Lake Minnewanka, the Gondola Tour, the Columbia Icefield and the Glacier Skywalk, Canada

September, 2015

During the last week of September, I get 4 free tickets for tours in and around Banff and between Banff and Jasper. The first two are great to cover one afternoon. Lake Minnewanka is just a 15 minutes drive from Banff and very easy to find. It’s name means ‘Water of the Spirits’. A glacial lake of 21 km. long and 142 m. deep and with an abundance of wildlife on the land around it, like Elk, Mountain sheep, Mule deer and Bears. It also supplies Banff with hydro-electric power, through the dams, built in the lake. I join one of the last boat cruises of this season and enjoy this one hour ride, looking at the impressive shore line and feeling the first signs of winter, while sitting outside at the rear of the boat.DSC01905DSC01899

From Lake Minnewanka I drive back to Banff, where I pick up my son and his girlfriend, who supplied me with all the free tickets and we all drive up to the base of Sulphur Mountain, from where we take a 4 persons gondola, which takes us high up the mountain to the upper terminal. Once there, we start walking the Skywalk along the summit ridge with a 360 degree view over the 6 mountain ridges. This point is 2,281m. high and indeed you feel like standing on top of the world! It is by now late in the afternoon, the sun is going down already and it is freezing cold. Not the best weather for pictures, but still very impressive to witness the amazing views from all sides.

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Also this week, my son, the dog and I are going on a day trip, via the famous Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 North) towards Jasper, with destination the Columbia icefield and the Glacier Skywalk Adventure. The road towards Jasper is amazing; no villages, not even one house, just wilderness, waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and silence……

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We drive until the Columbia Icefield and first walk the dog on the immense parking spot, opposite the Icefield. After, we join the short bus ride towards the parking spot of the special Icefield bus, which will take us all the way down, via a very steep road. The tires of this bus are enormous! The bus driver gives us as much information about the area as possible, in such a short time span. Once down, we get 10 minutes out in the cold to take pictures, but with the wind it is nearly unbearable to keep yourself standing!  Of course, some tourists have to show off!!!DSC02024

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 The landscape is something else; very impressive.

In between this trip and the Glacier Skywalk, we just have enough time to walk the dog again, feed him and ourselves and hop on the next bus for another short ride to the Skywalk. Here, my fear of heights is challenged again! I take a deep breath and let my son guide me over the glass-floored observation platform, 280 meters over glacier-formed valleys and waterfalls!  The whole Skywalk is set up in an interpretive storytelling format and very informative. DSC02084DSC02038

At a certain point my son leaves me to take some shots of the platform and I finally dare to look down, on my own!!!

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There is no time anymore to drive to Jasper; it is way too late now and we also want to explore some more lakes on the way back. You need time in this part of Canada, to enjoy all the beauty this land has to offer. There will be more opportunities to visit my son and visit Jasper as well………

On our way back we visit two lakes. The dog seems to love the snow, as we discover when visiting Lake Peyto. This lake has an intense green-blue colour and is a popular tourist destination.

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The other lake is impressive, with its colourful shores and I imagine sitting here in the summer during a picnic, with lots of swimming pleasure!

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This week is my last week in the most beautiful part of Canada and I never felt so close to nature as here, in the Rocky Mountains………I do hope many more visits will follow………

 

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The sparkling waters of Grassi lake

September, 2015

Just out of Canmore, in Nordic Centre Provincial Park, which is part of Kananaskis Country, you will find the emerald-coloured Grassi Lakes. It is a nice hike through the forest with views over the town of Canmore and the Bow Valley.DSC02430

There is an easy route and a difficult one and for both walks you need good shoes!

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Grassi Lake is situated at an elevation of around 1,525 meters and Lawrence Grassi, an Italian immigrant, who worked first for Canadian Pacific Railway and later became a miner in the Canmore coal mines, built many trails in the park and also DSC02425worked as a climbing guide.

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The upper and lower lakes are a nice surprise, as the sunlight gives them all kinds of colours and there are all different shades and shadows of the mountains and trees in the crystal clear waters.

A spot to sit down and reflect on your life………

A favorite spot, also for mountain climbers……….like my son……..I try not to think about it too much!

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Lake Louise, the Spiral tunnels and Yoho park, Rocky Mountains, Canada

September, 2015

It is a gorgeous warm day when my son, the dog and me hop in the car for our outing to the Takakkaw Falls in Yoho Park, British Columbia. There is so much to explore in this part of the Rocky Mountains, that we make several stops on the way. We take the Hwy 1A, on the Bow Valley Parkway, towards Lake Louise. This road is a pleasure to drive, with picnic areas along rivers and streams and the beautiful view on Castle Mountain Rock.DSC01709DSC01696

At Lake Louise we make a short stop. It is crowded with people and a problem to park your car, but my inventive son finds a way to get his enormous truck parked at the Fairmont hotel and from here it is a quick walk to the stunning lake. One and half-year ago, I have seen the lake covered with ice and surrounded by impressive ice sculptures. This time it is a totally different scenery, with people boating on the calm waters, but still with the sight of the Victoria Glacier at the far end of the lake and the contrast of the white mountain with the intensive blue of the waters is dramatic.

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In February we were with a handful of people admiring the lake, but now in September, the amount of tourists is a bit overwhelming. I think I preferred the winter time, with the stillness of the surroundings.

We try to visit Lake Moraine, situated 15 km from Lake Louise and also known as the Jewel of the Rockies, but due to too many visitors we are not allowed to drive our own car. The road is closed and people have to take the shuttle bus for a visit to the lake. We decide to visit another time, earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.DSC01726

From Lake Louise we follow the Trans Canada Highway to the Kicking Horse Pass, where we make a stop to have a look at the Spiral Tunnels. This is a historic site, where you can see how the train track is lingering like a snake through the tunnels on different levels of the mountains. In the course of the years, they had to change the track, as the elevation was first too much to keep the train steady on the rails. We are lucky that just at this moment a train is passing by and you can see the front disappearing in one of the tunnels, while the end of the train is still down the mountain track.DSC01730

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Soon we arrive at Yoho Park and follow a small road with an extremely sharp bend (my son has to go back and forwards to get his truck around the corner!) until we reach the Takakkaw Falls. The landscape is amazing, so beautiful! It is a short hike from the parking place to the Falls and the dog is having a great time, standing with its feet in the (ice-cold) river. There are more waterfalls on walking distance, but we have to get back to Banff on time. Ah well, there is always a next time!

Enjoying every minute of my time in Canmore

September, 2015

While walking the dog along the river, I meet every day some people, with whom I have a chat. One morning I had quite a long chat with a man, who went fishing. We talked about daily things and he told me how much the shape of the river changed after the big flood of two years ago. Also the fishing spots changed completely. He told me he lived in Canmore since 1975. His life hasn’t been an easy one, but he never considered moving out of Canmore. He promised himself, that if ever he wakes up and the light on the mountains will be the same as the day before, then it is time to move. It never is………DSC02250DSC02265

I love getting up early in the morning and watch the sunrise from behind the mountain. It lights the mountain on the other side of the river, with a stunning beauty.DSC02251

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I have had many gorgeous days for the last couple of weeks. I also had the first snow and later the first real frost during the night. Although it was cold, I went out early with my camera, while the dog was still sleeping. The field was covered with the white of the frost and at this time of the day, the Elks were still roaming around. I had to be careful, as I knew that the Bull Elk was somewhere, although I couldn’t see him. Once it was time to get the whole herd together and disappear into the woods, he suddenly came running towards me and I swiftly went to safer grounds.

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There is always something to see and I also like my hike to the village instead of taking the car. As the river flows right through Canmore, it is a great walk, especially now with the change of the colours.DSC02330

In between my hikes in and around Canmore, I also get the opportunity to take part in some tours, visit waterfalls in Yoho park and explore the countryside towards Jasper, with my son and the dog. I never took so many pictures, as during these last weeks and still have to write quite a few blogs………

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I keep encountering bears. Also downtown!  It seems that the harvest of one of their other supplies, the mountain ash berries, hasn’t been very good this year and that is why they are focussing now on the crab apples. Good for my pictures, but not too good for the safety of the people here in Canmore……..On the moment a bear was indulging itself on the apples, in the street where I am staying for my house sit, a couple with their dog came from a trail down the hill and nearly walked right underneath the tree with the bear. The neighbour and I started shouting, that they had to move back. They turned their heads in the wrong direction and my heart stood still for a moment. We shouted again and then they noticed this huge black bear in the tree, nearly right above them. Very slowly they backed off and went back on the trail. DSC02443                                                      DSC02319

One afternoon, this small bird is sitting on the front porch, recovering from a bump against the window. I leave it there, as I have never seen any cat around and after I arrive back from some shopping it is gone, probably recovered!DSC02296

All the animals are pretty busy with getting their food in, before the long winter starts. I always loved the chipmunks; you can easily get them tame in three days time, by giving them peanuts, which they love! I used to do that when living in Ontario.DSC02517

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Warning: You are in bear country!!!

The first week of September, 2015

From the heat in Merida, I arrived in way colder temperatures in Canmore, Rocky Mountains, Canada. I have been very lucky to get a house sitters job for a month in a gorgeous home, right on the Bow river and in between the mountains. I feel very privileged that the owners trust me with their beautiful home and their lovely dog. The view is amazing and even during the first days, when it was pretty cold and cloudy, I just enjoyed the wonderful view from every window, the light which is different every day and every time of the hour and the amount of wildlife passing by in the back garden. Here, you are one with nature and you have to respect the habitat of the animals, as they sort of mingle with the inhabitants of Canmore and all the other places in the Rocky Mountains.DSC01512

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DSC01542I also feel so very happy, as I finally get to see my son, who lives in the next village Banff and I haven’t seen him for way too long, one and half year……..He and his girlfriend choose to live in one of the best places that Canada has to offer, especially if you like the “outdoors”, as they call it here. The opportunities for hiking, cycling, camping, mountain climbing, water sports, skiing, snow boarding and many other sports are unbeatable in the Rocky Mountains.

During the first days, I get connected with the dog (which is easy!), find my way in the house and into town, enjoy some hikes and buy extra warm clothes from the second-hand store, as suddenly it is snowing!!! Not normal for the time of the year, but in Alberta you can expect snow at any time, as I understood. Tomorrow we might sit in the sun again and put our shorts on. I noticed when walking in town, that many were not prepared for this weather on this long Labour Day weekend, as most of the people were indeed still walking in shorts and on sandals, while it was only 3 degrees DSC02303Celsius!

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On the day of arrival, the 31st of August, I just came back from a small hike with my son and the dog and somebody noticed a black bear in the front garden of the opposite neighbours, indulging itself on the crab apples. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here I am standing, just freshly arrived from Toronto and looking at this bear on a few meters distance. The camera was ready on the table and my son had enough courage to approach the bear from quite close. By that time the whole neighbourhood was standing on the road, but it didn’t bother the bear, as long as the fruit was still on the tree!

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The next day, a Bull Elk, came crossing the river, when walking the dog. Too bad my camera was still at home, but after delivering the dog safe at home, I went back with the camera for some pictures on a distance, as they can be aggressive, especially during mating season.

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The day after (how lucky can I be…), a whole herd of Elk were having supper on the bushes in the back garden. Once the Bull Elk arrived, he called everybody and they moved on. What a special sound that was; something between a cow and a horse!DSC01597

In the same week I saw two coyotes; one while turning the car on a quiet street and one in the back garden again. From now on, I always will have my camera with me!

House and cat sitting ‘back home’ in Fonthill

November 2014

It was hard to leave the beautiful Autumn colors of Bobcageon and saying goodbye to my “two Shar Pei dogs”. To be honest; I got attached to the two of them!

In the afternoon I drove straight to my next house and cat sitting job; in my own home town, Fonthill. It was weird to pass by my old house and to know that there are now children running around, from a different family. Also, it was good to know, that I had 3 weeks the time to say hello and goodbye to many friends. Time to go to my sports club again and time to get prepared for my trip overseas. Everywhere people were busy raking the leaves and preparing their gardens for a new Canadian winter; a winter which hopefully will not be as harsh, as the last one! I am meeting my two new companions for the next 3 weeks; two cats, also with totally different character. At first, they are somewhat annoyed that somebody else is feeding them and that they maybe get their cuddles at a different time of the day, but after a couple of days we established our hours together, in front of the fireplace in the evening, one at the right side in the chair and the other one on the left, on top of the couch. The 3 weeks are gone in no time, running in between dentists, Dr’s, vaccinations, shopping, sporting and socializing. I pack my suitcase with stuff for different types of weather, but leave the wintercoats and clothes at my friend’s house. The days are getting colder now and I am just in time gone, before the first “early” snow of this DSC07524year.DSC07518DSC07523

My first house sitting job

September, 2014

Coming home, after two relaxing and energizing weeks in Cuba, I have three days to change clothes and pack my suitcase, for a month up to the Kawartha lake district. An area I have never been and the right time to enjoy the Fall colors. The drive takes me within 4 hours to a cute small village, surrounded by lakes, waterways, bridges and locks. It feels like the Netherlands! The house is situated in a small community outside the village, close to a lake and peaceful. The two Chinese Sharpei dogs and I are friends in no time and their character is one of a kind! The weather is warm for the time of the year and I explore the little villages, waterfalls, endless roads along the lakes and farmland. I take lots of pictures and enjoy a typical Canadian Fall Fair. In the morning, I take my time for computer work and searching for the next house sitters job. I know that I have a house and cat sitters job in my own little village, right after this one, but after that assignment I have to move one. This time, I have to get out of Canada…far away from the memories……

I apply for a house and dog sit in the Algarve, Portugal and after a conversation over Skype with the “landlady”, they tell me I am accepted for the job. I am delighted, as Portugal is on my “bucket list”.

Now I can breathe again and relax and know I have to look for a next assignment beginning of January in Andalusia, Spain. I book a one way ticket to Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Faro, Portugal. In the Netherlands I will house sit for a relative. It has been at least 3 years that I haven’t been back to my old home country and I am looking forward to see some old friends.