July 5-11

July 5 – July 11

We arrived at the Duke Point Ferry at 7:00 AM, only to miss the 7:45 sailing by only 3 vehicles. After catching the 10:15, we arrived in Penticton in late afternoon. We dropped off Matt and Nichol’s stuff and had a nice visit with Dale and Ann. We then drove a half hour north to the South Okanagan Provincial Park for a couple of nights. It was a lovely place, right on Okanagan Lake:

It was brutally hot, but we both (yes, both) cooled off by swimming. We spent our last night chatting with our neighbours, a really nice couple with two lovely children.

The next day, we got an early start and followed the Yellowhead Highway north and west toward Jasper National Park for what was supposed to be 4 nights at the Pocahontas Campground, about 40 minutes north of the town of Jasper. We had forgotten what a truly beautiful drive this is:

Upon arriving at the campsite, we realized within minutes that this was not going to be a typically idyllic camping experience. The mosquitos arrived in full force, and no amount of repellent could keep them at bay. The only things we could do to survive the onslaught was to spend our days away from the campsite as much as possible, and to avoid getting out of the van when we arrived back.

On Saturday, we headed into Jasper and spent the day exploring the town, which is a much quieter and smaller version of Banff, its more touristy cousin down the road. After spending some time in their impressive museum, we went for some pub grub at Whistler’s, just off the main drag. We topped off the day by going to 7:30 Mass, with music provided by a contingent of the local Filipino community (4 guitars, a mandolin and a box drum, played with one hand by one of the dads, his other arm occupied holding his two year old).

On the way back to the campsite on Highway 16, we were fortunate enough to see these two Wapiti Elk up close, grazing by the roadside:

The next day, we went into Jasper for a Wildlife/Boat Tour we had booked previously. One the way in, we stopped briefly so Jeannine could wade in the Athabaska River.

Is there any more iconic picture of Canada than this?

The tour turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip so far. Our small bus, driven by Carly, a delightful and very knowledgeable young lady, only had a few other people aboard. We drove up towards Maligne Lake, making a stop at Maligne Canyon. The word “maligne” means evil or wicked; one of the early missionary priests used it to name the canyon and lake after he underestimated the power of the water and lost all of his supplies. Still, it is impressive:

This tree shows evidence of a lightning strike (look closely for the zig-zag scar):

Maligne Lake and a lunch guest. Note the haze from smoke from the BC wildfires:

We took a boat tour up the lake to Spirit Island:

On the return trip to Jasper, we were fortunate enough to see a bald eagle chick on the nest:

and a cinnamon-coloured black bear chowing down on buffalo berries:

The day was completed by dinner at Montana’s (Who’s a Funny Moose?); anyone remember that commercial?

Monday morning, we left the mozzies behind and headed south towards Banff and Calgary. Because nothing is ever that easy, we discovered that we had a flat tire. Luckily, in the process of looking for a dump station, we came across a tire repair place very nearby, who, although crazy busy, took us right in. Turned out that there was no puncture in the tire; a valve extender had snapped off and let all the air out. An hour later we were back on the road. Isn’t God good? We had to stop in Lake Louise briefly to get the lug nuts re-torqued, then continued on. We made a stop at Athabaska Falls:

A few minutes later, we came across these mountain goats:

A view of the Columbia Icefield:

and the Athabaska Glacier:

That, however, was the best part of the day. We had used Travelocity to book the extra night at the Olympia Hotel in Calgary; when we arrived, it quickly became evident that the grandiose name was very far from reality. Where do I start? The hairs on the bedsheet and the shower curtain? The peeling paint everywhere? The stains on the carpet? The electrical outlet swinging from a wire? Fearing bedbugs, we brought in a quilt and our own pillows from the van and slept on top of the bedcover. We spent a lovely evening eating pizza from the Pizza Hut next door and watching TV which, amazingly enough, worked. If you ever have the bad luck to find yourself in this establishment, my advice to you is:

Keep your eyes slightly out of focus.

Touch as little as possible.

Don’t think too much.

We woke up thankfully without bites (isn’t God good?). We spent the morning and afternoon exploring a mall and a Canadian Tire, then checked into the Lakeview Inn, a very different place! We leave early tomorrow for our flight to Toronto, so I’ll put the blog on hold until after we return on the 27th and head for the Northwest Territories.