Travelling in British Columbia

Monday, 6 August:

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Had a very good sleep last night, our room was so spacious and comfortable. After an early breakfast, we said goodbye to Sun Peaks and saw some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada as we travelled along the remote Duffy Lake Road. Our first stop was at Historic Hat Creek Ranch which is located on one of the few sections of the original Cariboo Wagon Road.  This ranch played an important part in providing a stopping-off point for miners travelling north in the 1800’s.

Just a quick coffee and bathroom stop here.  Long enough to stroll around to the blacksmith and have a chat.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the historical buildings.  I think you can do a tour of them on a horse-drawn wagon which I noticed when we arrived.  Would be an interesting stop if you had a few hours to spare.

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Next stop was in Lillooet to Fort Berens Winery for a delicious, leisurely lunch with a wine tasting.  The staff were very friendly and made us feel most welcome.

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Nice view of the vineyards as we ate lunch.

We are now in dry and rugged country.

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I counted over 80 cars on this freight train

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These structures protect trains from avalanches

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Our driver stopped suddenly and here is what I saw right outside my window!

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Continued west as we crossed the Coast Mountains, quick photo stop at Duffy Lake and then on to Whistler.

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Sun Peaks

Sunday, 5 August:

 

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Today we headed west over Yellowhead Pass and arrived at Mount Robson, the Rockies tallest peak at 12,989 feet (3,959 metres).

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Stopped to take in the scenery at Pyramid Lake, then enjoyed lunch on the verandah of a  local restaurant.

 

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Lunch with a view

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No wet paws for these two!

Today has been quite leisurely as our next destination is not far away and back in the coach once more, we followed the Thompson River as we descended through the Columbia Mountains and arrived at our accommodation for the night, Sun Peaks Grand Hotel.

 

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Sun Peaks is Canada’s second largest ski resort and we found the village absolutely charming.  We were surprised at the number of people staying there in summer, but then we discovered that there are many activities in the absence of snow, such as golfing, biking and hiking.   Shops, bars and restaurants are all within easy walking distance and we enjoyed our time here very much.

Jasper – Day Two

Saturday, 4 August: As tempting as it was to laze around the resort, by 9.30 we were in the coach to start the day with a cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island. Set amongst towering peaks, Maligne Lake is the largest glacial fed lake in the Canadian Rockies and interestingly, the water is a different colour at Spirit Island than it is where the boat departs from. As you get closer, the water changes from blue to emerald, due to the presence of rock flour from the glaciers.

Maligne Lake (1)

Maligne Lake (2)

Maligne Lake

Spirit Island is one of the most photographed places in Canada and we could see why. Beautiful, peaceful and a very special place.

 

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On our return we hopped back on the coach and headed to Athabasca Falls.  This waterfall is not known so much for its height (at 23 metres) as for the force of the water falling into the gorge.

 

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Next stop was Maligne Canyon.  This canyon measures over 50 metres deep and we did an interpretative walk, learning about the underground river system while following the canyon’s trail past beautiful waterfalls and spectacular rock formations.  Several bridges crossed where you could see the water far below.  It was very interesting to read how the churning water is constantly eroding the canyon.

 

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The rest of the day we had to ourselves, which gave us another opportunity to explore the resort and later in the day I walked around the lake which took 1-1/2 hours at a leisurely pace, stopping to read the many boards set up at intervals, with interesting information about the plant and animal life around the lake.

 

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Around JPL lake (7)Around JPL lake (6)Around JPL lake (1)

 

Jasper

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3 August:   Friday morning, we headed north amidst a landscape of towering peaks, waterfalls and glaciers, hoping we would see some elk, bears or mountain goats. In fact, John stopped the coach when he saw several cars up ahead parked on the side of the road and we were just in time to catch a glimpse of a bear!  It was too bad that everyone had gotten out of their cars with their cameras and scared it away.  Unfortunately, that was to be our only sighting!

 

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Arrived at the Columbian Icefield and boarded an Ice Explorer to drive out to the massive Athabasca Glacier.  This is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains, located along the border of Alberta and British Columbia.

It was pretty crowded out there, with Ice Explorers coming and going, but all very controlled and we could only stay out there for 20 minutes. There were lots of people standing around and the ice was slippery, so I didn’t venture very far. Nevertheless, an amazing experience to actually stand on a glacier.

Just before we reached our accommodation, we rounded a corner and were surprised to find several elk lying in the grass.  John stopped the coach and we took some photos through the windows so we wouldn’t disturb them.

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We stayed in the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, in the middle of Alberta’s stunning Jasper National Park.  Covering 700 acres, this luxury resort has a main lodge surrounded by chalets and cabins all connected by paths and gardens facing Lac Beauvert and Canada’s No 1 Golf Course Resort.  Our meals in the restaurant were of the highest standard and we even had an “egg chef” to cook our eggs at breakfast!

 

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Our accommodation was in one of the cabins, roomy and luxurious, with a patio out front looking onto the lake and a back door as well!  The lodge wasn’t far away, but if you didn’t want to walk, you only had to make a quick phone call and a golf cart would be sent to pick you up.

That night after dinner we had a local wildlife expert give us a talk about all the wild animals that inhabit the area.  So pleased we have two nights here.  The scenery is stunning and we love the resort.

 

Banff – Day Two

Thursday, 2 August – Off to an early start after breakfast to drive to Moraine Lake situated in the beautiful Valley of the Ten Peaks. Stunning scenery.

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Then continued on to Lake Louise which I was really looking forward to. The unbelievably turquoise lake and its surrounding backdrop of mountains is, without doubt, the main attraction for many people and it was quite crowded there

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We had plenty of time to walk part of the way around the lake and admire the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – a beautiful building with an interesting history and lovely gardens. Very impressive.

Lake Louise is of course, the iconic place to visit but I don’t think Moraine Lake should be overlooked. In terms of beautiful lakes, it was up there and less touristy.

We also learnt about rock flour (we misunderstood and immediately thought of rock flowers!)  Rock flour refers to the silt created when rocks are grinding from the movement of a glacier.  The rock flour is very light and stays suspended in the water for a long time.  The sunlight that reflects off this rock flour gives the lakes their stunning turquoise colour.

For the rest of the day we were free to explore Banff on our own, and then we all met up to hop on our coach to be taken to the Banff Trail Riders ranch, for a ride in a covered wagon drawn by two horses to enjoy a cookout.

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It was about a 40-minute ride along a narrow dirt road through a pretty forest alongside the river.  The horses were very keen to up the pace and had to be slowed down a few times.  When we arrived at our destination we were greeted with drinks and lasso and horse shoe throwing lessons while we waited for our meal.  Also, some very large mosquitoes – which made us feel right at home!

On the way, the driver checked out how we would like our steaks cooked and phoned through our orders – such attention to detail!   The home cooked beans were fantastic – will be searching out some recipes when I go home. Salad was followed by baked potatoes to accompany our perfectly cooked steaks and beans, then individual cheesecakes for dessert – who doesn’t love a barbecue?

Even though it was late when we made our return trip back to the coach, the weather was warm and still daylight! I’m loving these long days.