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  1. #1

    Default The Canadian Rockies

    A little unsure what to expect I woke early grabbed my bag and set off on the short walk from The Canadiana to Union Station. It was a nice morning and it was nice to be walking across town alongside the workers and residents of the city rather than other tourists. I quickly arrived at the station and was ushered into a private lounge where we were checked in and offered a complimentary breakfast buffet. A quick glance around the room had me worried - there was a mix of train spotter types, retired couples and crazy looking cat ladies, all of them considerably older and smarter dressed than me. I had a horrible feeling I wasn't gonna fit in but decided, hey, what can I do about it now... might as well make the best of a bad situation and enjoy it.

    Our time came to board the train and headed straight to my cabin to inspect what I'd got for my money. It really didn't take long. I guess that's because - at something like 6' by 3' - it was somewhat smaller than a prison cell. I've never had to spend time in a cell and didn't intend to start so I figured I'd be spending most of the journey in one of the glass-topped dome cars.

    I spent the morning exploring the train, checking out the scenery from the glass topped dome car and waiting for my turn to visit the dining car for lunch. It would become a familiar routine for the following three days where we would look forward to stopping at a station as if it were Christmas. Invariably there was nothing to do at the stations bar get off and stretch the legs along the platform, watch the crew servicing the train and, on the rare occasion that the town actually had facilities, run to the shops to try and pick up a bottle of Jack Daniels. I never did succeed.

    There was absolutely nothing to do but sit, watch the scenery change outside the window, take naps, eat, drink and chat to the other passengers. There was no phone, no TV and no internet... in short it was absolutely fantastic and I loved every minute of it. After two weeks of racing round the maritimes - with no one for company other than the Winnie The Pooh bear that had been given to me as a lucky mascot - it was great to relax and let someone else do the driving - then again I really wouldn't have minded having a go at driving that huge beast myself...

    Since stepping off the plane in Montreal I heard precisely two English accents - just the way I like it - so it was quite a shock to discover that getting on for half of the 300 passengers on board were Brits on organised tours. A number of us became regular fixtures in one particular dome car and between us we gained quite a reputation for being somewhat boisterous and enjoying ourselves.

    At Edmonton we said goodbye to the (excellent) crew who had bought us in from Toronto and a new crew stepped on board. Other than the occasional shout of ‘bear to the left' or ‘moose to the right', followed by the train being stood on its nose by the driver, that was the most exciting thing to happen until the Rocky Mountains came into sight on Thursday afternoon. After the endless big puddles' of Ontario and the prairies of Manitoba they really were quite a sight.

    At Jasper we all got off the train; once again I went looking for a liquor store (once again without success) before standing in the station watching the increasing pandemonium as the station crew rushed around aimlessly trying to service the train whilst the majority of the Brits boarded a convoy of buses waiting to take them to their hotels. It was a shame to break up the party on board but I looked forward to meeting a few more characters as I climbed back on board for the last (overnight) leg of the journey to Vancouver. With another tour group - mainly consisting Australian tourists - stepping on board it didn't take long.

    We arrived three hours late and it took an absolute age for my bags to be unloaded but I had loved the whole experience. I had relaxed, opened up to people and learned a lot about myself. The person who stepped off the train in Vancouver was very different to the one who'd stepped on board in Toronto.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Toronto with a bit of racing thrown in!
    Next: Vancouver to the Rockies
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:18 AM. Reason: formatting

  2. #2

    Default Vancouver to the Rockies

    I had arrived in western Canada and, despite everything that it was throwing at me, I had a very good feeling about the next couple of weeks. We'd arrived into Pacific Central Station in Vancouver three hours late which, if truth be told, really wasn't a big deal. What was a big deal was my bags not making it to the baggage carousel. Having finally found a baggage agent to complain to we spent half an hour filling out forms only for the bags to turn up as we completed the last one.

    With everyone's spirits raised - particularly mine - I enquired where I might find the car rental desk. When I'd booked I had carefully checked that the desk was in the station but the station staff didn't seem to think so. In fact they were telling me that it was pretty much the other side of town and that I'd need to phone the rental company to see if they offered a shuttle bus service. Could I use their phone to call? Of course not. So I called - at great expense, no doubt - from a public payphone on the station concourse and, after being on hold for 15 minutes, listening to how important my call was to them, I was suddenly informed that ‘all operators are currently busy' and given the news that I was being transferred to their voice mail service. Fantastic.

    I stepped outside the station to see about taking a cab across town; only to be greeted with a huge line of people waiting. Was this really happening to me?

    At that point - just as I was considering heading back inside and getting on the first train out of there - my day started to turn around at last. One of the taxi drivers - surely the first in history to use his head - got on to his radio and requested 40 cabs be sent immediately. Before we knew it there were cars roaring up from all directions. Whilst all this was happening I'd got talking to the girl in front of me and it turned out she was heading to a meeting along the street from the rental company and was happy to share the ride. On the way we had a good old chat - mostly about the straight line capabilities of the car in which we were travelling - and she refused to take any money for the ride when we arrived. I picked up the car and, for the first time in history, actually got a clerk who was chatty and helpful (though I couldn't help noticing that her phone was ringing off the hook as we filled out the paperwork!) and I was soon on my way into the Vancouver traffic in a Toyota Camry Hybrid, praying to god that I didn't encounter Andy Green making his return run in Thrust SSC-Taxi.

    I had no idea where I was heading - on the train I'd all but decided to throw my previous plans for this leg of the trip out the window - and decided to start with a drive through the city to see what took my eye. Sitting in the traffic, fresh from three days of peace on the train, I decided that I really couldn't face the hustle and bustle of the city right away and, within minutes, I found myself heading out of town towards the first stop on my original plan; a town by the rather worrying name of Hope.

    After a quick stop to pick up provisions and a map I was arriving in Hope to visit the site of the infamous Hope Slide. I'd been warned that it was very low key but the information boards told you everything that you needed to know; that is that, back in January 1965, a small earthquake cause 46 million cubic metres of mountain to slide down and instantly entomb 4 unlucky motorists who happened to be passing under 70 metres of rock and debris. It was deemed cheaper and easier to construct a new highway than to move the debris so the motorists, and their cars, are still under there.

    As I drove through the Fraser Canyon towards my next destination - the narrows at Hell's Gate - I couldn't help but notice the number of landslides along the side of the road. You access the site via a cable car - or gondola as they seem to be known here - and I had under an hour to make the journey before it closed for the evening. I wondered, if I had been pulled, over would they accept my defence that I was unnerved by the number of rockslides and I was simply hurrying through the area to avoid a repeat of the big slide that I'd just visited. In the end I arrived ten minutes before they closed for the day and was hurrying down to the bottom of the gorge to see the spectacle. Unfortunately I have to report that it was a waste, not only of my time and effort, but of the $16 that I was relieved of for the privilege. Maybe I'm being unfair - I had, after all, had the benefit of visiting the Grand Falls rapids in New Brunswick a couple of weeks before - so, if you are still planning on visiting, do yourself a favour and hike down instead (it is signposted but it is very tricky to see the signs!) or, better still, visit the tiny provincial park a couple of miles before and cross the canyon on an ancient suspension bridge instead.

    Aware that there was very little in the way of accommodation in the area I backtracked to Hope and took the toll road out to Kamloops - a journey of around 3½ hours which was only possible after a couple of cans of Red Bull and the inspiration provided by crossing a snow-capped mountain range for the first time.

    The following morning I treated myself to a lie-in before heading off towards the Rocky Mountains. My route took me through Mount Revelstoke (where I was pleased to get back into the routine of hiking) and Glacier National Parks (where I couldn't as the place was absolutely closed down due to their programme of avalanche control) before spending the night in the town of Golden where I finally got my hands on that bottle of Jack Daniels that I'd been so desperate for since I left Toronto. Golden is a nice little town set at the meeting point of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers immediately between the Monashee and Rocky mountain ranges and, as I looked out of the window of my motel, I couldn't help but look forward excitedly to re-entering the Rockies which I'd seen briefly from the train just a couple of days ago.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Toronto to Vancouver on board The Canadian
    Next: Rocky Mountain National Parks: Part 1

    Rocky Mountains National Parks - Part One

    Yoho? Yahoo, more like! I think it's fair to say, much as I loved my visit to the east of the country, I had now discovered the Canada that I had always expected to find. No, I had discovered the Canada that I had always hoped to find.

    The plan had been to fly through Yoho and head south to Kootenay National Park but I spent so long exploring Yoho - starting with a hike out to the majestic Wapta Falls, an aborted attempt to visit the Hoodoos due to a trail closure and a tricky walk around the perimeter of the stunning Emerald Lake followed by stops at Natural Bridge and the Spiral Tunnels - that, by the time I'd finally arrived in Alberta and Banff National Park I'd decided that my plans were too adventurous and instead I decided to make a break for Banff itself and see if I could find the guys that I'd shared much of the ride from Toronto to Vancouver with. I couldn't quite remember the name of the hotel that they were staying at so it was pure luck that I stumbled across it and checked myself in for the night. I showered and returned to the lobby where I stationed myself by the roaring log fire and waited. Within 25 minutes they returned from their day trip - to Yoho, would you believe - and I jumped out like Cilla Black. Surprise, surprise!

    I joined them in the bar to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of another couple from the train before we headed to a different bar in search of a somewhat livelier atmosphere. Having been up since 430am and hiked god knows how many kilometres it probably wasn't the greatest plan to drink six pints and untold numbers of Jack and Cokes before finally stumbling back to the hotel at 3am but, well, let's just say I did and that I regretted it in a huge way the next morning (and afternoon and evening, come to that!)

    I arrived in Banff expecting nothing more than another random town and a (pretty expensive) roof over my head but I left Banff wanting to come back. I briefly considered the idea that I should learn to ski and return in the winter but I quickly came to the conclusion that I would actually be a far more reliable method of starting an avalanche than the bloody great guns they used to start them in Glacier NP so I put that out of my mind! I couldn't quite put my finger on why but I liked Banff a lot and it was with a little sadness that I got back in the car and headed off towards Kootenay National Park.

    One of the curious things about the national parks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains is how, to get anywhere by car, you zig-zag from one to another, through a third and then back to the first again, to the degree that they have combined the park brochure into one which is shared between them all. I guess that this makes sense but, as a sad anorak that collects each brochure as a souvenir, this was a little frustrating. Not as frustrating as the lack of detail that you will find in the independent brochures but frustrating nonetheless.

    Isn't it funny how the places that you look forward to visiting are often a disappointment - Glacier National Park is a very good example - whereas those that you visit on the spur of the moment often turn out to be a highlight? Kootenay National Park was a highlight. It was a little out of the way so I had visited largely to ‘tick another one off the list' but I loved every moment of my visit, hiking more miles than I ever knew I could hike in a day. In addition it was the first national park whose campground had been open this year. And it had hot showers to boot. If you're in the area then you absolutely have to make the detour and visit.

    Where am I now? Back in Banff National Park, sat on a rock outside the shower block on the Lake Louise campground, watching the sun set over the mountains and stealing electric as I type this update. I guess it's time to head on back to my tent, crack open that bottle of Jack Daniels once again and try and work out where I go tomorrow to top the last few days. Oh, this really is so much better than working for a living!

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Vancouver to the Rockies
    Next: Rocky Mountain National Parks: Part 2
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:14 AM. Reason: formatting

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.

    Default really pleased for you!!

    love that first pic that looks an amazing place and will be showing your report to my lad who is spending his honeymoon in that area later in the year.
    spare a thought for us poor so and so's stuck in the grey,drizzly u.k. :-)

  4. #4


    You cant really go wrong with any of the national parks in the Rockies but it was a nice little hike down to that waterfall. Not too strenuous and well worth it. Peyton Lake is another 'must'

  5. #5

    Default The Rocky Mountain National Parks - Part Two

    Camping is a fantastic way to save money and is always gonna be a better way to meet people than being stuck in a motel room but, my god, when it's cold... it's cold! After enduring what must be one of the most uncomfortable night's sleep in history I chucked the tent on the back seat of the car and hit the road and headed off towards Jasper. Early. It proved a wise move as, whilst it may be just 230km in length, the Icefields Parkway is a long drive. Not that it's an issue, mind... National Geographic Magazine quite justifiably voted it in the top ten scenic drives in the world.

    Entering the parkway I was reassured to see that park staff were checking vehicles for parks permits. I had bought mine a month ago and this was the first time that it had been checked - I was starting to think that I should have saved my money! It's pretty much like driving through the gates of a safari park with black and grizzly bear, moose, elk, wolves and all manner of other wildlife competing with the sheer beauty of the place for your attention.

    Thankfully the road was never built as a means of getting from Lake Louise to Jasper quickly (you have Highway 1 for that) and there are numerous pull outs and overlooks to stop and admire the scenery, do some hiking or read the many interpretive signs which attempt to explain this complex landscape. This is all great, of course, but what people really want to see are wild animals going about their business. Bears being the real prize. Spot a bear alongside the road and all the politeness goes out the window. Spot a bear alongside the road and you have a three lane wide traffic jam as people jostle to take photos of it from their cars. You even get the odd nutter who will insist on getting out his car - I'm afraid to say it but usually with plates from south of the border - who will insist on getting out and approaching it as if it were his pet cat. I guess it's all part of the character of the place.

    After visiting every lake that I could find in the area I finally managed to find the one that featured on the front of my travel guide. Even if it hadn't become a personal challenge to seek it out (none of the park rangers could point me in the right direction - I suspect they were messing with me) it proved well worth the trudge through the deep snow to find it. The fact that, if it weren't for a Japanese couple, I would have had the entire place to myself added to the beauty of the place. Lake Louise may get all the fame but, for me, Peyto Lake is the place to visit. Simply stunning.

    Halfway along the route, just after crossing the Bow Summit and entering Jasper National Park, you will arrive at the Crowfoot Glacier. I'm not a huge believer in the theory that we're destroying our planet but, after seeing how the glacier has shrunk over the past 50 years, it is undeniable that something is changing and my mind returned to a poster I'd seen the previous day - over a photo of a Cree family were the words ‘Once you've cut down the last tree and drained the earth of the last drop of oil maybe then you will realise that you can't eat money' - me thinks the white man is the stupid one. It is perhaps the ultimate irony that, to see what damage we are doing to our planet, we have to drive ourselves there.

    I'd arrived promising myself that I would just take a quick look at the glacier and that I wouldn't splash out the $38 that they were charging to drive me out onto the Columbia Icefield in a specially-built ‘Snow Bus' but, having stood at the foot of the Crowfoot Glacier - just a tiny part of the huge Columbia Icefield - I couldn't resist and was soon boarding the bus and heading off down a hair-raising 30 degree slope onto the ice. It was an amazing (and very cold) experience and I was glad that I'd done it but now time was getting on and I had a decision to make - do I stay overnight in the lodge here or press on? As usual I pressed on and, after stops at the Athabasca Falls and a couple more places I finally made it to the campground at Jasper around nine - a mere 14 hours after I'd set off. As I say, it's not a quick road!

    I'm not normally one for hanging around in one place but I like Jasper a lot and spent a couple of days there exploring and hiking as many trails as I could. On the last day I decided to take another excursion - up to the top of Whistler Mountain. At 7,500ft it was quite a climb although I guess I should confess here that I did actually take the Jasper Tramway up part of the way... though the last 600 or 800ft were pretty hard work for a fat git like me so it was with some pride that I finally reached the top.
    I left Jasper with a heavy heart. Last time I'd left by train, leaving a few new mates behind - this time I was leaving by car, leaving behind what really felt like new friends - the Rocky Mountains. I'd loved my stay and vowed to return in the future to see how my buddies were getting on.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Rocky Mountain National Parks: Part 1
    Next: When a trip becomes a journey
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:11 AM. Reason: formatting

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    South of England.


    brilliant stuff craig!!!!! great pics [thanks ;-)] and loved the read,especially "the irony" part.

  7. #7


    It certainly was a memorable week... one of my favourite areas that I have visited so far.

  8. #8

    Default When a trip becomes a journey

    Despite the relative luxury of the Monte Carlo Motel in Barriere (and I mean that sincerely - it really was very nice) I was restless all night and barely slept. I'd started to think about home over the past couple of days and it was causing me to feel uneasy somehow. Pulling my last clean shirt from my bag and finding it was my England football shirt was the last straw - the truth finally dawned on me - I was starting to feel homesick! I guess it's natural after a long time away from home but it was something that I really wasn't expecting. Although I had absolutely no inclination to head back to the UK I couldn't help but miss the place the place - until the start of May - I called home. More importantly I missed the people I left behind there.

    Rather than retracing my steps I decided to head back to Vancouver by way of the Sea to Sky Highway, stopping overnight in Whistler. I'd been promised a spectacular drive but, truth be told, I really wasn't feeling it initially - in fact I was feeling quite disenchanted with things in general. The rain had returned, the scenery was very average and the road uninspiring - in fact it was very reminiscent of home and it was putting me in a bad mood. Eventually I turned the music up real loud, pressed the gas pedal even louder and eventually came out from under my own personal dark cloud and started to enjoy the drive.

    And what a drive it turned out to be with the road snaking its way through canyons and clinging to the side of mountains like spaghetti stuck to the side of a pan. Whoever suggested they run a road through that route was quite clearly insane but I'll love them forever for giving me two hours of insane fun. Suddenly running across tight hairpins, washed out sections of road, narrow one-lane bridges, huge streams of water running across the road and zero visibility as I (quite literally) drove through the clouds all contributed to a challenging drive but the most memorable thing will be the rockslides. We've all seen the signs warning us we're heading in to a rockslide area, right? But how many of us have actually seen rocks suddenly falling off a sheer cliff to our left, covering the road ahead with debris? I counted five different instances in a little over ten miles. (The rocks were mainly baseball sized but there was the odd rock which was beach ball sized which certainly added to the fun!)

    I'd arrived in Whistler expecting to find somewhere like Banff or Jasper but I was to be seriously disappointed. What I actually got was Basingstoke-On-The-Hill. It was full of shiny new Starbucks, clothes shops and offices belonging to companies organizing mountain biking trips and ATV rides. The rest was a construction site - which is to be expected given the Winter Olympics are coming in a couple of years - but I soon discovered the place had about as much soul as an outlet mall. Disappointed I headed back to the campground where I was greeted by two black bear strolling past my tent. Inspired by this sight I vowed to give the place another chance; heading back into town and signing up for an ATV ride up the mountain the following morning. I'd actually got quite excited about the idea but, having woken up horribly early, I arrived at the shop to be informed that the trip had been cancelled due to ‘inclement weather' (not enough punters, more like.) I took this as a sign and left as quickly as I could - which really wasn't very quickly at all given the never ending road construction.

    In need of a change of scene I decided to hop on the ferry to Vancouver Island which I liked a lot despite the continuing rain. Pacific Rim National Park - on the far side of the island - is small but it had some fun hikes which I was able to enjoy after stopping off in Tofino and paying a small fortune for some waterproofs. I spent a couple of nights camping there which proved to be pretty lonely but me, Jack and a roaring campfire made a good combination and made the evenings pass just that little quicker. I did a lot of hiking - and a lot of thinking - on Vancouver Island and, by the time I got back on the ferry to head back to the mainland, I had straightened a few more things out in my head.

    I'd heard great things about Vancouver - earlier in the trip I had been really looking forward to getting there but, as if the two days of constant driving rain weren't enough, my own black cloud was back and I couldn't wait to get to the airport and head south across the border to open a new chapter in this adventure. I didn't dislike Vancouver - there is absolutely nothing to dislike - but my mind was somewhere else and it was just delaying me. I stayed for a couple of nights at the Capilano RV Park which, although it could do with a little bit of renovation in the shower department, was fantastically placed right on the edge of the city - I'd be surprised to find a campground located so closely to any major world city anywhere else.

    If you were hoping for some sort of travel guide to the city - sorry, you're not gonna get that here - I'll give just two bits of advice... don't, whatever you do, give in and buy a ticket for the depressing Vancouver Trolley (which other tour anywhere stoops so low as to point out such delights as the Department of Social Security office?) but do make sure that you watch the sunset, and the city light up, from the Lions Gate Bridge. It was quite fantastic.

    They say that a roadtrip isn't about getting to the destination - it's about the journey. It's about the discovery. This past week - from the very moment that I made my way down from the top of Whistler Mountain back in Jasper - has seen this trip cease being an extended sight-seeing trip and has become a true roadtrip in every sense of the word. It's been a tough week but I've learned a lot about myself, confronted some demons that I could conveniently ignore back home and I'd like to think that I've come out of it stronger. Having said that... I'm sure ready to head south across the border and start a new chapter of this big adventure!

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Rocky Mountain National Parks: Part 2
    Next: Sun to Snow - Washington to California
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:08 AM. Reason: formatting

  9. Default Thanks

    Great posts. I'm going to be in Vancouver and Squamish in a few months. Then I'll be driving down to Yellowstone.

    I loved your photos too. Thanks for sharing your story.


  10. #10

    Default Watch this space

    I'm in Seattle (just about to head off to the Boeing factory tour) and will be heading down to San Fran and on to Yellowstone over the next few weeks so watch this space!

    Next: Seattle to the Olympic NP, Crater Lake NP, Lassen NP >
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-19-2008 at 12:18 PM.

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