Day 10 – Saturday 17th September 2011

It’s 11:00pm here in Banff and we’ve just got back from having something to eat and a pint.  The strange thing is, after travelling all this way, we come across a bar called the Rose and Crown…. :0)

As this was our last day in Banff, we decided to go out and see if we could spot any more wildlife before we start heading out of the various National Parks tomorrow.  Are we glad we did.

Yesterday we told you about driving down this graded road (highway 742) and that we were lucky enough to see a female Moose.  Well we drove exactly the same road today and only about 10 km in, Kim spotted a black bear in the bushes, we watched for a while to see if we could get a photo or two when about 30 feet ahead of us, he burst out onto the road and ran across to the other side – boy could he move! Lewis got a picture of his bum and Kim got some very shaky video footage!

Further down the highway we were highly entertained by watching 2 red squirrels playing “Chase Me” up some trees.  In fact they were so entertaining that Lewis dug out his tripod and put the big lens on his camera.  You can see the photos on our Flickr feed.

Seeing we couldn’t spend all day with the squirrels we decided to move on….  Now when we arrived here in Canada we were welcomed to temperatures of roughly 30 degrees and have had some wonderful weather, in fact, if you speak to local Canadians they would tell you that they were just having their summer now!!!

So we’ve had some lovely hot weather…..  Not today we haven’t !!!  When we headed out the temperature was roughly 6 or 7 degrees.  Well after leaving the squirrels and driving further along this unmade road, the temperature started to drop and got down to a chilly 1 or 2 degrees and then the heavens just opened with rain, hail and then sleety snow!!!  Just to make matters worse the driving conditions almost got to the point where you couldn’t actually see where you were going….

We stopped at a lodge off the highway and got a coffee while waiting for the weather to ease up and then we headed out again. We were convinced that we wouldn’t see any further wildlife given the current weather conditions……

Not 15 minutes later, we spotted a moose ……..a big bull moose with massive antlers…… he was magnificent. We managed to pull over and he was on some open land and we were looking down a slope at him. He didn’t seem worried by our prescence, in fact he seemed so laid back, he mooched for a while and then laid down, so we spent a while watching him and taking some great photos.

We eventually tore ourselves away and headed back for the hotel and the last night in these magnificently comfy beds……off to Golden tomorrow as part of the return route home and we hope to visit the Grizzly Bear Refuge and peek at Boo the bear, this may be the only way we can see a Grizzly here as we do have a plane to catch back home on Thursday!!!

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Day 9 – Friday 16th September 2011

After the best night’s sleep since we have been here – ( We want to take these hotel mattresses home!), we got up really early, had breakfast and loaded the SUV with the cameras and headed out to Canmore. We had seen a drive around where wildlife allegedly could be seen.

Canmore itself seemed like a lovely town and we passed by the Mountie‘s station – Kim wanted to stop!! We found the graded road (Highway 742) and set off slowly, both sets of eyes peeled for wildlife…………….

After quite some kilometres up this bumpy road we saw something in the lake opposite the road but despite zoom lenses on Cameras and a huge zoom on the video, we couldn’t quite make out what it was.  We think it was elk. We continued…..and drove and looked and looked and drove……and eventually spotted a moose!!!! We stopped and managed to get some photos….another to tick off on our wish list of animals to see.

Despite seeing numerous signs that it was bear country and that bears were in the area, we couldn’t find one at all! We did find a strange little bird though, it looked a bit like a grouse, we will look it up and let you know.

Eventually after about 3-4 hours, our eyes were tired and tree stumps began to look like bears so we headed off in search of a coffee and a leg stretch.

One thing Kim had wanted to do was a helicopter flight and we found a facility that offered various flights and we decided that as the weather was nice, to do it there and then! We did a 20 minute tour of the Rockies and Kim was soooooo excited and loved every minute – she took over 100 photos (and usually she is the more conservative photo taker of us both!) and was grinning from ear to ear. Lewis captured the experience on video and we were both buzzing for hours after!!!

Back to the hotel to freshen up and then we walked into downtown Banff to Wild Bill’s Saloon where Kim had salmon with a maple b-b-q sauce and Lewis had Elk burger – and we both enjoyed a pint or two of the local beer!  We should say at this point that 2 pints each is probably about our maximum seeing they came to $24 plus sales tax of 5%…. Beer is certainly not one of the cheaper commodities in Canada !!!!

 

Day 8 – Thursday 15th September 2011

1 week down, 1 week to go!!!  :0(  (although can’t wait to see Bailey and Mishy again)

We decided to get up and leave Pocahontas Cabins early this morning, hoping that we may see some wildlife on the drive from Jasper to Banff.  With a distance of about 250km we stopped at the petrol station in Jasper to fill up with fuel for both the SUV and Us !!!

About half a kilometre before the petrol station we saw “The Elk Family”, a mum and dad with what we think was this year’s baby…. Sooo Sweet :0) (pics to follow on our Flickr link).

After re-fuelling we headed on the long journey back along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) towards Lake Louise and Banff.  About 20 minutes into the drive and we saw “The Mountain Goat Family”, again this year’s young with mum and dad.  Of course we stopped and took some more photographs.

Even though we had already driven this road in the opposite direction a couple of days beforehand, there were obviously things that we had missed or maybe just hadn’t noticed.  The light was certainly very different this morning, although making landscape photographs yet again rather difficult.

The journey was pretty uneventful, with a stop at Athabasca Falls and then another stop further along where one can see the actual Athabasca Glacier.

After about 8 hours we arrived in the town of Banff.  No it didn’t really take us 8 hours to drive 250km.  Not even with Canadian speed limits !!! :0)  It does however take 8 hours when you keep stopping to photograph various things, or just pull over to admire the stunning, in fact, breathtaking scenery.

Once we’d got into Banff we then had to find our hotel for the next 3 nights….  Thank god for modern technology as our SatNav guided us right to the front door, where we were allowed to check-in, albeit a little early.  The hotel is quite large and our room is enormous with 2 Queen size beds.  Now one thing to remember in Canada is that a Queen sized bed is in fact smaller than a Kingsize, but even so without two hairy hounds with us there is plenty of space indeed.

Seeing it’s 22:35 now we’re off to bed as another early start awaits us.  We’ll tell you tomorrow what we are up to, but just to say animals may be included…… :0)

 

New Photos!!!

Hi All….   We have arrived safely in Banff and as we now have a very good internet connection we have added a load of new photographs to the Flickr feed on our blog so please go and check it out :0)

We still have 3 days worth of photos to add, but need to eat as fading fast…  Enjoy and we appreciate your feedback.

Lewis & Kim

Day 7 – Wednesday 14th September 2011

Apart from the usual waking up and having breakfast which by now I suspect you had already worked out…..

We took a drive into Jasper which is about 30 minutes away from our cabin and stopped at the Canadian equivalent of Tourist Information in order to find out where the best places were to go for wildlife.

Lake Maligne appeared to be our best bet as there had been various reports of Bear, Moose and Elk in the area.  So after a little “window shopping” we jumped into the SUV and headed off out.

With Kim not feeling 100% today we decided to have a fairly quiet and tranquil day and so with the time being about 12:30 we thought we’d go and have coffee at the Fairmount Lodge which is in a similar vicinity to the Lake.  Well on arrival at the lodge we thought we’d better quickly turn round and get the hell out of there !!!!  Let’s just say we didn’t think our budget would stretch that far….  We always thought that price was for a room, not a coffee!!!! :0)

We pushed on and head along Maligne Road and came to Maligne Canyon which had a cafe and so we stopped there. Lewis got talking to a couple as he loved their dog – we thought it was an Alaskan Malamute but ….. it turned out to be a wolf hybrid dog, allegedly 60% wolf, 40% Malamute – and he looked stunning!!! Kim eventually got her hubby back and we got drinks and snacks – Lewis had an Apple Pastry and Kim had home-made Pecan Pie – both were yummy!!!

We then decided to head back for the cabin as it was “too early” for wildlife spotting or so we thought.  We were told any time after 5.30pm or before 9am were the best times…….yet on the way back we saw mountain sheep on the side of a mountain (funnily enough) and elk in the river!!!

Time now to head out again on our wildlife expedition…..”We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one, what a beautiful day, we’re not scared……well not much any way!”

Day 6 – Tuesday 13th September 2011

Good morning Everyone!!!

Well we both had a much better nights sleep last night and were up at 06:00 this morning.  Having sorted a couple of bits out we’ve already been out at sunrise up to the road to Lake Louise and also up the road to Lake Moraine again to see if there was any wildlife around….  Funnily enough I think you can all work out the answer to that one  :0)

This morning, after breakfast, we are heading on up to Jasper via the Columbia Icefield.  From Lake Louise to Jasper is 232km or 140 miles in English money….

It’s overcast and certainly very chilly this morning, but we are both looking forward to going and actually standing and walking around on a Glacier…..  :0)  We’ll let you know how we get on.

Bye for now…

Lewis & Kim

P.S.  We are finding it difficult trying to edit and get video up on the blog.  In fact to be honest we are not sure what the photos look like seeing they are un-edited and have come straight off the camera.  We will get some more photos sorted out this evening as there is Wi-Fi at our lodge in Jasper :0)

We’re back, although it is the next day strangely enough…

Well they say the road to the Icefields is the most beautiful in Canada – and it certainly is stunning – the journey to the Columbia Icefields, up highway 93 (Icefields Parkway) from Lake Louise should take about 1 1/2 hours …. We took about twice that !!! So would you have if you’d kept stopping at the view points to look at the scenery and take yet more pictures.

After about 10 mins on the Parkway we saw an awful lot of cars and RVs just pulled over, so knew that there had to be some sort of Wildlife upfront.  At long last… Hallelujah!!!   We finally get to see a bear from ground level….  He was a pretty good-sized black bear and we got some video footage and we think some wonderful photos of him.  Humans are strange you know; just because Mr Bear was wearing a collar, people obviously decided that he must be tame and so the 100m rule set by the Parks Authorities went straight out of the window!!!  Believe me when we tell you he was most certainly wild….  As so many people decided that they could get within 20 feet of Mr Bear, Lewis decided he’d get closer to get some lovely photos and he just hoped if bear fancied a snack then he’d choose someone else.  There was only one problem with this theory as was demonstrated when Mr Bear come quite quickly out of the bushes to the roadside and everyone else just ran, whilst my dear husband was standing there with camera to his face getting photos!!!  Well maybe hubby had “gone off” seeing the bear didn’t eat him……

Eventually we got to the Columbia Icefield Centre and booked our tickets for the Glacier tour. We got on a coach that took us up the mountain to the start of the glacier where we transferred to the glacier bus for the next part. Out on the glacier we went, with an entertaining guide giving us commentary on the way, we were allowed to get out at the top of the glacier for 20 minutes to take pictures and sample the glacier water which was very pure but cold….brrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

After that experience of a lifetime, we drove on and thought we would make time up on the way to Jasper but the landscape kept getting in the way! And then the mountain sheep got in the way…..and then the magnificent stag on the road……

Eventually we found our home for the night – Pocahontas Cabins, about 30 minutes outside of Jasper.

Day 5 – Monday 12th September 2011

Even with the delights of a king size bed, Lewis had a bad night; he is
feeling the effects of altitude sickness and was really suffering last night!
He eventually got to sleep in the early hours and we rose at about 10am to
shower and get ready for the day.

We headed to Lake Louise Gondola – this is a ride up the mountain in either
an enclosed gondola or a ski bench and apparently is one of the best places to
see a bear – which is what we want to do so much!!

We chose an enclosed gondola for the journey up which takes about 15 minutes
and the views were outstanding- we scanned the area below us and the tree line
each side so we could say those immortal words “Hey bear, it’s only me
bear” …. But to no avail…sigh. When we arrived at the mid-point where
we got off, we were greeted by one of the guides who informed us that a grizzly
had been spotted within 100 metre of the platform so for safety, we were not
allowed to get off but were sent round to do the descent and climb again…..
we looked long and hard for this pesky bear who was stopping us from getting
off to take his picture but not a claw or tooth could be seen…grrr!! We descended,
continued scanning the woods and open land below us, and went round and climbed
again….and the same guide very apologetically told us that the bear still
hadn’t moved so we were being sent back down again – and still not a whisker to
be seen!

On this descent, we decided to get off, go get a coffee and come back up in
a short while when hopefully we would be luckier and catch sight of the pesky
varmint who had thwarted our intent to take his picture!

Up we went, on the open bench seat this time – Kim loved it but Lewis felt a
little queasy. We had our eyes peeled all the way up but nothing, not a rustle
in the trees. We got to the top ….and yes! We could get off! We were told that
the bear had moved up the mountain and over a hill. We hoped he would put in an
appearance but it was not to be – so we carried up two cameras, three lenses,
one tripod and one tripod head to take a few pictures of landscapes from the
top of the mountain!

Some news came up via some tourists who had come up recently, they had seen
a black bear between poles 10 and 11 so we packed up our stuff and got an open
bench ride down, and counted the poles …….13, 12, 11….eyes peeled ….looking
left and right…..and there in the trees was a small black bear …so cute, not
sure if we managed to get any pictures of him, and no video as we were so
awestruck – we saw our first bear ….and were finally able to say “ Hey bear!!!”

We went back to the hotel to have something to eat as we hadn’t eaten all
day, then went back to our room for a little rest and then near sunset we got
back in the SUV and drove to Lake Moraine which is up a 14km small windy
road.  Apparently it’s one of the places where there was a good chance of seeing wildlife…..  What did we see?  Absolutely nothing!!!  Having said that we think we got some lovely photos of the lake and the Fay Glacier that feeds the lake.

By 10:00pm we were both knackered and so off to sleep we go…..