Category Archives: General

Ucluelet and Tofino, BC, Canada 8/9/17 – 8/10/17

 

Wednesday and Thursday, August 9-10, 2017

Ucluelet and Tofino, British Columbia

 

We made the long drive from Jasper down to Vancouver through the thick smoke of myriad forest fires.  We spent a quick night in Vancouver at a B&B and then took the ferry over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and drove for 4 hours over to Ucluelet.

On the way out of Jasper we made a quick stop at the Mt Robson visitor center and then some random (and beautiful) falls and a fruit stand when we got closer to Vancouver.

 

Once on Vancouver Island, we stopped at Cathedral Grove to walk through the Douglas Firs that are hundreds of years old.  They aren’t as big as sequoias, but still impressive.

Biggest tree in the grove

 

After a winding three hour drive, we arrived at Ucluelet and our lodge, right on the foggy beach.

Deck view

 

We drove up to Tofino, a more touristy surf town about 30 miles away, and had dinner and booked a whale watching tour.  Both towns are awesome.  We came in an interesting time of year where the warm air off the island meets the cold Pacific air, causing fog almost all of the time, except for the afternoons.  The locals call it “Fogust” instead of August.

Sea planes that Doc loved

Fog in the distance

 

The next morning, I woke up early and went for a hike along part of the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet.  There had been wolf sightings along the trail in the past year, so there were signs warning about hiking with dogs.  That was an interesting way to start the hike.  Hike was about 3.7 miles.

Trail Head

Map

 

It was nice hiking along the rocky shores and cliffs in the early morning chill and fog.  I saw a bald eagle as well, but barely got a photo before he dove out of view.

Bald Eagle is there, you just have to squint

Lots of these guys

Tree growing out of another tree

 

When I got back to the cabin, we ate breakfast and headed to the Ucluelet Aquarium, which was really cool.  It is just a small, one-room building on the water, but is very informative and gets all of its animals and water from the surrounding bay.  It is a “catch-and-release” aquarium and species are released back to the water each fall.  Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area.  Here’s their website: https://uclueletaquarium.org/

 

We went on our whale watching tour that afternoon, but only saw a couple of Gray Whales from a long distance.  They were in shallow water, so we never really saw their tails.  I got a good shot of a sea otter though, which are my favorite anyway.

Whale watching in the fog

Sea otter!

Steller sea lions

 

To end the trip, we drove down for a quick evening in Victoria (we will be going back there for sure) and then across the strait to Seattle and home.

Morning at the hotel in Victoria

This entire trip could certainly be labeled once in a lifetime, but we definitely want to come back to several different spots and spend more time.  Thanks to Doc and Suz for enjoying it with us and thanks to Canada for just being all around awesome.

Jasper and Maligne Lake – Alberta, Canada 8/6/17 – 8/8/17

 

Sunday – Tuesday, August 6 – 8, 2017

 

Jasper and Maligne Lake – Alberta, Canada

 

Jasper Park Lodge

 

We drove into Jasper from the Icefields Parkway and checked into our hotel before driving up to Pyramid Lake and checking out the town.

I have a thing for trains

Main street in Jasper

 

We took in the sunset over Beauvert Lake, just outside our room and then got to sleep.

Beauvert Lake

Our room opening up onto the lake

 

The next day we tackled a short, but steep hike up to Old Fort Point and then explored the various lakes around the area.  The color of the waters are incredible.

Canadian geese outside our room in the morning

Climbing up to start the trail

Old Fort Point – lodge and Beauvert Lake on the right

View of lodge across Beauvert Lake

 

The highlight of the day was the cruise on Maligne Lake out to Spirit Island and back.  This was one of the more beautiful sights on a trip filled with many.

Maligne Lake boathouse – built in 1928

Our tour guides – one Kiwi and one Canuck

Glacier that feeds the lake

Hall of the Gods

Getting dropped off at Spirit Island

Spirit Island

Zen

 

The next day we would make the long drive over to Vancouver for one night and then over to Vancouver Island and Ucluelet and Tofino.

Court and the bears outside the lodge

Icefields Parkway – Alberta, Canada 8/5/17 – 8/6/17

 

Saturday and Sunday, August 5-6, 2017

Icefields Parkway – Alberta, Canada

 

Warning: Long blog post coming!

We left Lake Louise and drove what is considered one of the most beautiful drives on the planet.  Luckily the smoke stayed away again and we had spectacular views.  We had an app that I found before the trip that followed us using GPS and would tell us interesting facts and history about where we were on the drive and what points of interest were coming up, so we made many stops.

First, we headed down to Johnston Canyon, which was actually back towards Banff, but not too far away.

 

After Johnston Canyon, we loaded back up and headed north again, with the big objective of the day being the Columbia Icefield.  Along the way we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls (Why are so many falls named this? Be more creative people!) and got an unexpected surprise – see video.

Bridal Veil Falls

Just another view

Panther Falls

 

We got to the Icefield around 2:30 and it was PACKED.  Luckily, we already had reservations to go up onto the Athabasca glacier in a “snowcoach” and didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets.  Icefields feed glaciers.  They are likened to a huge lake of ice and glaciers are like rivers coming off them.

We had a quick lunch on the patio of the visitor center and then caught a bus up to the snowcoaches on the glacier.  We then took the coach up to the glacier and were able to walk around on part of it.  It felt like standing in a giant freezer and we drank melt water directly off the glacier.  The experience was pretty incredible.

Packed parking lot, Athabasca Glacier on the left

Sadly, the only mountain goat we would see on this trip

Lunch

On the glacier

Filling up on glacier water

The water was amazing

 

After this we got back to the car and drove to the Skywalk that hangs over a 1000 foot cliff.  I am working on my fear of heights, but that thing moves when you walk on it and is packed with tourists who are oblivious to others.  It was not my favorite.

Great view of the Icefields

 

Our lodge for the night was a little place called Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge.  It was a bit kitschy and not the greatest rooms, but the food was fantastic.  I feel like if I were a kid in the 70s this place would have been awesome.  Reminded us of a Jellystone lodge or something, if you know what that is.

Teepee out front

 

The next morning we woke up and made a quick walk to Sunwapta Falls, just down the road from the lodge.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls

 

We loaded back up and continued up the Icefield Parkway towards Jasper.  After a quick stop at Honeymoon Lake, we stopped at an overlook and saw some elk crossing the Athabasca River.

Honeymoon Lake

Mama and baby

Bucks

 

Then we hit the impressive Athabasca Falls.

 

Wow.  From there we headed into Jasper where we would stay at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge, which may have been our favorite of the Fairmonts.

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada 8/3/17 – 8/5/17

 

Thursday, August 3 – Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

 

We arrived at the world famous Chateau Lake Louise and were immediately awestruck.  What a view.  Little did we know it would get even better.

There were a ton of wildfires in BC and one big one just south of Banff.  The wind had shifted overnight and the drive to Lake Louise was pretty smoky, obscuring some of the fantastic scenery.  Luckily, the wind would shift the next day for our big hike at Moraine Lake, which is getting its own blog post.  The first day at Lake Louise, we decided to walk the trail on the water’s edge.  This trail is flat and is actually the beginning of the Plain of Six Glaciers trail, but we only took it to the end of the lake and the delta.

People playing with their dogs in the water at the delta

Rock climber

 

After that short hike (only about 2 miles on flat ground), we drove up to Yoho National Park and saw Emerald Lake, which we WILL be going back to, a beautiful Natural Bridge, and Takakkaw Falls, a 254 meter (833 foot) waterfall. We got the falls in just before the sun set and we headed back to the magnificent Chateau.

Emerald Lake

Takakkaw Falls

 

On the morning we left Lake Louise (the day after the Moraine Lake hike), we woke up at 5am to get to the boat dock on Lake Louise by 5:30 for a sunrise canoe trip.  Court, Doc, and I took a canoe out on the still water and watched the sky get light (it was a bit cloudy) over the Chateau.  It was silent, cold, and beautiful.

Boat dock before dawn

Chateau at dawn

View from our room

 

Up next: Icefields Parkway up to Sunwapta and Jasper.

 

Banff, Alberta, Canada 8/1/17 – 8/3/17

 

August 1-3, 2017

Banff, Alberta, Canada

 

It’s been a long time since I last blogged.  Due to the horrid Texas heat and some other life events, the hiking was basically non-existent this summer, but we ended the summer season with a bang.

Courtney and I, along with her parents, went on a 12 day venture to the Canadian Rockies and British Columbia.  This year is Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation and all of the National Parks are free.  What better time to do them all!

Canada is simply incredible and there are more photos and sights than I could ever reasonably put into blog form, so I am going to attempt to pare down the highlights and hikes into a manageable form.  I will include almost all my videos too.

The first stop on our journey was at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies in Banff.  We flew into Calgary, rented a car, and began our journey that would ultimately cover over 1,300 miles (2092 km).  I got pretty fond of the metric system and wouldn’t actually mind it if the US made the switch.  Probably not gonna happen though.

We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs and it was beautiful.  We rode the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for some incredible views and lunch.

Banff Springs Fairmont

Vermillion Lakes

Canada 150 sign at Sky Bistro; Mt Sulphur in background

Looking down at Banff Springs Fairmont from Mt Sulphur

Bow River Valley from Mt Sulphur

 

We also saw the Cave and Basin Park (the inspiration for Canada’s National Park system) and took a raft down the Bow River.

Hot springs

Great pose from a curious squirrel

Main Street in Banff

Rafting down Bow River

Rafting down Bow River

 

On the last morning we woke up early and hiked along the Spray River and made a loop back to the hotel, skirting the Banff Springs golf course, and then hitting the famous Bow Falls on the way back.  About 4.5 miles total.

Trail Head

Hotel view from bridge over Spray River in the morning

Bridge over Spray River

Hiking along the golf course and Spray River

Bow Falls

 

Banff was great, but probably the most crowded of any place we went.  On August 3rd, we headed up the highway to Lake Louise, just about a 45 minute drive.  Continued on next post.

Ken Griffey Jr. Hall of Fame Induction – Cooperstown, NY 7/23/16 – 7/24/16

 

Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, 2016

Cooperstown, NY

 

This isn’t the normal hiking blog entry, but it was part of our trip to New York and I’m including it because it was amazing.  Ken Griffey, Jr. has always been my hero and favorite player and I planned a trip up to Cooperstown for his Hall of Fame Induction and then a couple of hikes over in the Berkshires of Massachusetts a few days later.

This is a really long post, so heads up.

 

I have been to the Hall of Fame once before when I was 14 years old.  I remember a lot of it, but the chance to come see my favorite player ever get inducted into the HOF was the chance of a lifetime.   Both sets of parents joined us on this trip as well.

IMG_0975 IMG_0978

 

We stayed in a rented house about 30 minutes outside of Cooperstown on a hill overlooking the valleys.  The sunrises and sunsets were stunning.  The house was situated on 123 acres of land and had a very interesting, if somewhat odd, layout.

Court's dad (Doc) at the house

Court’s dad (Doc) at the house

View out of the Great Room windows

View out of the Great Room windows

Courtney at the table

Courtney at the table

The first day we got up super early and went to the actual Hall of Fame Museum.  We got to one of the free parking lots (Red, Yellow, and Blue) by about 8am and were able to park and then catch the trolley that runs to the Hall of Fame from the parking lots ($2 for an all day pass).

My dad on the trolley to downtown Cooperstown

My dad on the trolley to downtown Cooperstown

I was told that to beat the crowds we needed to arrive early and I’m so glad we did.  We walked right in at around 8:30am and got done with the museum in about 3 hours and by the time we were leaving the line was way down the street and inside was elbow to elbow.

Tickets!

Tickets!

Seattle Mariners locker

Seattle Mariners locker

Court's favorite team is the Red Sox

Court’s favorite team is the Red Sox

Babe Ruth uniform

Babe Ruth uniform

Lou Gehrig - one of my favorites and the reason I was #4

Lou Gehrig – one of my favorites and the reason I was #4

Rogers Hornsby - 2nd best batting average ever and buried just outside of Austin, along with the rest of the Hornsbys

Rogers Hornsby – 2nd best batting average ever and buried just outside of Austin, along with the rest of the Hornsbys

Dad with Mickey Mantle's locker - his favorite player

Dad with Mickey Mantle’s locker – his favorite player

Griffey display

Griffey display

Griffey display

Griffey display

 

The displays upstairs are great, but I really love the actual hall with the plaques as well.  Here are some of my favorite players.

The Hall

The Hall

IMG_0956 IMG_0957 IMG_0958 IMG_0959

Griffey's soon-to-be plaque

Griffey’s soon-to-be plaque

IMG_0963 IMG_0966 IMG_0967 IMG_0969

We ate lunch at the Lake Front Restaurant on the marina at Lake Ostego (aka Glimmerglass Lake) and then explored Cooperstown for a few hours until the Hall of Famer Parade at 6pm.

James Fenimore Cooper statue

James Fenimore Cooper statue

IMG_0973

Lake Front dock

Lake Front dock

James Fenimore Cooper grave

James Fenimore Cooper grave

We staked out a good spot near the start of the parade, which is only about a half mile long, if that.  The plan was to run to the car as soon as the parade ended and drive to the Clark Sports Center where the induction takes place the next day so we could set out our lawn chairs and claim our spots.

chairs set up for the next day

chairs set up for the next day

The next morning we started out early again.  In fact, very early.  The sun rises around 5:30am in New York in the summer and we woke up to an amazing sunrise right outside our bedroom.  The clouds were still in the valley and the crows were just waking up.

We left the house around 7:30am so we could get a spot in the parking lot for the trolleys back downtown.  We went and ate breakfast at the Lake Front again and then went back to check out the Fenimore Museum.  The museum is right by the golf course and several Hall of Famers were teeing off right across the street including Robin Yount, John Smoltz, Ozzie Smith and Rod Carew.

John Smoltz

John Smoltz

Robin Yount

Robin Yount

Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith

After the museum we took the trolley back downtown and the line for the buses to the Clark Sport Center was ridiculous, so we set off on foot.  It’s only about a mile.  Luckily we had set our chairs out on the edge of a pathway that security was keeping clear for emergencies, so it was really easy to find our seats and we didn’t have anyone in front of us for about 20 feet.

Walking to the induction

Walking to the induction

Behind us - 50,000 people total at the induction

Behind us – 50,000 people total at the induction

The sun was blazing and we sat in it for about an hour and a half before the ceremony started.  Piazza was inducted first and he had an amazing speech.  I wasn’t a huge Piazza fan coming in, but I definitely was coming out.  Mets fans, on the other hand, decided after Piazza that they weren’t sticking around for Griffey and started walking out in the middle of his speech.  Come on Mets fans.  That’s just piss poor.

Griffey’s speech was also great, even if he couldn’t make it more than a couple of sentences without breaking down.  I held it together really well, until he put his hat on backwards at the end.  That got to me pretty good.

The lines on the video board weren’t there in real life.

 

Walking back with the mob

Walking back with the mob

It was literally a once in a lifetime experience and I am so glad my family was there to see it with me.  We walked back with the huge crowd and stood in line for another hour in the hot street to get a trolley back to our cars.  Court and I went to the grocery store and she cooked up a fantastic meal at the house where we ate and watched the sun go down.

Court making dinner

Court making dinner

Sunset through a glass sculpture hanging in the window

Sunset through a glass sculpture hanging in the window

Fin

Fin

The next morning we were headed to Copake Lake, NY near the border of Western Massachusetts.

 

Continued on next entry…