A slight obsession with books

Crafts, cats and books


The Alaska/Canada album is finished

Finally! It’s taken a while but I’ve got loads done since we got back from Florida so I’m really chuffed to have it finished. Here is the final gallery of photos.

The previous layouts in the album are herehere and here. I’m going to make a page for them to keep them all together.

Now I can start some Disney scrapping. I’ve already sorted and printed loads of photos and I signed up for Shimelle’s ‘A most magical scrapbook’ class. I’m really enjoying watching all the videos and am getting lots of ideas. I can’t wait to get cracking on it.

As a reward for finishing the Canadian layouts, I treated myself to a bit of new stash. I know I didn’t really need anything, apart from adhesive, but there are some lovely stickers available and that’s one thing that I didn’t really have. Hopefully I’ll have something pretty to show soon.



Some Alaska layouts

I did another layout a few days ago and realised that I had a folder of layouts that needed to be photographed. I’ve now done that and they’ve been placed into their album.

I haven’t managed to do much scrapping lately, as there are now two nosey kittens to interfere, but I have done a bit. The last layout was done while Sammie watched carefully from inside my stash box, on the desk right next to where I was scrapping. It meant I couldn’t get at any more supplies, but it did keep her from walking all over the partly done layout. It’s a compromise 🙂

I’ve been scrapping the cruise that we went on after our few days in Vancouver and am about half-way through. I’m getting a bit bored with double layouts now though so I may give in to temptation and do a few singles of the cats. I do have rather a lot of photos of them…

This is the latest batch of Canada/Alaska layouts, once again in a gallery format.

Why is it that I can never get them to look square when I photograph them? And often manage to make it worse when I attack them in Elements? Just take my word for it – they are square, level and not at all wonky. Sigh.


A few Vancouver layouts

I have been playing with scrapbooking again! Hooray! It’s all down to the craft room clean-up, as I kept seeing stash that I loved and it made me want to play with it again.

While I was re-organising everything, I went through all the scrapbook albums as there were some layouts that needed to be filed. I had a flick through the album that I started last year, when I was attempting to get back into scrapping. That was a themed album of our Vancouver-Alaska-Canadian Rockies trip and I’d used a 6 x 12 album for it.

I’d only done a few layouts for it and then lost interest. It wasn’t working. I had so many photos that I wanted to use and the pages just weren’t big enough. I wasn’t enjoying it so didn’t continue. After looking at what I’d done so far, I made the decision to redo those layouts on 12 x 12.

The links to the Vancouver 6 x 12 layouts are here, here and here, so you can see that they just don’t work. I hadn’t done any theming other than using the same dies to cut out the journalling. The paper was a mis-mash and it all looked a mess.

I’ve now done all the Vancouver layouts again and this time, I tied the pages together a bit more. I’ve used the same die sets for the journalling blocks, but also used the same range of paper – Basic Grey’s Mellow. I also used various shades of brown cardstock for the backgrounds and used the same alpha dies for any titles. I’ve enjoyed scrapping these a lot more. They’re still fairly plain and simple but I was able to have a bit more fun with them.

For some of the layouts I’ve used some old page protectors that I found buried under some other stash. They’re the fold-out type so if you notice a tag saying Open the flap, it’s because I’ve used one of those. I’m also trying to incorporate some of the bits and bobs that we brought back with us, such as tickets or leaflets.

There are a lot of photos so I’ve made them into a gallery. Just click on one to see it full size.

I’d also done about four of the Alaskan Cruise layouts for the 6 x 12 album and will make a start on redoing those next. I’m thinking I’ll use shades of blue cardstock for the backgrounds, a different range of patterned papers and maybe a different alpha die for the titles. I’ll use the same die sets for the journalling blocks though. When I eventually get to the photos from our jaunt over the Rockies, I’ll probably change it up again. It’ll separate the different stages of our adventure nicely.

Hopefully it won’t be years before the next update 🙂


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To Calgary

16th September

Sigh. After three weeks in Florida I’m usually ready to come home. I’m not saying I wouldn’t stay longer given the opportunity, but I don’t mind leaving quite so much. This time I really didn’t want to leave. I’ve fallen in love with this part of Canada. It’s going to be quite a wrench not waking up to clean fresh air and a mountain view. Still, our flight wasn’t until 9.30pm so we’d got time for a few more adventures before we headed to Calgary for the flight home.

I packed in record time. After all the moves this holiday, I’ve got really, really good at it. This time, everything had to fit into the three cases and two pieces of hand luggage, and the cases had to come in at under 23kg. Not a problem with my small suitcase as you’d have to fill it with lead to get that much weight in it but the other two cases could take 30kg quite easily so you do have to be careful. The knack is to put as much heavy stuff as possible into the small one and really cram it. Then split the rest between the two large cases. We’ve got some small scales to check them with and both large cases weighed 21.9kg. That’s close but the scales are pretty accurate so I was pretty confident we’d be ok. The hand luggage was fine. BA have an interesting policy, not that I’m complaining, and they allow you 23kg as long as you can lift it into the overhead locker unaided. There’s a size restriction but both our bags are well within that. We didn’t have the kitchen sink with us but it meant we could  have the cameras and laptop in there without worrying about the weight.

So, all packed and the cases stashed away in the boot so they were out of sight and we’d the whole day ahead of us. Time to go and enjoy ourselves. While we were on the cruise on Lake Minnewanka, the guide had told us about the various national parks. We’d already seen some of Jasper and Banff national parks. We’d driven through Wells Gray provincial park and Mount Robson provincial park. We didn’t have time to get to Kootenay national park but we could just get to a corner of Yoho national park. And, from what the guide had told us, it sounded like it would be worth it. Yoho is a First Nations word and means Wow. So, with all this amazing landscape, when the First Nations people saw that particular area, they were so blown away that they named it Wow. We had to see that for ourselves.

It so happens that just inside Yoho is Emerald Lake, which was on my original list of places that I’d wanted to see. So, we headed there first. We’d calculated distances and times allowing a large safety margin for getting to Calgary on time, as we were now heading in the opposite direction. If all went exactly to plan, we’d get to the airport four hours early. If it didn’t, we had a four hour safety margin. And if it went horribly wrong and we missed the flight, well darn it. We’d just have to stay *snigger*

I liked Emerald Lake. I’d have liked it better if a wedding party hadn’t taken over the cafe so that there wasn’t anywhere to get lunch, but the lake itself was beautiful. And the gift shop had got a jug of coffee going, and it was excellent coffee. I’m always happy when I can get coffee.

We took lots of photos, which won’t surprise you at all. The reflections in the lake were gorgeous with just the odd person in a canoe to disturb them.

I did think that the colours of the canoes looked lovely against the natural colours of the lake and surrounding landscape.

Our next stop was Natural Bridge. This is a natural rock formation just down from Emerald Lake. It was raining slightly so I was feeling a bit smug about not having packed my raincoat away. I was nice and dry underneath it, while Stephen was getting a bit soggy in just his hoodie. I snapped a photo of him standing under a sign pointing towards Mt Stephen. Well, you’d have to really, wouldn’t you? Then we walked onto the man-made bridge and admired the slightly damp but very lovely view of Natural bridge.

Then we drove down to Takkakaw Falls. It was quite a long walk from the car park to the base of the falls and this was after quite a hairy drive up to there. It was one of those switchback type of roads so I had to keep my eyes straight ahead and not look down. I think this was the only time that I’ve been nervous on the roads as otherwise they’ve been wide and smooth and not at all scary. This road was still smooth and fairly wide, it was just a bit umm, high.

The falls were beautiful and worth the effort involved in getting there, even with the slightly scary road. It was definitely getting chilly though so I was glad I’d got my gloves in my pocket. A certain some one had packed his so had to suffer cold hands. Yes, I know I’m being smug.

Takkakaw, by the way, translates as “It is magnificent”, which I think is most apt. This waterfall is 254m and is one of the highest in Canada. You could hear it even before you got out of the car. We couldn’t agree whether it sounded more like one of those huge freight trains or a plane, but it was definitely loud. And magnificent. It was certainly a Yoho moment.


We were about 20 mins behind schedule now so we got on the road and headed for Calgary. Along the way we stopped at a pull in to tidy up the back seat. We had the remains of our picnic that needed to be disposed of and we just needed to make sure that everything was ready to just be lifted out of the car when we got to the drop off point at Alamo.

It took us longer than expected to get to the airport as there was a huge detour but we’d got the car dropped off, and were through security by 8pm. Calgary airport was very easy to navigate at that time of the evening. No queues anywhere. It seems to be a fairly small airport but it’s nicely laid out and was nice and efficient.

The flight left just a couple of minutes late but got in early. It was fine. Nice and quiet but it was the coldest plane that I’ve ever been on. I was freezing. Heathrow T5 was fine again. We had to get off via steps and be coached to the terminal but apparently that’s quicker. We had no queue at passport control and just had to wait fifteen minutes for our luggage to appear.

Purple Parking are brilliant. We phoned them as instructed once we were landside and were told to go to bus stop 17 when we were ready. We went straight there – it’s just over the road from arrivals – and there was a chap waiting. We were loaded straight onto the bus with one other couple and we were off. He dropped us right next to our car, gave us our keys and after loading our cases, we were on our way. That’s the second time we’ve used them, the first being at Manchester airport, and we’ve been very impressed both times. The security looks excellent and the customer service is great too. I’ll definitely use them again ’cause you just don’t want to be hanging around after a long flight like that one.

We made a pitstop at the services to get coffee and a bacon butty, which we split. We picked up a few groceries to tide us over until we can get to the supermarket tomorrow as there was an M&S there. Pricey, but we knew we wouldn’t want to go shopping today.

Coming down the motorway there was a lightning show followed by heavy rain. Lovely.

And now I’m curled up on the sofa, while the house is warming up. There’s a mountain of post to be gone through. There’s unpacking to be done and three weeks worth of laundry. I don’t care. I’m much too tired for any of that so I’m relaxing with my laptop. I may read my book for a while later and when Stephen emerges from his nap, I’m going to suggest a Dr. Who marathon to catch up. Oh yeah.

These overnight flights wear you out, especially with such a long time difference. I have a very confused body clock so I’m going to call that a fine excuse to spend the rest of the weekend doing very little. Back to work on Monday, and that’ll be time enough to get cracking again.

I have had the most fabulous holiday. The two years of planning paid off. I had tips and advice from lots of different people, all of which were put to good use. And despite thinking I knew what the Rockies were going to be like, I really had no idea. They were so much more. I’m now completely smitten and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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Lake Louise

September 15th

Our last full day was fantastic with 3 lakes, 1 chateau, 1 gondola ride, 1 6km hike, and 2 wildlife sightings. The weather started off cold, warmed up considerably during the hike and then got colder again. We had a few spots of rain, but on the whole the weather stayed fine for us as the sun shone most of the time.

You may notice that there’s a gap with nothing recorded for the 14th. And you might guess why. Oh yes, another flippin migraine. Luckily it only lasted for one day and wasn’t too bad so this morning I was raring to go again.

We got out and were on the road nice and early for the 70km drive to Lake Louise. We had a couple of things in mind that we wanted to do round there but planned to mainly play it by ear. First stop was at the info centre to pick up a map of the area and a couple of leaflets so we knew where we were going etc. Then we drove up to the lake and got our first view of the famous Chateau. It’s rather pretty but the lake is stunning. It was a bit chilly at around 10 degrees as it was still early so we went into the chateau first and got coffee in the deli there.

Then, armed with our cameras, we walked over to the lake and started snapping. Mainly the view is of the snowy end from around the other end. We were walking around from side to side trying to get different things into the foreground. I rather liked the canoes that were at one side as they were nice and colourful so they feature in several of my photos.

Lake Louise
I love sneaking up on Stephen when he isn’t paying attention because he’s so focused (pun intended) on taking a photo. Look at him, he’s completely oblivious.

Lake Louise
This of course is the famous chateau. There are some lovely gardens in front of it. Stephen did wonder if they’d let us pop up to one of those balconies to take some photos but I suspect they’d want you to give them wads of cash to check into a room first. It did look very nice inside when we went for our cuppa though.

Lake Louise
After we’d had a good walk either side of the lake, and played around taking lots of photos, Stephen spotted a sign that said there was another lake further up called Mirror Lake. That sounded rather photogenic so my ears pricked up. Also it was on the way to one of the tea houses, which we’d been told were a must do. Stephen pointed out that it was ‘only’ a 3km walk and said that we should do it. I did point out that it would be uphill but he said it would be fine. So, off we set.

Lake Louise
It was a scenic hike through the forest and was very, very steep. I was ok and just shed some layers as I got warmer. Stephen was struggling a bit as his job isn’t quite as active as mine so it was a bit more of a shock to the system, I suppose. We were keeping a close eye out for bears as we walked. This was the one time that we didn’t want to see any. We’d had plenty of talks and information on what to do if we did encounter one while hiking but quite frankly, I’d be happier not to put any of that into practise. Lots of people were wearing bear bells to make a noise while walking, but Stephen was puffing like a wee steam engine so I thought that was sufficient. Also there were a lot of people on the trail. It was very pleasant as every one greeted everyone that they passed.

It took quite a while to get to the lake and it wasn’t that big. I immediately christened it Mirror Puddle. It did reflect the mountains and trees quite nicely but it was very shallow so you could see the logs and debris in the bottom which affected the reflection so it wasn’t ideal. And isn’t it annoying when people stalk you with their cameras and take photos of you when you’re completely unaware of them, due to being engrossed in taking your own…

Lake Louise
Still it was a nice walk and we’d climbed about 300m above Lake Louise. I didn’t think Stephen would manage the rest of the walk up to the tea house so we walked back down. This was much, much easier but still took about thirty minutes. Once down we took some more photos of the lake as the position of the sun had changed.

Lake Louise
Oh look – there’s Stephen in the corner of that photo. Ha, revenge is sweet. Right, one more photo and then we’ll move on from Lake Louise. I couldn’t resist taking several shots of how the clouds were reflecting in the lake. It was beautiful.

Lake Louise
Next we were going to head for the gondola and this was something that I’d really been looking forward to. We’d done a small chair lift in Vancouver. We’d been in large cable cars and small ones, some of which were very high. What we hadn’t done was a long, high chair lift. Until today. Wahay!

The gondola at Lake Louise is supposed to be very good for bear spotting as they have quite a few grizzlies that roam on the mountain between the upper and lower station. They spot bears most days so we had our fingers crossed. We had a spot of lunch in the cafe there first and then went for our ride.

It was great fun. We didn’t see any bears on the way up but one chap on the way down called across to us to tell us he’d seen one and to tell us where. I thought that was nice of him. We didn’t see his bear so it must have moved by the time we got there. This is a fourteen minute ride so it is very leisurely. It was lovely and peaceful and it was great fun looking for bears.

There wasn’t much to do at the top and it was a bit nippy so we just took a few photos and walked along to the visitor centre for a quick look. Then a few more photos and the ride back down. You can just see Lake Louise and the chateau in this photo. They give you the choice of going in an enclosed car or the chair. We went on a chair both up and down.

Lake Louise
And you’ll never guess what. We saw a bear! It was so exciting. He was near the top of the ride and way over to our right beyond the trees. We both had eyes on him for about thirty seconds though so it was most definitely a bear. There was no chance of getting a photo, but we were just thrilled to have seen one.

We really enjoyed the glide down. The views are stunning. I’ve no idea why my fear of heights doesn’t kick in but I felt really safe and not at all scared. That was worth every penny cent.

We’d had a few spots of rain and it was getting a bit late so we debated heading back at this point. After some discussion we decided to go up to Moraine Lake for a quick look as it wasn’t far and it was our only chance to see it. It was definitely worth going up there as it was a very pretty lake. It was getting much colder by now though so just for Jackie – here’s a photo of my new hat.

Lake Louise
I’ve wanted one of those for ages. I do not care at all what it looks like – it keeps my ears wonderfully warm.

We drove back via The Bow Valley Parkway, a quieter road than the highway, as it was getting to that time of day when you’re more likely to see wildlife. We took a steady drive down in the hopes of seeing more elk or possibly a deer. We were so lucky, as we got our second wildlife spotting of the day with this White-tailed deer. She came out of the woods and grazed for a minute in front of us and then walked in our direction before running back into the trees.

Lake Louise
Back to the hotel via DQ for a McDinner to take back with us. Double cheeseburger for me and a huge concoction of some sort for Stephen. With fries, of course.

Early start in the morning as apparently we have to go home. Boo!

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Minnewanka Lake

September 13th

This morning we woke to find low cloud cover over the mountains, although it was still dry outside. The forecast was for an overcast day, cold but with no rain. Given that, we decided to do our lake cruise today so we went for the short drive up to Lake Minnewanka. It’s the largest lake in Banff and is extremely beautiful, even on a not so sunny day like today.

We already had our tickets from that three-in-one deal so we just had to show them to register for the next boat. Our guide on this cruise was excellent and spent some time explaining why the mountains were the shape they were, and talking about the wildlife. Then he came and had a chat with us all individually. He spent a while asking us about our Alaskan cruise and asking what we thought of what we’d seen of Canada. He was really friendly and great to chat to, but we’ve found that a lot here. People are so laid back.

We had a bit of a drive round after the cruise, taking in Two Jacks Lake and Johnson Lake, and then popped back to our hotel to warm up and have lunch. We relaxed for a while and then went back out. We drove up to Surprise Corner which is where you get the best view of The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. I just wanted to get a couple of photos of it as it’s rather nice. While we were up there I took some shots of the mountains as the clouds were looking lovely again, especially as it was just coming up to sunset.

From there we drove down into Banff as the chocolate shop was calling so we picked up a few nibbles and had a little wander round the shops. Then we headed back out to Vermillion lakes and spent a while looking for wildlife again. I took a few odd photos of the scenery, especially as the clouds were looking nice and moody again but we hadn’t spotted any animals other than the odd squirrel and chipmunk.

We were just coming to the turn off to the main road when we saw movement in the trees. We stopped and watched and realised that it was a female elk, and then we saw that she’d got a calf with her. We could just see them moving through the trees but then they moved out of the trees and started walking away from us along the grass beside the road. Stephen followed at a distance in the car. The rules here are that if you see wildlife, you stay in the car. They don’t want the animals getting used to people. And if you’re on foot, you keep your distance, for your own safety.

I did get some photos but they’re not very good at all. But then considering they were taken one-handed out of the window of a moving car, of animals that were moving along at a fair pace, what do you expect? I’m just chuffed to bits that we actually saw them, which was the point of being there.

On the way back we popped into Safeway to pick up some stuffed potatoes that we’d spotted on their deli. We thought they’d go nicely with the remainder of our chicken and we fancied something hot tonight. We topped up our picnic supplies and found some Dill pickle flavoured pringles. Cool!

We have to go over a level crossing to get back to our hotel from Safeway and so far we’ve been able to just go straight over it, but tonight we had to wait while a train went past. The trains here are long. This one was a monster and we had to wait ages. We’ve seen these huge trains from a distance as we’ve been on our long journeys, as we’ve been following the railway lines as well as the rivers, but we’ve never been so close to one. Stephen was quite interested. He likes things like that.

We enjoyed our chicken and stuffed spuds for dinner, and I’m just about to have another slice of that peach pie. It’s lasting well and it’s very nice indeed. I may have some chocolate afterwards too. All this fresh air gives you an appetite.

We may go to Lake Louise tomorrow if the weather looks ok.

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The Banff Gondola

12th September

This morning the sun was shining and there were no clouds in the sky. Perfect weather for going up mountains so we packed up a picnic and went out nice and early. It was quite a bit cooler today. 10 degrees at 9am so it was jacket weather but it was still pleasant. When we arrived at the Banff Gondola, which wasn’t far away, we were able to walk straight in instead of queueing for a ticket. We’d bought three-in-one tickets at the Columbia Icefields to save both money and time. There weren’t many people there yet and we were able to go straight on a gondola with no wait.

The cable cars and tramways we’ve been on up till now had been larger ones with a guide of some sort in with you. These were much smaller, with seats for four people and you were on your own. We had one to ourselves so we were able to look comfortably out of both sides as well as take photos out of the right hand side windows, which opened. The views were splendid, of course, but we did have a slight white knuckle moment when the gondola stopped for about thirty seconds about two-thirds of the way up. The ride took about eight minutes and we were soon at the top. Once there you can walk to the roof of the building and look all the way around.

I was fine up there as none of the building sticks out so I didn’t get wibbly. We could see a walkway going over to a peak which looked as if it would have even better views so we thought we’d go over there and see how far up there I could get before I wimped out.

I thought I did pretty well considering quite a lot of the walkway came under the category of balcony, in that there was nothing under it. I almost made it all the way to the top before I decided that I’d reached my limit. There were possibly twenty steps to go?

The views from the almost-top were amazing though. Not surprising as we were over 7000 ft high. We could see Lake Minnewanka over in the distance which is one of the places we’ll be visiting in the next couple of days. We could also see where Bow Falls was, and we planned to go there after lunch.

After walking round the top some more and sitting on a bench to enjoy the view for a while, we went back down. It had started to get busy up there by now so it looked as if we’d just timed it nicely. We had our picnic lunch at the bottom and took a few more photos of the gondolas and of the views of Banff.

Our next stop was Bow River Falls. We walked along the river for quite a distance. It was lovely there in the sun, even though it was starting to get quite breezy. The river was beautiful and the walkway was very well designed. There was a lovely wooden railing to stop you from going over the edge and steps to make it easier to go up and down as the pathway meandered round the side of the river, following the cliff up and then back down to the level of the river.

We stopped off at Cascade Gardens on our way into Banff. We didn’t spend much time there but we did have a little walk round to admire the flowers and some of the features there. It must be gorgeous in the spring and summer.

In Banff we had another walk down the main street as we fancied a coffee and a cake. We ended up in Starbucks and while Stephen just had a Cappuccino, I tried a Salted Caramel Mocha. It must be one of the new ones for Fall and it was very yummy. Usually I have the Spiced Pumpkin but I’m glad I tried the new one instead. I did have some Pumpkin loaf though, while Stephen had some Banana Chocolate Chip bread.

It was really getting windy now so we just popped into the camera shop to get the item we’d gone into Banff for. I’d swapped lens caps with Stephen as his didn’t have a tether on it. I wanted to get him a tether so I could have my own lens cap back as I’d started to use the big camera a bit more today. We managed that ok and then went back to the car as we’d planned to see if we could find any wildlife.

There’s a road that runs along Vermillion Lakes that’s very quiet and is good for spotting various wildlife, especially at the cooler ends of the day. We drove along there nice and slowly and were lucky enough to spot a male elk. He was some distance away but I still got a couple of shots of him.

The sky was getting quite interesting by this time so I got some nice photos of the mountains and the lake with the sky all moody in the background. I rather like them and may have a play around with them in Elements when we get home. This is one of them.

We stopped off in Safeway to pick up a hot chicken for dinner to have with a bit of potato salad and have had a relaxing evening. We’ve managed to find three episodes of Big Bang Theory on TV to watch. It seems to be on all the time, which is fine by us as we love it.

Tomorrow’s plans depend on the weather as the forecast keeps changing. We may go cruising on a lake, we may go for a drive or we may go up another mountain. Who knows…

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11th September

We've had several days on the run where we've been out and about doing things, either having adventures or driving from one place to another. So, today we decided to spend the day mostly relaxing and planning the remainder of our holiday. We really took our time getting ready to go out. I read for ages before getting out of bed and Stephen watched TV and looked at maps and leaflets.

Eventually we got peckish and decided we needed to go on the search for lunch. We headed for Banff and parked near the info centre. We picked up a few leaflets and discovered that there was a Spaghetti Factory here. I'd wanted to visit the one in Vancouver but we never managed to get there. As we were near one now and were both hungry it seemed like a good idea to go there today so we decided to have a little walk up and down the main street first to work up a bit more of an appetite and then go for lunch.

The shops on the street were a lovely mixture. There were lots of confectionary shops, including ones where  you can see the chocolate or fudge being made. There were gift stores and outdoor shops and a few more practical shops. And lots of places to eat. All around were mountains, including a lovely view right down the end of the street.

We got to the Spaghetti Factory after a while and had a lovely meal there. I had a Caesar salad, Seafood tagliatelle, ice-cream and coffee. Stephen had Minestrone soup, Green Thai chicken curry on linguine and ice-cream. The setting and the service, and the food of course, were all excellent.

We were a bit full so we headed back to our apartment, via Safeway where we picked up a few groceries, and I've spent the evening catching up on my blog while Stephen has been napping. We've just had a sandwich for dinner with some rather nice Peach and raspberry pie which is one of the things that we got at the supermarket.

This is the view from our appartment windows by the way. Lovely, isn't it 🙂

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we're off on another gondola ride. If there's low cloud cover, we've got plenty of plan Bs.


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The Icefields Parkway

10th September

After a not so early start this morning we got on the road and set off towards Banff. We'd had a quick breakfast in our room of bagels and coffee and had packed everything up. The reason we were late getting started is that after our long day and late night yesterday, we were a bit reluctant to get up early so had breakfast in bed. We were out by 10.00 so not too bad though.

We were looking forward to today's drive as the road we were going on was the Icefields Parkway and during my research for the holiday I'd read over and over that this was one of the most beautiful drives in Canada. Could it be better than what we'd already seen? We intended to make a day of it, even though it was only a short trip compared to the other two drives, as there were plenty of places to stop along the way for photos.

We pulled in at a couple of places to take some snaps but the first proper stop was at Athabasca Falls. This was a must do as I'd read so much about it. It was well worth the visit. The falls were gorgeous and there were plenty of viewing points all around them.

You could get on both sides and also get above them from a bridge. You could also get down to a pebble beach where the river went calmer and it was lovely down there.

We spent about an hour there and then drove on a bit further to Sunwapta Falls and spent about thirty minutes there taking more photos and enjoying the scenery. These falls weren't so spectacular but they were very pretty so definitely worth the stop.

There was a pull-in at the top of a climb so we stopped to take a few photos of the view. There was quite a drop in front of us and quite a lot of bare ground before the tree-line started. Suddenly Stephen shouted "BEAR". Everyone jumped and was looking round to see where he'd spotted it and in seconds everyone had their lenses focused on a bear the size of an ant. It was right over the far side by the tree-line and you could barely see it as it kept ducking into the shade. I was sitting on a rock and had the camera on full zoom and could only just see it through that. I did get a couple of shots though. It was very exciting.

A bit further on there was another waterfall. This one was right at the side of the road and was very pretty so we pulled over. I just can't resist water.

We saw many waterfalls as we drove along today. You'd see them trickling down the sides of the mountains. Or gushing in some cases. You'd just turn your head and there would be another one.

Also there was a resort there with a cafe so as time was getting on, and we'd only had a quick breakfast, we decided to stop for lunch. It was a good decision as the food was rather nice. I had a Sunwapta beef stew which was excellent. Probably not what most people would have on a lovely sunny day, but it smelt lovely and I was tempted. Stephen had a beef sandwich. We had the Sunwapta blend coffee which was excellent too. We ate inside as the cafe was a little way up from the falls so no lunch with a view for us today. It wasn't quite so hot today either. I don't think it got above 26 degrees, but that was quite warm enough.

Next stop after Sunwapta was the big one. We'd been really looking forward to this. We'd seen a glacier from the ship in Tracy Arm and we'd also seen one up close when we went to Juneau. This time we were going to get even closer at the Columbia Icefields. We got our tickets and boarded the coach that takes you up to the icefield. We had a great talk on the coach where we learnt about why the trees were bare of branches on one side. The winds off the glacier sandblast them apparently. Then we passed the treeline and went from the sub-alpine region to the alpine at 7000ft. Cool. A bit higher up we reached the station where we would transfer to our snocoach.

It was very smoothly done. Straight off one coach, and straight onto the next. Only this one had huge wheels. Six of them, and it's six wheel drive. It needs to be as to get onto the icefield it goes down a slope that you'd usually associate with a rollercoaster. It was almost vertical. It was huge fun and was just like being on Ice Road Truckers once we got onto the ice.

We trundled along and had a talk on glaciers, which was very interesting. I love learning all about the area that we're travelling in. We arrived at the safe part of the glacier, which is where we were allowed out to walk around. It's as deep as the Eiffel tower is high and is surrounded by a narrow glacial stream. We were told on no account to cross that stream as we could easily fall down a crevasse. We were also told that the water was good to drink as it was 98% pure. Stephen tried some but I didn't as I didn't think my sensitive tooth would like it. Too cold.

It was amazing actually being on a glacier. It was also a little chilly but there was no chance of us staying in the snocoach for the 20 minutes we were allowed out. We just kept moving around and taking photos, of course. It was so beautiful up there, that you didn't mind being a bit cold or windswept. And hey, at least it was sunny.

Eventually the snocoach took us back and then we boarded the coach back to the centre. We had a slice of pie and some coffee as it was 4.30 by now and we still had about a three hour drive ahead of us. Although the distance wasn't that great, the speeds you're allowed to do are quite low ranging from 50kph up to 90kph if you're lucky. Mostly it's a maximum of 70kph. That's partly because they don't want you running their bears and other animals over and partly because the roads are quite twisty and you really wouldn't want to be going any faster. The roads are very good though – nice and wide and well maintained.

So, The Icefields Parkway. Is it prettier than the other roads we've travelled so far? I'd say it is, just about. There was some autumn colour showing, there were many snow-covered mountains. The Athabasca river is such a spectacular colour and the falls were beautiful. It's higher than the other roads with the highest elevation on the parkway being at Bow Pass at 6785 ft. Hence some of the incredibly stunning views. We really enjoyed today's drive again. Glaciers, a bear, more scenery. We're really not going to want to come home, you know.

We didn't stop again after the icefields as we didn't see anything that we really needed to pull over for and after a while we got to a point where we knew we'd be driving back up that way in a few days. Finally we came to our hotel, Banff Boundary Lodge. This time we have an apartment. There's a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and there's a lovely kitchen in a corner of the living room. It's lovely and spacious and although we've been too tired to really poke about much, so far we're really pleased with it.

Tomorrow we plan to have a look at Banff and Canmore and just get our bearings. We've had a few busy days so we need to have a relaxing day for a change.


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Maligne Lake

9th September

This morning we had a fairly early start so we ate breakfast in our room. We have a fridge so yesterday we’d bought some cream cheese and some bagels and that made a quick snack to tide us over. We had an 11.00am time slot for a cruise on Maligne Lake and needed to be there at least 20 minutes early. The drive out there would take about an hour so with allowing time for a bit of sightseeing we wanted to leave around 9am. We managed ten past which isn’t bad for us *grin*

The drive out was very pleasant. It was mostly uphill and forest on both sides. We went past Medicine Lake, we followed Maligne River for a while and then finally came to Maligne Lake. We were nice and early so we had time to take a couple of photos before boarding our boat.

The boats are designed to be used in the Pacific off Vancouver for whale watching and are really tough. We went at quite a pace and just had to slow down when passing canoes so we didn’t swamp them. It took 35 minutes to get out to Spirit Island, which was our turning point and the scenery on the way was lovely. We passed three different glaciers and our tour guide gave us lots of information on those and the geology and forestry in general.

We docked on the mainland and were allowed ashore for ten minutes with strict instructions to stay on the trail only. There’s only a two month growing period there so if you trample any flora, you’re killing it as there’s no time for it to regrow. There’s a slightly raised viewpoint from which you can take photos with Spirit Island in the foreground and the mountains in the background. The sun was in the wrong place but we did our best and got some nice shots.

The windows on the boat opened so we were able to take shots from there so we took advantage of that on the way back too, especially as we were now on the right side of the boat for the sun. It was in our eyes before.

All too soon we were back at the dock but the next thing to come was lunch. We’d already had a look at what was on offer and it looked good. We both had Sirloin burgers – freshly made and cooked on the outdoor bbq – and they were delicious. We ate them sitting on the deck outside looking out over the lake and the mountains. It was another hot sunny day today so we made the most of it. I tell you, I could really get used to this. We had a bit of room left after the burgers so we went inside and got dessert and coffee. I had a huge wedge of bumbleberry pie. I’ve no idea what a bumbleberry is, but there was apple, rhubarb and a selection of berries in there. Stephen had a long john which looked like a chocolate éclair but had sponge instead of pastry.

We then had a walk down to the lake edge and met a woman from Rippon and had a chat to her for a while. She was waiting for her friends who only live a few miles from us. Small world, eh? After our chat and stroll we drove back to Jasper, taking our time and stopping for photos along the way.

We relaxed for an hour or so when we got back. I read my book and Stephen had a nap. We had another adventure coming up so we needed to rest for a while. At 5.00pm we stirred ourselves and got ready to go back out. By 5.20pm we were seated on a bench outside our hotel, waiting to be picked up. We were off on a Wildlife Safari. Yes, I do know we’d already done something similar in Alaska so it was a bit greedy doing another one but we were hoping to see an elk or deer as we hadn’t seen one yet.

The bus that picked us up was really comfortable. The driver was a forester so was able to give us lots of information on the local eco systems.  He explained that it was going to be a challenge finding much wildlife while it was so hot so he had a plan in mind. He was going to climb a couple of thousand feet to where it was hopefully cooler and where he knew there had been sightings before. He’d already been scouting out areas through the day for us. And obviously he knew the area.

During our outing we saw a male elk which was very exciting.

We also saw a female further on.

We spotted mountain goats quite close to the road and then we saw a wolf. I didn't manage to get a very good shot of him as he was the other side of the road. Not only did I have to contend with a rocking bus, and a wolf that was running along at a fair lick, in and out of trees. I also had traffic jumping in front of my camera every time I pressed the shutter. This is a little blurry but you can tell it's a wolf.

We saw two osprey nests. The osprey was perched in a nearby tree for the second sighting but for the first it was sitting in the nest right where we could get photos. Thank goodness for zoom lenses.

The driver took us for miles looking for bears and caribou but we just couldn’t find any. Full marks to him for trying though and we’re not complaining that we only had a couple of sightings of wildlife as they’re never guaranteed on these trips. We’re very happy to have seen that elk and the osprey.

We were allowed off the bus a couple of times to take scenic photos and we saw a lovely sunset over the mountains on the way back down to Jasper, getting back to our hotel at 9.30pm. We’ve just had a quick sandwich and I think we’ll be asleep soon.

In the morning I’ll be packing the cases again as we’ll be hitting the road on the way to Banff. We’ve got more adventures planned on the drive down.