Rocky Mountains

Trip Start Sep 10, 2009
Trip End Oct 22, 2009

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today was another long day, 500km from Shuswap to Banff.  First stop was at Tim Horton's (which is a Canadian institution) for coffee and food for those who had only just managed to stumble out of bed in time to get on the bus.  We have a young Norwegian guy on the bus with an unpronouncable name who we all call T.  T had quite a night last night - he sang the Norwegian National Anthem at one stage - and was still drunk this morning.

NIne of the group were going kayaking in Revelstoke with our driver/guide so the rest of us were dropped off at a lake to amuse ourselves while they were kayaking.  It was only a small lake and Trish discovered on the sign that there was a small walking trail around the lake so off we all went (except Chris who found a spot in the sun and went to sleep).  This is bear country so we figured the more of us the better.  Anyway our small walk turned out to be an hour's hike over some fairly steep and narrow paths halfway around the lake.  It was a really enjoyable walk though and gave us all a chance to stretch out.  Chris woke up when we got back, ate lunch with us and then entertained us with card tricks which he was very good at.

The others all came back from kayaking, all having managed to stay in the boats.  We had been making bets that some of them, particularly T, would end up in the water but it was all quite successful apparently.

We travelled through four National Parks today - Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho and Banff.  The scenery was magnificent.  The leaves are starting to turn so there are great patches of gold amidst the green.  There are also some very big patches of red, which looks pretty but isn't so good.  Here in Canada a little migrant from South America called a Pine Beetle is creating havoc.  No-one knows how it got here but the beetle gets into the Lodgepole pines and sucks all the moisture from them so the tree dies and turns brown.  No-one has been able to work out a way to stop the beetle from spreading and hundreds of thousands of hectares of pine trees have been destroyed.  These pines are important to the forestry industry and also to the environment - the dead trees are useless to forestry and the living pine forests are what hold the soil on the sides of the mountains.

We stopped at Rogers Pass this afternoon to look at a glacier (can't remember the name but I'll find out).  This is in Glacier National Park which was set up to protect 24 active glaciers.  The one in the picture is the biggest.  It was very, very cold here - the mountain weather is really starting to set in.

The last stop of the day before we got to Banff was Emerald Lake, our first glacial lake.  The pictures don't really do justice to the brilliant turquoise colour of the lake.  I'm finding that a lot here; the pictures I'm taking just don't show how really beautiful this country is.  The water in Emerald Lake is about 4 degrees at the moment but some of our hardy souls jumped in, including our intrepid Norwegian.  Got rid of his hangover anyway but I still can't believe they did it.

After the lake we set off on the last stretch of highway to Banff.  This stretch from Rogers Pass is even more dangerous - our guide told us that in winter this is the most dangerous piece of road in the world because of avalanches.  Its easy to believe when you see the great swaths of mountain where all the trees are gone and there are long gouges in the rocks.  We saw some big horn sheep (probably not the proper name) and I saw a large deer on the side of the road.  There's lots of wildlife in these forests, black and grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, deer, sheep, lynx as well as smaller animals like squirrels but you don't always see them.

Tonight I had my last dinner with the group and we all went downstairs to the bar in the hostel for a drink.  It was local talent night and there is some very good local talent in Banff so the music was great.  I didn't stay late; a lot of the others also opted for an early night but there were three or four who looked as if they were planning a big one.

I've enjoyed travelling in a group and I will feel much more comfortable about being single in a group trip in future.  It has been good, though a bit expensive, to have my own room and I don't think I could stay in dorms.  These kids are lovely and quite thoughtful and considerate but after all, they are here to have fun and their idea of fun is to party half the night.

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