Wilderness Hostels with Bears, oh my!!

Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
Trip End Jan 25, 2006

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Saturday, October 8, 2005

We went to Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake while we had the car. The Canyon was amazing - the trees here will cling to the barest bit of rock and somehow survive - bizarre!!
We saw elk foraging for food, and possibly a mate?!! One came quite close to us in the car so we promptly moved on!!
Medicine Lake disappears in the autumn - the Indians thought it was magic, but in actual fact it is because of underwater caves which drain the lake!
We also visited Athabasca Falls - photo's to follow. It's great to have the freedom of a car and going where we want to go, in our own time!
We have seen a CAD$1,000,000. jade bear, now you don't see many of those I can tell you - but sadly my budget and backpack could not accomodate it so I had to settle for a tiny jade turtle - another travelling mascot to join Mr T! His name is Mally (From Maligne Canyon).

01/10/2005 - 07/10/2005
We visited Sunwapta Falls - another waterfall, but still amazing, on the way to Rampart Creek, which is a Hostelling International Wilderness Hostel in Banff National Park. Yes that's right we were in the middle of the woods, with a very real danger of bears (except luckily the lady who lives at the Hostel has a dog who helped to scare them off!!), we had a creek to wash in (although they also had a sauna, with a watering can as a shower!), and long drop toilets!!
We also had the "pleasure?" of 12 Squaddies from the good ol' British Army on Survival Training out on the nearby icefields!! Hurrah for us!!

We went to the Columbia Icefield and went up in Sno-bus up onto the glacier (much easier than the last time i negotiated the Franz Josef glacier on foot in NZ!), we were driven up in these specially built CAD$500,000 vehicles to see spectacular views of the icefields which ultimatley feed 3 oceans; Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific - it really is the top of the world (almost!). We avoided the crevasses which have taken 3 lives in the past few years from clever people exploring outside the "safe" designated zone - it's so cold hypothermia sets in before rescue attempts can successfully free them!
We also tried to avoid half of Tokyo - those Japanese women can run fast when they are on a mission!
Now you may also think that being that far up that the ice would be pretty clean and unspoilt seeing as the very top is not often visited except by the most intrepid explorers, however it has been discovered that pollutants, including DDT (which farmer's used to routinely spray on their lands, but has since been discovered to be exceedingly dangerous), have been found up on the icefields - so even in this unspoilt beauty the winds will carry such horrors so far afield. (We saw people eating the snow and icicles, but obviously I would not recommend it!!).

We ventured down HWY 11 on a snowy day - to Siffleur Falls - this was a nice little walk over suspension bridges and up into forest with more stunning mountain views!

The favourite destination for us both so far is Peyto Lake and Bow Summit - we walked through the Snow Forest (snow here for 9 months of the year due to its high altitude) to the most stunning, crystal clear lake with a picture perfect postcard forest [for a couple of you that received this pc it really is like this!... photo's to follow for those who didn't], covered in snow. We then climbed up to the tree-line of Bow Summit to avoid a corridor of another coach-load of tiny Japanese - these snap-happy tourists get everywhere (I would say how annoying but we too are part of the crowds, however much we think we're not!, although slightly taller and occasionally more adventurous!), we hiked through knee-deep virgin snow, apart from un-identifiable tracks from local wildlife... some of which were quite large, these kept us alert!! It was well worth the effort though!

From here we headed down to Banff Town (slightly busier than Jasper), but only for a bit of shopping - cds needed in the car as the radio signals are blocked out by the beautiful mountains!! We then stayed in Canmore, which is 23km from Banff in a beautiful hostel in the woods again - but this time with all mod-cons!! However as well as bears we now had to be careful of cougars (also known as puma's or panthers, depending on where you are from!)!!! Is nowhere safe?????
This is an area where mainly mad mountaineers stayed - they climb the scariest of peaks for fun - we opted for the more gentle walks.

We thought we would go Dog- Sledding, but it was not operating until winter, so we thought we would go to the Kicking Horse Grizzly Bear Refuge, but again that was shut, so we stumbled across a real jewel; Emerald Lake which we preferred to the more famous Lake Louise, which was a tourist trap. Photo's galore taken here! I think we might be heading for a record - Rob has taken 10 films in 10 days, and I think I have just exceeded this, but digital is slightly less bulky!!!

We visited the 'Art on the Mountain' exhibition in a CAD$4.5million showhome (How many rooms and levels?!?!!! It was unreal!!!) The art was pretty good, but we were equally awed by the surroundings - this house had 4 split levels, 4 bedrooms each with en-suite bathrooms, a vast open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge, a hot tub outside, a huge fireplace and BBQ on the patio, an outdoor games room and also the biggest tv room ever (Actually they had a huge projection screen rather than a tv - this room was huge!!). If anyone is interested and has a bit of spare pocket-change it's a good deal, honestly! Although this new development is built on a wildlife corridor - so your chances of meeting bears, elk and other local delights are increased ten-fold!

Lake Minnewanka was our next stop (the natives called it "Minne-waki"), but somehow this name got transferred to the comedic name it has today - photo's to follow that we didn't just make this up!! We saw lots of Big-horned sheep, i'm sure they were following us!! Rob, the Welshman seems to encourage them wherever he goes!!
We were going to walk as far round Lake Minnewanka as possible, but sadly a huge area had been closed off due to an aggressive bear which had attacked a hiker in August, I wanted to walk up to the river - which was just at the edge of the no-go area, but Rob got very scared and ran back to the car!! (He says he was making a wise decision, to keep us alive, I wasn't scared at all, honest - he says!!)

We are back in Jasper... Rob has found a pub which does local stout which is close enough to Guinness to keep him happy! It also costs $2.20 (about a quid!). Happy as larry now!!
Next week we are back on the train for our next adventures!!!!

Take Care, keep on smiling, bcoz we are!!!
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