Canada Part Two - Banff to Whistler

18th August, 1997
19th August, 1997
20th August, 1997
21st August, 1997

Monday, 18th August, 1997

Spiral Tunnels photograph

Rosemary and Mac at the Spiral Tunnels Lookout

Drop Cap e left Banff in lovely clear weather and headed in the direction of Lake Louise. This is relatively close to Banff so we detoured somewhat to see some sights. Our first stop was the Spiral Tunnels.

Spiral Tunnels postcard

Postcard of Spiral Tunnels (all the same train)

When they were building the Canadian Pacific Railway the grade was so steep that they lost several trains. So they built a zigzag and spiralled the tunnels through the mountains. It is an incredible engineering feat.

We went on to Emerald Lake, a lovely green glacier lake (the colour comes from glacier sediment or "flour" which refracts the light) It is perfectly beautiful, reflecting the mountains.

Emerald Lake photograph

Emerald Lake, near Banff, Canada

Natural Bridge photograph

The Natural Bridge, Kicking Horse River, Canada

Drop Cap e headed next for the Natural Bridge over Kicking Horse River. The river rushes through the rock, making a bridge; one day, of course, it will collapse altogether. From here, we headed to Takakkaw Falls, up a road so steep that they have made it a switchback or zigzag which buses have to reverse up and down. The falls are lovely, very high, glacier run off which freezes solid in winter. It seems incredible. We saw a cute Columbian ground squirrel or gopher while we were there.

Drop Cap his afternoon we were lucky enough to score the front seat of the bus for Lake Louise. The scenery was incredibly beautiful and I haven't enough words to describe Lake Louise. It is perfectly beautiful, clear turquoise, reflecting the Victoria Glacier. Wonderful! After an expensive lunch by the lake monstered by birds for crumbs (but at those prices I wasn't throwing it away!) we had a group photo with a background of Lake Louise.

Lake Louise photograph

Lovely Lake Louise

Moraine photograph

Moraine Lake, Canada

Drop Cap fter that we headed off for Moraine Lake, another exquisite glacial jewel in turquoise. It is repetitive going on about them, they are so gorgeous, but one runs out of superlatives! Then, back to lovely Lake Louise. Our room is very small but cosy and prettily decorated with folk art and little lamps and armchairs. The foyer is enormous with lovely wide windows looking over the lake and gardens.

Drop Cap e had a delicious dinner in the fabulous Victoria Dining Room. Enormous room, high ceilings with carved beams and very attentive service. We shared a table with Ian and Fiona and it was lovely. A very pleasant evening with choice of appetiser, soup, main course and dessert, all from the usual menu, not a tourist one. I had a baked onion, chilled carrot and apple soup, salmon fillet and chocolate mud pie. Yum. And we shared two bottles of Mateus. We went for a quick walk after dinner then called Geoff. He has had four fire calls since we've been gone! Seems to be coping. And so to bed.

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Tuesday, 19th August, 1997

Falls photograph

Athabasca Falls

Drop Cap ac got up this morning before dawn to see the moon set and the sun rise over the glacier. He said it was nice, very pretty, a full moon setting and pale pink light suffusing the glacier. After breakfast we left for Jasper, along the Columbia Icefields Parkway. This is a hugely scenic road, open only to tourist traffic, no trucks etc. The mountain ranges seemed to stretch to infinity, capped and streaked with ancient glaciers and moraines, reflected in the glacier lakes at their feet. We stopped at Crowsfoot Glacier and another whose name escapes me and came to Peyto Lake. This gem of turquoise water was brilliant. I can't get over the colour!

Drop Cap t around midday we arrived at the high point of the day. The Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier. Here we were shuttled to the glacier where we boarded the specially designed snow coaches, huge wheeled 6 WD vehicles which trundled us down a 32% or 22 degree incline onto the glacier itself.

Snocoach photograph

Snocoach, Athabasca Glacier

We disembarked, all rugged up but it was surprisingly warm. We trudged over the ice, not slippery really but wet, you could see the melt going on before your very eyes. We filled a bottle with glacier melt and drank some, absolutely pure and icy.

Glacier photograph

Athabasca Glacier

We had what I consider to be a ripoff lunch (1 sandwich between us, one cup of orangeade, 2 bottles water and 2 bars of chocolate cost $12-75) then on through amazing scenery. Mac kept dozing off but it was amazing!

Glacier photograph

Rosemary and Mac on Athabasca Glacier

Drop Cap ur wildlife tally became quite interesting today because in addition to chipmunks at Lake Louise, we had two groups of bighorn sheep, some elk grazing in Jasper and we sighted a Black Bear! It was lolloping through the woods next to the road and another coach had pulled in to see it. So we pulled in as well and there it was! I didn't really believe we would see bear but we did! Of course we weren't allowed off the bus, a bear attacked and killed two people recently near the border with Alaska.

Drop Cap e have an amazing room in the Jasper Inn, there is a triple bedded room upstairs, a double bedded room downstairs, a fully equipped kitchen with a full size fridge/freezer, a living room with an open fireplace and a balcony with a view! Outside the door was a peculiar secret style cupboard built into the wall which we were told was to put skis in. It has most of its custom in winter, I imagine. Our dinner tonight was OK but not brilliant in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Kantor from Tel Aviv. Rather heavy going, conversationally speaking. Pleasant enough though. I would say it is the first place we have been where the service didn't rate an enthusiastic tip. However, you can't win them all.

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Wednesday,20th August, 1997

Maligne photograph

Lake Maligne, near Jasper, Alberta, Canada

Drop Cap very long day today! We had a wakeup call at 6 a.m. bags out and breakfast and an 8 a.m. start for the 50km trip to Maligne Lake where we had an appointment for the first cruise of the day.

It was chilly, with thick frost on the docks and benches but a glorious clear day - blue sky, not a cloud. Our tour director, Joyce, told us to be thankful because the weather is very capricious here, that's why it is called Maligne.

Maligne photograph

Spirit Island, Lake Maligne, Alberta, Canada

Drop Cap he Lake was so beautiful as we sailed past little islands, glaciers and mountain peaks. We stopped at Spirit Island (the second most photographed spot in Canada after Lake Louise) Not surprising! To my despair, the camera seized up, the film jammed. I changed the batteries but it was a mechanical problem, which Mac fixed (hopefully) this evening.

Drop Cap e saw two moose, a cow and calf grazing on the verge today, and a bighorn sheep. After this we returned to Jasper and on to the Yellow head Highway, but found it blocked by blasting fallen rocks and had to return to Jasper to wait and have lunch. Mac explored the nearby railway station and I browsed through the shops without buying anything. Then we set off again and got through the obstruction, heading for 108 mile House on the Cariboo trail.

Drop Cap t was a very long drive, we didn't arrive till 7 p.m. after a couple of short photostops at Mt.Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies and along the Fraser River. We had a terrific BBQ dinner at 108 Resort, wonderful salads and half a BBQ chicken each with baked potato, tomatoes etc. There was salmon and steak also available. Mac and I passed on the banana cream pie. Home to bed, it has been a very long day!!

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Thursday 21st August, 1997

Drop Cap leisurely morning this morning. After breakfast we tossed some horseshoes (they are incredibly heavy) and went for a stroll halfway down to the lake. When we set off we were heading for the BC Rail Cariboo (Whistler) Explorer train for the four and a half hours to Whistler.

Clinton photograph

Volunteer Fire Department, Clinton

Drop Cap e stopped at a village called Clinton for a pitstop, where I noticed a fire danger indicator which stood at High. While posting some cards we passed the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department Station so took a photo

Cariboo photograph

Cariboo Explorer Train

Drop Cap e arrived at Kelly Lake to find two cars of the train waiting for us and another two from Prince Rupert heading for Vancouver. When we had all arrived together we set off.

We had lunch provided in the train and settled down for the amazing and hugely scenic trip along the Fraser Canyon. The river seemed miles below us in a deep and arid gorge with amazing scenery. We passed a whole herd of Bighorn sheep who skipped neatly over the fences to get away from the train.

Fraser photograph

Fraser Canyon, from the Train

Then we passed the fields where they grow the latest cash crop in British Columbia, ginseng. We passed salmon ladders which help the fish swim up rapids and salmon drying racks set up by the natives (Indians) Then we passed into a completely different scene on the other side of the train - lovely lakes and crags, then rain forest and waterfalls. Everywhere we saw something different. It was a lovely trip, and as Joe Salvato of our group found out, would have cost $110 per couple if it hadn't been part of the tour.

Canyon photograph

Fraser Canyon, from the train

Drop Cap e arrived at Chateau Whistler Resort at about 7 p.m., and had to hurry to change for dinner at 7.30. The Chateau Whistler is a lovely hotel, new but built on the same lines and to the same scale as the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise. We had a pleasant dinner in the company of Ian and Fiona, who, we discovered, are celebrating their 25th Wedding anniversary. Everyone finds it hard to believe, as Fiona looks so young - one lady even told her she thought they were newlyweds. They found it hard to accept that Fiona and Ian have a 23 year old daughter and two other children. Still, though rather hot, it has been a very pleasant day.

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