2001-08-12 22:07:17-05
During the summer of 2001, Joy and I went camping for a week in Alberta.
Joy has many of her pics up here.
The pictures I have in the database are here.

Banff: August 13 - 21 - 2001

Day 1

For some reason the cheapest flight I could find from Detroit to Calgary was via Dallas. We left Detroit for Dallas at 8:30 in the morning, on an extremely crowded AA flight 2455. I had been slightly nervous about the connection, as we had just over a half hour to cross to a concourse on the other side of the airport, but we made it to AA 2081 with plenty of time to spare.

All I really remember of Texas is how brown and flat everything looked from the air, and the wave of heat that washed over me when I walked past a gap between the ramp and the body of the flight to Calgary while boarding. I remember feeling a rush with the acceleration as we left Texas, knowing that my worries of being stranded, and nightmare of running through endless airport halls that had bothered me for the past few days could be forgotten, and I could relax.

The flight from Dallas to Calgary was uneventful - we were above clouds for most of the flight, save for a portion of the badlands, which are much more impressive from ground level. Upon arriving at Calgary, we were disinfected, to prevent Hoof and Mouth disease, and cleared customs.

Dashing to the rental agency to pick up our reserved Escape, we took off west down Highway 1 (Trans-Canada) towards Banff.

After picking up our gear we ate dinner at Wild Bill's, walked around Banff acting like typical tourists. (I let myself get dragged into a Lush store; it wasn't too bad :-) )

Day 2

We awakened on the second morning to a slight problem:

I changed the tire, and the rental agency arranged for a local gas station to plug the tire so I wouldn't be stuck with the tiny doughnut spare for the rest of the week.

We broke camp, and headed to Banff for breakfast. We ate at Joe Btfsplk's diner where we tried that unique Canadian delicacy that is Poutine (Fries, cheese, gravy) - it was actually really good :-)

After breakfast, and wandering around Banff, we took off for Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway. The drive along the Trans-Canada highway towards Lake Louise was rather hazy - there was a large forest fire burning somewhere in the area, and the smoke was very thick at times.

When we reached Lake Louise, we tried to snag a campsite at the main campground outside of town, but due to bear activity, it was restricted to hard sided shelters only. We were given the option of camping there if we agreed to sleep in the car, but we decided to spend the day in Lake Louise, and try to find another campground (Mosquito Creek, or if all other sites were full Waterfowl Lake) before nightfall.

Parking in the overflow lot for the Lake Louise information center, we caught the bus to the lake itself. Everything was much more crowded than it was when I had last been in the area. The bus connecting the town site to the lake was packed - mostly tourists, and a few apparently local kids who appeared to be making a day of taking the bus to the top of the mountain, and biking back down.

We decided to go on the plain of the Six Glaciers trail - the last time I was here, my parents and I had started on that trail, but had not gone much farther than the end of the lake.

The trail started out as a nice walk along the river that feeds lake Louise, but once it went about the tree line, things got a little harder:

We had seriously underestimated how much water to carry, and with both of us still used to low altitudes, things were becoming uncomfortable, although the scenery was amazing. Eventually we reached the teahouse.

The teahouses are staffed by people who live on site for weeks at a time. Supplies are initially flown in, and resupplies are packed in on horseback. Employees pack the garbage out when they hike out after their shift.
We were too thirsty to wait for tea to cool, so we both ordered peachade, and bottled water. The peachade was wonderful! It was amazing to sit in the midst of such wonderful scenery, rehydrating, as we looked over menus to decide if we wanted food, or just more liquid.
Eventually, we started the hike back - reassuring dozens of people who asked (just as we did) that the teahouse was just over the ridge they were waling along. Our waitress zipped past us - waking about twice our speed as she headed off on her break in civilization.

Eventually we made it back to where we had stashed the car, and took off looking for a campground. Unfortunately, the full impact of the closure massive tent camping area by Lake Louise had not sunk in until we headed back towards Banff, to try to get a spot at the Castle Mountain campground - we found it full.

Driving back towards Lake Louise along the Bow Valley parkway, we stopped at Protection Mountain - full as well, but we got a close look at an elk grazing by the entrance of the campground. Heading north, past Lake Louise, and towards jasper, we traveled down the Icefield Parkway towards Mosquito Creek. The sun was starting to set, and the light was catching the glaciers we were passing in some very cool way.

Mosquito Creek was full as well.

Continuing north, I proceeded towards the only major campground between where we were, and the Jasper national park - Waterfowl Lake.
Waterfowl Lake was full as well, but it had an over flow area.

Initially the overflow area did not look very inviting - the entrance was choked with stored road construction equipment, and the winding road opened into a huge parking lot for mass quantities of RVs, but near the end was a sign for a tent area. The trail leading up from the sign lead to a secluded circle of campsites around the edges of a large field - it was actually quite nice. We cooked dinner (hotdogs actually roast quite nicely over a propane stove) and collapsed into the sleeping bags.

Day 3

We woke up to a wonderful view in the overflow area.

After packing, and a quick breakfast, we headed along the Icefields Parkway (one of the most stunning roads in the world) towards Jasper.

We had reached the icefields center.
The icefields center is the outpost of civilization located across from the Athabasca glacier - it serves as a convenient base for people ascending mount Athabasca, or venturing out on the Colombia ice field. For not so daring people (like myself) it is the base where the Brewster snow coaches take people out onto a safe area of the glacier, to experience some of the might of the forces of nature, without falling into a crevasse and slowly freezing to death.

Always jumping at the chance to avoid a slow death from the cold, we bought tickets, and headed out with a friendly and cheerful geology student as a guide/driver.

The glacier was breathtaking -

After the glacier, we continued along the Icefield Parkway towards the town of Jasper. The view was amazing. The Icefield Parkway is known as one of the most stunningly beautiful roads in the world for good reason.

We set up camp at the Wapiti Summer campground, and headed into Jasper to get food. I was excited, as seeing Jasper again was one of the thoughts that had initially sparked me to plan this trip. One of the memories that first came to mind was this really good pizza place I had eaten at the first night I had been in Jasper, 8 years or so before. I found it again.

The Jasper Pizza Place had expanded, and the food was even better than I remembered. Whereas before they had been pretty much a normal pizza place, now they had a huge wood fired oven which was involved in the creation of just about everything they served in some way. We had wonderful nachos (with the tortillas cooked in the wood oven) and an amazingly good seafood pizza.

After wandering around in town a little, we headed out to see the Athabasca and Sunwapta waterfalls before the sun set.

The Athabasca falls are one of my favorite waterfalls. I love walking down the abandoned channels, surrounded by watercut rock, and listening to the roar of the water on the other side of the rock walls that surround me...
Another thing that I find cool, is this: This waterfall is one of the few points where it would be possible to bridge the athabasca river. They managed to build a series of bridges that fit the natural landscape, and seem to me to not detract from the surroundings.

After the Athabasca falls, we visited the Sunwapta falls:

At Sunwapta, the Athabasca river swirls around a small island, before plunging into a deep sheer canyon. Quite impressive.
Day 4

After sleeping in - we headed into Jasper to get some food. We ended up stopping at Papa Georges (The restaurant of the Astoria Hotel) while we debated what to do with the day. We eventually decided on a trip to Whistlers Mountain, and a cable car ride to the top.

Eventually we reached the top - over 7,500 feet up. The view was amazing.
The air was so thin that sounds dropped off quickly - everything was a sharp staccato as we struggled up the trail to the peak, our low altitude adjusted bodies forcing us to stop and gasp for air every 10 steps or so as we climbed the ever steepening slope.

After spending the day on the top of the mountain, we headed back to the tram station to prepare to descend, and encountered a huge line. Apparently the staff member who was responsible for organizing the herd of people waiting to descend had done something and had been fired on the spot, with the remaining staff escorting him down to the base of the tramway in an otherwise empty car.

After reaching the ground, we headed into Jasper once again looking for food. The Japanese restaurant Denjiro had caught our eyes earlier with it's impressive window display of plastic food, so our choice was easy!

Upon walking through the doors, there was a brief but strong feeling of being out of place, as the restaurant had turned out to be a much fancier place than we had initially expected, and we both looked like we had spent several days camping, followed by a day on top of a mountain.

Upon hearing that we didn't have reservations, the hostess politely escorted us past the fancy front rooms to a small crowded room with plywood paneling back by the kitchen. It was crowded, and were the only non-Asian people there.

The food was amazing - both Joy and I agree that it was the best sushi either of us ever had. (the Unagi was amazing)

After dinner, we walked around Jasper for a while, enjoying the wonderful scenery and atmosphere, and picked up the makings of smores for a campfire back at the Wapiti campsite.

Day 5

Day 5 marked the start of the return trip. We broke camp at Wapiti, and started heading back towards Banff and Calgary.

On the way back we stopped at the Angel Glacier at Mount Edith Cavell.

The view was spectacular, and well worth the nerve wracking drive (check the maps for that picture).

As we slowly wandered back along the icefields parkway, we stopped for lunch at a small roadside park by a small set of springs.

We unpacked the stove, and set up on a table in a sunny clearing by the springs, and discovered that out food supplies were down to 4 hotdogs, and buns (plus some mustard), and the next place where food could be purchased would be Lake Louise. Initially planning to each only have one, we decided to polish them off, and finish off the cereal for dinner.

When you are really hungry, and know that you won't be getting much more food for a while, it's amazing how good things can taste. We toasted the hot dogs over the Coleman stove on a fork, and enjoyed the scenery.

Eventually we arrived at Waterfowl Lake. We arrived early enough in the day that we didn't have to stay in the overflow area. Waterfowl Lake is a very cool area:

Day 6

We headed to Lake Louise for lunch, after finishing off the last of our cereal for breakfast. I had remembered a very cool little deli by a river from the last time I had been out in this area, but i had been unable to find it on our first pass through Lake Louise. This time, I thought I remembered where it was. I had also, the previous day, checked at the information station in Jasper, to try to locate a hiking trail that I had really liked - the Larch Valley trail. I had thought it was by jasper, but the rangers directed me to Lake Louise.
The rangers at Lake Louise knew where Larch Valley was - over by Moraine Lake, but there was a hiking restriction to groups of 6 or more due to bear activity.
We hung around the Lake Louise townsite for a little while, and continued back to Banff, staying at Tunnel Mountain, and eating at Wild Bills again, before we checked out the sights in the town, and hiked the hoodoos.

That evening, I finally talked Joy into checking out one of the nature presentations that the rangers put on at night. It was on the wolves of the park - very cool, with random people recruited from the audiance to play the parts of a wolf pack, and a discussion of how parts of the park are closed to human use, in order to allow wolves to roam freely.

Day 7 Mission: Head Smashed In

Waking up early, we packed up, cleaned up, and sorted through the gear we had. We were going to only be spending a few more hours in the mountains, and would be making a dash for distant Fort MacCloud, to visit the world famous Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.
We dashed into Banff for the last time, dropped off the camping gear, and ate another excellent breakfast at Joe's, and wandered around the town - finally finding the non-overpriced supermarket that the locals use (oh well).

As we left town, we saw an elk.

Driving back from Banff to Calgary was slightly depressing - as the spectacular scenery gradually flattened out into the Canadian shield.

After finally navigating the belt around Calgary, and finding out way from highway 1 to highway 2, things became slightly more depressing, as the road to Fort MacCloud was wrapped in a thick fog, with all objects fading into a grey void outside of a small bubble of farming towns that flew by, each one having seen better days farther in the past than the last...

Eventually, we saw the ridge of the bluffs rise out of the mist, and knew that we had made it. I had been worried that it wouldn't be as impressive as it had been 8 years ago when I had last been out here, but it was.

Also, while we were there, I spotted this old mac, still running the same hypercard stack that it had been 8 years ago. I like to think that it hadn't been rebooted in all that time...

We got lunch at a subway (who still used the classic cut) and headed back through the grey void to Calgary.

Day 8

The final Monday, recalling the problems I had encountered the previous day when I was caught in the ring of highway that encircles Calgary, We decided to not do much sightseeing, and to instead, head over to the airport when we found it.

We arrived back in Detroit at about Midnight - after a short lay over in Chicago.

2002-02-14 02:06:44-05
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Ha - I actually got something posted before 180 days had passed since I returned :-)


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