Assorted Other Tourist Photos from Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay

Banff and Jasper are the ultimate in drive-up outdoorsmanship. So few reasons to go more than a hundred yards from your car, all packed into a 200-mile highway. It’s brilliant in its way.

Emerald Lake in Yoho NP -- so I shouldn't blame Banff/Jasper for this one.

And this guy was in Kootenay NP -- but still.

And so was this -- but all the rivers look the same there anyway.

 

This is Marble Canyon, but there isn't even any real marble there.

Another interchangeable river view (Bow River, Banff NP).

The mountain peaks are likewise interchangeable.

Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield, the ultimate drive-up glacier experience.

Athabasca Falls, which is mostly covered by a highway overpass.

Maligne Lake + Bad Lighting = Tourist Nirvana.

 

Maligne Canyon and by trying to get as few tourists in the shot as possible I totally missed the story.

And when I finally left Jasper for the last time, heading west into the unknown wilds of Mt. Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, it was with a profound sense of relief.

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Mt. Edith Cavell Is Sort of a Hike On Which You Can Go

Or I went on a hike at least. The hike is to Cavell Meadows and is in Jasper National Park and pretty well encapsulates why hiking in Banff and Jasper is kind of counter-productive. To wit: (1) there are a lot of people on it; (2) it’s very steep; (3) it offers the same view for its entire length; and (4) the view gets less interesting the higher you get.

It’s not the mountain’s fault. Or the glacier’s or the marmots’. I mean not as such.

Mt. Edith Cavell waits to swallow the unwary.

The lower part of the trail looks like this.

The One View.

That photo was basically the peak in terms of photography (lighting aside). The peak in terms of topography came two hours, five miles, and 3,000 feet later.

The view from (near) the top.

So I was walking back down and there was this family stopped on the trail ahead of me and the guy gives me the *shh* sign, so I sneak in quietly expecting to see a moose, bear, big horn, or cougar, only to find out at the family has been paralyzed by a small rodent. "Is that a marmot?" the guy whispers to me. Yes, sir, that is a marmot.

Back at the bottom, a great view of a pond with ice bergs.

And then I went back to my campsite and watched TV on my iPod for two and a half hours.

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Misty Mountain Hopping

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, baby, 
What do you, what do you think I saw? 
Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said, 
“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?” 
And you know how it is.
I really don’t know what time it was, woh, oh,oh 
so I asked them if I could stay a while.

The sad part is that I don’t really know if the song is referencing sex, drugs, or both. I suppose neither is also an option. I didn’t do much hopping myself, just driving from spot to spot within Banff and taking more stupid photos. It occurred to me in Banff that I was wasting what was left of my youth. Had to be done somewhere I guess.

Mist, mountains.

Mist, mountains, Bow Lake.

Peyto Lake with reflection and clouds.

True story about Peyto Lake: I got up and moving by about 6:30 that morning (ergo the earlier mists) and then reached Peyto Lake at about 8. I was the first one in the parking lot, although they make passenger cars park in a lot that’s about a ten-minute uphill walk from the observation platform. About the time I reached the platform, a Chinese(-Canadian) tour bus pulls up — and the busses are allowed to park in a lot that’s about a ten-second walk from the platform.

I waited for them to leave.

Waterfowl Lake, more mist.

Same lake, same mist.

The captions become difficult to differentiate.

Ibid.

So I’m packing my bags for the Misty Mountains 
where the spirits go now, 
over the hills where the spirits fly. 
I really don’t know.

And then I woke up.

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Banff without Getting Out of the Car

There’s a lot of drive-up scenery in Banff. Conversely, there appears to be next to none that is not drive-up. Here are some pictures of drive-up scenery in Banff.

They have trees and clouds there.

Bow River and assorted mountain peaks from the Bow River Parkway.

Moraine Lake is this color.

Moraine Lake also has trees and clouds.

...And tourists and their cars as far as the eye can see.

My friend Terry once told me about the reporter who was sent to cover the story of the Hindenberg landing. The reporter came back to his editor later that day and explained that there was no story there since the Hindenberg didn’t even land. Point being that if one arrives at Banff (or Jasper) expecting the story to be “getting away from it all in the rugged loneliness of high peaks and natural settings”, one isn’t going to get that story there. Downtown Pittsburgh is lonelier than anywhere worth seeing in Banff in August. Unless the Pens are playing.

Another unexpected story in the Canadian Rockies: the sun is always in the wrong place.

And there's only so much Aperture (bzw. Photoshop) can do.

That last photo is Lake Louise btw. I tried to get money in the ATM at the hotel there, but the ATM told me it couldn’t reach my bank. Coupled with my cell phone not working north of the border, it was times like that when I realized I was in a foreign country. That and when all the signs were half in French.

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Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Other Site

It’s hard to pass up a sign that says anything about smashed-in heads. For me. This place is a UNESCO world heritage site, but mostly for the sign I imagine.

Although after this sign there isn't much left to interpret.

It’s an ancient native American site. Apparently the braves on top of the cliff would get the buffalo riled up, then chase them over the edge of a cliff. Archaeologists speculate that they would kill all the injured buffalo with knives and that they left no survivors, since any survivors could go back and tell the other buffalo what had happened and thus spark an inter-species gang war.

This is the cliff from which they made the buffalo jump:

Archaeologists speculate that the cliff used to be taller.

It would have been cooler if there were actual buffalo jumping off the cliff. As it was, it just sort of seemed like a warm prairie with a visitors center.

OTOH, this is the house in which my grandpa was born in Cardston:

Although the tree was smaller back then.

For some reason it was closed — they usually give tours.

And thus ends my first post-hack blog post. Excelsior.

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Animals Animals Animals Animals Animals Everywhere

Also in Southern Alberta. My bear tally for the trip is up to three now. Everyone loves bears. I’m not sure why everyone loves bears so much. It occurred to me this morning, after seeing a bear, that bears are like the polynesians of the animal world in that:

  1. They’re big.
  2. They’re playful.
  3. If you cross them, they will literally kill you.

Was driving out of the park this morning when this guy jumped out of the bushes behind my truck and ran across the road:

He sized up me and I him.

It was the only photo of him I got. He seemed cool, though. More importantly, I was the only one on the road at that point. I’m selfish about my animal sightings that way. On the boat ride back from Crypt Lake all 80 of us saw another brown black bear on the lake shore going to town on a fish. I liked, though, that the road bear actually looked at me. Reminded me of that one time at Spring Training when I got Ken Griffey to nod at me.

This morning driving through Cardston, I saw a circle-of-life drama playing out in the temple parking lot:

Bird-on-bird crime.

There were another four or five magpies that were there for backup. Apparently the hawk had taken a chick out of someone’s nest. Not sure what the adult magpies were going to do about it, but the hawk was squawking at them and they were circling the asphalt menacingly. And then the hawk took off with the chick in its talons. I don’t know how it ended up. Maybe it’ll be on the news tonight.

I also saw some deer.

Deer at Waterton Townsite.

But deer are boring.

Maybe we’ll get some mountain sheep tomorrow.

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Crypt Lake Hike: A Study in Group Dynamics (and Fear)

I didn’t actually study group dynamics while on the hike, but it sure lends itself to some theorizing. Crypt Lake, then. This is sort of THE HIKE at Waterton Lakes. It’s the Half Dome of the place. I suppose you don’t *have to* do it, but then again you don’t *have to* hike Half Dome either. I think they’re analogous.

One way in which they are *not* analogous, however, is that the Crypt Lake hike trailhead can only be accessed by taking a boat over from the Waterton Townsite harbor. The boat runs twice in the morning, then picks people up again in the evening. Thus the group dynamic: when you get to the trailhead, there are 50 or so people arriving at the same time and, thus, starting their hike at the same time. And when they do, it looks like this:

And the dude right in front of me had those stupid "bear bells" attached to his walking sticks. And he flailed a lot.

Speaking of bear bells, the first mate on the ship advised hikers against using them since bears do not associate bell sounds with danger, instead associating them with the bottom of the food chain. To little avail.

Everyone hikes together in a line. It’s like the Grand Prix of Monaco. Whoever starts out in front is going to stay there because the trail is too narrow to pass ever. And no one is going to move over to let you by since you’re all on the same lap. Exactly like Monaco. Anyway — enough crowd dynamics. Suffice it to say that you never walk alone (on this hike).

Some other details:

  • It’s an out-and-back.
  • 11 miles round-trip.
  • 2,500′ (iirc) elevation gain, although I think that’s a simple high point-to-low point measure.
  • The sun is always in the wrong place. This is probably endemic to being on the east side of the Rockies.
  • There aren’t any water sources until you get to the lake on top.

Also, if you don’t have your hiking legs, your altitude lungs, or your foot callouses, it’s a pretty solid warm-up hike.

Photos:

Twin Falls -- and, no, I don't know where the other one is either.

This is the valley (canyon?) you hike up.

As the woman in front of me in line said, "maybe you can Photoshop it".

Then, once you get past there, the trail gets “interesting”, as (maybe) shown in the following photograph:

Note: Photo not taken for its aesthetic value.

You might have to click on that one a couple times to see the people there on that ledge/trail. If you get it zoomed in (click on the photo, then click on the photo again on the resulting page), you’ll also notice that the trail appears to dead end. But it does not!

And: 5 miles from the trailhead and we're still bumper-to-bumper.

So there’s kind of that hole at the end, right?

This is what the valley (canyon?) looks like from the ledge, btw.

Anyway, then, there’s a ladder that gets you up into the tunnel.

As evidenced by this photo.

But then, the tunnel’s not quite as big as it looks.

It gets tighter from there. Kind of like that one ride they had at Disneyland in the 70s.

View from the end of the tunnel.

And then when you get out of the tunnel, there’s *this* ledge:

This is the less-hairy part. I wasn't taking photos during the portion where I was holding onto the cable with both hands and dangling my feet over the abyss.

Seriously. Although, to be fair, it wasn’t bad going up. Coming back down, though, when you can’t look at where you’re stepping without also seeing how far you’re going to fall if you miss your step, is somewhat more fear-inducing.

Oh wait, here’s another view:

It's a long ways down.

And I’m kind of an acrophobe. Like, my palms used to sweat when I’d play Marble Madness on the XBox. Anyhoo:

Another mile, another waterfall. That's not Crypt Lake at right, btw.

*This* is Crypt Lake:

Which basically looks like other lakes that you can drive to.

It’s a little anti-climactic is all. And then you hike down the way you came. At the tunnel, you meet the people who came in the later boat. It’s awkward. Much dangling. And eventually the boat picks you up and takes you back to civilization. Everyone rides back together.

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PS, The bottom 2.5 miles of this hike (each way, = 5 miles total) really suck due to tree prison issues. It’s an amazing set-up whereby the trees manage to block your view, but don’t block the sun. Stupid trees.

Waterton Lake Townsite

First stop in Canada other than the bathroom just on the other side of the border crossing: Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada. Not sure why they have to have the “of Canada” in there. Seems like the location’s coordinates would imply as much.

Waterton Lakes is sort of a National Park after the old-school model where it’s more like a big resort located in the mountains where people can do outdoors stuff if they want to — or can play golf, tennis, check out galleries, or go to the on-site spa. Here are some photos from the drive in and wandering around the Waterton Townsite:

The road in.

Also the road in.

One of the cooler aspects of Waterton Lakes is the drive in to the park and the sudden transition from the yellow grasses of the prairie to the steep, glacial horns of the Rockies. Maybe the photos convey as much.

Here’s a shot of the big hotel they have there. I think it’s expensive.

Prince of Wales Hotel

And I’m sure it has some story behind it that includes the Canadian Pacific Railway. And the photo from the other side doesn’t show much mountain (but it *does* show a small harbor where people can keep their boats parked).

Here is a warning sign:

Warning: deer and humans dance together here. Warning: inter-species seizures. Many possibilities.

This is a waterfall that’s adjacent to the townsite:

It is (they are?) called Cameron Falls.

I think that one looks better at larger size (click on the photo, then click on it again on the resultant page if you want to test my theory for yourself).

And then here are x more of the lake, where “x” represents the number y.

Vimy Peak and Waterton Lake

Apparently y = 1. I’d post more photos, but last road trip someone mentioned how nice it was that I didn’t post *too* many photos. No one offered a counter-argument.

bkd

PS, Since it’s only a couple hours from Calgary and Lethbridge, Waterton Lakes does a lot of business on the weekends. If you’re going there, probably avoid the weekend. Unless you like being around a lot of people, in which case probably aim for a weekend.