Glacier National Park

“It’s as impressive as Jasper,” he told me. As a proud Canadian sceptical of the beauty Montana had to offer, I wasn’t so sure about my husband’s statement.

We bought our tickets at West Glacier and entered Glacier National Park, taking our time to drive the scenic 80 km Going-to-the-Sun-Road that traverses the park from west to east. It crosses the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at 2026 metres, the highest point on the road. For those who don’t know, Glacier is the American side of Waterton Lakes National Park (and much, much larger).

IMG_8474

IMG_8374

IMG_8383

I believe it was after looking at this view that I told my husband, “Okay, this is amazing.”

IMG_0158

Full of (receding) glaciers, lakes, and argillite mountains, Glacier National Park is known as a hiker’s paradise. While you can certainly enjoy the beauty from the road, most of the park’s treasures lie further in. We stayed three days and did two hikes. While there are plenty of trails, the majority of the hikes are actually overnight backpacking trips. Given how many bear warnings there are, I was glad we weren’t doing any of those.

Hidden Lake Trail

Hidden Lake Trail is one of the shortest and most accessible trails to hike, with a long boardwalk section at the beginning to protect the ancient alpine meadow. The trail starts behind the Visitor Centre at Logan Pass.

IMG_8483

Hiking to the overlook only takes an hour and a half or so. You could continue all the way down to the lake, but we figured the view was better from here and we wanted to save our legs from all those switchbacks. We stayed at the top for a while where we more than entertained by a family of mountain goats.

IMG_8496

IMG_0183

IMG_8552

This mother and kid couldn’t have walked by in a more perfect spot with the lake below and the magnificent Bearhat Mountain towering in the background. My husband joked the park paid the goats to do that. Although you’re told to stay about twenty metres from wildlife, these goats came right up to us! Very docile creatures, though check out those muscles!

IMG_8549

Just in case you think I’m partial to mountain goats, I also captured some other wildlife we saw on the trail, though these guys weren’t quite as exciting.

IMG_8544

IMG_8482

Upper Two Medicine Lake

This hike is more remote. My hands were practically clapping the whole time to scare off potential bears. (As an aside, we did this hike first and so the next day when we are about to step onto the populated boardwalk for Hidden Lake Trail, my husband turns to me, “By the way, you don’t need to clap here.”) He looked very relieved when I agreed.

Upper Two Medicine Lake isn’t hard terrain but it’s a full-day hike, walking along the long edge of Lower Medicine Lake until you climb through forest and meadow to reach the second lake. There are two waterfalls partway up called Twin Falls (though you can only see one in this pic).

IMG_8437 2

It was a cloudier day so the idea of swimming in the lake wasn’t as appealing when we got there but I waded up to my knees and the Artist fished.

IMG_8441

IMG_8446

IMG_8455

IMG_0175

We could have easily stayed a week in this park. Fortunately, we were camping in East Glacier that wasn’t affected by the devastating Howe Ridge Fire, which ignited due to a thunderstorm the night before we left and is still going. It’s tragic as this is such a beautiful place that I hope others will get to and continue to enjoy.

Here are some of my other favourite views in the park:

IMG_8386

IMG_8580

IMG_8395

IMG_8423

IMG_0177

And that’s a wrap on our camping trip of 2018!

Hiking the Cinque Terre

This summer weather has got me reminiscing about the summer temperatures we experienced in Italy last October.

The place we soaked up the sun the most was in the ineffable Cinque Terre: five tiny towns built into cliffs along the Italian Riviera, connected by hiking trails and trains.

IMG_6676

Vernazza harbour

We made our home base Vernazza (about 500 residents), the second town from the north. We visited all five towns and agreed with Rick Steves that Vernazza “is the jewel of the Cinque Terre.” My next favourite is Manarola.

IMG_6500

The trail towards Monterosso

From Vernazza, we left before 10am to hit the coastal trail in the Cinque Terre National Park to the largest and northernmost Cinque Terre town, Monterosso. My tip: leave before 10am to avoid all the (mainly senior) hiking groups that come through with walking sticks, and go from Vernazza to Monterosso if possible. There are a lot of steep steps getting out of Monterosso and we were glad we were going downhill rather than uphill for those.

IMG_6485

Looking back at Vernazza

IMG_6478

I could do breakfast with this view every day

It’s a beautiful walk that took about an hour and a half. We timed it to arrive there for lunch and have a swim in the Mediterranean. I loved looking back at Vernazza and picking out where we had enjoyed our breakfast made by our lovely Airbnb host on her balcony below the castle.

IMG_6507

Approaching Monterosso

IMG_0795

A jeweller had hauled this table with all his supplied up the trail to tempt tourists like myself to buy something along the way. Guilty!

IMG_6530

Enjoying the Mediterranean. That’s my hubby all the way out on those rocks.

To make the most of our limited two days in the region, we hopped on a train to Corniglia  to hike back to Vernazza so we didn’t spend any time retracing a route we already walked. You can also take a boat from Monterosso to the other towns but the one town it doesn’t stop in is Corniglia because there’s no harbour there, so that’s why we opted for the train. (At the time we went, the coastal trail between Riomaggiore-Manarola and Manarola-Corniglia was closed).

IMG_6569

It’s a similar one and a half hour walk from Corniglia to Vernazza. Since we did this section in the late afternoon/early evening as the sun was setting, it afforded amazing photo opportunities, and it’s like we had the path to ourselves.

IMG_0815

Corniglia behind me

IMG_6597

IMG_6571

IMG_6599

Apart from Nice, we spent the least amount of time in the Cinque Terre and yet it was one of our most memorable experiences. My husband and I both talk about going back there in a heartbeat. After the busyness of Paris trying to cram in all the museums and historic sites,  it was a literal breath of fresh air to be outside in the sun, slow down, and enjoy the magic of these crayon-coloured towns.

IMG_6456

Another shot of Vernazza from the castle

 

Salt Spring

On the weekend the Artist and I took a little getaway to Salt Spring Island. I had been as a child but had no memories of it so it was like going for the first time. The connotations I had in my mind though: hippies, arbutus trees, artist studios.

We saw a good share of all three plus a whole lot more, which I tried to reflect in the photos below. We loved our three and a half days there walking on trails, reading at the beach, eating artisan foods, going to the legendary Saturday Market, and driving till roads dead ended, stopping at artist studios and enjoying the overall quirkiness of the island. We were very thankful the weather cooperated. Could it be actual spring at last?

IMG_7969

Store sign in town

IMG_1645

Ruckle Provincial Park

IMG_7973

One of favourite flower photographs

IMG_7940

Trail in Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park leading to Daffodil Point

IMG_7942

Daffodil Point

IMG_7956

Daffodils were dead but the view was great!

IMG_7960

Very alive daffodils in front of a derelict house

IMG_7937

The Saturday Market was overwhelming with how many artisan foods I wanted to try (and buy)

IMG_8017

These egg stands are everywhere and operate by the honour system

IMG_7901

Speaking of eggs…

IMG_7910

Adorable kids at the Salt Spring Cheese Farm, where I tasted the best goat cheese of my life

IMG_7920

We were welcomed to the island with this basket of fabulous local goodies from our hosts!

IMG_7964

Earth Day poem

IMG_7963

Creative way to mark your property

IMG_1660

I’m not so keen on crabs but I like this photo (credit to my husband)

IMG_7911

St Paul’s Catholic Church, oldest church on the island (1878)

IMG_8013

These trees look like they’re holding a conference

IMG_1663

Going on a limb here

IMG_8002

Till next time, Salt Spring!

Starting the New Year with Eagles

The Artist and I ushered in the New Year with out-of-town friends by taking a trip to Brackendale, a small town just north of Squamish. Marked as the “Eagle Capital of the World,” Brackendale is home to one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. They feed on the chum salmon in the Squamish River.

IMG_7792

On a trip a previous year, we only saw one eagle flying overhead and were understandably disappointed. This trip yielded far greater results. We winded along the river bank, enjoying the crisp January air and the sun on the mountains and snow.

IMG_7791

Once we rounded this bend, we saw our first eagle perched in a tree.

IMG_7798

IMG_7800

That’s the closest I’ve ever seen one. Majestic and huge, just like they’re portrayed on US money and other things.

We thought that sighting was exciting but then we walked a little further and saw this!

IMG_7797

IMG_7809

Jackpot day! Not to mention numerous eagles flying overhead. We probably spotted a dozen in total. This is a good time of year to get a visit in if you’re a bird watcher like we are!

IMG_7811

Gold Creek Coincidence

While I wait for the BC election results, here are some pics from a beautiful hike along Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park on Sunday.

IMG_4580

IMG_4582

Cool story: After we saw the waterfall, the Artist and I ate lunch on a stretch of beach below the main trail and stayed there for a while so he could fly fish and I could read. Out of the bushes, bounding towards us from the main trail was a dog that looked an awful lot like Scarlett, my brother and sister-in-law’s Nova Scotia Duck Toller. She was the very definition of a happy dog with her wagging tail and allowed me to pet her for a second before bounding right back up the path to her owner(s). I was pretty sure it was Scarlett though the Artist highly doubted the probability of it. We went on with our fishing and reading. But later that afternoon, back at the parking lot, we saw my brother and sister-in-law and turns out it was Scarlett! Since we had been completely invisible from the path, she must have sniffed us out with that impressive nose of hers. Needless to say, that canine encounter made my day!

IMG_4579

IMG_4575

Roughing it in the Bush

My last post was from a book I read right before going on a camping trip and, seeing that I have very little experience camping myself, it tickled my funny bone.

IMG_3664

Fortunately my experience camping 5 nights in Jasper National Park was much, much better than Elfrieda’s in All My Puny Sorrows. This massive park in Alberta offers breathtaking views of the Canadian Rockies, along with countless glacier-fed rivers and lakes. Every bend in the road offers yet another magnificent photo op, making even a mediocre photographer’s work look golden.

IMG_3864

One of my favourite lakes – Medicine Lake

IMG_3870

Our group camped in Wabasso campground which had proper washrooms but no showers, so I had to shower in rivers and lakes for the first time. Seeing that they’re glacier-fed, these were the coldest showers I’d ever had but luckily we had great weather so the dip wasn’t as shocking as it could have been.

IMG_3674

IMG_3830

Maligne Lake is popular for canoe and kayak rentals. I swam instead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from my spot in Maligne Lake

My biggest fear was encountering bears. I soon had to get over that because literally less than five minutes into arriving in the park, we see a bear on the side of the road and then when we get to our campsite, the person signing us in says, “Just to warn you, there are a lot of bears here.” I almost had a panic attack but thank God the only ones we saw were from the side of the road, and they didn’t visit me in nightmares either (which did happen the other time I went camping).

IMG_3875

Anyone know what kind of bear this is?

The gigantic river that runs through a large part of the park is the Athabasca River. Our campsite backed onto it and it became the evening lullaby that replaced the sirens and traffic I am used to in Vancouver.

IMG_3817

morning mist on the Athabasca

Given the Artist likes to fly fish, we found a few rivers for him to cast a line while I sat on the side and read. (He didn’t catch much, but any day where he’s in a river is a good day for him).

IMG_3834

Maligne River between Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake

IMG_3935

Fiddle River near the entrance/exit of the park on the Alberta side

We did a lot of driving in our little Toyota Yaris that clocked the longest trip of its life. In particular, we wanted to drive the Icefields Parkway that leads to the stunning Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefields and continues on to Banff National Park. The route is renowned for being one of the most scenic drives in the world. I’d have to agree.

IMG_3851

The Endless Chain ridge

IMG_3907

One of the glaciers on the approach to Athabasca Glacier

Stunning waterfalls are also part of the route:

IMG_3763

The mist coming off the powerful Athabasca Falls creates this low-hanging rainbow

IMG_3891

Sunwapta Falls

The Athabasca Glacier used to extend much closer to the highway but has receded dramatically over the past 125 years. This is the “toe of the glacier”, the furthest point you can walk to if you’re not on a guided tour that actually takes you on the ice.

IMG_3914

Athabasca Glacier

We also climbed a bit of Mount Edith Cavell, a very recognizable peak with its stripes of snow, named after an English nurse who was executed by the Germans during WWI.

IMG_3682

IMG_3701

A view of Angel Glacier and its pond at Edith Cavell

IMG_3684

Looking back along the Edith Cavell hike

Some other wildlife we saw:

IMG_3883

By the end of our stay, I was saturated with campfire smell that took at least three real showers to remove, but I felt rather proud of myself for roughing it in the bush for multiple days and for enjoying it, too! I may have been deprived of camping as a child but who’s to say I can’t learn to like it as an adult?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA