Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday August 20 -

Thursday was another beautifully warm day with sunny, blue, cloudless skies. We chilled in Banff in the morning; walked around the town; did some shopping; and took some photos. It was a typical holiday town, but in a beautiful setting, and really quite pleasant.

Our target today was Kamloops which we reckoned would be around a 6 hour drive. The scenery was absolutely spectacular; especially the drive through Kicking Horse Canyon. Tall rugged mountains all around us as we drove along the valley floor. We stopped at some of the sights along the way including the Spiral Tunnels. These tunnels were built for the trains that chugged up and sped down the steep incline of Kicking Horse Pass. Because of the steepness, numerous accidents occurred, so in 1909 the tunnels were built to improve the safety of train travel. Each tunnel makes a spiralling turn and trains actually cross over themselves. So, you might see an engine emergy from the upper tunnel while 15m below it, carriages are still entering the lower tunnel. Once we hit Revelstoke, the land flattened out, although here in Kamloops, we are still surrounded by beautiful mountains. Sunset brought a beautiful red sun reflected in the river water making it bright scarlet too. No doubt about it, the scenery is spectacular. We also saw a little black bear cross the highway in front of us, and we saw some mountain goats up the side of one of the rock faces as we passed on the road below.

Tonight we are staying in Kamloops and tomorrow we will hit Vancouver. Alanna is excited, and happy to be back in BC. Cass unfortunately, has caught Alanna's cold and is feeling really rotten!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday August 19

We were up early and on the road by 8:30 am. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue cloudless skies, and warm temperatures. When we left Hinton, the Rockies rose up in front of us like a solid wall of granite. We passed a group of mountain sheep and took tons of pictures. By the time we reached Jasper, we were surrounded by high, grey mountains, richly vegetated with fir trees three quarters of the way up. We took a quick walk around Jasper and enjoyed its relaxed atmosphere and beautiful location. The drive down Highway 93 to Lake Louise was truly stunning and quite compares with other mountain ranges in the world. I think it is the vastness of the Rockies that consumes you. The mountains are all around, and the snow peaks peep up above the grey granite rock and make you shiver. The lakes are a beautiful aquamarine colour, but freezing cold, and I doubt you would last too long in them. In fact, they say it would only be minutes before you died of hypothermia if you fell into some of the rapids and waterfalls. We stopped at the Athabasca Falls and saw the 23-metre waterfall powering over the rocks and into the swirling river below. It is said to have the most powerful flow anywhere in the mountain parks. We drove down the Icefields Parkway and saw the Columbia Icefields; I must admit to being a little disappointed, but then you can only see 3 of the 7 icefields from the road. They looked grey and dirty and crawling with caterpillar-like sight-seeing vehicles. We stopped at lookouts for the high peaks and the glaciers, and amazed at the intense aqua colour of Peyto Lake and Bow Lake. Passing through all the splendour makes you realize just how insignificant humans are in the natural world, and yet at the same time, we can do so much harm. We stopped at Lake Louise and took too many pictures; then drove on to Banff where we arrived around 7:30 pm. Its a fun town, established, commercialized, but nonetheless alive. Our hostel is about a 5 minute walk from all the shops and restaurants which is perfect and we had a great dinner before walking back over the bridge for the night. When we arrived, before we even got our stuff out of the car, we saw a deer grazing along the edge of the river about 10 feet from the car. Later, the same deer had bedded down for the night under a tree in the garden of the hostel. How neat is that!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Monday August 17 and Tuesday August 18 – 4 Canadian Provinces

On Monday morning we rolled out of Kenora and on to Highway 17. It was raining. We passed roadworks, rural communities, and the border into Manitoba. The area around Winnipeg was a rich agricultural area but as a we drove north on 16, the Yellowhead Highway, we passed huge fields of barley, canola, and rye and rolled on through Manitoba’s bright green, golden yellow, and wheaten fields. We crossed the border into Saskatchewan and stopped for lunch in a tiny fast-food restaurant in Gladstone, the town of the “Happy Rock”! Get it…? Prairie wit, I guess!! We walked in to the restaurant and were greeted by a couple of old codgers one of whom had a broken arm which didn’t look as if it had been properly set, and who was eating a cup of ice-cream. They had some appreciative local comments which they addressed to the girls, without too much reaction. I don’t think they, the girls, totally understood the local jargon! We passed through Neepawa where Margaret Laurence was born. It was a neat little town with a beautiful four lane avenue lined with overhanging trees on both sides. We saw silver-grey silos, white grain elevators, and plump seagulls feeding on the dark brown ploughed fields. There was a lot of flooding in the fields which made the tiny ducks happy as they floated in the water picking up flies and other bugs and edibles as they went. The road ran parallel to the trainless-railway for miles but eventually in the evening we saw three freight trains moving sleepily along the tracks with a large number of carriages which would eventually be filled with the grain and other produce from the area. We eventually arrived at Saskatoon, found a motel, had a very late dinner, and crawled into bed. We were tired. We had driven about 1000 kilometers over the course of the day.
Tuesday started out raining and 15C. The long straight roads wound across the Saskatchewan prairies; pieces of blown truck tyres littered the highway. The odd straw bale found its way into the median in between the two parts of the divided highway. Yellow flowers lined both sides of the dual carriageway and separated the road from the fields of bright yellow canola which stretched into the horizon. Along the highway were lily filed watering ponds, and the land was undulating, and lush with trees acting as wind and snow breaks in the vast fields. We entered into Alberta, and stopped to take pictures at the “Welcome to Alberta” sign. Not much changed in the scenery until we passed through Edmonton, and reached a small town called Edson about 207 kms west of Edmonton. Then the landscape became more undulating and filled with fir trees. The Rockies tantalized us. They appeared in the distance at a high point on the highway, then disappeared. They appeared again as we passed the highest point on the highway, and disappeared, and then finally as we neared Hinton, they appeared and remained an omnipresence on the highway. You know you are approaching something that will consume you when you see them. We stopped for the night in Hinton located in the foothills of the Rockies. The town has about 10,000 inhabitants, a pulp mill, and tons of hotels. It is about 45 minutes from Jasper and we are looking forward to being right in the Rockies tomorrow.

The journey is long and tiring. The girls read magazines, listen to their i-Pods, play games on their cell phones, do crosswords, and word searches, sleep, and watch videos on the laptops. We all take it in turns to drive. But although we are appreciative of the scenery and the journey there is not much that is exciting and there is not much time for "fun". So far!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday August 16 - Wawa to Kenora

The intellectual level in the car dropped dramatically this morning as we re-invented our childhood’s perspective of life. First, we stopped at the Wawa Goose on our way out of town to take pictures. This was constructed in 1960 to celebrate the opening of the Lake Superior Section of the Trans-Canada Highway. Until then the main access to Wawa was from steam boat on Lake Superior until 1941, or by railway after 1921. Next came the statue of “Winnie” in White River. This is a lovely story about the background to Winnie the Pooh. Apparently on August 24, 1914, Captain Harry Colebourn, a Canadian Army Veterinarian, purchased a black bear cub for $20 in White River, Ontario. The bear was named “Winnie” after Colebourn’s hometown Winnipeg, Manitoba. Winnie journeyed overseas and was left at the London Zoo for safekeeping when the troops went to France for active duty. Becoming the Zoo’s feature attraction Winnie captivated many, especially young Christopher Robin, son of the author A.A. Milne. Inspired by the bear and his son’s enthrallment, A.A. Milne began the stories of Winnie the Pooh. Although, Winnie went to that “great Hunny Pot in the Sky” in May 1934 at the age of 20, Milne’s books kept the Canadian bear alive through several generations. In 1988, a local resident discovered that Winnie the Pooh is originally from White River, and White River proudly proclaims its status as the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh by celebrating with Winnie’s Hometown Festival held the third weekend in August every year.
Beside the Winnie statue was a playground and our two “wannabe young again” 28/30 year olds had fun playing on the shute and having their pictures taken. Talking to dogs has also featured high in the trip. Already Cassandra and Alanna have made friends with a 9 month old Rotweiller and her handsome father, a Husky/Sheppard puppy and her four legged Husky friend, and a long haired golden retriever and Pyranese Mountain Dog who just about lept out of the back of the Toyota SUV they were travelling in to greet the girls.
We had lunch in Nipigon and back on the road again. We travelled along the shores of Superior and had some lovely views which were unfortunately marred by the haze hanging heavily over the water. The rain came just as we headed into Thunder Bay. Our spirits sobered when we visited the Terry Fox Memorial and we thought of the arduous journey young Terry undertook and the money his memory has amassed for the fight against cancer.
25 km outside Thunder Bay, we went into the Kakebeka Provincial Park to look at the Kakebeka Falls. The Falls are spectacular with the extra tons of water cascading over them from all the recent rainfalls.From there we had a fairly intense drive through some pretty, forested scenery, a heavy rainstorm, and moose/deer/bear infested country into Kenora where we are staying our second night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday August 15 - Off to Vancouver

I slept in on Saturday morning – the day we left for our trip to drive Alanna 4500 km to school in Vancouver. It could have been the late night previously, or that I didn’t sleep well, or simply that if I didn’t wake up, I didn’t have to start the journey. It’s not as if she is a kid; she is 28; it’s not as if she hasn’t lived away from home before, but somehow, Vancouver seems such a long way away.
The day was sunny and bright, and we locked up the house and were on our way. Ray and I had made the trip about 36 years ago and we wondered how much we would remember. Alanna has never made the trip.
The first part of the journey by-passing Parry Sound, Sudbury and Espanola was fairly typical Ontario countryside: rocky, lush vegetation, and not particularly memorable. From Spanish we travelled along the N orth Channel of Georgian Bay. It was undulating, craggy shorelines with beautiful views from the Highway 17 over the lake. We drove through lake-side towns of Blind River, Thessalon, and on to Sault Ste. Marie.
The film “One Week” will give you a much better description of the Toronto/Vancouver route. Our journey is completed with time restrictions and without much time to investigate points of interest along the way. But we did, and will, see some of the sights.
The beauty in the trip started at Sault Ste. Marie where Lake Huron and Lake Superior meet. We made the journey from the Soo to Wawa at sunset and loved the beautiful Canadian settings with views over the lake and fir trees peeping up in the foreground around the blazing orange ball of the sun. Driving at dusk kept us alert for moose, deer, and bears on the road!We spent the night in the Sportsman Motel with dinner first at the Viking. The Viking offered an eclectic mix of tourists and loud, colourful, boisterous locals, and a varied menu at just off Toronto prices.