on the shoreline and with very few guests so it was quiet and peaceful with a very welcoming hostess, Anna.

The camp is owned and operated by the Akisqnuk First Nation people and we were made very welcome.

I did a bit of birdwatching along the shoreline and in the park which is beautifully kept with lots of trees and shrubs amongst the firepits and picnic tables.

On the shoreline I photographed 3 waders which I think are Least Sandpipers… on a migration stop!

Least Sandpiper


In the park I came across a Northern Flicker and then found a male Downy Woodpecker which allowed me to get very close, he was then joined by a female in the same tree.

Male Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

After that I spotted a huge Pileated Woodpecker, the largest in North America and that was then joined by a second bird, with a third calling from another tree.

 
Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker


Burgers and bacon on the BBQ tonight and then sat around a good log fire in the firepit till bed.

Saturday 15th September

A few birds around this morning, with American Robin feeding on berries and also what I think is a Hermit Thrush. Downy woodpeckers also around along with numerous Dark-eyed Junco’s.

We left mid morning and drove back to Radium where we filled up with fuel and headed East through the Kootenay National Park towards Banff.

Incredible scenery all the way and some high mountain passes and deep valleys.
Evidence of the terrible summer forest fires that ravaged the park, especially before we peaked out of the park.

The Kootenays

As we went over the Continental Divide there was fresh snow on the ground and the trees and it was bitterly cold.
We cruised down the hill towards the Highway 1 and then took the Bow Valley Parkway back into Banff.

Booked into Tunnel Mountain campsite (again), not our favourite but with many closing and us needing power hookup it is an ideal choice.

The timber was damp and I struggled to get the fire going but the steaks were doing ok on the charcoal BBQ.
As we ate our meal it came into heavy rain so just as well the fire didn’t come to much as we couldn’t have sat out anyway!

I gave the BBQ and the leftover charcoal to a young couple camping next door who had driven their motorhome from Seattle (A Cruise America rental) as we intend to eat out tomorrow and I would have had to throw it away on Monday when we hand the vehicle back.



Sunday 16th September

We awoke to a white landscape this morning, after heavy rain when we went to bed it had changed to snow and there was about an inch of snow everywhere. Fortunately because of the rain the roads were fine.





It did however get us wondering whether to stay the last night in the mountains at Banff or head back into the city as we have to hand the camper back tomorrow in Calgary.
We checked the weather forecast which said more rain so have decided to take a chance and stay.

Took a drive along the Bow Valley Parkway late morning and did some snowy landscape pics although there was no light, just a low oppressive cloud.




Drove back into Banff at about 2 pm and went to a restaurant for a nice meal, the thought of having a fire or a BBQ in this weather was too much to bear. We have now given away our BBQ, which we bought when we arrived, along with the charcoal, a couple of frozen steaks and some burgers!
Gave them to a young couple at the next door campsite who were travelling in a Cruise America RV up from Seattle.

Late this afternoon we cleaned some of the camper, I cleaned out the back outside storage area and Linda the inside.
The plan is to pack our cases tomorrow morning, empty all the waste tanks, get some fuel and propane and head into Calgary to hand back the rental unit before 3pm. Then to get their taxi to our airport hotel for the night and then fly across to Toronto early on Tuesday morning.


Monday 17th September


Well today is the end of the first section of the trip… bring on the rest!

Cleaned the motorhome inside and packed all our stuff back into our suitcases, emptied all the holding tanks here at Tunnel Mountain campground and now ready for the drive back into Calgary.

As we left the outskirts of Banff and joined the south bound Highway 1 toward Calgary I suddenly shouted “Bear!”….. so typical, not seen one in 17 days but when I’ve packed all my camera gear away and can’t stop on the interstate there’s a Black Bear just coming down the side of a limestone bluff beside the highway.

As if to compound the feeling of “missing out” we then passed a Coyote running along parallel to the road and once again unable to stop!

We started to meet a lot of traffic as we entered Calgary but it was moving OK and our destination was to the North of the city near the airport so we were able to stay on the main highway till almost the end when we turned off, following the sat nav and rolled up at the Cruise Canada depot at about 1 pm.
We’d booked an “EarlyBird” deal so that allowed us to have a later return, up to 3 pm which cuts out the stress of trying to drive into the city by 10 am.
The hand back went fairly easy, a bit of a query about how many miles we’d done, I bought a 2000 kms package and knew we’d gone over a bit but the company said it was 2650 kms but I’d had it on the trip odometer an knew it was 2400 ish.
Anyway I stood my ground and eventually the manager went through his records for the third time and noticed a previous entry was missing some mileage and came around to my view that I was correct!

A taxi then took us to the Four Points hotel nearby where we checked in for the second time on this trip.

A quick shower and then a nice meal in the restaurant before crashing out on the bed till early evening.
 An opportunity to catch up online and to watch the news on TV before turning in and getting alarmed up for a 4 am call.