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Travelogue

21st April 2015 - 16th May 2015

Canadian Road Trip.
West Sussex
Tuesday 21st April 2015
Courtyard by Marriot, Gatwick Airport, Lat: 51.1568, Long 0.1528, (178 Miles).

A busy and tiring day, we were up early and Jenny started our laundry washing before 7:30 am, it was all washed and dried within an hour. After draining off the remains of the fresh water, emptying the grey waste and refilling partly with a quantity of water and disinfectant and giving the toilet cassette a good clean and spraying the rubber seals with a silicone lubricant and doing numerous other little tasks we left the camp site at 11:00 am. Arriving at the storage unit we reversed into our allocated space and finalised a few jobs whilst waiting for Enterprise to ring to say they were on the way. Morgan (great name for a guy that lives in the town where they are built . . . I wonder?) arrived and took us to the office to sort the documentation (pay) and collect the car and we returned to the storage unit to pick up our luggage.
The Storage Unit.
The Storage Unit.


First stop was “The Harvester” in Worcester for lunch, before visiting Tesco for a few food and drink items for the next two days and then a further stop at “Gazavans” house (he’s looking after our motorhome while we are away), on the North side of the city. An uneventful but tiring journey to Gatwick, in retrospect perhaps we should have gone M40-M25 instead of cutting across to the M4-M3-M25, we got caught in rush-hour traffic queues near Ascot, mileage wise there would have been little difference. We only stopped twice, for coffee at the services and fuel at Ascot and we arrived at the hotel at 7:22 pm checked in, and were given a nice room on the 1st floor with a king size bed to get lost in. After leaving our luggage in the room, we drove the car to the “drop off” point near the South terminal, did the required hand-over and then walked back the 15 minute to the hotel and relaxed for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday 22nd April 2015
Breakfast in our room, we took a measured amount of muesli for our two day stop and had apples and hard-boiled eggs (left overs), it saved us the £10 each if we had used the hotel facilities and would have only had the same. After breakfast we had a stroll to the South terminal although we have been there before we decided to familarise ourselves with which way to go and find the Air Transat check-in desks. This afternoon another walk to the terminal and a ride to the North terminal on the shuttle, why? Because, just because!

Canada
canadian large

British Columbia

Thursday 23rd April 2015
Best Western Sands, Vancouver, Lat: 49.2865, Long: 123.1407 (4753 Miles).
We left the hotel at 8:30 am and decided to use a baggage trolley and load it with the two large suitcases, camera bag and laptop, whilst Jenny “towed” the “carry-on” to walk to the terminal rather than take the shuttle bus. We thought it inherently easier than attempt to carry the luggage onto and off the shuttle bus. It was, and we saved £6 shuttle fare, having walked to the terminal twice yesterday we knew it was possible as all the pavements to there were very smooth and the roads easy to negotiate. We made our way to the Air Transat checking in desks and off loaded the two large suitcases; the carry-on, laptop and camera bag going as hand luggage, our weighing before-hand worked well, only my camera bag was .1kg over the 10kg limit. Security was fun, not! I annoyed the security guy by not taking my belt off, leaving my phone in my pocket and forgetting that Jenny had slipped a £1 coin in my pocket from the return of the baggage trolley. He sarcastically said, “you’re making me work for my money today, aren’t you?” After security we had a walk around the duty-free shops (why is there always an expensive suitcase store in airports, horse bolted springs to mind) and then after a cup of tea at McDonalds (because they use PG tips) we sat and waited for our flight to be called.
Air Transat Flight 843.
Air Transat Flight 843.

A long walk after our flight was called to gate 37, good job there were travelators and after a short wait we were called aboard our A330 aircraft. We had pre-reserved our seats a double towards the rear of the aircraft and left Gatwick a little later at 12:45 pm. We had a great flight, Jenny read and watched some NCIS episodes on the inflight entertainment and a film, I listened to music and watched two films. We were lucky to have some clear skies over Greenland, the upper states of Canada and the Rockies and the scenery looked fantastic even from 36, 000 feet!
Greenland Icecap.
Greenland Icecap.
The Rockies.
The Rockies.

The only disappointment was the in-flight food, not up to the standard of other airlines we have flown with, luckily we had bought a “meal deal” with the bottled water at Gatwick, otherwise we would have been hungry. We arrived at a wet Vancouver at 14:30 local time and going through passport control, collecting our two suitcases and passing through customs didn’t take too long and we were soon in the taxi for the 30 minute trip from the airport to the hotel. After checking in we sorted a few items out we required for tonight before going out for something to eat and purchase some food for our breakfast tomorrow. It was then an early(ish) night we had been awake for 22 hours!!!


Friday 24th April 2015
We didn’t feel too bad this morning, we both woke at 3:00 am local time, feeling as though we should be wide awake (it would have been 11:00 am BST) and managed to sleep again until 7:00 am local time. To familarise ourselves with Vancouver we decided to use the Hop-on Hop-off Trolley bus to ride in to downtown Vancouver. Run by the Trolley Bus Company they use old San-Francisco style Trolley Buses to do a circular tour of the key tourist sites, with a commentary on the way. After passing some interesting places and districts, i.e. the Maritime Museum, Granville Island and Chinatown, to name but three, we alighted at Gastown near the city centre. Alas, it had started to rain quite heavy so we went into the nearest shopping mall to shelter and have a cup of coffee until it eased.
Vancouver Trolley Company.
Vancouver Trolley Company.


We then found a “Boots Chemist” type shop to purchase some of the things we didn’t want to bother bringing with us, like a larger tube of toothpaste and Jenny’s favourite body cream. We were also looking for a phone shop to find out the cost of purchasing a sim card to use in my phone, however after enquiring at both the Bell and Rogers shops we have decided it will still be cheaper to use “data roaming” on Jenny’s phone if necessary. We eventually found “The Pacific Centre” a very large mall with a food court, after wandering around all the counters we opted for Thai, Jenny having a prawn stir-fry with sweet and sour, whilst I had chicken stir-fry with ginger, very good it was too. After a further walk around the city (it had stopped raining) we caught the Hop-on hop-off bus back to English Bay and walked back to the hotel, via the Safeway Supermarket to purchase some food for to-nights meal. To-morrow the weather looks a bit better, we haven’t decided yet what to do though from our “list” of POI’s of the city.


Saturday 25th April 2015

A quick visit to Safeway this morning for bread rolls for our “picnic” lunch before catching the trolley bus again this morning to downtown Vancouver (we got the second day free on a special offer yesterday). We got off again at the top end of Gastown and this time we walked to “Canada Place” home of the convention centre and the cruise ship terminal and had a short walk along the pier watching the float planes take off on their sightseeing flights. The Information Centre was just over the road so we went there next hoping to get some maps, etc. for our road trip and also find out information on how to get to Capilano Bridge. They didn’t have the maps, but what we did find out was, a shuttle bus/coach runs from “Canada Place” to Capilano Bridge and as the guide was telling us the shuttle bus/coach arrived, we joined the queue and within 5 minutes we were on our way to North Vancouver. We arrived at the Capilano Bridge ticket office about 25 minutes later and after paying the entrance fee, to a guy from Penrith, (incidentally the coach driver was originally from Liverpool, a Liverpool football fan, I couldn’t resist mentioning Aston villa as we got off the coach), we entered the suspension bridge park. Don’t know what it was there for but an empty marquee was handy for eating our lunch in as it had started to rain, others had the same idea. We had picked up free plastic sou’westers at the kiosk as we came in, we didn’t need them after lunch, the rain had stopped and as forecast the sun came out, useful to keep though, Jenny carefully folded hers to put it in the rucksack and I just screwed mine up! The swing bridge was the first thing we tackled, 450 feet long, one of the world’s longest and 230 feet high. Now Jenny as never liked swing bridges, however she was determined to go over this one and she succeeded to master her fear, even stopping in the middle to look over at the river flowing many feet below. She did look a funny colour when she got off at the other end though, (joke).
Capilano Bridge.
Capilano Bridge.


Next was the treetops adventure a series of shorter swing bridges between huge trees high up in the tree canopy, this time I went on my own and Jenny met me at the stairway exit. Lastly was the Cliff walk a metal walkway which takes you out beyond the cliff face far above the Capilano River Canyon, Jenny enjoyed that one, I was less keen!
Capilano Cliff Walk.
Capilano Cliff Walk.


After exploring more of the forest and visiting the “Trading Post” shop we returned to the shuttle bus/coach parking area and returned to Canada Place. Our timing was perfect a Hop-on Hop-off trolley bus was just arriving, off the coach and on to the trolley bus. We decided to get off further from our hotel and alight at the water taxi stop across False Creek to Granville Island. I made a mistake with this, I thought the water taxi went all around false creek and stopped off at different locations (rather like the Sydney Harbour ferries), I was mistaken it just went over to Granville Island, less than 5 minutes away. No wonder the ferry man looked at us strange when we stayed onboard within another 5 minutes we were back were we started, still it was free as part of the trolley bus fare. We had a pleasant walk then back to the hotel, where we relaxed and had an evening meal before we walked down to English Bay to watch and photograph the sunset from First Beach.
Sunset at English Bay.
Sunset at English Bay.



Sunday 26th April 2015
Another quick visit to the Safeway after breakfast this morning, again something for a “picnic” lunch (we really enjoyed their bread rolls yesterday). The walk that I particularly wanted to do whilst in Vancouver was the sea wall walk around Stanley Park a distance of over 7 mile.
Stanley Park Seawall Trail.
Stanley Park Seawall Trail.



The weather was perfect, warm and dry with very little wind and we started off a little before 11:00 am and we decided to walk it in a clockwise direction. It wasn’t too long before we stopped at the first concession (café) for a coffee and we sat near the at present dry sea water swimming pool (they fill it in May) overlooking English Bay, to drink it. We stopped at various locations as we strolled along the pedestrian only path, cyclists and in-line skaters having their own and it was one way only (anti-clockwise), The Girl in Swimsuit Statue, The camera-luring Totem Poles and the Brockton Point Lighthouse were three POI’s we passed before we stopped for our lunch near the Lions Gate Bridge (which we crossed yesterday on the way to Capilano Swing Bridge) and North Vancouver.
Stanley Park, "Girl in a Wetsuit".
Stanley Park, "Girl in a Wetsuit".
Stanley Park, Totem Poles.
Stanley Park, Totem Poles.
Brocton Park Lighthouse.
Brocton Park Lighthouse.


Carrying on towards Coal Harbour we had a great view of six young Bald Eagles soaring above us and on occasions alighting in some tall cedar trees for a short time. Having finished the circuit of Stanley Park near downtown Vancouver we cut across near the “Lost Lagoon” nature reserve and were lucky enough to spot two Raccoons in a tree and shortly afterwards a Black Squirrel, a first for both of us.
Racoon.
Racoon.


Our final day in Vancouver we couldn’t resist trying an “Alberta Allbeef” hot dog from his stand on 1st Beach near the hotel, our bus driver was right, they are said to be “The Best In BC”, well we haven’t tried any others, but the one we shared was delicious.

Monday 27th April 2015
Best Western Rainbow Country Inn, Chilliwack, Lat: 49.1455, Long: 122.0084, (108 Kilometers).
We left the hotel this morning at 10:50 am and we had a great chat with our taxi driver on the way to the Hertz rental car depot at the airport. After the usual formalities to do at the rental counter we were on our way to Chilliwack in a “Dodge Journey” SUV, very impressed we are with it to, an up-grade from what we ordered and at no extra cost, (we think because it is an Alberta territory licence-plated vehicle they wanted it to go back towards there). Initially they offered it to us as a chargeable up-grade from the Jeep Cherokee, however having refused it they still gave it us! We (well I) only went wrong once on the way out of Richmond (where the airport is) and turned into a truck “Scales” (weighing bridge) lane at a junction, I soon realised my error and with a swift U-turn we were back on the right road. Despite the high spec’ of the Dodge it doesn’t’ come with a Satnav (only at an extra charge), we relied instead on a good old-fashioned “Map Quest” printed sheet, Maps.me on the iPhone and GyPSy the guide we purchased for the iPhone some months ago. We have now done the most difficult part, getting out of Vancouver, now we will be on the Trans-Canada highway 1 for a few days and will have no major towns or cities to navigate through. We arrived at Chilliwack at 2:15 pm, too early to check into the hotel so we had a coffee at Tim Hortons (our daughter Rhiain will be happy, we are sure she and Ian have shares in the company), ate our ham rolls in the car and started to familarise ourselves with all the gizmo’s on the dashboard. We checked in a little after 3:00pm and have a great room facing the Atrium with its wonderful plants and water feature with a patio door from our room to it. The swimming pool and hot tub was at the other end of the Atrium and it didn’t take us long to change into our swimming costumes and use them! We then relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
Best Western, Chilliwack.
Best Western, Chilliwack.



Tuesday 28th April 2015
South Thompson Inn, Kamloops, Lat: 50.6539, Long: 120.0083 (313 Kilometers).
Breakfast in the atrium this morning and very good it was too, plenty of variety and we were very good we didn’t touch the pastries! Our first stop this morning was at Walmart (part of Asda) at a shopping centre in Chilliwack for some provisions, i.e. milk, bread rolls and fruit, etc. Jenny had already prepared a list so it didn’t take us long to get what we wanted. Our first POI today should have been Bridal Falls, unfortunately as we arrived at the forest car park the rain which had been falling since we left Chilliwack, turned into a torrent and just getting out of the car we were getting very wet and with the falls being a 15 minute walk away we decided we would give them a miss, we know there will be many others to see whilst in North America. By the time we got to Hope the rain had stopped, in fact the weather got progressively drier and warmer the further north we travelled, we detoured at Hope for 10 kilometers onto Highway 3 to visit the “Hope Slide”, the largest landslide ever recorded in Canada. It occurred in the morning hours of January 9, 1965 in the Nicolum Valley in the Cascade Mountains near Hope, British Columbia, and killed four people. The volume of rock involved in the landslide has been estimated at 47 million cubic metre. The mist on the mountain was too low for us to see how large the slide was from the visitor’s car park; however, just from what was visible it was easy to imagine what the scale of it must have been. Returning towards Hope we had two choices of highway, The Trans-Canada Highway 1 or Highway 5 Coquihalla Highway, both have their attractions but “The Coq” (pronounced “coke”) is a much shorter route by a large margin so we chose that one. Not for the faint-hearted though, there was a long climb to the Coquihalla Summit at 4081 feet and the Great Bear Snow shed to pass through before the descent down with plenty of snow at the sides of the road and also the Surrey Lake Summit at 4738 feet to drive over. We were disappointed to find no rest areas on the highway; in fact we were at Kamloops before we stopped for a cup of coffee and to eat our lunch at a Petro Canada service stop. We were now only 22 kilometers from the South Thompson Inn and arrived at 3:30 pm and after checking in and sorting out our belongings we sat on the basket weave sofa outside on the veranda in the warm sunshine. We also had two walks around the hotel grounds being lucky enough to spot some Red-winged Blackbirds and Yellow-headed Blackbird, hopefully I should have some decent photographs of them, and I haven’t looked yet.
South Thompson Inn.
South Thompson Inn.
South Thompson Inn.
South Thompson Inn.



Wednesday 29th April 2015
Best Western Plus Revelstoke, Revelstoke, Lat: 51.0098, Long: 118.2194 (217 Kilometers).
A short walk this morning around the paddocks to photograph the birds again, this time using my tri-pod for extra stability, another first, a small plover called a Killdeer. We left at 9:30 am for an almost straight drive to Revelstoke and our first stop was at the small town of Chase, where a helpful girl in the information centre gave us some maps and guides for the next part of our journey and also gave us directions to the local supermarket. Most impressed with the supermarket, “Safety Mart Foods” a fantastic range of really fresh fruit and vegetables and a decent bakery counter; we were soon on our way again after purchasing our needs. Our stop for lunch was at Salmon Arm a tourist town on the banks of Shuswap Lake and we found the ideal place to park near the nature reserve and wooden pier, claimed to be the longest in North America. Whilst Jenny prepared our picnic lunch I walked back to where I had seen a Blue Heron “fishing”, It had moved and I couldn’t get into a position to photograph it, however what I did see was a young Osprey sitting on a nest on one of the pier supports, after lunch we walked along the pier and had a good sight of it through our binoculars.
Shuswap Lake.
Shuswap Lake.


Our next stop was at Craigellachie (thought we were in Scotland) located 45 km west of Revelstoke, near the entrance to the Eagle Pass. Craigellachie is the site where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. The site is marked by a historic obelisk with the names and details of the construction of the railway. Coincidently while we were there a freight train came past, several minutes later it was still going past, the length of it was astonishing hauled by three diesel locomotives at the front and another in the middle.
 Last Spike, Craigellachie.
Last Spike, Craigellachie.
Last Spike, Craigellachie.
Last Spike, Craigellachie.



Last stop before reaching Revelstoke was at 3 Valley Gap at a hotel complex that included a heritage ghost town, railway roundhouse and antique autos, our type of museum, nothing in any particular order, just memorabilia obviously collected throughout the province. The autos were very interesting especially the collection of Ford Model T’s and A’s from the early 1900’s. After our museum visit we arrived at Revelstoke, the hotel was just off the main highway next to a Denny’s restaurant so we easily found it, we have a great suite, with a separate sitting area, and we are going to be very comfortable here for our two night stay.
3 Valley Gap, “Ghost Town”.
3 Valley Gap, “Ghost Town”.
Best Western, Revelstoke.
Best Western, Revelstoke.



Thursday 30th April 2015
After our breakfast this morning, a complimentary hot breakfast included in our room price, we walked up to the visitor centre to get some more information on the local POI’s we had researched before we left the UK. The one we were particularly interested in was the Revelstoke Greenway trail a flat walk along the river and the lady in the centre gave us the directions to it, (the start was only 5 minutes away), two other places we would like to have visited were still closed due to snow. Something I had completely forgotten about was the Canada National Parks permit, a requirement for the national parks entry so our next “port of call” was the National Parks offices a short distance away, The lady there was extremely helpful and we purchased our passes $115 for a twelve month permit for entrance to every national park in Canada. She also told us that one of the closed places we wanted to visit the “Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk” was assessable, only the visitor centre and toilets (washrooms) were closed but we could access the trail . . . she also said “watch out for bears and a cougar had been sighted there (unconfirmed) recently!” We walked back to the hotel for a coffee before driving back to the car park at the start of the trail. We started off following the bank of the Columbia River until we came its confluence with the Illecillewaet River (I have spelt it correctly) and then followed the narrow trail along until we reached a footbridge. Again today we have seen Osprey and Bald Eagles, rare and the later not seen in the UK; here they seem to be as common as sparrows. After a further walk along the trail we returned to the bridge, this time using the graveled path back to where we had parked the car.
Revelstoke Greenway Trail.
Revelstoke Greenway Trail.
Columbia River, Revelstoke.
Columbia River, Revelstoke.



Returning to the hotel a soak in the hot tub was “top of the list” and we enjoyed a 20 minute “bubble bath” before we relaxed for a short time until we went for a delicious meal at the Denny’s close by. Just C$37 we estimated the same meal in the UK would have cost us £40, the conversion rate working very well for us at present at C$1.85 to the £1.

Friday 1st May 2015
Days Inn, Golden, Lat: 51.3013, Long: 116.9502, (154 Kilometers).
First stop this morning about 28km from Revelstoke was the Skunk Cabbage Trail, The plant from which the trail gets its name is because of the distinctive "skunky" odour that it emits when it blooms. The odour permeates the area where the plant grows, and can be detected even in old, dried specimens. The distinctive odour attracts its pollinators, scavenging flies and beetles. The actual trail car park was closed so we parked off the road near the gates, but as the ranger told us yesterday we are allowed to visit the 1.2 km boardwalk trail, we were glad we did the skunk cabbage (a member of the Arum family) was just coming into bloom a very pretty yellow flower and leaf and the smell was not that bad (we have never smelt a skunk however). We met two park rangers on the way back and had a nice chat to them before we walked back to the car.
Skunk Cabbage Trail.
Skunk Cabbage Trail.


We met them next at the Giant Cedars trail another 5 km along the highway, again the gate was closed although there was a bit more snow around the car park and trail, and as the name suggests the trail about .8 km long was through a very old giant cedar grove which we also enjoyed. The Hemlock Grove Trail was next, this one we couldn’t do, and there was about 2 feet of snow at the entrance! Likewise the Rockgarden Trail and the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre were still to be cleared of snow the official opening dates are towards the end of this month. To give you an idea how much snow there is here some of the campgrounds don’t open until 1st July and close September 2nd. The weather was not particularly kind to us as we climbed up Rogers Pass and travelled through Glacier National Park, visibility was very poor.
Rogers Pass Avalanche Tunnel.
Rogers Pass Avalanche Tunnel.


However we did eventually see some of the magnificent mountain scenery as we descended the pass towards Golden and we stopped for a late lunch in a car park for one of the major walking trails. We arrived at Golden an hour later than we intended, why? We were no longer on Pacific Time Zone, but Mountain Time Zone and we had to move our watches on an hour. After checking in we got ourselves sorted and then had a great soak in the hot tub before relaxing for the rest of the evening.



Saturday 2nd May 2015
After breakfast this morning we drove directly to the Information Centre, it didn’t take long, we didn’t realise it was only the other side of the highway. The two ladies in the centre were very informative and gave us a plan of the town and maps of the surrounding area, plus ideas for our stay based on our criteria, i.e. flat(ish) walks, scenic views and possible sightings of wildlife. Our first “foray” was Reflection Lake, off Highway 95 at the southeast end of Golden. It gets its name from the incredible reflections on the lake, not today though, too many ripples on the water from the wind. There was an excellent viewing point where we were able to experience a diversity of waterfowl, just wish we could properly identify them, (not to impressed with the Canadian bird app we have on the iPhones).
Reflection Lake, Golden.
Reflection Lake, Golden.


After a pleasant walk around part of the lake we returned to the town to purchase food for lunch, stopping for a coffee at a very nice little café. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort was our next stop, a 14 km drive up a winding mountain road where normally a busy ski resort is situated, but which is now closed until the winter, we did have a little look around before descending the road to our lunch time stop. Cedar Lake, which was accessed via a gravel forestry road on an hair-pin bend half way down the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort road we arrived at the car park, but didn’t get out the car it was snowing and hailing! By the time we had finished eating our lunch in the car it had stopped and the sun was shining once more so we had a long walk around part of the lake which in summer we are told is very busy with people swimming, fishing, canoeing and mountain biking, today there were a few people there enjoying the last three, but nobody swimming!
Cedar Lake.
Cedar Lake.



Our last walk today after leaving Cedar Lake was Confluence Park a trail along the Columbia River to where it is joined by the Kicking Horse River, it was remarkable to see that where the waters joined the Columbia River the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America was a “greeny” colour and the Kicking Horse River a blue glacial ice colour and yet they both flow out of the Canadian Rockies.
Columbia River (L), Kicking Horse River (R) Confluence Park, Golden.
Columbia River (L), Kicking Horse River (R) Confluence Park, Golden.


After a few “hikes” today it wasn’t long after we returned to the motel that we once again immersed ourselves in the hot-tub before having our evening meal.

Sunday 3rd May 2015
Well we thought we had followed the instructions towards the Wolf Centre and Buffalo Ranch, not that we were actually visiting these two attractions, (if you already know me and Jenny you will know we don’t like those type of places i.e. zoos, preferring to photograph and see animals only in the wild), but the road we wanted towards the Redburn Creek camp ground went past them. We never did get there and returned to the motel late morning after seeing plenty of scenery, but not the destination we wanted. We decided to go out again after lunch, not to Redburn Creek, but to the Golden covered bridge, the longest covered timber framed bridge in Canada. Yesterday we dismissed visiting it thinking it would not be picturesque or interesting, we were wrong and after photographing it, walking across it and reading all the informative information on it, we went to a coffee shop for “coffees to go” and sat on a bench near it and relaxed in the warm/hot afternoon sun. After a walk along the Kicking Horse River town trails both upstream and downstream we returned once more to the motel and a ritualistic soak in the hot tub.
Golden Covered Bridge.
Golden Covered Bridge.
Kicking Horse River, Golden.
Kicking Horse River, Golden.




Alberta

Monday 4th May 2015
Best Western Sidings 49, Banff, Lat: 51.1838, Long 115. 5650, (148 Kilometers)
First stop on our way to Banff this morning was at the Kicking Horse Canyon viewpoint and rest area, we only stopped long enough to admire the view of the canyon and the new(ish) road bridge over it and take a photograph before we continued. We were now passing through Yoho National Park and somehow we missed the turn to our next POI, Emerald Lake, we didn’t even see a sign and before long we had driven the 57km to Field, a small town and only town between Golden and Lake Louise. Hopefully as we are returning this way we may have and opportunity if time to visit Emerald Lake then. We stopped at the visitor centre and armed with even more guides and maps from the kind lady there we continued to Lake Louise, where we took the customary photograph along the lake towards the Victoria Glacier, unfortunately the lake is still frozen over so we didn’t get the photograph we wanted of the incredible glacial blue colour of the lake and also the road was still closed to the equally spectacular Moraine Lake due to the snow.
Lake Louise Panorama.
Lake Louise Panorama.


We were going to the restaurant for lunch in Lake Louise village, but it was almost full of Japanese tourist from two travel coaches, we could have got a seat, but the noisy chatter in a foreign language, we couldn’t stand, it was much quieter sitting in the car enjoying our muffins and trail bars in the car park. We decided instead of driving directly to Banff along Highway 1 we would use the “Bow Valley Parkway” (Highway 1A the original highway between Lake Louise and Banff), there wasn’t a lot of difference in the distance, but with a maximum speed of 60 kilometers it was much slower, however with an un-fenced road and plenty of places to pull off the road it gave us a much better opportunity to hopefully see some wildlife. And we were lucky spotting our first Elk and Mule Deer as we drove along. It also gave us much better views of Castle Mountain and the Bow River than from Highway 1.
Elk.
Elk.
Mule Deer.
Mule Deer.
Castle Mountain.
Castle Mountain.



After a short stop for a coffee at the Castle Mountain Junction shop we continued to our hotel at Banff stopping to admire the view of Vermillion Lakes on the way. We checked in at the hotel having a nice room on the 3rd floor with a veranda before walking the short distance along Banff Avenue to “The Keg” to enjoy a fantastic steak evening meal.

Tuesday 5th May 2015
A quiet morning, just a stroll up Banff Avenue to the shops and a visit to the information centre to find out the easiest way to visit the Banff Gondola to ride up Sulphur Mountain (by car was the answer). Looking at the weather forecast it looked as though today was the day to go, tomorrow if we believe the forecast is snow??? and for it to be much colder. As it was almost lunch time we decided to take a simple lunch with us and we drove the 6 km to the Gondola car park and enjoyed the 8 minute ride to the summit building and observation decks at the top of Sulphur Mountain, having outstanding panoramic views of Banff and the Canadian Rockies from 7486ft (2281m) on a wonderfully clear day.
 Banff Gondola.
Banff Gondola.



After lunch sitting at a picnic bench (in the sun, at that height it was chilly in the shade), we had a short walk along the wooden boardwalk taking photographs in all directions before riding back down to the car park and had a short walk to look at the hot spring complex before continuing to one of Banff’s other attractions that we could see from the summit, Bow River Falls a major series of picturesque falls on (of course) the Bow River.
Banff and the National Park.
Banff and the National Park.
Sulphur Mountain Summit.
Sulphur Mountain Summit.


The great thing was we didn’t have to walk too far, the car park was at the base of the falls and we were able to use a trail and a series of steps to reach the top.
Bow River Falls.
Bow River Falls.
Bow River.
Bow River.



We then returned to the hotel and enjoyed a soak in the hot tub before driving out once again along the Bow Valley Parkway, hoping that before 8:00 pm when the road closed we would see more of the wild animals. We got as far as Castle Mountain before we turned around to return to Banff, once again seeing Elk and Mule Deer; we timed our return to perfection arriving at the barrier to the parkway 5 minutes before it came down.

Wednesday 6th May 2015
The weather forecasters were correct, flurries of snow when we got up this morning, so pleased we did the gondola ride yesterday. We had a walk once more along Banff Avenue to the Bow River Bridge at the top of the town, purchasing a set of Inukshuk coasters that our daughter wanted in a souvenir shop. We managed to dodge most of the snow; however we did decide to return to the hotel until lunchtime, planning the next few days of our trip with the wealth of information leaflets we had collected from various places.
Bow River, Banff Town.
Bow River, Banff Town.

Looking through the hotel information I did have a “find” last night, Tooloulous a Cajun/Creole restaurant and when we looked this morning as we passed the restaurant they had Creole Jambalaya (smoky sausage & chicken in a spicy Creole Sauce served over Cajun dirty rice) on their lunch menu, we couldn’t resist it and walked back up to “Caribou Street”, and enjoyed a delicious meal in very pleasant “Louisiana” surroundings, This afternoon the weather was supposed to improve so we drove out to Lake Minnewanka ("Water of the Spirits" in Nakoda) a glacial lake located in the eastern area of Banff National Park in Canada, about five kilometers (3.1 miles) northeast of Banff. The lake is 28 km (17 mi) long and 142 m (466 ft.) deep, making it the longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies (the result of a power dam at the west end). However the snow actually got worse as we climbed the narrow road up to the lake, by the time we arrived there other than mist over the water there wasn’t a great deal to see so we decided instead to drive back again to the Bow Valley Parkway. We found a great place to park and spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening sitting in the car and watching for wild life, plenty of Elk and Mule deer again but spotting a bear still proved elusive.

Thursday 7th May 2015
Best Western Inn and Suites, Jasper, Lat: 52.8844, Long -118.0809 (292 Kilometers).
We left the hotel before 9:00 am this morning ostensibly to travel as far as Lake Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway early to spot some animals, again without a site of Ursus americanus. We had a “comfort” stop at Lake Louise village and bought some bread rolls for our lunch before joining the Icefields Parkway to experience what is said to be one of the most scenic roads in the world, stretching 232km (144mi.) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. After showing our Park passes at the access gate we drove along the 2 lane highway with a speed limit of 90 km/h (55 mph) towards Jasper using GyPSy Click here . . . our navigational aid and guide to highlight the POI’s. Our first “proper” stop was at Peyto Lake, the much photographed indescribable blue lake, the guide books state “from the parking lot follow a paved trail for 15 minutes to the viewing platform”. We could only be guided along a snow track from other peoples footprints, some of which had obviously gone into deeper parts as the footprints had disappeared into holes of an unknown depth and we came across a traffic sign with only the last 12 inches showing and of course when we got there, not unexpected the lake was completely frozen over.
Peyto Lake Trail.
Peyto Lake Trail.
Peyto Lake.
Peyto Lake.


Continuing on after “skating” back down to the parking lot, we stopped and photographed the “Crows Foot Glacier”, Bow Lake, and the Saskatchewan River Crossing, stopping at the small complex at the campsite for a coffee “to go” and to eat our lunch.
Bow Lake.
Bow Lake.
Saskatchewan River Crossing.
Saskatchewan River Crossing.



After various photo stops we arrived at the Columbia Icefield and parked at the Icefield Centre to view the Athabasca Glacier, then found out we could park nearer to walk to the toe (bottom edge) of the glacier. We had decided not to use the “Snocoach” to walk onto the glacier, our thinking being that nothing could eclipse the experience of our helicopter tour of the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers in New Zealand and our landing on top of the Fox Glacier in 2008.
Athabasca Glacier Panorama.
Athabasca Glacier Panorama.


Leaving the icefield we again stopped a various points along the parkway AND WE SAW OUR FIRST BLACK BEAR, feeding alongside the highway. Getting a photograph wasn’t easy, other vehicles had also stopped on the shoulder and everybody was “shuffling” around each other (including me) to get a decent photo.
Young Black Bear.
Young Black Bear.


The weather deteriated shortly afterwards and we had snow flurries almost all the way to Jasper, we had already planned to “miss” the last 50 kilometers of POI’s and visit them from Jasper in the next 3 days so we weren’t disappointed. Arriving at the hotel we checked into our room, the log fire was a great touch, having been given a “fuel log” by reception with matches to light it and we also have a full kitchen here with a separate bedroom. With a drive which has taken us most of the day we decided tonight to eat at the hotel “The Inn Restaurant” was a great choice, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal there, before relaxing in front of our log fire.

Friday 8th May 2015
First destination after breakfast this morning was a walk up to the information centre for some information on walking near the town, the lady in the centre gave us some useful maps and we decided today to drive up to Maligne Lake. After a quick purchase of bread rolls for lunch we drove along the highway to the bridge across the Athabasca River and climbed up the winding road to our first stop, Maligne Canyon which was delightful. We parked in a car park near the tea room and gift shop and choosing the short easy trail we descended to the 1st Bridge, with plunging waterfalls into a deep canyon, ice and snow still on the canyon walls, wild flowers starting to bloom and plenty of squirrels about, we continued along the trail crossing the 2nd, 3rd and 4th bridge across the Maligne River. To carry on to the 5th and 6th bridge would have entailed a much longer, steeper descent and more to the point ascent back to the car park so at the 4th bridge we retraced our steps back to the car.
Maligne Canyon.
Maligne Canyon.
 Maligne Canyon.
Maligne Canyon.



Medicine Lake was our next stop, summer visitors assume that Medicine is a normal mountain lake, but it isn't. During the summer, glacier melt waters flood the lake, sometimes overflowing it. In fall and winter the lake disappears, becoming a mudflat with scattered pools of water connected by a stream. But there is no visible channel draining the lake – so where then does the water go? The answer is, "out the bottom", like a bathtub without a plug. The Maligne River pours into the lake from the south and drains out through sinkholes in the bottom. The water then streams through a cave system formed in the slightly soluble limestone rock, surfacing again in the area of Maligne Canyon 16 kilometers downstream. This is one of the largest known sinking rivers in the Western Hemisphere and may be the largest inaccessible cave system anywhere in the world! Summer melt water coming into the lake exceeds the capacity of the sinkholes to drain it. Decreased melt water in the late summer and fall means that the lake's sinkholes can drain the lake faster than the Maligne River can fill it. This creates the disappearing lake phenomena, we, obviously visiting in the spring before snow melt only seen the mudflats.
Medicine Lake.
Medicine Lake.



Next enforced stop was for some stubborn mountain goats that thought they owned the road before we arrived at the Maligne Lake car park which we guess in the summer would have well over an hundred car parked there, we were one of only five and when we walked along the 3.2 km “Mary Shaffer” loop trail to a viewpoint, we didn’t see anyone else.
Mountain Goats.
Mountain Goats.
Maligne Lake.
Maligne Lake.



What we did see on the trail however was a Pine Marten and I only had my short-range camera lens with me and as we followed it along was only able to get a long range shot. That was until we got back to the car park (yes I know I sometimes use car park and sometimes parking lot) and I saw one run across it (I don’t know whether it was the same one) and followed it to a flat patch of snow and it seemed more interested in perhaps something under the snow near some bushes than me. I was taking photographs and getting closer and closer to it, until I was only about 3 yards away, it was only when a noisy RV camper came in the car park that it run off. (Note: since I have looked at the photographs and am delighted with them).
Pine Marten.
Pine Marten.



Leaving Maligne Lake we stopped for a short time at a picnic area, where Jenny spotted a Chipmunk near the river, not a bit bothered about our presence it posed nicely on a rock for a photograph!
Chipmunk.
Chipmunk.


We made a short de-tour on the way back to Jasper when we arrived near the bridge across the Athabasca River, we took the road to two more lakes which the ranger at the visitor centre recommended, Edith and Annette Lakes and had a short walk near both of them before driving back to the hotel and a well-earned soak in the hot tub, a meal and another relaxed evening in front of the log fire.

Saturday 9th May 2015
As we planned we decided to drive the last 50 km (ish) of the Icefield Parkway today and our first stop not too far from Jasper was another recommended walk from the visitor centre ranger, “The Valley of the Five Lakes” the trail from the parking lot took us down a trail to an almost dry Wabasso Creek before we climbed up to a junction, what’s great about all the trails in Jasper is that they are all numbered and we were easily able to determine the correct trail by a number on a tree (9a) following the undulating trail until we came to the fifth lake.
5th Lake.
5th Lake.



All the lakes are a different depth and therefore the glacial water gives each of them a different shade of blue, the fifth lake we think was the deepest, the shade of blue we agreed afterwards seemed to be the darkest. We stopped for a rest between the 4th and 3rd lake on a Red “love seat” why the national park wants to have bright red seats in such a green landscape we didn’t know, until I researched it later, there is a good reason, but it would take too long to explain.
4th Lake.
4th Lake.
3rd Lake.
3rd Lake.


It was while we were resting that the highlight of our trip so far occurred, some other walkers came past and said there was a bear nearby. By nearby was actually just below us and what a fantastic opportunity to photograph a black bear at close quarters, I used the 70mm-300mm lens and hid behind a fallen tree, at times I had to zoom in to 70mm to keep him/her in frame and also walk further away from it. To watch it feed (on dandelions) and be so “calm” was a great thrill, it was only when a man came along on a mountain bike it became alarmed and ran off, but even then it didn’t go far and peacefully strolled down to the water’s edge to drink before it casually walked along the lake edge.
Black Bear-.
Black Bear-.


After the excitement we continued past the 2nd lake (more like a pond) before reaching the 1st lake, where Jenny stayed on the trail whilst I walked down to the lakes edge. Re-tracing our steps we decided rather than do the loop through the woods we would return the same way which gave us another chance to see the bear feeding once again on clumps of dandelion near the 3rd Lake. After lunch overlooking the shallow 2nd lake we returned to the parking lot and continued our drive along the Parkway to our furthest point today, Sumwapta Falls on the Sumwapta River, just a short distance off the Icefields Parkway, not a spectacular waterfall but very picturesque with the mountains in the background and the blue/green glacier coloured water hurtling over the 60 foot drop.
Sumwapta Falls.
Sumwapta Falls.


Our last POI of the day was another waterfall Athabasca Falls, the only problem was we arrived at the same time as two coaches and without giving away both nationalities other than they were both from Asia, we have never experienced such rude people pushing and shoving to get a photograph of the falls. We waited until they had gone before we walked around the several viewing platforms of the 80 foot falls and the gorge of the Athabasca River below.
Athabasca Falls.
Athabasca Falls.
Athabasca River.
Athabasca River.



Another wonderful day in the Rockies, the weather was perfect and the scenery fantastic and the close-up view of the bear is something we will never forget.

Sunday 10th May 2015

We decided to drive in the opposite direction from Jasper today, 63 Kilometers along Highway 16 (The Yellowhead Highway) to Miette Hot Springs. As soon as we left Jasper the mountains that were almost close enough to touch were immediately further away and lower and we had lakes, pools and wet lands beside the road instead of forest, still picturesque but in a different way. We reached the turn-off for Miette Hot Springs at Pocahontas Bungalows (a resort that Rhiain had stayed at in 2009) and climbed up (another) steep and winding road, stopping at the two look-outs on the way, Punch Bowl Falls and the Ashlar Ridge look-out, the falls were somewhat disappointing but the view of the Fiddle Valley from the look-out was quite impressive.
Fiddle Valley.
Fiddle Valley.


Reaching the hot springs we didn’t want to use them as we intend doing that on Tuesday in Radium, however the surroundings were beautiful and we had a great cup of coffee at the little gift shop. We returned to Jasper along the same road (no choice really), stopping for lunch in a pull-in near the wet lands before continuing to Pyramid Lake in the mountains above the town. More excitement, we were delayed in a “traffic Jam” caused by motorist stopping to look at a Grizzle Bear in the woods, we managed a few photographs of it, however it wasn’t easy as it appeared to be playing “peek a boo” from behind a tree and it certainly wasn’t advisable to leave the car!
Grizzle Bear.
Grizzle Bear.


Arriving at the lake we drove directly to the parking near Pyramid Island and walked over the bridge onto the small Island. I wanted to “explore” the island as it is a “Dark Sky Preserve” and over the next few days our daughter has told us there is a chance of a show of the Northern Lights, I thought it an idea later this evening to return and hopefully (very) see them.
Pyramid Island.
Pyramid Island.



We had a stroll around the edge of the water and took photographs of the lake and Pyramid Mountain, the distinctive shaped 9,075 foot mountain that overlooks Jasper before returning to the hotel for our evening meal.
Pyramid Mountain and Lake.
Pyramid Mountain and Lake.
Pyramid Mountain and Lake.
Pyramid Mountain and Lake.


We returned after our meal, deciding not to go to the island but a turn-off with a better view of the lake and surrounding mountains; however tiredness won as it got dark so we returned to the hotel early, the Northern Lights will have to wait.

British Columbia
Monday 11th May 2015
Best Western Prestige Inn, Radium Hot Springs, Lat: 50.6218, Long -116.0731, (435 Kilometers)
A long drive today so we were up early and it was wonderfully quiet as we joined the Icefields Parkway, in fact the ranger was only just opening the park pass check-point as we passed by (not needing a pass we bought the annual one). We were about 40 Kilometre from Jasper when we made a first stop, I had spotted a black bear feeding at the edge of a turn-out and for at least 10 minutes we watched him completely on our own until a RV arrived. We just wound down the window and took photographs through it; it was a bit inconsiderate he fed for some time behind the (bear proof) garbage bin!
 Black Bear.
Black Bear.


We continued to the Columbia Icefield and a car park even closer to the Athabasca Glacier had been opened since our last visit last Thursday and we drove down to that for further photos of the glacier after purchasing “coffee’s to go” at the icefield centre. We stopped at several other locations along the parkway for photo’ opportunities before reaching the Trans Canadian Highway, turning west to retrace our steps towards Golden and once more travelling into British Columbia.
Icefields Parkway.
Icefields Parkway.
Icefields Parkway.
Icefields Parkway.



We also stopped at the visitor centre again at Field; we didn’t want to miss the road to Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park again so we asked for more positive directions. It was easy, “Take the highway west and then the first road on the right, follow the road for 6 Kilometre”, why we missed it last week I don’t know! It was 2:10 pm when we arrived at the car park so we sat in the car and had lunch before having a walk along the lake and taking some photographs.
Emerald Lake.
Emerald Lake.


One POI the rangers at Field mentioned was “Natural Bridge” a waterfall on the Kicking Horse River that flows through a natural span, however, the span kind of seemed more like rocks being wedged together depending on the viewing angle. The river's powdery blue color as well as the scenic snowy mountains backing the whole scene made it a stop we are pleased we didn’t miss.
Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge.


This time we descended the narrow, winding Kicking Horse Pass, which actually felt more difficult than ascending, despite the deep drops into the river being on the opposite side of the road! We stopped in Golden to fill with fuel and purchase some food from the supermarket (called Overwaitea Foods) before driving along the Columbia Valley following the meandering upper Columbia River, nestled between the Rocky Mountains to the east and the Purcell range to the west to Radium Hot Springs our stop for tonight.

Alberta
Tuesday 12th May 2015
Best Western Pocaterra Inn, Canmore, Lat: 51.1015, Long: -115.3611, 176 Kilometers.

Amusing last night when we looked out of our window to see Bighorn Sheep grazing on the lawn outside the hotel, evidently they are a “town attraction” and regularly stroll through the main street from the valley below.
Bighorn Sheep.
Bighorn Sheep.



They are also depicted on a fantastic mural that covers a complete wall of the swimming pool area. After visiting the information centre for a map of today’s drive along Highway 93 through Kootenay National Park we left Radium Hot Springs for our first POI, we didn’t exactly see it as drive through it Sinclair Canyon, a fault through sheer cliffs of red rock where the highway was particularly narrow.
Sinclair Canyon.
Sinclair Canyon.


The major stop today was going to be the actual “Radium Hot Springs” to have a soak in the odourless pools surrounded by rock walls that are “guaranteed to soak away your worries and your woes”; we hadn’t either but what the heck! In fact we did have a woe, the complex didn’t open until 12:00 pm a wait of almost 2 hours which we didn’t want to do, my fault I should have checked, if we had known we would have used those at Miette Hot Springs last Sunday instead. We carried on to our next photo stop Olive Lake and had a short walk along a ½ kilometre boardwalk path leading to two viewing platforms overlooking it, we thought the trail would be closed as there had been bears seen there in the last few days, if there was, we didn’t see them.
Olive Lake.
Olive Lake.


It was only a few kilometers before we stopped again at the Kootenay Valley viewpoint, the weather being kind again to give us some superb views of the national park.
Kootenay National Park.
Kootenay National Park.


We were a bit disappointed with the next 70 (ish) kilometers a fire had devastated the area several years ago and it was only just showing signs of recovery. Even when we arrived at Marble Canyon a series of waterfalls within a deep limestone chasm the hundreds of charred “matchsticks” pointing skywards somewhat spoiled the scene.
Marble Canyon.
Marble Canyon.


Soon afterwards we saw a familiar landmark the castellated appearance of Castle Mountain in Banff National Park and after crossing the main highway we stopped at the Castle Mountain Junction shop again for a coffee before continuing along the Bow Valley Parkway as far as Banff before re-joining the Highway 1 to Canmore a further 17 Kilometre drive.
Castle Mountain.
Castle Mountain.


Another diversion here, last week we didn’t see much of Minnewanka Lake because of the weather and low cloud, it was only 6 kilometers off the highway so we decided to go there, actually it wasn’t that spectacular, another “Two Jack lake” on the loop road was prettier.
Minnewanka Lake.
Minnewanka Lake.
Two Jack Lake.
Two Jack Lake.


We didn’t entirely miss out on our soak today; the hotel hot tub and the swimming pool were great.

Wednesday 13th May2015
Super 8, Drumeller, Lat: 51.4578, Long -112.7047, (225 Kilometers).
Again not wanting to use Highway 1, we decided to drive the Bow Valley Trail (again Highway 1a), a big plus was that we didn’t have to “negotiate” Calgary driving instead around the east of city and there was only 2 kilometre difference in distance. It was surprising how soon we were away from the mountains and into rolling hills and prairies. One unplanned stop was for a “house move” a convoy of pick-ups organising the move of a house along the highway which took up all (and some more) of the road as it was moved on a low-loader. We and several other vehicles, plus two Lorries having to pull into another road to enable it to pass, must say it was very well organised. We have the GyPSy guide for Drumeller and the one POI we were looking forward to on the way was Horseshoe Canyon in the badlands of Alberta. So difficult to describe the canyon so very different to the mountains we have seen of late, glaciers have carved the land into the lunar-like land features that have been whittled into curves by the wind. Jenny stayed at the top, whilst I had a short hike down to the bottom of the surreal landscape.
Horseshoe Canyon.
Horseshoe Canyon.


We then drove down the steep hill into Drumeller and through the town to the North side to continue the POI’s that I had previously found on the internet and those of the GyPSy guide. The first was another canyon Horsethief, so named because it was used by rustlers more than a century ago and it was as jaw-dropping as Horseshoe, it was more steep sided than its “cousin”, this one I didn’t venture down, just admired it from the top. Many fossils of prehistoric creatures have been found in both of them.
Horsethief Canyon.
Horsethief Canyon.


We were very lucky with our next “viewpoint”, The Bleriot Ferry a cable operated vehicle ferry over the Red Deer River and we found out from the ferry man that it had only re-opened today, it was free too.
Bleriot Ferry.
Bleriot Ferry.


Crossing the river enabled us to visit “Orkney Point” a stunning viewpoint to see the Drumeller Valley, Red Deer River and the badlands on the opposite bank before we returned to the town, for a soak in the hot tub, before a take-away in our room from McDonalds!
Orkney Viewpoint.
Orkney Viewpoint.



Thursday 14th May 2015
Canalta Brooks, Brooks, Lat: 50.5862 Long: 111.8950, (248 Kilometers)

It was the South side of Drumeller to visit today as we made our way back to the Trans-Canada Highway. And our first stop was at a ghost town the tiny village of Wayne, once a thriving coal-mining town of more than 3,000, but now its population as dwindled to about 40 diehard souls. Wayne is considered to hold the richest dinosaur fossil beds in the world. We crossed 11 one lane bridges, each with a wooden plank bed and saw countless coal mining relics of the past, including abandon homes and machinery. During its heyday, Wayne supported a school, hospital, theatre and several stores but today, with its main street barely visible, only the Rosedeer Hotel hangs on. The hotel, built in 1913 is the only structure remaining of the mining days, after a look around and taking a photograph of two old cars the make of which I had never heard of (Frazer Manhattan) we continued our drive.
Rosedeer Hotel.
Rosedeer Hotel.
Frazer Manhattan's.
Frazer Manhattan's.


Returning to the main highway we immediately turned off again to visit the Rosedale Suspension Bridge a 117 metre long pedestrian bridge built in 1939 to carry the miners to the Star Mine across the Red Deer River, I went across, Jenny stayed at the other side, It was OK to walk across today, must have been very hairy in the early days when the structure was only ropes and planks, certainly wouldn’t have liked to cross it in winter with a pick and shovel in hand.
Rosedale Suspension Bridge.
Rosedale Suspension Bridge.


A place we were looking forward to visiting were the hoodoos and from the parking lot it was only a short walk to the main ones that had been cordoned off and a boardwalk put around to protect them, other smaller ones we were able to see close to, not as large as the hoodoos we saw in Bryce Canyon, Utah, however they were impressive just the same.
The Hoodoo's, Drumheller.
The Hoodoo's, Drumheller.


Our next POI was the Atlas Coal Mine, the mine features the last wooden coal tipple in Canada. Built in 1937, the tipple is a coal loading and sorting machine. At over 7 storeys tall the tipple now serves as a reminder of the rich mining history of the Drumheller Valley. The site preserves the stories and artifacts of the men who once mined there and is the last of 139 mines that once ruled the valley. We didn’t take the guided mine tour itself just had a walk around the machinery that was on view outside. The Atlas Mine was the last POI on the GyPSy Guide, having used them since leaving Vancouver what a fantastic “tool” to help us get the best from our drive across British Columbia and Alberta, we would recommend them to anybody visiting those (and other areas).
Atlas Coal Mine 'Tipple'.
Atlas Coal Mine 'Tipple'.


A long drive then to Dinosaur Provincial Park just 48 kilometers from our stop tonight in Brooks, The Park is situated in the valley of the Red Deer River which is noted for its striking badland topography. The park is also well known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locales in the world. Forty dinosaur species have been discovered at the park and more than 500 specimens have been removed and exhibited in museums around the globe. We were full of awe of the badlands and canyons near Drumeller, the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park were something else, from the overlook above the canyon before we drove down to the visitor centre.
Coulee Point,  Dinosaur Provincial Park.
Coulee Point, Dinosaur Provincial Park.


We didn’t realise that there was a concession there (a gift shop and restaurant) so we decided to have lunch there before exploring the park, a chicken wrap each with a side of chips and a proper cup of tea. We then had a short walk to the visitor centre to look around the exhibits and collect a park map and found out that some of the walks we wanted to do we could drive the car to a parking place. The first one was “The Badlands Trail” a 1.3 kilometre through a badlands landscape, the second one “Trail of the Fossil Hunters” we started the walk after having a nice chat with 2 rangers working at a fossil display, these were covered displays with dinosaur bones still in the ground, unfortunately during the walk it started to rain so we decided not to complete it because we particularly wanted to walk the “Cottonwood Flats” trail before the rain worsened.
The Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park.
The Badlands Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park.


This trail of 1.4 kilometers followed a lush riverside habitat through cottonwood trees it boasted abundant wildlife and birds, regretfully the increasing rain must have put them into hiding, we didn’t see anything, although we did spot a Mule Deer grazing close to the gravel road as we drove back towards the visitor centre. From the park it was less than an hour’s drive to our hotel at Brooks and after a busy day and seeing some wonderfully interesting places a soak in the hot tub was again welcome.

Saskatchewan

Friday 15th May 2015
Best Western Inn, Swift Current, Lat: 50.2956. Long: -107.8012, (335 Kilometers)
A drive over the flat prairies of Saskatchewan no real points of interest other than obviously we had never driven this route before. Once we left Brooks it was Highway 1 all the way, quiet and mostly 4-lane divided (dual carriageway in the UK) and I put the cruise control on 110 kilometers per hour and the only real town we passed through was Moose Jaw where we stopped at the visitor centre for information on Saskatchewan shortly after crossing the province border. We had a room upgrade at the hotel which pleased us and after checking in we had a short walk to the mall for a “ready meal” to put into the micro-wave before once again having a stay in the hot tub before relaxing for the rest of the evening.

Saturday 16th May 2015
Home Inn and Suites, Regina, Lat: 50.4024, Long: -104.6478, (235 Kilometers).
An early start this morning stopping first at the Co-operative store for fuel (pump service and windscreen washed), we had hopefully judged the amount correctly as we needed to return the rental car empty (we paid for the fill in Vancouver). Not a long drive but we want to check-in at the hotel before returning the car and we arrived in Regina at 10:45 am; Norma the lady I had emailed at the hotel to see if we could have an early check-in or storage for our luggage greeted us and had arranged the early check-in and an adjacent room for Rhiain, Ian and Kura. After leaving our luggage in the room we drove the short distance to the Hertz rental at the airport, a bit of confusion, the Map Quest directions were incorrect and the address for the drop-off was the cleaning depot! We were soon sorted, the drop-off was at the airport arrivals, no concerns it was hardly Heathrow or Gatwick and we arranged a taxi back to the hotel to await the emotional arrival of our family we had not seen for almost three years.

Note: Well that’s it for the first part of our Canada Trip, since leaving Vancouver we have driven through two provinces into a third, through two times zones, been in a large city, in different habitats, ocean, mountains, forest, prairie, wetlands, flatlands, and badlands. Seen some wonderful views too numerous to mention, spotted great animals including bears and unusual birds some of which we couldn’t identify. The weather has been terrific for most of our drive and only on the first day we were unable to see some of the POI. The Dodge Journey rental car we had was more than sufficient for our needs in which we covered a total of 3,725 kilometers (2,314 Miles), our “door to door” kilometers was 2,748 a difference of 977 kilometers (608 Miles), which was visiting POI’s and occasionally going the wrong way! Updates from now will be only when we go somewhere specific, i.e. Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.