Archive for July, 2008

vancouver – somewhat change of plans

july 31, 2008

 

let’s just say that i don’t like where i am staying.  do NOT stay at: www.vanwestghbb.com


due to this being a holiday weekend [for canada] and the high price for a room, i’ll only be here until saturday.

so…instead of a leisurely time here, it may be a whirlwind.  OR i may still be leisurely in my 3.5 days…and see what i can see.

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Drive to Vancouver, British Columbia

July 30, 2008

This should be short.

I forgot to mention that in Peachland, they have a bunch of docks for people to play on and jump off of [either from the dock, or ropes to swing out].  Between a couple of the docks they have a zip line.

 

I didn’t make it to Summerland yesterday.  I had heard that there was road construction going on, which was true.  Longgg traffic jam.  So, I thought it best to turn around and drive to Vancouver.  Per mapquest, it would be around 4.5 hours from Peachland. 

 

Which really means around 7 hours for me.

I don’t know where the disconnect on mapquest was, but it took me 4 hours, and I drove leisurely and took my stops.

There weren’t too many rest stops along the way, but at this one, this guy has a kiosk and he is selling homemade Indian food + sausages.  I had the veggie samosas [sp?], and they were really good – his wife made them.  The sausages looked good too.

 

The 1 hour drive from Peachland to Merritt was just ok. Hilly, still half arid and half green.  South of Merritt it starts getting green again.  About halfway to Vancouver, right after the $10 toll, it starts getting impressive again.  Very green and lush, and great looking tree covered mountains, as I drove thru light rain.  Hmmm…light rain = lush, green mountains.

 

1 hour from Vancouver, and we are back to farmland [with mountains nearby in the distance].

 

You know when you enter a city, on the welcome sign they state the name of the city and some slogan or something: a drug free zone…

 

Here in Vancouver, they state it is a “nuclear weapons free zone”.

 

Have only seen 1 cop car on the highway this entire time.

 

I have driven 5,000 miles since leaving Baltimore.  When I lived in Houston I put 3,000 miles on a year.  Less when I lived in Baltimore.

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Peachland, British Columbia

July 29, 2008

i had to stop in the visitor center to send out an email re how much i love Peachland. incredibly beautiful. everything is along the lake. they have a trail, but the road is very wide and easy to cycle along. there are 2 great coffee shops. one is very cinnamon rolls smelly!

lots of rose bushes [my B&B had these too]. lots of picnic tables along the water, and people in their own chairs enjoying the view. the beach/shoreline is just rocks/stone…no sand.

i saw a sign for U-pick apricots a block over. i thougth i’d go and pick 5. come to find out, they are FREE. as i pulled up, the family was pulling out in their car. they turned off the engine to talk.

they said i could take all i wanted – and they had small boxes set out for people to put hte apricots in – but they were all taken, so best that i come back in a few

hours. i said all i wanted was around 5…oh, then there are that many “ripe”. a ripe apricot is one that has fallen from the tree – you don’t actually pick them. they have a tarp set up under the tree for them to fall onto. as i was there talking to this family, a couple fell and almost hit me.

they asked if i lived here or a tourist.

tourist – i came in last nite and fell in love, so spent the nite.

did you fall in love with the town or with someone?

ha. the town. BUT if you know someone…

we have someone in the backseat!

i only see 2 pretty women back there [i could tell there were 3 people in the back seat, but i could only see 2] to my amazement [and from the look on his face, his too], dad automatically rolled the back seat window down so i could see him!

he was good looking…but probably 25.

they asked where i was from…the states and being a nomad for awhile.

a free spirit? we love free spirits. this is the place for you to be.

i agree.

i am loving it here…and just had to send this off.

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Vernon and Drive to Peachland, British Columbia

July 28, 2008 

 

I’m in Peachland. I was going to spend the nite in Kelowna, which is a city of around 100,000 people.  As I mentioned last week, the highways here go right thru towns…they don’t bypass around them…and I drove mile upon mile of businesses, and just a quick look towards the city center didn’t inspire me.

 

The woman at bfast in Golden suggested I travel to Peachland, which is about 30 minutes out of my way, and also to Summerland, which is around 30 minutes further out of my way.

 

Going thru Kelowna, I was hoping I would like either Peachland or Summerland…and be able to find a play to stay.

 

Got to Peachland and fell in love.  I was going to cycle along Okanagan Lake last nite, but just enjoyed the view and breeze.  I also started doing research on Vancouver…which I will spend the nite tonite.

 

If anyone has any suggestions at all…even obvious ones…please pass them my way.  I plan to be there for at least 5 days…and will leisurely explore the town, mountains and various neighborhoods.

 

After Vancouver and Victoria, I will check out the state of Washington [then Oregon], so again, if anyone has any suggestions…pass them on.

 

On to yesterday…

 

Yesterday was relatively low key. Hung out at the cool coffee shop.  Went back to Okanagan Lake [yes…same lake…it’s huge].  The water temp wasn’t COLD, but wasn’t warm either.  I could see that people would swim in it [not me..too cold], and there were lots of people in the water.  I had no idea that blow up rafts/toys/things little ones can ride on were so popular at the beach.

 

I then went to hike up to Juniper Bay [Rattlesnake Point]. On my way I was planning…bring bear spray, where hiking shoes and thick socks…  when I got there, the parking lot was full of families and lots of teenagers.  Very popular spot.  And lots of people walking the 20 minutes paved path/trail to the point/beach.  I figured I didn’t need any of my safety gear.  There was a sign “We Live Here Too” re rattlesnakes.  This lake is called Kalamalka Lake [lake of many colors].  This lake was prettier than Okanagan, and it did have various colors of blue.  Really pretty.

There was a shirtless hippie guy carrying around a tray selling pina colada’s and strawberry daiquiris.

 

On my way back to my car, I walked by 3 boys around 10 years old.  2 had no shoes on, and one did.  One of the no shoes boys says to shoe boy: you need to take your shoes off and walk on the pavement…it will burn your feet up!!  [Somehow, this must be fun to a 10 yo.]  Shoe boy replies: no way…there are rattlesnakes here!

 

I thought Kalamalka’s water was cold, but there were tons of people in the water.

 

I had another wow scenery moment just south of Vernon.  Tree covered mountains to the lake in the valley.  The entire 1 hours drive to Kelowna was really pretty. 

 

Lots of wineries here.  Lots of fruit stands – mostly cherries, peaches, apricots.

Interesting landscape – the mountains on one side of the lake are baby mountains covered with green trees, the lake, and the baby mountains on the other side of the lake are brown/arid.  The great divide!

 

As you drive into a town, there are signs that tell you the local radio station.

 

Today I plan to hang out and cycle around the lake here.  Then check out Summerland.  Then, I head to Vancouver, which is a 4.5 hour drive.  I plan on taking my time and getting in later tonite.

 

The innkeepers are Russian.  I know 2 Russian words, besides the ones we all know. 

 

One I can get into conversation, the other one is difficult.

 

Spa see ba = thank you.  Except, I think she was telling me it means I wish you good luck.

 

I always ask how to say hello, but it is just too many syllables.

 

Ma trush ka = as in matrushka dolls – those nesting dolls.

 

Oh…and I think I wrote this a while back, I also know:
EEdee!!   EEdee!!   EEdee!!   When the little gypsy kids have you swarmed and they are trying to snake their little hands into your pockets and purse.  You say this with gusto while doing that “move away” motion with your hands.  I have no idea what it means, but it seems to work.

 

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B&B in Peachland, British Columbia

July 28, 2008

You would not believe the B&B I just scored in Peachland, BC, from a Russian couple. Contact info: Yelena Volkova  at okanaganbreeze@hotmail.com.

It is a brand new home that faces the lake, and mountains on the other side.  The entire “basement” area is mine…2 BR, 2 bath, full kitchen AND a patio with the view.  Per the photo, it looks like those fruit trees block a view, but that’s not true.

AND I have wireless with more than 1 or 2 bars of strength!!

The weather is 82′, dry [not humid] and they have no mosquitoes here.  Imagine that.

I am in bliss.  I was going to cycle around/near the lake, but now I’m not so sure I’m moving from this patio.  And if I did…the drive is just a 5 minute drive to the lake/village.

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Lake Mara and Vernon, British Columbia

 July 28, 2008

Last nite when I first got into Vernon, I was asking a hot 28 yo the best way to get to Okanagan Lake and Kalamalka Lake.  I know I didn’t need to tell you he was hot, since, after all…I’m in Vernon.

Anyways, he tells me in minute detail how to drive to each lake.  Every turn, every curve.  Then he proceeds to tell me in detail which beach he suggests at each lake, and which runner up beach. Then he makes suggestions for food, again, in detail for both lakes.

He highly suggests hiking at Kalamalka out to Juniper Bay which is at a point, and there is also a beach nearby…and of course how to get there in detail. 

His gfriend walks up, and he tells her:

Him: I’m sending her to Rattlesnake Point!
Me: Ahhh…is there something you forgot to tell me?
Him: Oh…ya…watch out for rattlesnakes. 
Me: Jokingly, I say: does my bear spray work on rattlesnakes?
Him: [he doesn’t get the joke] no, but if you’ve got bear spray, bring it.
Me: I need bear spray?
Him: You’re in BC…you ALWAYS need bear spray. 
Me: And what about the snakes?
Him: You’ll be ok if you stay on the path.  They don’t want anything to do with you.  I’ve lived here 8 years and I’ve only seen 4 rattlesnakes – and 2 were on the same day.

So, in all the minute details he told me, he forgets to mention rattlesnakes on the trail?  Goodness.

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Glacier National Park and Vernon, British Columbia

 

July 28,2009

I am in Vernon, BC. 

I had a very visually appealing day yesterday.  Bottom line:

Vernon, BC is the city with the most attractive outdoorsy looking people.

The drive on Transcontinental Highway 1 from Golden, thru Glacier National Park, thru Revelstoke to where I went south on 97A [Sicamous], was better than driving NORTH to Jasper.  Spectacular.

Re Vernon, Canada Man has been spot on re his suggestions.  There is a more efficient driving route to Vancouver that would take me thru Kamloops, which he doesn’t care for.  Instead, he has sent me south on another route, and told me to stop in Vernon.  I asked a woman at bfast yesterday, whom I really liked, what she thought of Vernon/Kamloops, and she too didn’t like Kamloops, and really liked Vernon.  She told me that I HAD to go to a certain coffee shop, and she didn’t even know I dug coffee shops.

So I booked a room, sight unseen in this town.  I’m jumping ahead, but basically there are very attractive people sitting in and outside the coffee shop, I heard acoustic music being played in a Mexican restaurant across the street, went over and it was packed full of [what I consider] incredibly attractive people.  Good looking couples out walking their dog along the lake.  Just everywhere. I have no idea how many live here vs people on holiday, or why they have settled here, but they are here.

This morning has just flown by, so I will have to make this quick.

Glacier National Park is beautiful.  There are a lot of what I call tree covered baby mountains, which look like “humps”…valleys between these, and then the taller barren mountains in the back/distance.  So, you see one or two tree covered humps, and then the bigger mountain in back.

As I drove further thru the park, it rained a lot, so there was cloud cover and couldn’t see the tops of some mountains.  It was foggy, cloudy, misty.  Some mountains with lots of snow/glaciers in the distance, VERY green, lots of waterfalls.  It rains and snows A LOT here, and so it really looks like a rainforest. 

Later I read that this is the only place in the world where a temperate rain forest exists this far from an ocean coast line.

I hiked thru the Giant Cedar Trail, the Hemlock Grove Trail, and against my better judgment, the Skunk Cabbage Trail [that goodness it blooms in the spring].

They have a lot of tunnels here, but they don’t go thru a mountain…they were added on as an extension of the mountain, and has trees/vegetation growing on top.  I believe they started to do this to protect the roads from avalanches.

Revelstoke is a cute little town, with the visitor center people really helpful.  They even sold me a stamp to the US [$1].  Just on the east side of Revelstoke, the river/lake water is back to a regular color blue again.

The weather yesterday was:
Dark, cloudy, rainy and 62’
Sunny, rainy and 68’
Sunny and 80’

The woman at bfast mentioned that the Vernon area [and south] is desert.  I was thinking of this when I was driving thru what looks like a rainforest, knowing that Vernon is about 2 hours away.  And sure enough, I turn south on 97A, [and see beautiful Lake Mara], the landscape becomes baby mountains and farmland.  The more south I drive, the more arid it is.  In the hour drive south, I reach Vernon, and it’s half “green”. Along the way, there are fruit stands everywhere.  None of these farms have their own silos.

Vernon is known for the amount of snow it receives and apparently is “heaven” for cross country skiers.  It’s bound by 3 lakes.

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Field and Golden, British Columbia

July 27, 2008

Today I traveled to Field and checked out the Takakkaw Falls.  Then to Golden and then to Revelstoke.

I crossed into BC as I drove to Field, BC, which is about 30 minutes from Lake Louise. 

 

Along the way I stopped to see the “spiral tunnels” which were made for the trains. 

 

The trains would go thru the tunnels and since they can’t ascent/descent on the mountain, and they can’t do “switchbacks”, spirals tracks were made so that they loop around and around as they either go up or down the mountain.  Cool concept to see a train do, but it was really tough to see any tracks with all the trees.  If fact, I couldn’t see anything and there were tons of people stopped trying to see.  Waste of time.

 

I then went to the Meeting Of The Rivers.  Here, the Columbia and another river come together.  One is fresh off a glacier [milky colored], and the other has traveled a distance [turquoise blue] and they come together.  I was correct that the glacier silt makes the water milky white, and when the water settles the silt settles out leaving it turquoise blue.

 

Then it was off to Takakkaw Falls.  It was quite the adventure getting there. 

 

Narrow switchbacks, twisty turning roads in the rain.  However, on the way, it looked as though I was in a rainforest – it was so lush green with trees/vegetation everywhere.  The falls are the 2nd highest falls in Canada.  Quite impressive the amount of water that one glacier can spew 24/7.  Great roar and spray.

 

On the way back from Takakkaw Falls there was a lookout for the spiral tunnel.  I stopped, and had the luck that a train was actually doing it.  Still couldn’t see the tracks, and couldn’t see the train too much [too many trees], but I got the gist of it. 

 

Pretty cool.

 

Stopped in the village to Field, which has a population of about 400 people.  This is a little village that looks like some place in Europe.  Couldn’t pinpoint where/what country, but totally NOT Canada/North America.  Little European looking houses, European feeling café…totally out of place…in a good way.  If you drive this way, be sure to stop in Field.

 

Would you believe that their transcontinental highway is a 2 lane road?

 

The mountains that I drove by were smaller mountains – all covered with trees.  I can see higher mountains – barren with snow off in the distance, but pretty much all that I drove by were tree covered.

 

I stopped at a lake to picnic.  I set up shop…just as it started to rain again.  A woman came over with a British accent and said: it always seems to rain whenever you squat to have a picnic, doesn’t it?

 

The drive into Golden is most impressive. Quite the road engineering feat, considering the terrain, which is spectacular. So spectacular that I decided to stop and spend the nite.  I found a B&B that is a log cabin house on a mountain with a great view.

 

Cute little town, Kicking Horse River runs thru it.  They have the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge which was built around 6 years ago.  I was told by others visiting that there is some documentary on the making of the bridge on some educational TV channels.  They cut the wood from the area and brought in 100 …I can’t remember what they are called…but timber experts that build things just fitting the logs together [using wooden nails and such], I suppose Amish style.  The whole town pitched in to help build the bridge, feed and house the 100 people from around the world.

 

Since we all know that the sun sets at 10 pm.  I covered up completely – due to mosquitoes – to read outside.  The only thing not covered was my face.  And of course the mosquitoes were buzzing my ears.  So, I went to my car and got my handy dandy mosquito net “hat”, and was content.

 

I pick up a newspaper here and there, so went thru that.  I read some book reviews.  I read that the guy who wrote “the last lecture” passed. He taught in Pittsburgh.  Ahhh, good thoughts re Pittsburgh.  Then I read a review of a book of fictional short stories re down on their luck women who live in Winnipeg.  Ahh…yuck…Winnipeg.

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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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