Rocky Mountains. Craggy peaks. Lakes and rivers and waterfalls. Scenic Highways. Glaciers. Bears!
This was the 4th time we made the journey from the Pacific Northwest to the Canadian Rockies and this time we went east through Glacier National Park and north to Banff & Jasper. Words fail me as I try to describe the beauty we beheld as each new day opened up vistas more spectacular than the day before. I hope I don’t weary you with my pictures but what else can I do?
Glacier National Park.
You’ve heard of it. This gorgeous wilderness park with glacier carved valleys in the northwest corner of Montana. Famous for mountain vistas, pristine lakes, Going-to-the-Sun road, and … let’s not forget … grizzly bears!
We entered the park on the west side, expecting to travel the famous road east.. Alas, we were cautioned by the rangers that our camper might be a bit too big for this white knuckle drive on the road carved into the mountains. (I have to admit I was relieved as we would have been on the outside narrow lane, and I on the passenger side, would be looking over the cliffs where no guard rails exist.) Thus we made our away around to the east side of the park to St. Mary Lake which is where our lodging was for the night at Rising Sun Motor Inn. We were not disappointed.
St. Mary Lake
The next day we decided to drive the easier side of the famous Going-to-the-Sun road up to Logan Pass. We had clear skies at the start but the pass was cold and rainy and socked in with clouds.
By the way, those who prefer to enjoy the scenery while leaving the driving to someone else can take the charming 1930’s red buses known as “jammers” (for the sound the old standard transmissions made as drivers “jammed” the gears) across the scenic road.
Bob talked with one of the drivers who said he loves his job! Wouldn’t you?
No trip to Glacier is really complete without seeing a grizzly bear and we were lucky to see one on this trip. Shortly after entering Many Glacier we came across a ‘bear jam’ and joined those who pulled over to watch this big boy eating ripe berries. The hump on his back confirmed he was a grizzly.
On an earlier trip to Glacier when we were still tent camping, (in the last century) we pulled into (and out of in a hurry) a campground at Many Glacier when we saw a sign that read something like ‘Fatal maulings have occurred at this Campground.’ Um, really? Needless to say we spent that night at historic Many Glacier Hotel.
Of course many people do safely hike in Glacier but it is best to do so in groups and led by a ranger if possible, and wearing bear bells to alert the bears of your presence (I prefer to sing loudly) and carrying bear spray which I suppose you would spray into the face of a grizzly if you were attacked. (!!) We did it ourselves on an earlier trip. Hiked, that is. This time we were content to watch the big boy from the side of the road, while secure inside our truck.
Onward to Banff
Glacier was amazing. Banff took it up to the next level. We headed north into Alberta, visiting the city of Calgary where the prairies meet the Rockies and the mountains seem to appear out of nowhere.
Once we arrived in Banff we found all the best sights to be within easy reach. Our first stop was to Cave and Basin National Historic Site, the birthplace of Canada’s national parks. There we enjoyed seeing the underground hot springs and walking the path outside among the bubbling thermal waters.
Five minutes from the townsite we visited the lovely Vermilion Lakes. I honestly didn’t expect much of something so close to town and easy to access. But I was wrong! These lovely lakes reflected the best and most tranquil views of Mt Rundle and nearby peaks.
And this is the only place in the park we saw elk.
We camped the next 2 nights at the Tunnel Mountain Village Campground across from Mt. Rundle overlooking the beautiful Bow Valley. We went for a short walk and stopped at the overlook where a friendly young man offered to take our picture. After we continued on our way we heard the hysterical laughing (I don’t know how else to describe it) of the girlfriend who just received a marriage proposal from the nice young man. We assume that meant yes. Nice setting for such things, I guess.
After two days, we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise Village where we would spend our third night inside the park. The Bow River is below:
The first major stop on the Bow Parkway was Johnston Canyon, perhaps the most popular and overcrowded hike in Banff. It was early in the morning so we were able to find parking easily and make our way along the catwalk to the lower falls where a fellow hiker offered to take our picture.
Later on the parkway, we came across this mama bear (black bear though brown in color) and her 2 cubs. The pint sized cubs moved around too much to get a picture of them. That put the bear count at this point at 4! Already a record!
Next was Lake Louise where I felt I had walked into a glorious oil painting. What can I say about this gem that hasn’t already been said? (Well, now that you ask, I can say to go very early in the day or later in the evening or you will not get anywhere near this popular lake! I’m talking major traffic jam! We got there after 6 pm on a Sunday evening and avoided the crowds.)
Same with the equally beautiful Moraine Lake which once graced the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill.
We spent the night at the Lake Louise Campground in our hard sided camper (yes, it had to be hard sided.) Tent campers had to stay in the other campground with the electric fence. Yes, really! (Any guesses why??)
When we checked in, the ranger let us know that a grizzly bear had been spotted in the campground that day and if we saw him we should keep our distance and not stress him. (We not stress him??? Oh, yes ma’am. Don’t worry, we will not stress the bear for we will be hiding in our camper!)
Onward to Jasper
We survived the night with nary a grizzly sighting and the next day we headed to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway. Okay, so this is another world class, amazing drive and I can’t possibly show you the hundreds of pictures I was compelled to take! But I will show you the beautiful Peyto Lake as seen from the overlook. Pretty, huh?
Onward we went to the Columbia Icefields, one of the largest accumulations of ice south of the Arctic Circle, where numerous glaciers can be seen from the road. We stopped at the Visitor Center and … wrong! Absolutely jammed with the tour bus crowd! No matter. We just wanted to see the glaciers which wasn’t hard to do since we were surrounded by them!
Later that night we stopped for the evening at a lodge near Sunwapta Falls, another beauty. I was crazy with taking pictures by then but what could I do? Isn’t that what a road trip and a new camera are for? So I give you this one of Sunwapta Falls.
And this one the next day: the equally spectacular Athabasca Falls.
After arriving in Jasper townsite and finishing up lunch, we headed to Maligne Canyon.
On the canyon road we set a new record for bear sightings. So here’s #5, Mr. Black Bear and the closest yet. Poor boy. Just wanted to eat his berries in peace, without all those gawkers!
We continued on to Maligne Lake, passing Medicine Lake on the way (this lake comes and goes, due to holes in the bottom!)
Finally here’s a look at Maligne Lake, our last major destination in the Canadian Rockies. The last time we were here (yes, in the last century) we took a boat tour, but not this time…
From Jasper we would head back west for home. And it was okay because by now we were done. I don’t think we could have stopped and looked at another mountain, glacier, river, waterfall, or turquoise colored lake! (Though I’m pretty sure we would stop for another bear. And we did in fact stop to look at beautiful Mt. Robson in British Columbia the next day!) I guess you could say we were travel weary and ready for home! But we took with us all the grandeur and splendor and beauty we could absorb! We highly recommend you do the same!
~ Susanne, from the comfort of home!
Apparently every 10 years or so we hear the call to go north. So for the past few weeks I’ve been putting together our next road trip to the Canadian Rockies. This got me going through my old scrap books (I used to do a lot of them before the digital age) and I was reminded that this will be our 4th such trek northward.
As I do for all my vacation planning, I visited AAA for maps and tour books and also bought lonely planet’s guide to ‘Banff, Jasper & Glacier National Parks.’ Thus I began plotting our route and making the necessary camping and lodging arrangements for the coming trip (in the nick of time it turns out). Our current plan is to head east to Glacier National Park in Montana, north into Alberta with a stop in Calgary, to Banff, Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway and to the northernmost point in our trip, Jasper. We’ll return west and south through British Columbia and home again to Washington. A nice packed loop.
The first time we made such a trip was in the last century (I love saying that) and we were, needless to say, younger than we are today. We hiked to some of the most popular and spectacular vistas in the Rockies without much thought given to the length or difficulty of the trail. (Okay, mostly true. We’ve never been mountain climbers.)
I took the picture below on a hike to Mt Edith Cavell where Angel Glacier hangs from the side of the mountain.
We also hiked the famous trail from Lake Louise to the Agnes Teahouse and the Beehives and I don’t remember it being particularly hard. So I was surprised to read in ‘lonely planet’ that we had gained 1,624 feet in elevation on this ‘moderate to difficult’ trail. Surprised, because these days I tend to look for ‘easy to moderate’ with minimal elevation gain. What a difference a century makes!
According to lonely planet, “It’s a fine, well-marked route taking in forest trails, hidden lakes and scenic viewpoints, as well as a famous teahouse ~ but it is formidably steep (especially around the Big Beehive), so bring plenty of water and take regular rests.” It goes on to say that after leaving the teahouse you will reach the Big Beehive after a mile of “relentless leg-shredding switchbacks.” Apparently there was a time when I hiked trails with leg-shredding switchbacks. Not so much today. So just in case we don’t make it up there again (thinking we won’t but hey, you never know) I give you this picture of Lake Louise from the Beehives as proof of my previous climb.
No that is not a big swimming pool, it is the true and actual Lake Louise when viewed from above. Chateau Lake Louise is on the left far, far below. And yes, I really did take that picture.
By the way, this reminds me of the time we brought a group of 20 teenagers to this very spot on our second trip about 10 years later. Some of them got so close to the edge of the cliff on that same hike that I had to pull them back from the brink while reminding them that there were no guard rails and we were in fact in the wilderness. Even now I shudder to think of the responsibility we bore to bring all those teenagers home again to their parents and preferably in one piece. (Sometimes I ask myself, “what were we thinking??, did we really do that??” and the answer is yes we did! And had a good time too!)
Here are a few more pictures from the Canadian Rockies from those first 2 trips.
the Lovely Lake Louise at ground level:
the ever young husband at Moraine Lake:
Our third trip north came roughly 10 years later, this time in the month of May and finally in this century. We dropped Jasper from the itinerary and added the nearer Waterton Lakes which is on the other side of the border from Glacier. Though smaller in scale we found it to be as beautiful, quieter, and less crowded than the larger parks to the north.
It was also the only place we got to see a bear in the wild. We enjoyed following him slowly in our truck, watching as he foraged on the side of the road till he finally ran off and jumped into the river. Like a National Geographic special!
From Waterton Lakes we went on to Banff and Lake Louise, where this time we found the lovely lady mostly covered in ice and not the same milky green we remembered from our summer trips.
So here we are again, embarking on trip #4, coincidentally almost 10 years after the last one. Aside from the people in the pictures, I wonder what else has changed? How will we find Lake Louise this time? Will we hike to the Beehives? Or be content with memories and photos from earlier treks, finding new adventures closer to the ground? Stay tuned for answers to these compelling questions and to view the pictures from our latest trip to the Canadian Rockies.
We don’t usually make the drive to Mt. Rainier on a sunny Saturday in the middle of summer. But this past weekend that is exactly what we decided to do, heading from Renton through Enumclaw to the Sunrise side of the mountain. We didn’t make it all the way to the Visitor Center (6,400 ft) as we opted out of the bumper to bumper traffic at the entrance gate. No matter. The mountain is not limited to the boundaries of the park and we found incredible views nonetheless.
It’s Mount Rainier, after all.
Hey there. It’s me. Tiger, the handsome tabby and therapy cat. What’s that, you say? Therapy Cat?? Okay, so maybe I’m not officially “certified” (yes there is such a thing.) And I don’t visit nursing homes like some of my cousins. Or hospitals. Or prisons. (Well, I have been to jail but that’s a different story!)
Certified or not, I can make you feel better! Watch me sleep and hear my purr motor and you will instantly relax. Pet me and you will lower your blood pressure.
More importantly, I will listen to you. Yes, you heard right.
I am a great listener.
We cats hear it all and keep it to ourselves. The words you say when you think you’re alone. The words you don’t say. We can read you with our “feline sense.”
Yes, it’s true. Give me a minute here and I’ll show you what I mean. Just say anything. Go ahead. Anything. I’ll respond.
~ Tiger ~
*This post is dedicated to my husband Bob *
It was a different time and a different town. There was a big airplane company but no technology. The Smith Tower but no Space Needle. There were wrestling matches and roller derby and stock car racing. But no major league sports. It was the nineteen fifties in Seattle and the biggest show in town was Seafair.
Seafair started in 1950 and quickly became Seattle’s premier event. There were neighborhood carnivals and parades with drill teams and marching bands, where Seafair Pirates roamed. Floats carried princesses who perfected the wave to the crowds lining the streets and honorary parade marshalls included celebrities like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
But these were only the warm up to the Grand Finale. The Races. Hydroplane, that is.
Every year Seafair climaxed with the Gold Cup races on Lake Washington. Where racers were sports heroes like Bill Muncey and Myro Slovak and drove boats named Slo-Mo IV, Gale V and Miss Bardahl.
The year was 1959 and a young boy named Bobby was with his best friends, Delbert and his little brother Norman.
They were watching the races at a friend’s house near Lake Washington. The race was over but there was confusion over who won, Maverick or Miss Thriftway. Deliberations were taking awhile so the boys thought they had time to go watch the winning driver be thrown into the lake.
They headed over to Sayres Pits which was swarming with the boats and their drivers, as well as radio and TV personalities. It was also protected by a chain link fence about 50 yards long – and the fence was guarded by a cop who patrolled it back and forth. They hadn’t planned on that. But they sure wanted to be on the other side where the action was.
Bobby and Delbert looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. They’d jump over the fence whenever the guard went to the other end.
Delbert went first and made it safely over. When the cop walked away again it was Norman’s turn. He made it over too and disappeared into the crowds while no one noticed. Finally it was Bobby’s turn and when the coast was clear he climbed up the fence and started over the other side. But while he was coming down the cuff of his jeans caught and when he landed on the other side he heard a loud pop! He got up to run but his leg buckled beneath him and he heard a woman scream, “Look at that boy’s leg!!”
Bobby looked down and saw his leg strangely bent between his ankle and knee, and a wave of nausea hit him. And fear that he’d been caught. As a crowd gathered around the cop arrived to comfort him, then sent for a medic.
While he was lying on the ground, the winning driver of the hydroplane Maverick, Bill Stead, came over to see him, dripping wet. “I broke my leg when I was your age too,” he said. Bobby may have missed the dunking, but he got to personally meet the driver. Heady stuff.
A few days later he was recuperating at home where his mom and grandma were all dressed up waiting for the sheriff to come. Bobby would be interviewed for the local news, as the only casualty of the races that year.
There was some consolation when he saw himself on TV that night. But he was stuck with a cast the rest of the summer. He’d have to give up jumping over fences for a while.
Olympic National Park. Almost a million acres of preserved wilderness, old-growth temperate rain forests, glacier capped mountains and glacier carved lakes, wild rivers, the longest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States. Nearby Sequim, in the rain shadow of the Olympics. Self proclaimed “Lavender Capital of North America.” All within 3 hours of Seattle. Can you see why this is one of my favorite road trips?
The itinerary doesn’t change much from year to year. It doesn’t have to. It’s got everything. Here’s how this year’s trip played out.
Day 1 Head to the Olympic Peninsula to enjoy one of the largest celebrations of all things lavender in the country, the Sequim Lavender Festival. Visit the farms and breathe deeply.
(And as you read this be sure to pronounce Sequim as one syllable, “Sqwim,” or we will know you are not a Washingtonian.)
Navigate the Street Fair and support the local economy…
Spend the night somewhere deep in Olympic National Park and breathe in the fragrance of dense forest and campfire.
Day 2 – Wake up and smell the coffee and drink the same slowly. Move on to Hurricane Ridge, a major high point in the Park (literally and figuratively) where on a clear day you can see forever into the Olympics. Even if it’s not a perfectly clear day, you can still enjoy the mountains from behind the mysterious clouds and fog flowing around you.
Continue down the road to beautiful Lake Crescent
Stop by Lake Crescent Lodge where Franklin D. Roosevelt stayed in 1937 before he signed the bill that created Olympic National Park in 1938.
Unless you are staying here continue on to Sol Duc and set up camp at the RV park and welcome your friendly neighbors, this mama deer with her two fawns..
Traverse the easy hike to one of the most photographed views in the Park..
The reward for your effort…. beautiful Sol Duc Falls.
After a quiet dinner at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (yes, there is a nice restaurant and wonderful hot springs you can soak in), walk back to the camper and let the falling rain put you to sleep.. we are after all in rain forest country..
Day 3 Sleep in while hubby catches trout in the Sol Duc River; afterwards break camp and head west towards the rugged Washington Coast at Ruby Beach.
Pick up a souvenir… there are plenty of smooth rocks to go around….
Stop by Lake Quinault deep in the rain forest for a rest…
then continue on to spend the night at Ocean Shores..
Day 4 Walk on the beach in the morning and then head towards home …. and plan to do it all again next year, maybe even remembering to book ahead for the coveted lodges….
Just off of Highway 101 where it runs along Hood Canal there was a small restaurant with a home in back and attached store in front. They were owned and operated by Floyd and Elsie Chapman and the sign in front read “ELSIE’S PLEASANT HARBOR.” Hood Canal is a narrow shimmering fjord 50 miles long, reaching depths up to 600 feet, though the average is 177. The clear, blue, water is filled with abundant life and on its shores are plentiful clams and oysters. Pleasant Harbor is a quiet natural cove on the canal and that is where Floyd moored his shrimp boat.
On a sleepy day in 1963 Floyd was outside in his blue overhauls and captain’s hat, working the fire under a large kettle where the day’s catch of shrimp was to be cooked. He’d been up since early that morning when he had gone to drop the traps in the canal.
He dumped the buckets full of shrimp into the boiling water and when they turned white in their orange shells he put them in prepared cardboard boxes where they’d be stored on ice and ready for sale in the store.
The Seattle Times had taken an interest in the man and his shrimp boat and a reporter and photographer were on the scene. I was also there watching. Every summer we grandkids got to stay a week with grandma and grandpa at Pleasant Harbor. Those sunny days were filled with dusty hikes through woods to the canal below where we played on the beach and swam in the icy cold water. We dropped homemade lines off the state dock down the barnacle covered pilings where the perch were feeding and when they took the bait we yanked hard and pulled them up. If we got up in time we went out with grandpa on the boat early in the morning to set the traps or later that day to collect them filled with shrimp and the occasional hitchhiking crab or squid.
After they had taken several pictures of grandpa the reporter covering the story asked me if I liked shrimp.
“No,” I replied definitely.
“Would you eat one for a dime?” he asked.
“Yes!” I nodded eagerly.
So he set me up just so and after he took the picture I downed that shrimp he had put in my outstretched hand. A deal was a deal.
I ran to buy candy with my dime.
Later that summer when the article appeared in the paper, there I was in my striped shirt and pearl necklace, holding that shrimp ready to drop it into my mouth while my eyes are saying, ‘oh no…. here it comes.’
And the caption read, “Granddaughter, Susan, age 8, gobbles down a shrimp with obvious delight.”
Obvious delight. A real shrimp story, that one.