There’s a reptile in flight ….

img_9324I think I was a reptile in a past-life.  Usually in a constant state of seeking to nudge up the house thermostat in a bid for a warmer temperature and a place to defrost my hands and feet, I can normally be found nestled under several layers of clothing, with thermal socks and gloves that only a heat-seeking missile would be attracted to.  Ironic then, that I find myself living in a Winter City where temperatures are sub-zero for at least 3 to 4 months of the year.

There’s only two ways to go in such a climate – either embrace the frozen north, or hibernate; only to reappear when the snow has subsided and we start to climb into the positive temperature range around April/May time.  You may be reading this assuming I’m the latter ….. but no.  Despite my cold-blooded tendencies, I do enjoy the winter activities and especially, a spot of skiing – either downhill or cross-country.  Both are readily available in Edmonton, and working in my favour for the cross-country is the fact that Alberta is a prairie-state and literally, as flat as a pancake.  It certainly makes for a less arduous (and by definition, much more fun) way to experience the sport with the avoidance of any hills or steep terrain which would have me hyperventilating with effort and collapsing with sheer exhaustion.  img_0046But I do miss my mountain fix.  It’s one of the scenic aspects I miss most about living in the UK.  That said, Jasper, and the Canadian Rockies are a mere 3.5 hrs drive to the West and are mountainously majestic on a monumental scale.  We’re lucky that we can take a quick trip there for a weekend, get my mountain fix, and attempt the downhill skiing of the Marmot Basin.  With 86 runs, the longest high speed quad-chair in the Canadian Rockies, and views to die for, it’s a spectacular place to ski.  And this past weekend, we did just that.marmot-basinAll the family have their own equipment, and during the past two Winters we’ve lived in Canada, everyone has gradually picked up the skills and technique to get them from the top of a slope, down to the bottom – hopefully, without any mishaps en route.  Even my youngest kid who is now 7, will happily throw herself down the more gradual terrains – which means the whole family can ski together.  My middle kid is the risk-taker, and will seek out every treacherous route in a bid to experience moments of sheer terror with shrieks of hysteria.  Living on the edge is definitely one of her life philosophies ….

Beset with a few challenges including my husband having the navigational prowess of a lemon, my middle kid demonstrating a strong magnetic draw to any dare-devil activity, and my youngest kid being solely focused on remaining upright; I adopt the role of chief navigator and assume responsibility for making sure that whatever chair lift we go up, there’s a route back down that doesn’t require the mastery level of a black diamond.  With the trail-blazing abilities of a bloodhound, I’m relied upon to traverse the various routes down the mountain, identifying a variant path each time from the one before, until we all safely arrive with aching limbs and tired muscles to the awaiting chairlifts at the bottom  – only to be whisked into the heavens such that the cycle can repeat itself yet again.img_9355After a few hours, confidence was high and I decided to inject some novelty, proposing we take a chairlift towards the top of the mountain rather than focusing on the middle and lower terrains.  As we ascended, the views were spectacular and the scenery stunning.  With my attention somewhat distracted, I had failed to notice the need for a rapid exit at the top of the lift as the chairs quickly gained height before flipping around a spindle and returning back to the bottom.  Graciously hesitating at the top to let my kids off first, was my undoing.  I missed the optimum point of departure – and only when the chair started to pick up speed and the ground quickly fell away did I realise a hastier exit was required.  The prosaic lines of the immortal song, ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go Now’, reverberated through my head – and a nanosecond split decision saw me adopting an ‘Eddie the Eagle’ approach to descent as I ‘launched’ myself off the chair.goat in flightA ‘Clash’ it certainly was.  Imagining it to be more graciously executed than the reality, I felt I had it perfectly controlled until the landing.  Maybe it was the knees, or even my posture that let me down, but my husband later recounted the moment when he witnessed the ‘splat’ as I hit the ground and arrived unceremoniously in a heap at his skis.  Even the best of us, have our odd moments of misadventure and I’m still chuckling about the incident a week later – whilst nursing a rather large bruise that has managed to feature all the colours of the rainbow.  The bruise has managed to generate enough heat to keep my reptile-like tendencies at bay, retaining warmth in my hands and feet.  I can’t help but think it’s far easier just to notch up the thermostat …. ūüôā

 

Google images supplied the cartoon in today’s blog, the rest have been photogenically captured by ‘goat and kids’

Spring has sprung??

Canada Geese

Do you know what the collective noun for geese is? ¬†I always thought it was a ‘gaggle’, but listening to Canadian radio earlier this week I find out that there are several different collective terms for geese – all dependent on what the geese are doing at the time. ¬†For example, if geese are on the ground, then quite rightly, they’re often described as a ‘gaggle’, ‘herd’ or ‘flock’. ¬†But if they’re in flight, then it’s either a ‘wedge’ or ‘skein’. ¬†I never knew that till this week. ¬†It got me wondering how geese have managed to get to the high echelons of¬†having so many descriptive terms? ¬†I did an internet search to see how many collective terms are used to describe the joys of having kids – and found a complete dearth. ¬†There’s many terms I’d use to describe my 3 kids – many of which wouldn’t always be complimentary …..

Anyhow. ¬†This all came about as Canada Geese are arriving back in Edmonton (maybe it was a slow news day as it was the key topic of conversation on the radio) with¬†‘wedges’ being¬†spotted in full formation flying in from goodness knows where. ¬†Comes to something when even the Canadian Geese migrate away from here over the winter …. maybe there’s a message in there somewhere? ¬†Being upbeat, it’s obviously a sign that the worst of the weather is over and a lot of our snow is finally melting away after months of being surrounded in a blanket of ‘whiteness’. ¬†I love the snow and have really enjoyed getting active with the skiing this season, but it’s hard to describe the feeling of finally seeing grass in your front and back lawn slowly re-appearing. ¬†Optimism, I think. ¬†That said, most of the lakes are still completely frozen so we’ve a little while to go as yet. ¬†I’ll have to temper my excitement. ¬†And it’s March already …..

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Not surprisingly, the grass isn’t looking that great. ¬†Mind you, if I’d been covered with over a foot of snow for the best part of 4 months, I’d be looking rather worse for wear too. ¬†Even the Arctic Hare that visits our back garden and ‘stops over’ occasionally under the decking, is rather at a loss. ¬†His fur is still pure white so he’s standing out like a belisha beacon until his coat changes to the summer brown colour.

One of the things I miss most about being in the UK, is the bulbs that start appearing and the daffodils bringing bright colours ready for St David’s Day in early March. ¬†Easter is always a good time to get out in the garden and see some colour and new growth. ¬†Not in Edmonton. ¬†The rule of thumb seems to be to hang on in there till May as the ground is still solid and heavy frosts appear during the night, plus not to forget the occasional snowstorm that can bring a full covering back again instantly. ¬†Talking of which, I think that’s the forecast for this evening. ¬†Oh well ……

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We took a jaunt across to Jasper last weekend. ¬†We haven’t been there at this time of year, and whilst the mountain valleys are free of snow, as you start to climb the mountains you suddenly hit the snow-line and the snow depth that still remains is huge. ¬†So much so, that it makes you wonder how long it will¬†take to fully thaw. ¬†The views across the mountains and lakes are spectacular though. ¬†You alternate from being in early Spring down in the valley, to a ‘Narnia-like’ winter experience where the snow even on the conifer branches is 5 inches thick – it’s quite surreal.

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And quiet. ¬†I’ve never experienced ‘quietness’ quite like it when you’re in the mountains. ¬†Complete nothingness. ¬†Absolute silence. ¬†And still. ¬†The only sounds are from our feet tramping through the thick snow. ¬†I was almost expecting Mr Timnus (namely, James McAvoy from the Chronicles of Narnia films), to appear from behind a snow-covered tree. ¬†Failing that, I had hoped we may spot some wild animals in the forests and near the lakes, but these I suspect, were wisely remaining hidden due to our 3 kids who were grudgingly trudging along with us. ¬†I was sorely tempted at several points to feed one of them to any animals brave enough to put in an appearance but in the end we had to compromise on bringing them back home with us (the kids that is – not the wild animals), after we plunged the oldest kid into 3 feet of snow when she ‘helpfully’ doused her youngest sister with a vast amount of snow down the inside of her coat. ¬†We saw the funny side, but it took several hours before comedy and even the smallest hint of humour was felt¬†by the kids themselves…..

The joys of having kids so helpfully brought to mind. ¬†It got me back to thinking of collective nouns again ….. ¬†ūüôā

Give it a shot … ?

Photography

When I was little, my Dad used to spend many hours upstairs in the attic which he’d converted to a small office. ¬†There were two items which used to draw my attention – one was a Hornby train track which he’d set up and the miniature trains would¬†run around the track, stopping at the mini stations. ¬†It was great fun and probably inspired more by Ivor the Engine rather than Thomas the Tank Engine ……

Anyhow, the second attraction was that he would convert the attic to a dark room, for processing the negatives from his camera. ¬†I remember there¬†being¬†an abundance of different chemicals and a highly complex process which had to be undertaken in aspiring to produce the perfect print. ¬†I used to help out and would be in charge of switching on and off the red ‘safelight’ – and watched in awe as the pictures slowly emerged onto the photographic paper. ¬†I remember having to ‘hang’ the damp photos up on a small washing line so they could dry. ¬†You’ve got to admit, technology has certainly speeded the entire process up these days, but there’s something more authentic and unique when the technique to produce them was so variable and long-winded.

I’ve always enjoyed taking pics but never really put more thought into it. ¬†My back-catalogue of pics pre-Canada has largely been dominated by the kids in all manner of British places and undertaking an array of past-times. ¬†Interesting for me to look back on and remember the events, but less so for others!

Since arriving in Canada, I’ve found a new sense of inspiration in the natural landscape. ¬†I have no photographic technical knowledge whatsoever but can appreciate inspirational shots. ¬†I also have a personality trait which lacks patience – so taking pics immediately and ‘in the moment’ is more my style along with devoting¬†total¬†reliance on the sheer brilliance of the automatic camera built into my iPhone.

A friend recently challenged me to post a photograph of nature – online, every day, for 7 days. ¬†I wasn’t sure whether I was cut out for the task, but gave it and go, and thought I’d share these with you – along with details of where they were taken……… enjoy ūüôā

Day 1: There’s an abundance of red berries as you walk through the River Valley in Edmonton which are striking against the predominantly white snowscape and bare-branched trees. ¬†I love the colour contrast and this was taken in the grounds of the Muttart Conservatory – rather like a small ‘Eden’ project here in Edmonton, and definitely worth a visit.

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Day 2: There’s a walking trail called the ‘River Loop’ which takes you around Fort Edmonton park. ¬†Probably just under 3 miles in length, it’s a popular walking route of mine – fairly flat and easy too, for kids to tramp along. ¬†I’ve spotted the occasional coyote along it in the past plus you get to see parts of Fort Edmonton as you walk along. I thought I’d test out a black & white shot …

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Day 3: Also taken along the River Valley but looking towards the Fort Edmonton footbridge over the North Saskatchewan River. ¬†I’m constantly fascinated that it can freeze completely over …

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Day 4: Autumn (or ‘Fall’ as it’s referred to over here), is my favourite season by far for the abundance of colours which are simply stunning. ¬†This next shot I took back in September walking along the Whitemud Park North trail. ¬†We visited ‘New England’ in the Fall several years ago and I think this is equally as spectacular in colour with the ranges of yellows, oranges and reds set against the crystal clear blue sky. ¬†Life can’t get much better than this surely?

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Day 5: There are plenty of bridges cutting across the North Saskatchewan River, all of which are subtly different in style. ¬†I’ve taken lots of pics of many of these, but this next one was a footbridge across a river estuary leading into the North Saskatchewan. ¬†I love the angles and shadows – and whilst this was taken mid-day in Winter, it has something compelling about it.

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Day 6: One of our favourite places we’ve visited whilst being in Canada is Canmore, just south of Banff in the Canadian Rockies. ¬†Along with being home to the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company (highly recommended for any beer-lovers out there), it also has stunning scenery. ¬†This pic I took on a weekend trip when my parents visited last Summer, on a walk up to Spray Lakes just past the Canmore Nordic Centre. ¬†It was particularly notable, as we were obliged to carry bear spray with us and the kids were constantly wondering whether they would out-run grandma should one appear.

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Day 7: My final submission. Taken last Spring, this is Lac Beauvert just outside the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper. ¬†I can’t begin to describe how peaceful and serene the place is, and the mirror-image reflections in the water, with the turquoise colours and typically blue skies, are staggeringly beautiful.

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Nature at it’s best. ¬†It just goes to show, that as with most things in life, it’s worth taking a shot …. ūüôā

Three cheers to the grandparents

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We’re nearing the end of the Canadian visits from the grandparents, and both sets have had a truly wonderful first-time experience of this vast country. ¬†Not only has it been lovely having familiar faces around – it’s amazing how much you miss not just being able to ‘pop round’ or arrange an impromptu weekend visit every now and then – but the seniors in the family and the youngest 3 members, have thoroughly enjoyed spending time together. ¬†Common factors are clear winners with both sets – demands for ice-cream, desserts, cakes and biscuits – I’ve had to be the umpire and affect some degree of sensibility otherwise the oldest and youngest generations would¬†be eating them continuously! ¬†Grandparents have clearly been leading the kids astray … ūüėČ

My in-laws are in their mid-80’s and had never envisaged a trip to Canada, believing that physical limitations and sheer old-age, preventative factors. ¬†However, following a series of prompts by us and eventually, just buying tickets with the dates for their travel, meant there was nothing for it, but for them to board the plane – and they arrived without incident and importantly, all completely intact.

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That was nearly 3 weeks ago and during this time we’ve seen an abundance of superb weather and also some excellent trips out – both near and far. ¬†It’s made us explore and find things to do that all parties enjoy, and for the last 3 weeks it’s been particularly challenging as accessibility with wheelchairs has had to be incorporated into the mix. ¬†I’ve had to balance limited physical abilities alongside the abundance of energy my 3 kids display and need to burn off on a daily basis.

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So, we’ve had some delightful trips. ¬†One was to the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. ¬†It’s set in the River Valley just outside downtown Edmonton, and has 4 glass¬†pyramids. ¬†For those familiar with ‘Eden’ in the UK, it’s very similar but on a much smaller scale. ¬†That said, the Muttart Conservatory is an accredited museum and is home to one of Canada’s largest botanical collections.

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There are 3 biomes, each displaying a specific climate year-long. ¬†Temperate (very similar to the climate in Edmonton), Arid (desert and drought-like), and Tropical (humid and hot) each host an array of botanical delights that have their own appeal. ¬†The kids loved wandering around and looking at the different varieties. ¬†The fourth pyramid is entitled ‘Feature’ and provides a themed display which changes approximately 7 times a year. ¬†At the moment, it’s theme is ‘Journey to Middle Earth’, and along with a ‘hobbit’ home, wizard, dragon breathing out plumes of smoke through its nostrils, along with cascading waterfalls – it was truly amazing. ¬†There was a photo with both dragon and my mother-in-law that both myself and my father-in-law had a chuckle about as we both had the same caption in mind. ¬†Suffice to say, I’ve not included it here, I’ll leave it to your imagination – you’ve only got the painted dragon to feast your eyes on below. ¬†The latter pyramid was definitely the most striking of the four, but with wheelchair access available throughout the displays, it meant all members of our party could see everything and experience it together. ¬†Brilliant.

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Fort Edmonton was another day-trip affair. ¬†Edmonton’s heritage park takes you back to 4 eras. ¬†The original Fort built in Edmonton from 1846 signifying the fur-trade era is an impressive structure, and shows how tough it must have been to live and survive in such a harsh climate without the joys of central heating or warm clothing.

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A street depicting 1885, and the hardships the first settlers had to go through is full of original buildings from this time which have been re-sited and located in the park alongside each other. ¬†This is followed by a street from 1905 and Edmonton’s growing municipality, and then finally 1920 with ice-cream parlours, motor vehicles and movie-theatres. ¬†It’s brilliantly done, staff are dressed in clothing from their specific eras and take the form of residents in each of the communities.

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There’s a steam engine and street tram providing rides and assisting in the transportation across the park, plus a fair and midway – attraction park with carousel rides and other amusement delights from the early 1900’s. ¬†Well worth a visit – but leave yourselves a day for the privilege and don’t forget to pack a picnic ūüôā

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Further afield, and a trip to Western Canada isn’t complete without a visit to the mountains and the awe-inspiring Rockies. ¬†Jasper was as beautiful as ever – we’ve been there 3 times now in the last 12 months, and has become our favourite destination of choice. ¬†Lovely to see the mountains without snow for a change, whilst the most impressive view was when my oldest kid and I took a walk around Lac Beauvert at 6am in the morning. ¬†The sun casting red glows on the peaks of the mountains above and only the sound of the animals for company – staggeringly beautific and iconic.

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This was followed by a brief jaunt to Lake Louise, a mega tourist attraction, but when you arrive at the lake you completely understand exactly why. ¬†Nestled in between the mountains, the lake is the most gorgeous turquoise colour you can imagine, and it’s a view you can never tire off. ¬†The older generation were staggered by the breathtaking scenery and along with a car journey that takes you through the Icefields Parkway – one of the most scenic drives in Canada – were stuck for words. ¬†It even took their minds away from the lure of ice creams for a brief period!

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Back in Edmonton, we’re now taking things easy for the last few days of the grandparents stay with us and I’m sure it’s a trip they’ll never forget – for numerous reasons. ¬†More importantly, it’s given everyone a replenished sense of connection with one another, shared experiences, and unforgettable memories. ¬†It just goes to show, that no matter how old you are, you can experience things you never thought possible – and truly benefit from the process.

It’s going to be quiet next week …… !! ¬†ūüôā

Stunning, stupendous and serene …. (and a bear!)

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Well, as weekends go, it’s up there as one of the most memorable and absolute best. ¬†It was Mother’s Day in Canada last weekend and feeling rather like the Queen, I decided to celebrate it twice (the UK had the pleasure of this event back in March). ¬†We also took¬†the rare opportunity to venture away for Mother’s Day weekend – where usually we have either or both of the grandparents round for a meal and celebrations. ¬†Obviously, a little more difficult given the distances between us, so this year we ventured further afield and thought about ticking off some more items from our bucket list.

I still can’t get over being able to travel to The Rockies from Edmonton. ¬†4 hours in the car, it’s practically on our doorstep – so a trip to Jasper it was. ¬†There’s not much that can go wrong for even those challenged with navigational abilities. ¬†It’s basically head West from Edmonton for 400km and you’re there. ¬†I’d like to say there are several road turns and a little bit of a dogs leg to manoeuvre – but I’d be wrong. ¬†It’s literally a straight road, head West and keep going for 4 hours. ¬†Simples ……

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In fairness, it’s not the most scenic either till you come through a small town called Hinton, about 3 hours into the trip. ¬†Just after the town, you get the first view of the mountains and they are remarkable. ¬†Being Spring, they are still snow-laden at the top whilst all the trees and valley floors have melted and are turning a vibrant green. ¬†The weather had clear blue skies and sun shining. ¬†Beautiful.

I was slightly concerned about the timing of the weekend away as last Wednesday saw continuous snow in Edmonton to a depth of 20cm. ¬†It was a bit of a surprise to be awoken to, but hey, guess that’s part of the joys of living in a Winter City! ¬†All gone – thank goodness – by the Friday, and even then, nothing stops here for the sake of a bit of snow. ¬†We’d never get anything done otherwise. ¬†Anyhow – back to the trip.

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A brilliant place to stop off at is Miette Hot Springs – about 40 mins before you get to Jasper. ¬†Miette Hot Springs, located in Alberta‚Äôs Jasper National Park, features the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies. ¬†Water flows from the mountain at 54¬įC (129¬įF) and is cooled (cooled!!! I tell you), to a comfortable 40¬įC (104¬įF). ¬†There are 4 pools – each of varying temperatures from hot, to very nice, slightly cool, and then absolutely freezing – containing the minerals sulphate, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and sodium. ¬†It’s hilarious watching the kids jump into the coldest pool (none of the adults seem to be willing to attempt it), and seeing their faces and the speed with which they made a fast exit. ¬†It’s also all outside, so you get to wallow in the waters whilst admiring the views across the mountains. ¬†Bliss …….

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Jasper itself is a lovely town – and less riddled with tourists than the popular Banff and Lake Louise destinations which are another 3 hours due South away in the car. ¬†You get to spot lots of wildlife – who were out in force last weekend – as you travel along the National Park roads. ¬†Elk were in abundance, as were Mountain Big-Horn Sheep, and Black Bears! ¬†Just watch for the tail-lights of cars stopping up ahead and pull over – there’s usually something to see – and we managed a tally of 2 Black Bears during the weekend. ¬†Just don’t venture out of the car … fleeting observations of a wolf on 2 occasions, plus the obligatory Canadian geese, squirrels and birds. ¬†Only the Moose was more elusive and has yet to be spotted.

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Then there’s the scenery. ¬†It’s awe inspiring, majestic and breath taking. ¬†The lakes nestled into the valleys which are turquoise and crystal clear, reflect the snow-topped mountains and the silence is deafening. ¬†It’s one of the best places in the world to spend time. ¬†Instantly from reaching the edge of the National Park, you start to relax and savour the views. ¬†I tell you, I couldn’t help but reflect that being able to experience and see these wonders just within a weekend trip away – it’s not something most people have the chance to do, even for a holiday. ¬†Amazing. ¬†Warrington, England certainly can’t compete with this and even the Lake District (one of my favourite places to visit in the UK), is not remotely on the same scale.

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Sitting outside our room, watching the wildlife, looking at the beautiful lake set in the snow-topped mountains – and sipping a glass of Grand Cru Champagne (Mother’s Day gift from the kids). ¬†We sampled delicious food, (there’s also a superb bakery in Jasper itself which is worth a visit), and walked around Lac Beauvert which was stunning. ¬†Now, that’ll take some beating. ¬†If it’s not on your list of places to visit, put it on there now. ¬†ūüôā

Ice Station, No Zebra (or moose, or bear…..)

Up there on the tourist list of ‘must do’s’ is to drive along the Icefields Parkway – it starts just south of Jasper and takes you through Lake Louise and down to Banff. ¬†At 120 miles long and built during the Depression, it’s an impressive drive in all manners of the word – both size and scale – and one thing to note, always ‘plan for the unplanned’. ¬†You may think that the sat nav calculation of the time it’ll take you to travel from one vista to the next is broadly accurate, but you’ll need to at least double this as it won’t account for the numerous stops you’ll make in-between this just to ‘snap’ the view and take a few moments to savour the scenery and peace.

On route south from Jasper, you’ll come across the Athabasca Falls. ¬†It’s where the Saskatchewan River is forced through a narrow gap in the rocks and the thunder and pace of the water is ferocious, frightening and mesmerising. ¬†It’s only a few moments from the highway and well worth the detour ….

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In fact, from the highway, you quickly get a view of the river once more as you pass the falls and you would never know such a falls exist. ¬†Just goes to show, it doesn’t take much just off the highway to see the miracles of nature….

Continuing southwards, the most notable (and busiest attraction by far) is the Athabasca Glacier and the visitor centre that is built directly opposite it. ¬†It’s the largest glacial expanse of snow south of the Arctic, and at the mountain peak, it’s suggested that the depth of the glacier is 100m deep. ¬†Worryingly, the glacier is decreasing in size each year – they suggest it loses 15m each year as the amount of the decline in the glacier is faster than the corresponding annual snowfall. ¬†There’s a marker of where the glacier was in 1843, and you can see how dramatic the decline has been since that date. ¬†You can’t help but think that the vehicles and tourists now visiting it on a daily basis especially during the summer months, is exacerbating this somewhat. ¬†That said, to take a trip on the snow mobiles onto the glacier itself, stand on it, see the height of the ice, the majesty of the glaciers and drink the freezing water, it’s a life experience in every sense of the word.

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One of the newest features near the glacier is the Glacier Skywalk which only opened in May this year. ¬†It’s beautifully constructed, and apart from being 200m above the ravine walking along a see-through glass corridor that for those without any vertigo issues get a real buzz from. ¬†For those of us who have height ‘issues’, sheer terror, panic and a clinging to the rails around the edges seemed to be the common characteristic. ¬†I completely appreciated the brilliance of the architecture and the feat of man being able to construct something so ‘out there’ – I just wished the natural movement of the structure as you walk across it wasn’t as pronounced. ¬†That said, I made it to the other side completely intact albeit¬†with a higher heart rate, but to say we’d done it and seen the views from it, was superb. ¬†A must do.

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The waters from the Icefield flow down the Snow Dome mountain and continue on until they reach 3 different oceans – the Pacific, the Arctic¬†and the Atlantic. ¬† Known as the hydrological apex of North America, Snow Dome Mountain is a triple-continental divide, and is part of the Great Divide – which divides water flow from east to west across North America. ¬†There’s only 2 places in the world where this happens.

All in all, a great drive with a jewel to look forward to at the end – Lake Louise.

More to come …

The heady delights of Jasper

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After Edmonton, we traveled to Jasper for a few days. ¬†It’s a much longer journey than it looks on the map, and was our first sample of the size and scale of living in Canada. ¬†In fact, the first 2 hours of the trip was dual carriageway, with very little traffic whatsoever and vertically straight highways. ¬†It’s not often I’ve seen a sat nav saying turn left in 306km – and as you can see from the photo below, I’ve saved one of the more exciting shots to show you as we were just passing some ‘green space’!

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The evergreen trees are broken up by golf courses – in fact, for any budding golfer and golfing fanatic, Canada is the place to come. ¬†I’ve never seen so many golf courses and it made me wonder how on earth they are commercially viable given the sparse numbers of the population and the vast numbers of courses available to ‘make a putt’.

That said, I’m not missing the bumper to bumper traffic of the UK at all. ¬†There are no tailbacks, no queues and even in the ‘busier’ areas, this is the equivalent of early Sunday morning traffic. ¬†In fact, one driver in Jasper was complaining about the difficulties of pulling out onto the local highway, and I’ve got to say, he’s never experienced ‘real’ traffic and congestion if that was anything to go by. ¬†I send all my sympathies to any Canadian brave enough to drive in the UK as it must be a huge culture shock and something that sends them dashing back to their homeland with relief afterwards.

The mountains and Rockies finally came into view and the vastness was extremely pronounced. ¬†We entered Jasper National Park – all vehicles have to display¬†a pass which is issued to them at the various entry points to the parks. ¬†There are bear signs and ‘watch out for moose’ signs – none of which we’ve had the delights of witnessing as yet.

Miette Hot SpringsBig Horned Sheep

We stopped off at Miette Hot Springs which are natural springs where the water (full of minerals) comes straight out of the ground at a blistering temperature of 52 degrees. ¬†This is then artificially cooled to 40 degrees and you can swim in the pool – or rather, bask in the pool as swimming is far too energetic in that kind of temperature. ¬†There are 3 other pools, all with varying temperatures – one at 35 degrees, then another 24 degrees until the final one is more of a ice water pool which is absolutely freezing! ¬†Good for the soul!!! ¬†That said, you’re sitting in mineral pools on the top of a mountain overlooking the Jasper National Park amid stunning scenery and enjoying the delights of the minerals on your skin. ¬†You can see why it’s popular! ¬†A lovely stopping off point – just don’t forget your costume and towel!!!

Jasper

The lakes around Jasper are absolutely amazing – I’ve never seen water that is so vibrant turquoise. ¬†They are clear and extremely inviting – especially on a warm summer’s day. ¬†The picture above is taken from the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the shores of Lac Beauvert which is beautiful at anytime of the day. ¬†Deer walk into the grounds in the evening and ground squirrels play in the woodland surrounding the shores of the lake. ¬†Simply stunning.

Pyramid Lake

 

Pyramid Lake was particularly delightful¬†and well worth a visit. ¬†We had a paddle and dip in the lake and as you can see, there’s almost no one else in sight. ¬†Hard to believe you’re in a prime tourist location – it was almost like having your own private lake!!

The Jasper Skytram is also worth a trip. ¬†Just outside Jasper, you take a cable car to the top of Whistler Mountain and for those feeling energetic, you can walk a further 45 minutes to the summit. ¬†It’s a walk well worth it as your efforts will be rewarded in abundance along the route from the views and panoramic vistas which surround you. ¬†We made it to the top (with 3 kids in tow), on a day which had blue skies, not a cloud in the sky, and complete visibility of Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. ¬†We were informed that this is only clearly seen on approx 24 days each year – one of the very rare occasions when we’ve got our timing completely right!

Mount RobsonUnukchukWhistler Mountain

Take a trip – you won’t be disappointed.

Our next stop takes us from Jasper to Lake Louise … see you in a few days ūüôā