Archive for Jasper

Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta

July 26, 2008

This email will probably be blasphemy to some…but I didn’t dig Banff nor Lake Louise.

I totally made the right call the other day by staying in Canmore, where the mountains are right there, and I like the “look” of the mountains, if that makes sense.

Banff is about 30 minutes from Canmore.  You need to enter the Banff National Park, and pay a fee to enter.  Banff is located in the National Park.  I found the mountains around Banff to just be nondescript/“regular” mountains…I wasn’t inspired.  Driving into Banff there is block upon block upon block of accommodations.  At first, I thought that is all there was.  But I did come to downtown, which looks exactly like a typical “hoity toity” ski village – which is what it really is.

It has the pretty turquoise Bow River running thru/next to it.  I was going to walk the loop along it, but realized it was paved…so I got my bike out and cycled.  It is really pretty.

There is a High School with field/soccer yard downtown. That must be expensive real estate to have a school on!

All the street names are named after animals [lynx, gopher, bear…].

Banff is a Planned Community – no unsightly electrical/tele wires.

My addiction was more expensive here than in NYC.

I asked some locals where I should have lunch…a place with character and NOT touristy.  I got the reply: it’s ALL touristy.

On my way to Lake Louise, I took the scenic route and stopped at Johnston’s Falls.  This is a really popular spot to hike up 30 minutes and see the falls. Very crowded.  The falls were cool and one could walk thru a cave and get close and feel the spray from the falls.

After that I drove to Lake Louise.  Where I was staying was “in the village”.  In Lake Louise, they have these big green info/directions signs, but they have little bitty print.  So, there is all this empty green space on the sign that is not being used.  I can only read the signs when I am right there…no fore planning of what I need to do.

I follow the sign’s arrow in the direction of the village.  I can’t find it…however I find a small “L” shaped strip center.  I go back out on the road to look at the sign again…and again I can only find this little strip center.  I ask a guy on a motorcycle where the village is, and he says he just got here, but thinks this is it.  No way.  So I ask someone else, and yep…this is it!  Who knew?

Canada Man had suggested several hikes, but the one he most recommended was the hike to the Six Glaciers.  It was also the shortest [4 hours]…so I decided to do that one.  I was already sluggish from cycling and the earlier 1 hr hike, but really, what else am I going to do here?  So, I drove down to the Lake.  Lake Louise is about 10 minutes from the village.

Before a few days ago, I thought Lake Louise would be this HUGE Lake.  However, when I looked for it on the map, I couldn’t find it.  So, that gave me a clue of what to expect.  And I must say, I was still disappointed.  One can see the end, and both sides of it.  It is the turquoise blue, but I have seen “deeper” turquoise blue lakes and rivers over in Kananaskis and Canmore.  And the mountains around it didn’t inspire me.

It would have been interesting to know what I would have thought of Banff and Lake Louise if I hadn’t been to Canmore and Kananaskis first.  I am sure the initial “shock and awe” of seeing the vibrant turquoise blue left a huge impression on me.

The only buildings around Lake Louise are a public restroom, and the Fairmont Hotel.  I have seen the Fairmont mentioned in every piece of info I have.  I also saw a photo, and it looked castle like.  People emailed me to say there is a big fancy hotel in Banff and in Lake Louise.  Nowhere in any of the 5 info books/brochures that I had for Banff was a fancy hotel mentioned.  So, I just assumed there is only one…and it’s the Fairmont.  To me, it’s just a boxy big building.  I can see with special lighting, at dusk, that it could be photographed to look more impressive. 

Again…disappointed.

I spoke with someone and he said there is a big castle like hotel in Banff, and told me where it was.  I totally missed it.

I did the Six Glaciers Hike from Lake Louise.  A mile around to the back side of Lake Louise, then 2.3 miles up about 1,100′ [approx 110 stories].  It kicked my *ss. 

It is a really pretty hike, and the evergreens near the base of the trail smell real nice. Lots of little water falls.  You can see the 6 or 7 different mountains, and the glaciers.  The entire time you can hear the roar of the [river] water coming down from the glaciers.  The water is a milky color as it comes down from the glacier, and I suppose the milky silt must sink or something and magically the water appears turquoise!  Ha.

After 1.3 miles is a Tea House that was built in 1927.  I thought it would be abandoned, but it is open.  There weren’t that many people on the trail, and I think I spoke to 90% of them.  The Tea House is open!  That will be a good excuse to stop.

Later a woman told me the Tea House has killer chocolate cake.  Well, she sure knew how to motivate me.  Later, someone told me that it closes at 6 pm – 5 minutes ago.  Drats!

As I got closer to the Tea House, the trail was kicking my butt, and I must have looked “strained”, cuz when people took one look at me, they started to offer words of encouragement.  Ha ha ha.

Only 20 more minutes to the Tea House.
15 more minutes.
8 more minutes.
5 more minutes.
Just around the turn.

I make the turn, and can see someone at one time has laid a stone path.  There are lots of benches to sit and watch a waterfall and the stream, and what looks like an outhouse…a one person outhouse at that.  THAT is the Tea House?  No dummy, it IS an outhouse.  The Tea House was way off to the right.

They are closed, but sold me some lemonade.  The women were friendly and told me I could look around all I wanted.  They were cleaning up and also nursing a man who had a bloody nose/mouth or something.  He didn’t look too well.

It’s another mile to get closer to the glaciers.   So, I kept going.

This was the best part of the trail. The fantastic view, the roar of the water, little bitty VERY smelly evergreens, and the path is somewhat flat.

I am then out of the vegetation/tree line, and after a bit I am walking on a narrow, 1’ wide, rocky ridge that goes down steeply on both sides.

I start to “over think”, and was freaking myself out.  I’m tired, I’m wet, I’m cold [my car down below said it was 65’], it’s after 7 pm and most importantly, I think I am the only one on the trail.

MY path ends here.  I am very near the glaciers and felt I had experienced enough of this.  The view was incredible.

I little earlier, I heard a chopper.  I thought that someone was on a tour of the lake.  When I got back to the Tea House area, I sat on one of the benches and enjoyed the water fall and stream.  I noticed off to the right there is a chopper there.  I thought that’s a weird place to house a chopper overnight.  Then I thought that maybe that’s how they get either the workers or supplies to/from the Tea House. I soon realized that it’s a medevac, and they are “rescuing” the man with the face injury. He had an IV in.

The area in general:

* LOTS of French and German spoken here, or French/German accents.  When I was in Jasper, I rarely heard English spoken by people walking around/on the streets.

* Once you exit the Transcontinental Highway 1 towards a city, you have to drive over what they call a “Texas Gate”…what I would call a cattle guard.  You know how before you enter a ranch, you drive over a grid of several bars/tubes/pipes, a few inches apart so the animals can’t get out [they can’t get a good footing].  Well, they have those here at each exit.

* No fatties here.

* There were no miles markers on the Transcontinental Highway east of Calgary.  They start up west of Calgary.

BOTTOM LINE: to me, if you are coming to this area, I would bypass Banff and Lake Louise, and instead concentrate on the hidden gems of Canmore/Kananaskis and driving to/from Jasper.

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To and From Jasper, Alberta

July 26, 2008
I have been encouraged to send more photos.  Of course the attached doesn’t capture the beauty. I needed a panoramic camera.

It is Saturday morning.  Yesterday I made the drive to Jasper and back… you pretty much know how I felt about that.  The remaining 2 hours going south was also “better” than driving north, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as the first hour.

Only comments left to add:
* Slower moving vehicles refused to pull over and let others pass

* The town of Jasper was just ok.  The mountains looked so far away AND the mountains were just mountains, not “pretty” – both reasons why I like Canmore.  The downtown area was bigger than one would think for a town of under 5,000 [but lots of tourists].

* I would have enjoyed the view and drive a whole lot more if I wasn’t on the constant lookout for animals.  I saw 2 deer, 2 white sheep [that blended completely into the mountain], and the guy in front of me saw a black bear cross the road.

* LOTS of cyclists.  Their stamina must be amazing.  None of them had overnight gear on their bikes.

* I did take the tour/trip and play on a glacier.  They take you out in this big bobcat sort of thing and let you walk around for 25 minutes.  It was neat, but unsure if it was $38 worth of neat.  But I couldn’t make this trip and NOT do this. 

* Folklore has it that the glacial water is the fountain of youth, and it’s ok to drink it.  I did……then filled my water bottle up.  It tastes just like melted snow from your backyard.  That may be a “duh” comment.

* They have really small print on their signs [which I’ll comment again below].  I saw a sign that stated “Visibility May Be Low” in print that I could read it just as I was passing.  Sooo, if visibility IS low, there is no way you can read the sign.

* It’s more dangerous to drive at dusk [and at sunrise…but that doesn’t affect me] cuz that’s when the animals are more active.  I asked the ranger what she considers “dusk”.  She looks over to the board and says “the sun sets tonite at 3 minutes to 10”.
So what time do you consider dusk?
3 minutes to 10.

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Drive South from Jasper, Alberta

July 25, 2008

i am at the glacier center 1 hour south of jasper.  i had to stop becuz i was feeling as though i was in a daze and dreaming, and needed to “wake up”.

 

the drive south from jasper IS more spectacular than the drive north.  i know you have read all these words like: spectacular, stunning…

 

but this is out of the world.  off the map re adjectives [i think that’s right].

 

take a single beautiful mountain, with it’s formation/shape in general, the trees vs barren rock, the rock formations.  put a bunch of these together, right next to each other and then throw in a splash of turquoise river/lake water…and you have out of this world.

 

and it’s panoramic.  just fills up your entire view shed.  i am totally overcome.  and i have 2 more hours to go.

 

i have read that this drive made National Geographic’s top 10 scenic drives in the world.  on the way up?  ahhh…maybe the top 50.  on the way down.  yes.  i need to google to see if they mention driving north vs south.

 

this has just bumped Gaspe In October off the #1 spot on my list of beautiful places.

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Columbia Ice Fields Parkway to Jasper National Park, Alberta

July 25, 2008

Today will be a long day. I’m driving 4 hrs up the Columbia Ice Fields Parkway to Jasper National Park, and then back. Near Jasper most likely I will take the bus/shuttle to go on to the glaciers.

Canada Man says this is “the most amazing drive in the world.”

He says the drive back is better as the glaciers are more visible.

Then I head to Field, and to the Takakkaw Falls.

Who knows where I will end up tonight.

I’ll send my thoughts on Banff and Lake Louise tomorrow or the next day …depending upon where I end up tonite.

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