Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Wild Backyard

We went to the Canadian Rockies to see a fantastic display of wildflowers...and now there's another great display right in my backyard. We have asters, potentilla, daisies, paintbrush, sego lilies, lupine, cone flower, clover, salsify, saxifrage, all vying for attention.

Of course you have to be "brave" to have a garden of wildflowers (or as my mother would have called them "weeds.") Brave because the landscape is overgrown with greenery that is disorganized and untidy. If you like the look, it's beautiful. If you don't, it's a bunch of weeds.

No matter--we like it and in the end, that's what counts.

On the other hand, you get to see some interesting things in the wild garden. As I was snapping away this morning, I heard just the slightest movement, and there, not too far away was a doe, doing her best to stand still. We stared at each other for a minute, then I took her picture and thanked her for adding to the beauty of my garden.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Back in the USA!

Scenes of Jasper National Park

We are back where the aircard and satellite dish work, the speed limit signs are in mph, and I don’t have to convert liters to gallons to determine mileage. In other words, we’re back in the US of A. It’s nice to have all the conveniences when you camp! (Yes, we are camping, but in style!)

Crossing the US/Canada border was a non-event. We were asked if we had fruit, veggies or meat onboard. Since we are a camper the answer was yes, then I told him how much we had of each. Another guard wanted to see the back seat of the truck. I unlocked the door and he looked in. Lastly, I was asked to show proof of citizenship, so I handed him our much-used passports. After a brief look and a swipe in a computer, they were handed back to me and we were told to have a nice day. It took me longer to write about the event than the event itself.

Our 16 day sojourn into Canada was great fun. We were there during one of the biggest wildflower displays I’ve ever seen, and we saw them ‘just in time’ as the flowers were starting to disappear on the trip back from Jasper. The mountains, always a favorite, were tall and proud, and they will lure me back time and again. I don’t know when, but we’ll be back.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thoughts on Jasper

Jasper is a huge park, yet it does not have a lot of venues where you can “do” something. If you go to Yellowstone, there are several stops where there activities, walks and hikes, the same with Bryce or Grand Canyon. Jasper has just a few “stops” and they seem less organized and maybe more interesting.

For “organized” events, you can drive the switchbacks up Mt. Edith Cavell, ooh and aah at Athabasca Falls,

marvel at Lake Maligne, ride the Athabasca whitewater, take the tram to get a bird’s eye view of the park, or visit the townsite. However, the best thing to do in Jasper is enjoy the mountains, lakes and rivers in an “unorganized” way such as strolling around a jewel-like lake,
or hiking a trail to a glacial pool, or gazing at the reflection of a mountain in a glass-like pond. There are ponds and rivers for canoeing, trails for bike riding, hiking and walking, and then there are just places to “be” and enjoy the beauty of nature. That’s Jasper. It’s not for folks who have to go to the mall for a good time.

Mountain Names: One of the towering mountains in Jasper is named after a World War I nurse, Edith Cavell. During the Great War, Edith Cavell, RN, was stationed in Belgium when it became overrun by Germans-- she stayed on and nursed soldiers from both sides. Then she committed the ultimate crime…she smuggled a number of “her” soldiers to safety. She was arrested for her deed, executed and earned the title “Martyr Nurse.” The mountains in Jasper and Banff National Parks were named soon after World War I, and the grandest mountain in Jasper was named in her honour.

The “Angel Glacier” clings to the side of Mt. Edith Cavell, along with several other glaciers all contributing to a glacial pool that has a milky turquoise color.
The glaciers have a turquoise tint too. Walking to the little glacial lake or stacking rocks are two things that folks do in the area. I stacked rocks, while my friends meandered over the boulders to the pool

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lake Maligne

Mt. Edith Cavell

Wild Sheep on the Yellowhead Highway

Beautiful Lake Maligne

After an evening of rain and cooler temps, we did not know how much we could do today, so we went for a ride. We ended up at Lake Maligne--pronounced Lake Maleen. It’s one more of the pretty lakes in this part of the world. Maligne however, is not a glacial jewel like either Moraine or Louise; it’s an ordinary lake in an extraordinary setting. It’s a water wonderland where you can boat and fish as well as hike in the nearby area. We did none of the above—just looked. It’s a long drive to the Lake but well worth the trip. Along the way we saw a black bear and a herd of mountain sheep, all woolly and unkempt.
If you are a fan of very old movies, Rosemarie, with Nelson Eddy and Jeannette McDonald was filmed in this area. Twenty-plus years later, The River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe was filmed here and in Banff. I don’t know if any recent movies have been filmed in this pristine environment, but if you should see a movie set on a beautiful mountain lake that is edged with razor sharp peaks, it might have been filmed in this neck of the woods.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Icefields Parkway

One of the prettiest drives in North America is along the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper. Today we were lucky enough to take that wonderful highway in perfect weather. I only took 100 pictures along the way and it's hard to choose which one to place here.

However, all is not wonderful as my computer had a glitch, for lack of a better word. All of my files for my summer class have disappeared. When I click on a file, stuff I wrote from last semester shows up instead. This makes no sense at all. I have no idea what happened, but when I searched for the files, I get a message that says they are not in my computer any more. I've written a note to my students asking them to send me their grades. This is embarrassing, but what else can I do? Aren't computers fun???

Tomorrow we'll explore Jasper National Park--Lake Maligne and Miette Hot Springs, and Mt.Edith Cavell and more are waiting for us.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wandering in the Valley of the 10 Peaks

Concealed in the Valley of the 10 Peaks is Moraine Lake. It is a glacial lake like Lake Louise, yet it is even prettier. Lake Louise has world wide fame and a wonderful old railroad hotel, The Chateau Lake Louise; Moraine Lake has more beauty and fewer visitations. It’s nestled in a narrow valley amid 10 huge mountains decorated with glaciers. At the far end of the valley is a cascade which feeds the turquoise waters. Walking the path around the lake you are treated to thick forests dotted with colorful wildflowers. There are folks canoeing in the clear water, just adding a picturesque flair to the landscape.

In the afternoon, I decided it was time to learn more about the wildflowers so I bought 3 books: “Alpine Beauty” by Neil L. Jennings, “Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains” by George W. Scotter and Halle Flygare, and a beautiful book of photographs and prose titled “Wild Colours: Canada’s Rocky Mountain Wildflowers” by Paul Gilbert and Kathryn Graham. Once back in the RV I started to identify all the flowers I’ve taken pictures of the past few days. I’ve identified most of them and I’ve learned so much.

Yellow Columbine

The locals say that Banff stands for “Be Aware, Nothing For Free.” With that in mind, I found a FREE wifi connection at Lake Louise, at the Chateau no less! There is a small catch--you need to belong to Fairmont’s President’s Club. So far we have found that Safeway and Bruno’s Pub in Banff have free wifi, and the Chateau, in Lake Louise. I wonder what we will find in Jasper (which is our next stop)?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lovely Lake Louise

We are in grand country. Today we are in Lake Louise, a tiny gem, sparkling along the backbone of the Canadian Rockies. We walked along the blue-green glacier fed lake marveling at the abundance of wildflowers. Once again, the display was wonderful.

Our campground is filled with the aroma of pine trees. The air is clear, and it’s not raining. We have a “double campsite” so we are camped next to our friends. Tonight we had spaghetti in the woods for dinner, a camping favorite. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wildflowers on the way to Kootenay

The wildflower display in the Banff region is over the top this year. We have been coming to this area for over 20 years and I’ve never seen so many flowers nor the variety that is on display right now. Today, we drove from Banff to Radium Hot Springs, BC in the Kootenay National Park where we were treated to field after field of colorful blooms. I’m in wildflower heaven!

Monday, July 13, 2009

For Wendy

For my friend Wendy who would rather be riding a horse than almost anything. I saw the Paint, and thought of her.

The Bow River Valley

Yesterday we went rafting along the Bow River from Bow Falls to the town of Canmore right outside the Park. It was a beautiful day to be on the water and look at the mountains. We learned that the Bow area was named by the first peoples because it was a good place to find the willow used to make bows.

We are very lucky to be here during the wildflower bloom. The wild roses are everywhere, as are tiny strawberries, buttercups, potentilla, tiger lily, yarrow, and so many more. Walking the trails is a colorful adventure.

In addition to the flowers, we've seen a little black bear and a herd of mountain sheep. However, not all is flowers and wild animals and raft rides. We have been out a week, so laundry is part of the mix too. Since it's raining today, it's a good day to stay indoors and wash clothes. Life goes on!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009


We arrived in Banff this afternoon. We’ll be visiting the parks for 2 weeks. The good news is how we arrived—we did not drive through Calgary. Every time we come up here, we try to find ways to avoid the Calgary traffic and this time we succeeded. Instead of taking the Glenmore Trail to the Sarcee Trail to the Trans-Can we took Highway 22x south of Calgary to Highway 22 which connected us to the Trans-Can west of Calgary. It was the perfect path to avoid the Calgary mess.

There’s more good news too. We have a full hookup campsite at Tunnel Mountain Campground. In the past, the campgrounds in the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks have been first come-first served. That meant that it was almost impossible to get a full hookup site. But this year Parcs Canada started an online reservation system. The portal opened the first week in April and I was there the first day making reservations. We have all the conveniences of home at our campsite in one of the prettiest places in the world.

The mountains that circle Banff are similar to the Swiss Alps. They are massive, imposing cliffs of granite. For the next 2 weeks we’ll walk among these giants and gather in some of their beauty. We’ll wander by the Bow River, walk on the Columbia Glacier, paddle in the turquoise waters of Lake Louise, gaze in wonder at Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, hike some mountain trails and completely immerse ourselves into this corner of the universe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


We are in Alberta. The border crossing was not difficult at all. The guard asked us where we were going, how long we were going to stay, and what we did for a living. When we said we were retired professors, he asked each of us what we had taught. There was no inspection of the vehicles. He did look at the passports, but they were not even stamped. I wanted a Canadian stamp. Oh well.

The drive from Great Falls was easy--hop on I-15 and go north to the border, then stay on the same road with a different number. Of course the speed limit is in kilometers. The first time you see a 110 speed limit sign you think WOW--then you realize it's only 66 mph. Once in Alberta we saw a lot of fields planted with canola, sometimes called rapeseed.

The GPS saga continues. Today "he" was renamed 'Stu-y' which is short for Stupid. Stu-y did a pretty good job finding a grocery store in Lethbridge and he navigated us back to the campground without any problems. We are learning to ask Stu-y the right questions.

At the Safeway store that Stu-y found, I saw the longest line of recycle bins I've ever seen. I guess we'll have something similar to this stateside soon.

On to Banff tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Great Falls

Tonight we are in Great Falls, Montana. We have been here many times and it's always good to get back. This is Lewis and Clark country. Many of the places were named by Lewis, during that historic expedition over 200 years ago. Hence we passed the Madison River, Jefferson Island and Jefferson City, the Gallatin River (he was Secretary of the Treasury at the time), and more along the way today. The drive was quite scenic and the fabled "Big Sky" country, that makes Montana famous, was glorious.

Several years ago we decided to see the "Great Falls" for which this city was named. We drove along the Missouri River for a few miles and we could not see any falls. We finally went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretative Center and asked, "Where are the falls?" We were told they were dammed in 1898 but they had a picture of them. Indeed they were great falls...five cascades of water that could be heard for miles. It took the Lewis and Clark Expedition 31 days to portage around the falls as they were so big. Nowadays, there are 5 hydroelectic dams and the bedrock that indicates where the cascades were.

This summer we are playing with a new toy. It's a Garmin Nuvi GPS, which I named "Gypsy." Gypsy started the day by giving us a novel set of directions to Great Falls from West Yellowstone. We looked at a map and concluded to give "her" directions a try. The first turn took us on a narrow 2 lane road without shoulders. We looked on the map and it did look like a viable option, so we continued. About 3 miles later, the narrow road devolved into a narrow gravel road. We are driving a 53 foot truck and trailer which are not suited for gravel roads. Our new problem now was to find a place to turn our vehicle around, which we did a mile or so later. We drove back to the main highway and got the maps out, re-navigated our course, and changed Gypsy's name to "Stupid." Contrary to what Garmin says about throwing away your maps and using a GPS, don't throw your maps away. On the other hand, "Stupid" did find places for fuel and food. We learned you have to give the right directions to a GPS in order to navigate well with one. My friend Phyllis has a Magellan GPS unit which she calls Maggy on good days and Naggy on bad days. I now know why!

Monday, July 6, 2009

West Yellowstone

Today we took a pleasant drive thru parts of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Other than road construction, the drive was uneventful until we saw the bear. We don't know if it was a grizzly or a black bear, but it was near the road, rooting around in the underbrush. You can always tell when there is an "animal watch" happening at these parks because traffic backs up. A bear usually causes a big traffic jam as everyone wants to see the critter.

The only other critters were a herd of elk, some bison, and a bald eagle sitting in a nest. The traffic jams for these critters was just about as big as it was for the bear. Generally, the wildlife viewing is very good in these 2 national parks.

Tomorrow we head for Great Falls, Montana,where we need to get new batteries for the RV. It will be one of the longer drives we'll make in one day on this trip. We try to drive between 200-225 miles a day, but tomorrow we'll drive about 260. It will mean an early start, something we are not good at getting.

Happy trails!

On the Road -- Again

Yep...we're on the road again. This time, Vinnie and the Big Guy are taking us north to Alberta. When we land in Canada we'll meet up with friends and RV/camp 3 Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.

Watch this space for wonderful pictures of Mt. Rundle, Lake Louise, Mt. Edith Cavell, the Icefields Parkway, Lake Maligne and more. Lots of eye candy where we are going.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Blooms

In my futile effort to chronicle when each flower shows up, I am adding some more to the mix. Yesterday we had lots of rain and while I looked for flowers before the rains came, I did not see any. Today, there are new flowers.

There's a white clump that I think is either Queen Anne's Lace, Yarrow, Buckwheat or Yampah...these are all in the carrot family, and I cannot tell one from the other.
A Meadow Buttercup appeared, with it dainty yellow bloom.
Two other yellow flowers popped up that I cannot identify. One has a teeny-tiny bloom, about 1/4 inch across.
The other is not much bigger.
I cannot find them in my "best" book, which is "Plants of the Rocky Mountains" by Kershaw, MacKinnon and Pojar!

I am always surprised at the intricate details I see when I take a close up of a flower or leaf. This is an aspen leaf.
What makes the aspen leaf quake or shake, is the shape of it's stem. Instead of being round it's square. With the slightest breeze, the leaf shakes. When all the leaves in an aspen forest shake, it sounds like running water. It's a very soothing sound.

I'm also surprised at all the defenses a pretty little flower has. It's filled with barbs and spines and little pricklies. Here's a salsify (also known as "goat's beard") up close and personal. It looks like it's ready to fight a war!