Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Alberta Part 2 - The Rockies

August 11th and we have finally made it to the Rockies. I must confess that I prepared myself for mountains but nothing as magnificent as the real thing. Our first stop was Jasper and we were welcomed by these goats upon entering the National Park.  I was anxious to see wildlife (but more of that later). We set up camp for a few days and prepared our itinerary. 

Our first hike, with my weighted backpack, was up Old Fort Point. We crossed the Athabasca River and the trail passed by some quaint little cottages with wonderful views of the mountains all around. At first I thought I had fallen so out of shape with the great food/drink at Alberta Beach but I quickly learned it was altitude and it would take a little time 
to acclimatize. 

From this viewpoint we saw the wonderful Jasper Park Lodge and I thought of my sister Dee and the summer she worked there many moons ago.

We continued on to the Valley of Five Lakes where the ideal spot awaited us. From our resting spot we viewed Mt. Edith Cavell
 and enjoyed our packed lunch along with our visitor, Mr. Loon. 

21.5 kms later we were both tired but no damage to our bodies (blisters or back). This was a good first training hike for the West Coast Trail.

The next day was time to explore Jasper. There are the boring chores of grocery shopping, laundry, emailing but after all work there is play. We took Alicia's suggestion and had a couple of local pints at a u-brew pub.

Time to lace up the hiking boots again. This time it was Maligne Canyon. We set out early to ensure we found parking for the Moho at the trailhead. 
Of course the hike was not enough exercise so Don decided we would go for a little run around Lake Edith and Lake Annette. We continued on to the grounds of Jasper Park Lodge that we had viewed from Old Fort and 11.5 kms later we finally made it back to our starting point. I thought for sure we were lost!

We got a good feeling for the Rockies but it was time to move on to Lake Louise (which turned out to be my favourite).  Again, the trick was to get an early rise and head out. We decided to take the Icefields Parkway route but stop for breakfast at Sunwapta Falls (the resort that Alicia and Chris worked at a few summers ago). Of course the Icefield Centre proved to be another hot spot for tourists. We did take the time to climb and get as close as permitted to the glacier.

The first rule we learned to avoid frustration is to get beyond the tourists that linger around Chateau Lake Louise and move into the wild. 

Our first day of hiking in our new location was to the Tea House - Lake Agnes. This is named for the wife of Sir John A. McDonald. Of course there is always a reward for the work. Homemade scones with jam and tea gave us the energy to continue to Big Beehive which was recommended by Becky our massage therapist.
Thank you Becky. 

From the top of the Beehive we took an alternate route down and headed up to the very popular Plains of the Six Glaciers.

There are just too many pictures to post in the blog so I'll refer you to the Picasa Web invitation to view the awesome landscape shots.

We had one more day to explore the many hikes in the Lake Louise area so we took Becky's suggestion and completed one of her favourites, Fairview Mountain.  It was a fairly steep climb to Saddleback where we took a break and Don called his Mom to explain that we were having a snowball fight. 

However, the challenge was to follow. We climbed over 700 metres in 2 km. My only thought was "how am I going to get down"? The loose gravel made our steps quite tricky in places. But once again the work was rewarded by the spectacular views at the top.

Time to move on to our last destination in the Rockies, Banff. 
We took Alicia's suggestion again to drive the Bow Valley Parkway. This road closes at night because of the large amount of wildlife crossing.  Good news/bad news.... we saw no wildlife so I'm beginning to think I'm jinxed! It was, however, a very pretty drive with no traffic.

We stopped along the way to take a short hike into Moraine Lake which proved to be one of the more picturesque spots. It is of course the picture on the old $20. bill. Here is an example minus the image of Don & I. 

Banff is a very tourist town that caters very much to the shopper but that is not one of my favourite activities. However, the Cow's ice cream was a worthwhile treat and I recommend Messy Bessy if you are a chocolate lover.

Not to dwell on the wildlife but my eyes were sore from all the
scanning I did. One note I must mention is the amount of $$$ being spent to protect these critters. $2.5 million dollars is being spent for each wildlife overpass and not one would come out while we drove along. My only encounter was the deer that stopped by to feed near our campsite while Don & I were quietly reading outside. Our Eastern European neighbours were very excited and after a few minutes frightened the poor creature away.

Time for one last hike and this time there was a big reward.
He left our campsite after breakfast and once through town we hiked to the Hot Springs where our tired bodies could relax in the pools of 37C or 102F. Who said all work and no play? Not in my books.

It was time to move on and we thought to travel back up the Bow Valley Parkway and no not for wildlife but instead a hike into Johnston Canyon. This is a busy spot and because we could not get a place to park on our drive down three days before we figured we would get an early start and hike before breakfast. Again our recommendations proved it was a worthwhile stop.

But alas, we say good-bye to the Rockies and hello British Columbia, the last of our Provinces.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Alberta Part 1

Ah, Alberta! We finally made it and there is so much to do and say that I have to break into two parts. The first being pre-Rockies!

It was like stepping back in time in a few ways. Our first stop Dinosaur Provincial Park. We took a tour offered by Parks Canada and it was well worth the dollars. We were escorted to a restricted  location in the Badlands amongst the hoodoos about 20 minutes from the Visitor Centre. Kate, our tour guide was excellent and provided great information as well as authority to unfold one of the excavations. We viewed fossils and bones of all sizes and shapes. We both enjoyed our 1/2 day hike.

Then on to Drumheller. We settled in for a few days and weather was great until the second night when we experienced one of Alberta's freak storms. In just a few minutes the sky became very dark and the wind began to blow with great force. Thunder, lightning and rain in sheets. Luckily we had all our belongings under cover but campers nearby found their equipment and supplies strewn all over the Campsite. However, the sun reappeared the next day and we were off to explore the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. It was a 7 km. bike ride where Charlene had her first fall (no body injuries) but Don managed to ride over the back wheel of the bike. Whew, only $25. to fix. In what seemed like a blink we passed 3 hours learning lots of things about dinosaurs. It seems amazing that the dinosaurs that roamed the earth for millions of years could have been made extinct by a volcano in Mexico. So goes the theory!

Just as there is time for play and exploring, we must also maintain our home on wheels. We took the opportunity to give Moho a shampoo.

Off to Calgary to visit Don's Aunt Doris and Uncle Don. Aunt Doris proved that she had not lost her touch for cooking. When we arrived we found her sorting through her recipes and arranging them in a new filing system. She has a wonderful flare in the kitchen and I managed to take away a few to try. On such short notice she managed to get Sharon, Deanne and Susan (Don's cousins) as well as their spouses; Dale, Peter and Greg and kids over to visit. Other than Deanne and Peter who we saw at the Boston Marathon a few years ago, it had been close to 25 years. 

Again it was fantastic to visit, exchange email addresses and hopes of these western cousins to visit us back in Guelph in the next few years. We played some cards and Charlene actually got some practice in her new game of Crib. 

However, after a few days the wheels needed to roll again. We thanked them for their hospitality especially the ride Uncle Don gave us in his brand new Lexus - only 4 days old.

Next stop Alberta Beach, where as I said in the beginning of this blog it was like stepping back in time. 

We visited with our Grand Falls friends, Ruby and Bill and it felt like we hadn't missed a beat.  Over twenty five years ago we shared a gourmet cooking club as well as a close friendship and our weekend at Alberta Beach proved that we had not lost our flare to cook and eat. Not to mention the wine. As an added bonus Bill became Don's RV teacher. They made one trip to Canadian Tire and $$$$ later Don had his tool kit outfitted. Most important rule - check the tire pressure! I must add that Bill managed to get Don on the golf course for 18 holes. I think he was more tired after their game then any of his long runs. The four days zipped by and again time to push on. Bill and Ruby we may have to keep moving on but part of us will stay with you.

The Rockies!!! WOW!

I must keep you in suspense as we have four more days and then we'll share our adventures in Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Over three weeks on the road and finally the flatness of Saskatchewan. We have seen yellow fields of canola, purple fields of flax and of course the straw coloured wheat fields. 

But my trusty guide, Don has found some hills in Saskatchewan. Our first stop was the Qu'Appelle Valley. Maybe Canadians don't know it's there because Saskatchewan is known to be flat and these are definitely hills. For a moment I thought we skipped the province and jumped to the Rockies. It was delightful and we enjoyed our stay at Echo 

Lake Provincial Park. Our campsite was nestled between Echo Lake and Pasqua Lake. It was a one nighter but we found a hike to overlook the town below.

Next stop, Regina. We had to check out the site that so many of our friends have graduated from.  It was the RCMP Training Academy. We picked a great day as it was parade day for all the cadets and they were especially on good behaviour due to a visiting Senator who walked away as impressed as we were. When orders are shouted those cadets don't think - they move!

It was time to keep pushing on. We made a quick stop in Moose Jaw to communicate with family but decided to push on to Swift Current. Another Walmart night and this time there were nine other campers. Size ranged from a tent camper all the way up to an A Bus which made Moho look like a baby RV. We can honestly say we love the variety of camping in different situations.

Cypress Hills Provincial Park was our next destination. We settled in for a few days. It was great for running, biking and hiking. Charlene had her first real test with a pack weighing 15 lbs. in preparation for the West Coast Trail in a few weeks. She passed with no pains or blisters. Cypress Hills was abundant with wild life. On the second night while enjoying our nightcap by the fire we had a visitor, Mr. Moose. He sauntered through and stopped for pics but unfortunately they did not turn out. There were lots of deer; mule and white tail.  

Before leaving this area we had one more bike ride and a climb up Bald Butte. Views were great and on a clear morning we could see for miles

Our next stop Alberta!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Before saying good-bye to Ontario we had one more pit stop; the Terry Fox Memorial on the highway just east of Thunder Bay.  As part of our exercise regime we ran 20 kms. near Agawa Bay on the Trans Canada, the same route Terry would have followed. The site proved to be an emotional experience when considering what a 20 year old set out to accomplish and the pains he endured before finally relinquishing his dream.

Finally Manitoba Mosquito Capital of Canada! Our first stop was Lower Fort Garry where we visited the former Hudson Bay Company site.  The interpretive tour was most informative and staff were well educated on all topics. The contrast between lifestyles of the senior HBC managers and common workers was very evident. Furs of all types of animals were viewed in the fur lofts and I could only think what value was contained in the three storey building.

Time to push on to Winnipeg Beach and Gimli for a few days of exploring. Biking was relaxing in this sleepy town. As for Gimli, we searched for the site of the Gimli Glider; the famous Air Canada plane that ran out of gas due to technical measurements from imperial to metric. The experienced pilot managed to successfully land his aircraft with no fatalities. We thought of our friend, Susan J., who was an AC attendant on that flight and what her memories of Gimli must be like. The little town of Gimli also offered a visit to the Icelandic Museum which demonstrated clearly the strength of the early Icelandic settlers to Canada. Hardships for those that survived but 1/3 of those that left their homeland did not survive the first winter due to small pox.

Time for more pampering...and a visit with family. Cousin Terry and Laurel opened their home in Winnipeg to us and provided great hospitality. It was good to rekindle memories and meet new members of their family; Joshua and Kristian. There was also a bonus in that Aunt Viola was visiting from Ottawa and we got hugs as well as samples of her yummy cooking. Then time to explore a little of Winnipeg. We walked around the Forks which is at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red River and wandered into the French Quarter to view the grave of Louis Riel and statues of early Selkirk settlers. One could not travel through Winnipeg without paying a visit to the Canadian Mint. It was one thing to hold a bar of gold valued over $450,000. but it was quite interesting to learn that Canada makes currency for approximately 80 countries. As one can imagine security was tight but even tighter for employees.

The wheels were ready to turn again. We said our good-byes with promises of reunions in future.

Our next stop was Spirit Sands - sand dunes in Spruce Hills Provincial Park. We had just enough time to hike the dunes before pushing on to the International Peace Gardens for a few days. 

This Park was one of the most magical places we have visited. Situated on the border between Boissevain, Manitoba and Dunseith, North Dakota it was Henry Moore's 

dream to create a place that represented the peaceful coexistece of two nations; the United States of America and Canada. Visit their site to get a better idea of the layout and the many memorials as well as the tranquility this place offers.

I'm thinking this trip is about rekindling old relationships? Don managed to contact an old friend from elementary school in Mt. Pearl who he also shared high school, university and medical school with. Barry and Janet were delightful and we laughed over stories past and present. They have been in Brandon for over 20 years and like most it was supposed to be a career move for a few years. Life becomes comfortable and time slips by.

Again it was time to move on.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Thank you Eric Zermano for the great illustration.

In 2001, while on a 3 month leave of absence, backpacking through Europe we decided that someday we would take a year off from our jobs. That time has arrived and here we are setting out on our one year leave of absence. There will be variety but mainly we will be cruising through Canada and the United States.  Our jobs are covered and our house is rented. 

July 4th 2009, we set off to Manitoulin Island to transition for one week with the motorhome parked at a cottage that Rod and Natalie have access to. After Rod, Natalie and the kids left we spent the remainder of the quiet week running, biking, swimming and waking up late in the mornings with no alarm clock. By the end of the week we were both into our second books and had spent many trips relaxing in the sauna.

July 12th time to begin our journey. We got our initiation into full time RVing by spending the night on the Walmart parking lot in Sault Ste. Marie with five other rigs. Most Walmarts in Canada and the United States allow overnight stopovers and you will even see RVers with awnings up and lawn chairs out. In compensation I suspect many campers purchase large amounts of supplies at the Walmart as we did that evening. 

The drive around Lake Superior seemed to go on forever with the hills giving us a sampling of greater mountains to come in a few weeks time. Northern Ontario was very much like Newfoundland and after 2 days we were longing for some new terrain.

We had the pleasure of spending 4 days with Maria, Franco and Gloria Nacinovic at their camp at Polly Lake. Our initial plan was to stop for 2 days

 but the welcome and pampering was too much to resist as well as the Finnish sauna, which they kept fuelled with firewood. 

Franco and Maria’s home is in Red Rock about half an hour from Polly Lake. Red Rock was a bustling pulp and paper town with well laid out streets lined by family homes. Gloria said that the street she grew up on was always full of kids playing. The Mill closed 3 years ago and a large number of the young families have moved away. While shopping at the local supermarket we met the 2009 New Year’s baby. This little baby was not born until June 5th this year.

Again thank you Gloria, Maria and Franco for your wonderful hospitality and generosity. Your camp at Polly Lake is truly a magical place.

After two weeks in Ontario we were ready to move on to Manitoba and the Prairies.