A four day road trip from Kaslo to Calgary

October, 2021

It is time to say goodbye to my son and his amazing cute and clever dog! I am already looking forward to my/our next visit in this isolated part of the Rocky Mountains.

We decide to take a different road, back towards Banff and Calgary and just see where we will end up on our first day. From Kaslo we drive to Balfour, where we take the (free) ferry towards Kootenay Bay. It takes around 30 minutes from one side to the other and we fully enjoy the views on this sunny day.

Our first stop is Cranbrook, where we grab a coffee in the lively shopping street. According to the signs we are pretty close to the US border! In Creston it is harvest time; on every corner of the street pumpkins are sold! Creston valley is one of BC’s prime agricultural regions. Grapes, peaches and cherries are growing here in abundance!

We decide to stay in Kimberley for the night (in a simple, smelly, but spacious apartment) and drive to Banff the next day. There, we will spend two nights in the cozy Hotel Fox & Suites. From Kimberley we follow the road to Invermere, where we take some time to explore the town. It is so much colder here in comparison to the Creston area. We are surprised to see the deer just wandering the fields beside to main road!

It is fun driving in this part of Canada. The roads are perfect, barely any traffic and the light over the mountains changes every minute.

At Radio Hot Springs we follow the narrow canyon highway 93 towards Banff. Suddenly snow is fallen and some goats are crossing!!!

We make twice a stop on Kootenay Highway 93. First at Numa Falls; there is a small parking place off the road from where you can walk towards a bridge. There is also a hiking trail starting from the other side of the bridge.

Our second stop is at Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek; a small walking trail will bring you via a few bridges higher up and here the river splashes deep down in the gorge.

Just before we enter Banff, we have a last stop to enjoy the view over the lake.

At the end of the afternoon we arrive at our hotel and enjoy a nice meal in town. The next day brings us to Johnston Canyon (this time we bought our Banff National Park ticket online!). The canyon is very popular by visitors from all over the world. We walk the trail from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls and beyond, but we leave the last trail to the Inkpots for next time!

From the Falls we drive to Lake Minnewanka, where I went for a boattrip a couple of years before. This time we just hike along the shores of this serene glacial lake. Most tourists are gone and we appreciate the stillness of the surroundings.

Our last day we will spend in and around my favorite place Canmore, where I was house sitting in 2015. A lovely town, situated along the Bowriver, with plenty of wildlife and hiking trails! I want to show my partner fascinating Grassi Lakes, just outside Canmore. It is a nice moderate climb up the mountain, together with many other visitors, but still worth it! We wait for the sun to rise above the mountain; once the sunlight starts shining in the crystal clear waters, sparkles start dancing!

In the afternoon we hike along the Bow River, explore the town and have a late lunch outside on the main street. We both fully agree that Canmore is more relaxed and less touristy than Banff and next time we will stay in Canmore for a night or two!

After lunch we go for one more hike along the other side of the river, as we noticed some Elks by the river side. Suddenly, we see a herd of Elk (Wapiti) on the local sports field! They even roam in between the houses. There must be around 60 all together…..The rutting season (from September until mid-October) has started and male Elks can behave very aggressively, as they herd females for breeding. We better stay on a safe distance!

It is getting late and time to say goodbye to Canmore. We still have to drive to our airport hotel in Calgary, as our flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. These last two weeks have been an amazing adventure and we do hope to return soon to the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Canada!

 

 

 

Kaslo, a jewel on the shores of Kootenay Lake

October, 2021.

Another day trip brings us to the “secret hot springs”, only known by the locals and surrounded by forests and a wild and very cold river. There is a small campground and the steep stairs will lead you to different tiny waterbassins along the river. A very relaxing area to spend the day. The dog also loves the hot springs! Next time we will bring a tent!

A highlight is our visit to Kaslo, a quaint little village with an impressive history. The Kootenay area was first discovered by indigenous nomads. There were two nations; Ktunaxa (Kutenai) and the Sinixt (Lakes). They lived from fishing and the abundance of wild fruits. Later, after settlers built the first log cabins, Kaslo became a sawmill site. After, the mining started and the Kaslo railway became important for transporting silver ore. Once mining was stopped, fruit farming and logging became the sources of income for the inhabitants of Kaslo. Nowadays, Kaslo is also a popular summer and winter tourist destination. Although it was struck by two huge disasters in 1894, a big fire and devastating floods, the people of Kaslo rebuilt their home town again and again. Since knowing its history, I even more appreciate the beauty of this historical village.

 

 

There are many great stores in Kaslo, where you can buy all kinds of meat, cheeses, wines and bread. The small fish and chips kiosk is famous and we grab some lunch to take to the park.

From the shores of Kootenay Lake we hike along the river up to the village, where we follow for a while the Kaslo River Trail. It brings us to the bright red Unity Bridge, which connects the north and south sides of the River Trail. Next time we hope to complete the 10 km loop, but it soon will be dark, so time to return home.

 

 

Monica Meadows; nature at its best!

September, 2021

My son drives us to the west side of the Purcell Mountain Range, for a hike to Monica Meadows. Until now he never had time to explore the trail, so none of us will know what to expect. We bring food, drinks and the special outfit for the dog. We all “hop” in the car (for me it takes a bit longer…) and start our adventure.

The access road towards the trailhead is not easy! It is 90 minutes driving over a bumpy gravel road! The wonderful views are a good distraction.

Finally, we arrive at the quiet parking lot. During the weekends it can be packed with other visitors, but on this Wednesday morning there are just a handful of hikers. The weather is superb; no wind and clear skies. The dog gets prepared and we have our trekking poles and bear spray ready. This is Grizzly bear territory!

We are now going for a steep walk up, with an elevation of 650 meters and seven switchbacks. My partner and I are going slow, now and then we are totally out of breath! The dog is running between the three of us, to see if nobody is staying behind.

Once up the mountain, the trail levels out and we arrive on an alpine plateau at 2360 meters. This is called Monica Meadows and it is just breathtaking!!! I have travelled all over the world and I have been very fortunate to witness the most beautiful places, but Monica Meadows is jaw-dropping! The bright colours of the larch trees are contrasting with the white of the fresh snow, the pristine alpine lakes with crystal clear water, the glacier peaks and mountain ranges on the horizon; it all makes it a complete magical wonderland. No other people, just silence.

My son continues the trail to the top of the mountain and finds another lake.

We would love to explore the mountain a bit further, but we still have to hike all the way back and drive the bumpy Glacier Creek Forest Service Road again. Definitely, a place to visit again! Maybe in summer, when all the wildflowers are blooming?

A house that rocks at the end of the world

September, 2021

It is pouring with rain when we leave Revelstoke. We just get a glimpse of the Columbia River, which we have to cross to move towards the very quiet British Columbia Highway 23. It takes us around 40 minutes to reach Shelter Bay, where we will hop on the Upper Arrow Lake Ferry towards Galena Bay Terminal.

Once on the other side of the lake, we drive to Nakusp and from there to the idyllic village of Kaslo, right on Kootenay Lake. By now the rain has disappeared and we fully enjoy the eighty minutes scenic drive.

I am constantly on the lookout for a crossing bear and probably will be during the next coming days. My son often sends me pictures of bears walking with their cubs beside the road!

While entering Kaslo the bright autumn colours welcome us! Later in the week, we will explore this village more thoroughly!

After Kaslo, the road swirls along the banks of Kootenay Lake and brings us finally to the remote area, where my son lives; “a house on the rocks at the end of the world”…

I fully understand why he choose this spot to settle down. It is where the beauty of nature lies on your doorstep; impressive mountains, wild rivers, serene lakes and fertile meadows!

My son lives in a 100-year old log cabin and we will sleep for the coming 8 days in the cozy guesthouse. Only the main house has a bathroom, so our bathroom will be a bucket!!!

Travelling in times of Covid-19

25th and 26th of September, 2021

Both my children live on the other side of the world; my daughter in Australia and my son in Canada. Due to the pandemic, I have not been able to see them for a very long time. I check from time to time the Canadian travel website and the moment I see that Canada is opening up their borders, my partner and I book a flexible flight from Amsterdam to Calgary. Although nothing is official yet, we apply for our visa. This is my chance to see at least one of my children and I have to act NOW! More towards the date of leaving, we get all our paperwork printed, download the ArriveCAN app, fill in health declarations and get tested just before we hop on the plane. It all sounds easy, but it isn’t; the preparations are pretty stressful!

Upon arrival in Calgary it takes us nearly two hours to pass all the checkpoints at the airport, due to the covid control. Once we get our car from the rental agency and join the other vehicles on the highway, we feel relieved. The Rocky Mountains are right in front of us and will surround us for the next two weeks!

It will be a long drive to the remote area, where my son settled down two years ago. He lives deep down in the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia. To be able to enjoy the countryside, we booked two overnight stays; one in famous Banff and one in mountain destination Revelstoke.

As of all the delays, we arrive early evening at the Alpine Resort in Banff. We booked a cabin for ourselves, very rustic and quiet. We had plans to go for a hike into town, but by now we are totally exhausted. Although the Alpine Resort is more a hostal for backpackers, there is a bar and a small dining room. The menu is simple, but the burgers are good and in the morning they serve free pancakes.

At 9.00 we are ready to continue our trip, but first we go for some sightseeing. We drive down to the Bow River, a river with a length of around 600 km. The name of the river derives from the reeds that grew along the banks. They were used by the First Nations to create bows.

From here we have a great view on the impressive Fairmont Hotel, on the other side of the river.

Banff is still very quiet on this sunny Sunday morning. We grab a coffee, buy some sandwiches and continue our trip over the Bow River Parkway. Immediately, we are checked for the National Park Pass which we did buy on Saturday, when entering Banff National Park. At least it is 24 hours valid!

We stop at Baker Creek Mountain Resort, just to take some pictures. A lovely place to spend the night, but not cheap!!!

The pictoresque Parkway is bringing us to famous Lake Louise. It is my third visit to this Unesco World Heritage Site, only today it is packed with visitors. There is just one parking spot left and we pay the eleven CAD for the Day Pass.

Our next stop are The Spiral Tunnels at the Kicking Horse Pass. We are just in time to see a train circle into the mountains, in order to lessen the grade of the hill.

We follow the road towards Field, a small town in Yoho National Park, on the banks of the Kicking Horse River. It is time for a last coffee, as we still have another two hours to drive, before reaching Revelstoke.

Due to a lot of construction on the Trans-Canadian Hwy we barely make it to our hotel “River In” before dark. The hotel is situated close to the railway track, but at least the train does not keep blowing its whistle during the night, like in Banff!

 

Endless hiking possibilities at Refugio El Pilar

24th and 25th of December, 2020

Just south of the Cumbre Nueva and at 1450 meter on the Cumbre Vieja a variety of hiking trails are starting at Refugio El Pilar. It is a large recreation area where the island people also meet up for a picnic or a barbecue. The trees provide sufficient shade during the warm summer days and it is a perfect playground for children.

The Cumbre Vieja is a large chain of volcanoes that emerge in the form of a ridge. It is possible to hike over the Cumbre Vieja all the way until Los Canarios. You do need transportation back! Our hikes will be a bit shorter.

El Pared Vieja is another smaller recreation area and connected with Refugio El Pilar via route PR-LP18. A nice 7 km hike with an elevation of 250 meters. The narrow path brings us quickly down and goes mostly through laurel and pine forests. It is a perfect hike for today, as the weather is cloudy and there are not many viewpoints. The 250 meters up are a bit more challenging!

As we love the area around El Pilar, we decide to go for another hike the day after. This time we park the car at mile marker 4 on the road towards El Refugio.

From here the views over the valley and the mountains are magnificent! The signs give you the choice which trails to take. The blue sky is inviting and we decide to go for a route of 10 km.

This is an amazing trail! It is part of Ruta de Los Volcanoes and the San Juan Volcano and we hike first over fields of old lava. After, the landscape changes and we walk through the woods. Suddenly, our shoes touch pure volcanic rock and we have to cross a whole field of these black stones. Don’t try this on Flip Flops!

Again the scenery changes; we go through an ancient and colorful lava flow, until we have to climb all the way up the mountain, along the old stream. It is a very steep climb!!! Finally, we reach a wider path and can relax. The view down on the old eruption is impressive.

Later in the afternoon, we drive down the mountain to Puerto de Tazacorte. We will have our Christmas meal at our favorite restaurant  “El Trebol”,  with a view over the sea. There are just a handful of tourists at this time a year and no reservation is necessary. A very relaxing place, where they serve tasty fish and other dishes for low prices. A wonderful ending of our two week visit to this impressive island!

 

The colonial town of Santa Cruz de la Palma

21st of December, 2020

A visit to the capital city of La Palma is a “must”! Santa Cruz is not only an important port, but also an architectural heritage and one of the most beautiful towns within the Canarian archipelago. Colonial-style houses, cobblestone streets, the famous balconies on the Avenida Maritima and plenty of plazas and palaces.

We spent around half a day climbing up and down the stairs of the old city, discovering hidden plazas, colourful houses and tiny stores. At the Plaza de la Alameda you will find the replica of the Santa Maria ship; the ship of Columbus in which he reached America in 1492. It houses the Museum of Navigation.

Plaza de España is the most important square of Santa Cruz. It is surrounded by Renaissance buildings and the famous Church of San Salvador. Civic ceremonies take place here and people gather to exchange the latest gossip! The door of the town hall (Ayuntamiento) was open and we quickly sneaked into the council chamber.

On the Avenida Maritima we admired the famous Casas de Los Balcones, decorated with plenty of pretty flowering plants.

We definitely forgot to visit a lot of other historic and interesting buildings, but maybe next time?

 

Roque de Los Muchachos and the ravine of La Zarza

20th of December, 2020

From El Paso we drive through the “tunnel de la Cumbre” to the other side of the island. Just before we enter the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma, we turn left and drive up the hill towards the small, but important 17th-century Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves. The 14th-century sculpture of Virgin Mary is the oldest religious statue in the Canary Islands.

After our visit to the church, we drink a coffee on the central square and continue our trip to the mountain top Roque de Los Muchachos. The scenic road goes like a snake higher and higher and slowly the landscape is changing from green fertile land to dense forests and finally to the bare volcanic mountain ridge of the Caldera de Taburiente. The colours of the rock formations are intense and we park the car to get a closer look. It is extremely cold and windy outside and we quickly change our summer coat for a warmer one. Temperatures drop easily with ten degrees on top of the mountain.

Our next stop is at 2396 metres above sea level, on the rim of the Taburiente National Park. From far you can see the Astrophysics Observatory, which hosts the largest optical-infrared telescope in the world. The conditions of the sky above La Palma are exceptional and therefor all kinds of studies take place with different telescopes and instruments.

At 2426 meters the famous Roque de Los Muchachos can be find. Experienced hikers arrive here by foot, via the trails. The view is panoramic and very impressive. There is a trail over the rim to a point where you can see into the crater, but I give the camera to my partner. It is way too high and too steep for me!

Too bad there is nowhere a place to get a coffee or be able to have a sanitary stop. It was a long drive up and it will be a long drive down! Ah well, there are plenty of bushes beside the road….

Our next goal is Parque Cultural La Zarza in Ville de Garafia. This is an archeological park built around important finds of petroglyphes. The Visitor Centre gives insight information about the native population of La Palma. We pay the fee of around 2 euro a person, have a short look around and start our hike into the ravine of la Zarza. According to our travel book it is an impressive path to explore and we fully agree!

It has been a very busy day, full of new impressions, tons of pictures and a great hiking experience in a gorge and we still have to drive all the way back to Valle de Ariadne!